What is a Veterinary Assistant

Veterinary assistants, not to be confused with veterinary technicians, look after animals in laboratories, animals hospitals, and clinics. Under the supervision of veterinarians, scientists, and veterinary technicians, they care for the well-being of animals and perform routine tasks associated with that care. This can be as simple as feeding and providing water for the animal, and extend to examining the animal for signs of illness, disease, or injury. For more on job duties, please visit our veterinary assistant job description page.

Work Environment

The work environment for veterinary assistants is one of clinics, animal hospitals, or research laboratories. As such, the environment will generally be clean and well-lit, though the patients themselves may be unruly or unpredictable.

The work may also be physically and emotionally demanding; great compassion for animals is required, however this may mean emotional stress when a pet must be put down, or in a laboratory setting, when a study causes physical or emotional harm to the creature. However, the work can also be exceptionally rewarding.

Work Schedule

The work schedule will generally be a standard forty-hour work week, with some variability therein. Certainly in a laboratory setting this will hold true, however in an animal hospital or clinic, overtime may be required in emergency situations. Furthermore, a veterinary assistant may need to provide overnight care for post-operative patients. While these cases will generally be the exception rather than the rule, it is a potential a veterinary assistant will need to be prepared for.

Mean Annual Veterinary Assistant Salary

The average annual veterinary assistant salary is $25,110. The mean salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and divid that value by the total number of employees. Lowest 10% of this occupation makes less than $17,380 and the top 10% makes over $35,680.

Veterinary Assistant Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$25,110 per year
$12.07 per hour
Top 10% Salary$35,680 per year
$17.15 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$17,380 per year
$8.36 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201371,800

Veterinary Assistant Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for veterinary assistants is relatively promising, with an expected growth rate of around 10% between 2012 and 2022. This is about on par with all jobs, so it would appear to be fairly typical. However, added to this growth rate is the fact that there is a high occupation turnover rate. Many veterinary assistants go on to pursue education as a veterinary technician (or even a veterinarian), or leave the field for other positions. So, while the growth rate is about average, there are often new vacancies to fill.

The growing population of pets is the major factor that will help to generate more job vacancies for veterinary assistants. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics mentions that there is the tendency for some veterinary establishment to rely more on the services of experienced veterinary technicians. Should this happen, job vacancies for veterinary assistants will be reduced.

Veterinary Assistant Salary: Factors of Influence

Veterinary assistant salary is affected by the typical salary trifecta of experience, industry, and geographic location. Education is less of a factor, due to the fact that the field only requires a high school diploma (or equivalent).

The average salary for veterinary assistants is $25,110 annually, with the lowest 10% earning $17,380, and the highest 10% reaching $35,680.

Education and Specialization 

With the educational requirements for veterinary assistants being a high school diploma or equivalent, there is little education necessary for the position. That being said, one with some training in the field will be a more desirable candidate, which may allow for some minor gains in salary.

More often, though, veterinary assistants may find a great passion in the field, and pursue further education to become a veterinary technician or technologist, or may even follow it to becoming a full-fledged veterinarian, which will lead to great salary improvements.

Due to the limited education required for the veterinary assistant position, there is little room for specialization.

Experience and Position 

Experience remains one of the primary methods of veterinary assistant salary improvement. Greater time worked in the field will give a greater sense of the duties and responsibilities needing to be fulfilled, and less of a requirement for further training. The veterinarian or vet tech who can spend more time helping patients and less time training will increase wages accordingly.

As veterinary assistants are those who work under a veterinarian or vet tech, there is little room for position movement without further education.


Industry is an area for greater consideration when examining veterinary assistant salary. With an average of $24,740, many industries tend to hover in this range. However, one can find great gains by working for a scientific research and development service, with a mean annual wage of $31,170. General medical and surgical hospitals offer the third highest wages at $34,780. Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing offers even better veterinary assistant salary, at $35,390, but the best industry salary is working for the local government, which has an average of $39,290.


While most states tend to stay near the $24,740 range, some can vary widely; Utah and Kentucky, for example, are on the lower end of the spectrum, offering around $19,000. On the higher end, though, are Massachusetts and Delaware, offering $32,040 and $31,450, respectively. Metropolitan areas are even more promising, with Ithaca, NY, Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA, and Framingham, MA all offering above $34,000. New Haven, CT, however, has the best wages, with a mean annual salary of $39,500.