Millions of Americans take their pets to the vet every year and a veterinary assistant or technician is often the first, last, and sometimes only person needed. Vet assistants do tests, diagnose and treat animals, prepare vaccines, collect samples and blood, and maintain equipment. They also commonly help the vet during procedures, collect and maintain records, and consult with pet owners about medication or general pet health. The salary of a vet assistant can vary based on several influences.
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In 2009, there were around 71,350 vet assistants and techs working for a nationwide average wage of £7.30 per hour based on a report by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The lowest salaries, those in the 10th percentile, were less than £5.0 per hour while the highest wages in the 90th percentile were more than £10.2 per hour. Level of training as well as experience plays a large part in this difference. The median hourly wage for vet assistants was £6.70.
Salaries by Location
Where a vet assistant works may have an effect on salary, perhaps due to cost of living or demand. According to the BLS, Washington D.C. has the top paying salaries as of 2009 with an hourly average of £12.10 for vet assistants, followed by Massachusetts at £9.40. California, Connecticut and Maine ranked in the top five with averages ranging from £8.50 to £9.10 an hour. New Haven, Connecticut, and San Diego, California, were the two highest paying metropolitan areas with hourly averages of over £11.
Type of Employer
Vet assistants have several choices when it comes to employers. Colleges and universities in 2009 paid £9.60 an hour on average, while scientific research and development organisations paid £10.50 per hour. A limited number of positions in general hospitals offered the average hourly wage of £9.30. More vet assistants worked in professional, scientific and technical services for an average of £6.90 an hour. According to the BLS, the top paying industry for vet assistants was pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing with an hourly average of £12.60.
Vet assistants may advance their career by obtaining an associate's or bachelor's degree. Those who wish to become a veterinary technician must complete two years of formal training while veterinary technologists must complete four years. Upon completion of formal education they are required to take and pass a licensing exam. Each state has its own specific requirements, but most accept the National Veterinary Technician test (NVT). Vet assistants may also go on to become veterinarians, which requires a doctoral degree and a state license.
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