Veterinary Assistant and Laboratory Animal Caretaker Career Description


Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle routine animal care and help scientists, veterinarians, and others with their daily tasks.

What they do

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers typically do the following:

  • Feed, bathe, and exercise animals
  • Clean and disinfect cages, kennels, and examination and operating rooms
  • Restrain animals during examination and laboratory procedures
  • Maintain and sterilize surgical instruments and equipment
  • Monitor and care for animals after surgery
  • Help provide emergency first aid to sick and injured animals
  • Give medication or immunizations that veterinarians prescribe
  • Assist in collecting blood, urine, and tissue samples

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers also provide nursing care before surgery and other medical procedures.

They may prepare equipment and pass surgical instruments and materials to veterinarians during surgery. They also move animals during testing and other procedures.

Veterinary assistants typically help veterinarians and veterinary technologists and technicians treat injuries and illnesses of animals.

Laboratory animal caretakers’ daily tasks include feeding animals, cleaning kennels, and monitoring animals.


Work Environment

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work primarily in clinics and animal hospitals, colleges and universities, and research laboratories.

The work of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may be physically and emotionally demanding. Workers may handle sick or abused animals and may assist in euthanizing animals.


How to become a Veterinary Assistant and/or Laboratory Animal Caretaker

Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn the occupation on the job. Experience working with or being around animals may be helpful for jobseekers.

Most workers entering the occupation have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers receive short-term on-the-job training.

Although certification is not mandatory, it allows workers to demonstrate competency in animal husbandry, health and welfare, and facility administration.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation for veterinary assistants. To qualify for the designation, candidates must graduate from a NAVTA-approved program and pass an exam.

Laboratory animal caretakers become certified through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). AALAS offers three levels of certification: Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG). For AALAS certification, candidates must have experience working in a laboratory animal facility and pass an exam.



The median annual wage for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers was $28,590 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,790, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $39,800.

Job Outlook

Employment of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. These workers are expected to be needed to assist veterinarians and other veterinary care staff.

Increases in consumers’ pet-related spending are expected to drive employment in the veterinary services industry, which employs most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers. In clinics and other veterinary service establishments, assistants help veterinarians and veterinary technicians and technologists with various procedures. Demand for veterinary assistants will continue as the demand for these procedures increases.


Similar Job Titles

Animal Care Provider, Animal Caregiver, Avian Keeper, Certified Veterinary Assistant, Emergency Veterinary Assistant, Inpatient Technician Assistant, Kennel Vet Assistant (Kennel Veterinary Assistant), Research Animal Attendant, Small Animal Caretaker, Veterinarian Assistant (Vet Assistant), Laboratory Animal Caretaker

Related Occupations

Home Health Aide, Occupational Therapy Aide, Physical Therapist Aide, Dental Assistant, Pharmacy Aide


More Information

The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field.  Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas.  As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.

  • American Animal Hospital Association - AAHA seeks to lead the profession in the provision of the highest quality of care for companion animals by improving standards of care, championing accreditation, and supporting our member practices in all aspects of this pursuit.
  • American Veterinary Medical Association - The mission of the Association is to lead the profession by advocating for our members, and advancing the science and practice of veterinary medicine to improve animal and human health.
  • National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America - NAVTA aims to advance veterinary nursing and veterinary technology. For interested students, there is an abundance of insightful information.


Magazines and Publications



Video Transcript

Whether an orangutan needs surgery or a rat performs in a drug trial, veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers help make sure animals’ needs and well-being are looked after. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers perform routine care tasks such as bathing and exercising animals, cleaning and disinfecting facilities, and providing first aid or care after surgery. They work under the supervision of scientists, veterinarians, and veterinary technologists and technicians. They also administer medication, and help restrain animals for examinations and lab procedures. While empathy for animals makes for a good start, there’s often a somber side to animal care. These caregivers treat animals who are sick or have been mistreated and sometimes need to be euthanized. Handling and restraining animals takes physical strength and stamina, but dexterity is also important— especially when handling medical equipment. Good communication skills and an eye for detail are also essential. Work settings for these two fields differ: Veterinary assistants typically work in clinics and animal hospitals, helping treat animals with injuries and illnesses, while laboratory animal caretakers generally work in laboratories where they feed and monitor the animals involved in research. Work hours may be full- or part-time, and often include nights, weekends and holidays. Most workers in these fields have a high school diploma or equivalent, and learn the work on the job.


Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH,
CareerOneStop, O*Net Online