Working in a Veterinary Clinic Can be Fun and Rewarding
If you enjoy working with animals, it is always possible that you might find a job in a pet store, animal shelter or on a local farm, for those of you live in a rural area. However, if you want a rewarding career that may allow you to actually help save an animal's life, then your first choice of employment would be to work with animals in a veterinary clinic or animal hospital. If you want to make a true career out of animal care, and you do not have the education, time or money to go through a graduate level veterinary school, you may want to become either a veterinary assistant or veterinary technician. Animal lovers often thrive in either one of these positions, since these well-respected jobs give them the opportunity to interact with animals, ease their pain, and provide comfort when they are suffering.
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Since vets often specialize in caring for specific types of animals, the type of vet you work for will determine which animals you may be handling. For example, if you live in an urban area, you may work more with cats, dogs, birds and similar pets. If you live and work in a rural area, your vet may handle both house pets as well as large animals, or he may choose to specialize in one or the other.
Duties of Veterinary Assistants
Veterinary assistants work under the supervision of vets to provide care for animals, particularly when they are sick, injured, or undergoing surgery. At the most basic level, they will feed and water the animals, and check to see how they are doing. They will clean and disinfect the cages and the work areas. Assistants are also often responsible for sterilizing laboratory and surgical equipment. After an animal has undergone surgery, it is often the assistant who cares for the animal afterwards. They will change dressings, and apply salve or other medications to wounds, as well as give oral medication to the animals. They will also prepare lab samples for the vet.
In addition, assistants may help restrain animals while they are being examined or treated by the vet. They will also assist with, and sometimes give, shots to animals. Some assistants will clean their patient's teeth.
Duties of Veterinary Technicians
Technicians require a higher level of education which allows them to work alongside vets in their examining rooms and surgical facilities. Although they may perform many of the same functions as an assistant, they are also trained to assist the vets in roles similar to those performed by nurses in a hospital. For example, a technician might perform and maintain anesthesia during animal surgeries, as well as assist with the surgeries in other ways. They may also perform catheterizations, intravenous feedings, and venipuncture. In addition, they are trained to use specialized equipment such as electrocardiogram machines.
Educational Requirements for Assistants and Technicians
Although some vets will train their assistants themselves, most of them prefer to hire someone who has completed a Veterinary Assistant Certification Program. These are available at many local colleges throughout the United States. You can also get certification through online programs and private vocational schools.
Technicians must attend a two or three year credentialing program at the end of which they will have earned an Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology. These programs may be available from state colleges and community colleges, as well as private vocational schools. Although not necessary, some technicians choose to go to a full four year college and get their Bachelor's Degree in Veterinary Technology. Although this takes longer and costs more, it can sometimes give them an advantage in finding jobs and quickly earning a top salary.
All states require veterinary technicians to pass a credentialing exam at the end of their coursework. Certified technicians can then apply for jobs in the field.
As always, you should check out any private vocational school through the Better Business Bureau before you sign a contract. You may also want to talk to a few local vets and ask them where they would recommend you get your veterinary assistant or veterinary technician training. Veterinary doctors are likely to know about the best schools in your community. This is also a great way to begin getting in touch with prospective employers, and assessing what their future needs might be. It is even possible that a vet would hire you part-time to work in his office while you complete your veterinary assistant or technician certification.
Job Outlook for Veterinary Assistants and Technicians
In 2006, there were approximately 75,000 people in the United States working as veterinary assistants. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be faster than average job growth in this field until at least 2016.
As is true for assistants, the opportunity for employment in the field of veterinary technology is expected to grow, as the number of pet owners increase. Approximately 29,000 more technicians are expected to be hired by 2016, making this one of the fasted-growing careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 41% job growth in the coming years.
Veterinary Technician and Assistant Salaries
Assistants typically earn at least $10 or more an hour, depending on the area of the United States where you live. The median national salary is about $22,000. Approximately a quarter of veterinary assistants in the United States earned over $32,000 a year. By comparison, in Southern California, for example, a veterinary assistant can earn from $24,000 to $36,000 a year, or even more, with a median salary of around $30,000.
Technicians typically earn at least $14 an hour, with an average salary of around $29,000. Veterinary technicians are sometimes hired by the federal government as well as pharmaceutical companies, where their salaries may exceed $43,000 a year.
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