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Vet Tech vs Vet Assistant: Differences, Similarities, Job, Salary, Programs

Students who love animals enough to go into the veterinary line of work choose between becoming a veterinarian, a vet tech, or a vet assistant. Vet technicians and vet assistants require little education to begin working and earning. However, a perfect understanding of the vet tech vs vet assistant debate will help you choose which you want to become and the school programs you need to take.

It is easy to think veterinary technicians and assistants are the same as they work closely with veterinary doctors and perform a host of similar tasks. They are not the same, however. The educational requirements for becoming a veterinary technician is different from that of becoming a veterinary assistant. Same as their salaries.

So, to optimize your career in the veterinary line of work with little education, you need to understand the difference between the vet tech and vet assistant. You’ll find these differences in this post as well as their salaries, school programs, and available jobs.

You can easily navigate through this article with the table of contents below.

Table of Contents
  1. Who is a Vet Tech?
    1. What are the Duties and Responsibilities of a Vet Tech?
  2. Who is a Veterinary Assistant?
    1. What are the Duties of a Vet Assistant?
  3. What are the Similarities Between a Vet Tech and a Vet Assistant?
  4. What are the Differences Between a Vet Tech and a Vet Assistant?
    1. Education
    2. Certification and Licensing
    3. Vet Tech Vs Vet Technician Salary and Job Outlook
    4. Vet Tech vs Vet Assistant Job Details
  5. Vet Tech Schools and Programs (Online and Traditional)
    1. The Vet Tech Institute of Houston – On-Campus
    2. #6 Cedar Valley College – Online & On-Campus
    3. #5 McLennan Community College – On-Campus
    4. #4 Austin Community College – On-Campus
    5. #3 Arkansas State University at Beebe (ASUB) – On-Campus
    6. #2 Ashworth College – Online
    7. #1 Penn Foster College – Online
  6. Vet Assistant Schools and Programs (Online and Traditional)
    1. #5 Animal Behavior College (ABC), Santa Clarita, CA – On-Campus
    2. #4 Ashworth College, Norcross, GA – Online              
    3. #3 Front Range Community College, Fort Collins, CO – On-Campus
    4. #2 Carroll Community College, Westminster, MD – On-Campus        
    5. #1 VetBloom Veterinary Assistant Program – Online
  7. Available Vet Tech and Vet Assistant Jobs
    1. Veterinary Technician – Green Dog Dental, United States
    2. Veterinary Technician – THRIVE Hurst, Texas, USA
    3. Animal Center Technician – County of Contra Costa, California, USA
    4. Vet Assistant – VCA Animal Hospitals, Kansas City
    5. Hospital Veterinary Assistant – Petco, New York
    6. Veterinary Assistant – Banfield Pet Hospital, Florida, USA
  8. FAQs
    1. Can a vet assistant become a vet tech?
    2. Is being a veterinary assistant hard?
    3. Who gets paid more a vet tech or vet assistant?
    4. How long is school for vet tech?
    5. Do you have to be certified to be a vet assistant?
    6. Can you be a vet tech without going to school?
    7. What skills do you need to be a vet tech?
  9. Conclusion
    1. References
    2. We Also Recommend

Who is a Vet Tech?

A veterinary technician is a professional who has the credential that is required to help animals of all kinds live healthy and happy lives. These professionals use their medical knowledge and clinical skills to provide routine and emergency nursing care to animals. They are like the nurses of the veterinary world and work with the direction of a veterinarian.

What are the Duties and Responsibilities of a Vet Tech?

A vet tech performs a wide variety of duties similar to nurses under the direction of a licensed veterinarian. These duties will vary by the states they are licensed to work in but generally, a vet tech will perform any task that a licensed veterinarian assigns to him or her. What the vet tech won’t do, however, is diagnose medical conditions, prescribe medications, and performing surgery on animals.

A near comprehensive list of duties that a vet technician will perform include the following:

  • Carry out diagnostic tests and x-rays on animals
  • Prepare animals and instruments for surgery
  • Administer medications, vaccines, and treatments to animals
  • Provide emergency first aid or general nursing care to animals
  • Observe and report on the behavior and condition of animals
  • Restrain animals for examination or treatment
  • Administer anesthesia and assist the veterinary doctor during medical procedures
  • Collect and record animal case histories
  • Educate animal owners on animal home care
  • Assist veterinarians and scientists in biomedical research

Who is a Veterinary Assistant?

Veterinary assistants, like the vet tech, care for animals. However, they work under the supervision of a veterinarian or veterinary technician. Hence, the vet assistant is often called a vet technician assistant. They are somewhat lower under the rung of the veterinary career ladder. They are veterinary workers that feed, bathe, exercise, and restrain animals during examinations and treatments.

What are the Duties of a Vet Assistant?

The veterinary assistant is concerned with all aspects of routine pet care. Near comprehensive job roles and duties of a veterinary assistant include the following:

  • Feed animals and check whether they’re eating.
  • Bathe pets when necessary.
  • Take the animals for exercise.
  • Assist veterinarians and vet technicians with lab work.
  • Clean, sterilize, and maintain pet kennels, operating rooms, examining rooms, cages, and surgical equipment.
  • Comfort and hold pets during examinations and care.
  • Provide first aid to pets in an emergency, stabilizing them until the vet doctor can take over.
  • Dispense medications to pets.
  • Carry out some clerical duties.

What are the Similarities Between a Vet Tech and a Vet Assistant?

People would often think that a vet tech is the same as a vet technician because they both work in a veterinary hospital or clinic under the supervision and direction of the vet doctor. Some other similarities that make the vet tech vs vet assistant debate more confusing are:

  • Both vet tech and vet assistants cannot diagnose illnesses in animals or prescribe treatment or medication for animals.
  • The vet tech and vet assistant’s role in the workplace overlap, for example, both of them restrain animals for examination and treatment.

 However, there’s a wide berth of differences between them.

You should any of these 15 veterinarian schools in Ohio in your quest to become a vet tech or vet assistant.

What are the Differences Between a Vet Tech and a Vet Assistant?

The following subheadings best explain the vet tech vs vet assistant differences.

Education

To become a veterinary technician, you must first obtain an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. You don’t need any higher education beyond a high school diploma (or GED) to become a veterinary assistant.

While veterinary technicians can seek either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) asserts that vet techs with a four-year degree usually receive higher salaries and a greater level of job responsibilities. A veterinary assistant, on the other hand, may choose to pursue a degree in any field and at any level, but this is not a prerequisite to work in this field.

The vet assistant’s most relevant education to the work is training programs, which are often undergraduate certificate programs. While vet assistants can take these take vet assistant programs in schools to become vet assistants, they may as well receive training on the job.

Moving on, a veterinary technician program will cover courses on a variety of subjects. This includes biology, pathology, medical math and terminology, physiology, veterinary pharmacology, toxicology, animal nutrition, and a number of other courses related to animal health.

A veterinary assistant program, on the other hand, will provide you with hands-on experience assisting veterinarians and dealing with animals. You’ll also develop a variety of other administrative skills. This will include skills required to interact with clients, run the front desk at an office, and assist in keeping an orderly veterinary office.

Finally, vet tech schools may obtain probationary accreditation, initial accreditation, or full accreditation by applying through the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA). While there is no accreditation process for institutions offering vet assistant programs, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) has a list of “approved” veterinary assistant programs that will train you in the field.

Certification and Licensing

Licensing is required in becoming a vet tech and each state regulates veterinary technicians differently. Nonetheless, candidates in most states must take and pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination, which the American Association of Veterinary State Boards offers. Upon passing the exam, your state board responsible for licensing qualified vet techs will give you the license to practice. Vet assistants, on the other hand, do not need any licensing or certification to get started.

Most times, a veterinary technician may have to pursue re-licensing or re-certification on a routine basis, especially if they have not adhered to the requirements of their individual state’s licensing board. Because there is no certification requirement for veterinary assistants, a re-certification process does not exist either.

Vet Tech Vs Vet Technician Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for veterinary technologists and technicians was $35,320 in May 2019. According to the same BLS, the median annual wage for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers was $28,590 in May 2019.

Meanwhile, BLS projected that from 2018 to 2028, there will be an employment growth of 19 percent for Veterinary Technologists and Veterinary Assistants alike. The number of new jobs created within this period wouldn’t be the same for the two, however.

BLS claims that there were 109,400 veterinary technicians working in the U.S. in 2018 and anticipates 21,100 new job positions for Vet Technicians from 2018-2028. On the other hand, there were 92,200 working Vet Assistants in the USA in 2018, and BLS anticipates 17,600 new job positions for Vet Assistants from 2018-2028.

Vet Tech vs Vet Assistant Job Details

The vet tech’s responsibilities will vary depending on their practice, however, most of them will basically administer first-aid to animals in need; maintain a controlled drug inventory; administer amnesia to animals, etc. On the other hand, veterinary assistants would perform the responsibilities of holding or restraining animals when required; monitoring animals recovering from surgery; assisting veterinarians in examining animals, etc.

In the performance of their duties, veterinary technicians use the following tools and equipment: Animal catching devices; Animal husbandry equipment; Emergency medical services suction units or accessories; Laryngoscopes or accessories; and Nebulizer or accessories. Then depending on specialization during his or her education, the Vet tech may become proficient at operating a wider array of equipment or machinery.

On the other hand, the veterinary assistants will likely discharge his or her duties using the following tools: Animal shearing or clipping equipment; Medical x-ray film or cassette; Medical x-ray units for general diagnostic use; Urinalysis analyzers; and Veterinary injection or suction units or accessories. A veterinary assistant may not use all of the above-mentioned tools in the discharge of their duties, however, and they may require additional training in order to operate some of the machinery in the course of their career.

Finally, there are opportunities for specialization for Vet Techs. A Vet Tech can choose to specialize in veterinary dental medicine, veterinary surgery, veterinary nutrition, animal behavior, emergency and critical care, and a number of others as described by NAVTA. On the contrary, there is no available specialization for Veterinary Assistants because they have no formal association.

Vet Tech Schools and Programs (Online and Traditional)

Like we mentioned earlier in the vet tech vs vet assistant differences, you need at least an associate’s degree from an accredited vet school to kick start your career.

Here are a couple of really good vet schools that you should check out their programs.

If you’d rather get a bachelor’s degree to take care of animals, then you should check out these 21 Affordable Online Zoology Degree Programs

The Vet Tech Institute of Houston – On-Campus

This Texas-based vet tech school provides an associate of applied science (AAS) degree program in veterinary technology. You will take courses such as animal behavior, veterinary radiology, and veterinary pharmacology in order to garner the essential job skills that AVMA’s Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA) recommends. The Vet Tech Institute of Houston’s first-time pass rate on the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) for three years is 63.3 percent, between 2016 and 2019.

#6 Cedar Valley College – Online & On-Campus

This Lancaster-based vet tech school offers two vet tech associate degree programs. A traditional on-campus option and a distance education veterinary technology program (DEVTP). The web-based program is open to students who are employed in an approved facility such as a vet clinic and work at least ten hours per week. Between 2016 and 2019, Cedar Valley recorded a 69 percent pass rate of the VTNE for its students on the first try.

#5 McLennan Community College – On-Campus

This is a Texas-based vet tech school in Waco that provides an associate of applied science (AAS) degree program in veterinary technology. This program typically takes six semesters to complete. McLennan 60-credit-hour vet tech program prepares students for the Texas LVT process and features courses such as veterinary anatomy, clinical pathology, and parasitology. McLennan recorded a pass rate of 74 percent between 2016 and 2019 for its graduates sitting for the VTNE exam for the first time.

#4 Austin Community College – On-Campus

This Texas-based vet tech school offers a CVTEA-accredited program. Vet techs at Austin Community College take courses in canine and feline clinical management, veterinary radiology, veterinary office management, large animal assisting techniques, anesthesia and surgical assistance, etc. Austin Community college graduates had a first-time VTNE pass rate of 81.5 percent Between 2016 and 2019.

One of these TOP 48 VETERINARY & ANIMAL SCIENCE SCHOLARSHIPS will ease your study to become a vet tech.

#3 Arkansas State University at Beebe (ASUB) – On-Campus

ASUB offers an AVMA-accredited program to aspiring vet techs with at least 20 hours of work or observation experience in a veterinary setting. This associate of applied science (AAS) degree in veterinary technology is a 71 credits program with courses in anatomy & physiology; animal reproduction, nutrition & production; laboratory techniques; wild, zoo & lab animal care, etc. ASUB’s graduate passing rate on the first attempt of the VTNE was 66 percent between 2015 and 2018.

#2 Ashworth College – Online

This is a Georgia-based vet tech school that provides 270 hours of clinical experience for plenty of hands-on practice working with animals. You may enroll anytime and complete the coursework at your own pace, with clinical hours included in each semester. If you have a high school diploma or GED, you love caring for animals, but insufficient time and money to become a full-fledged veterinarian, this is the program for you. It is one of the most affordable online veterinary technician programs available, charging $89 per credit hour. You also have the option of paying as low as $55 per month for tuition.

#1 Penn Foster College – Online

This is an Arizona-based vet tech school that offers competitively priced programs at $85 per credit, with the availability of zero percent interest pay-plans. Penn Foster has partnerships with some of the largest veterinary hospitals in the country such as VCA Animal Hospital, Banfield, and BluePearl. These hospitals recognize the quality of an AVMA-CVTEA fully accredited Veterinary Technician program like that offered by Penn Foster College. Penn Foster’s accredited online vet tech programs graduate a large number of students in the country. It graduated over 160 students in 2016, and it boasts of a first-time VTNE-pass rate of 67 percent (between 2016-2019).

Vet Assistant Schools and Programs (Online and Traditional)

Veterinary assistants can choose to take up a training program in colleges offering such training programs or they can learn on the job.

Here is a list of online and on-campus colleges and institutions where you can get good veterinary assistant training programs:

#5 Animal Behavior College (ABC), Santa Clarita, CA – On-Campus

Animal Behavior College exposes you to the basics of veterinary technology. It does this in ten (10) discrete stages of training in animal restraint, examination room procedures, small animal nursing, and radiology & ultrasound imagining. At the end of the program, you’ll complete a local externship to put your newfound abilities to practice. ABC’s vet assistant training program takes one year to complete.

If you’re considering attending a vet school in California, then you should check out these 10 Best veterinary colleges in California | Ranking

#4 Ashworth College, Norcross, GA – Online              

Ashworth College is one of the best options for a vet assistant training program. Its NAVTA-approved online veterinary assistant program comprises five units. These units are orientation, office management, veterinary anatomy & pharmacology, small animal nursing, and clinical procedures. By enrolling for this program, you get a one-year membership to NAVTA and “virtual field trips” to enhance training. You’ll also complete a 120-hour supervised externship to put into practice what you’ve learned.

#3 Front Range Community College, Fort Collins, CO – On-Campus

FRCC is one of the ideal colleges for vet techs and assistants. Its veterinary assistant program is a two-semester certificate. You’ll take classes in veterinary medical terminology, surgical nursing & care, and a 72-hour internship if you enroll for this program. You’ll also get an introductory overview of veterinary medicine.

#2 Carroll Community College, Westminster, MD – On-Campus        

Carroll Community College is an on-campus college that offers training programs for veterinary assistants. Its veterinary assistant program is a certificate program with core courses in outpatient care, diagnostics & pharmacy, and surgery & anesthesia.

#1 VetBloom Veterinary Assistant Program – Online

MedCerts in partnership with VetBloom provides a cutting-edge online veterinary assistant program that meets the standards of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). The program also prepares you to be employable upon completion. VetBloom’s vet assistant program provides you the opportunity to work together with potential employers through a hands-on externship experience.

Available Vet Tech and Vet Assistant Jobs

You definitely want a job immediately you’re done with your vet tech or vet assistant program. You can get jobs straight from your externship programs but where that is not the case, you may have to seek openings in veterinary clinics and hospitals. Indeed.com is a wonderful place to start your search for a vet tech or vet assistant job.

Here are top jobs for vet techs and vet assistants that you can apply or now!

Did you wonder at any point in the vet tech vs vet assistant debate whether it is profitable taking care of animals? Then see these 15 Marketable Careers working with Animals

Veterinary Technician – Green Dog Dental, United States

Green Dog Dental is seeking a qualified, self-motivated individual with a minimum of 2 years’ experience working as a veterinary technician. The job provides you a huge room for growth if you can display the commitment and drive required to continue the growth of the company’s practice.

Veterinary Technician – THRIVE Hurst, Texas, USA

THRIVE is hiring Veterinary Technicians who want to focus on their passion for helping animals. Thrive is a great career choice for you if you have two years or more experience and hold an LVT, RVT, or CVT. It will do if you also have good restraint skills, are comfortable with anesthetic monitoring, have solid blood draw skills, can place IV catheters, and possess good injection abilities.

Animal Center Technician – County of Contra Costa, California, USA

County of Contra Costa is currently looking to add one new Animal Center Technician to its dedicated team. The position will be challenging and fast-paced, but never boring! You will fit into the team if you are hardworking, a great communicator, a team player, flexible, and willing to learn. The position will require you to feed and care for animals staying at the shelter, update electronic animal records, take photos for the website, etc.

Vet Assistant – VCA Animal Hospitals, Kansas City

VCA Animal Hospitals in Kansas City is seeking an experienced Veterinary Assistant to join its team. The right candidate for the job will be a believer in the possibilities of high-quality veterinary medicine and patient care. You must also have the expertise and technical know-how to make this happen. The responsibilities for this position include supporting VCA’s doctors and technician team by creating a positive, low-stress atmosphere for the company’s clients and patients. You will be in charge of maintaining medical records, preparing surgical suite and surgical patients, etc.

Hospital Veterinary Assistant – Petco, New York

Petco is seeking partners for its full-service hospitals. These brand-new general practice hospitals will be located inside Petco’s stores. Your duties in this position will involve providing excellent medical care to Petco’s full-service hospital patients and phenomenal customer care to the patient’s owners.

Veterinary Assistant – Banfield Pet Hospital, Florida, USA

Banfield Pet Hospital is seeking those who want to put their love of pets into action. It promises Vet Assistant jobs that are more rewarding than the normal Vet Assistant job. While working closely with other pet health care professionals at Banfield, you’ll have the chance to advocate for pets and educate clients on all aspects of pet health. In addition, if your goal is to advance in your career, Banfield will provide you with access to a variety of learning and development opportunities along the way.

Did you find this vet tech vs vet assistant post valuable? then you should check out any of these International Scholarships to fund your vet education abroad.

FAQs

Can a vet assistant become a vet tech?

Yes, a Veterinary assistant may choose to become a veterinary technologist. All he or she needs to do is to pursue an associate’s degree in veterinary technology, which can lead to career advancement as a veterinary technician.

Is being a veterinary assistant hard?

When you follow your passion, becoming what you want to be may not be as hard for you as for someone who isn’t passionate about it. However, since all you need to become a veterinary assistant is a high school diploma or GED, it isn’t considered hard to become a veterinary assistant. Some vet assistants learn on the job, which isn’t such a very difficult task.

Who gets paid more a vet tech or vet assistant?

Because of the educational path, expertise, and responsibilities, vet technicians will often receive higher wages than veterinary assistants. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the vet tech’s average annual salary was $35,320 as of 2019, while the vet assistant’s salary was $28,590.

How long is school for vet tech?

It takes two years to complete a vet tech program that is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). However, tech certification, licensing, and registration requirements may vary by state.

Do you have to be certified to be a vet assistant?

Veterinary assistants don’t require any license or credential to practice in any state in the USA. Since the work is very basic, most of what you need is a high school diploma or GED and a veterinary assistant training program.

Can you be a vet tech without going to school?

No, the basic requirement for becoming a veterinary technician is an associate’s degree in veterinary technology. However, you can become a vet assistant with a GED, which means you may not have to go to school.

What skills do you need to be a vet tech?

Asides the educational requirements, skills needed to become a vet tech include communication, empathy, being detail oriented, physical stamina, and technical skills.

Conclusion

It is good to get paid for your passion. However, it is better to maximize your interests. If you love animals so much to want to be able to provide the highest height of care for them, then you need to study a bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine.

If on the other hand, you want to get into the veterinary line fast and start caring for animals, you have the option of choosing between a veterinary technician and a veterinary assistant.

The veterinary technician requires at least an associate’s degree program in veterinary technology from an accredited school to get started. On the other hand, a veterinary assistant would need a high school diploma or GED and an additional veterinary assistant training to get started.

Of course, a vet tech will earn more than a vet assistant, so look at the vet tech vs vet assistant debate well and choose your best option.

References

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