Veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and veterinary assistants are some of the types of careers in the veterinary industry. This section will help you learn more about each type of career and the education process for each.
Veterinarians do much more than just keep your pets healthy. Veterinarians have a wide range of career choices which include:
- Private Practice—either a general practice or focusing on a specialty such as emergency medicine or orthopedics.
- Corporate Veterinary Medicine—for example, with corporations that provide veterinary care, test drugs for safety, or produce animal-related products.
- Government—this include places like the United States Dept of Agriculture (USDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) where veterinarians work on biosecurity, environmental quality, public health, meat inspection, regulatory medicine, herd health, and investigation of disease outbreaks.
- Military—the US Army Corps and US Air Force employ veterinarians for food safety and military working dog veterinary medicine.
- Research—either at a university or at a company which produces animal-related products or drugs.
- Teaching—either in academia or non-professional schools.
- Public Health—particularly with government agencies such as the United States Public Health Service, which works to control the transmission of animal-to-human (zoonotic) disease.
- Food Supply Medicine—either with a government agency or a food animal company.
- Global Veterinary Medicine—in private practice or with international agencies working in areas such as food production and safety or emerging diseases.
- Public Policy—working for governments on animal and zoonotic diseases, animal welfare, public health issues, or as consultants with non-government agencies.
- Shelter Medicine—working with communities and private or public agencies to ensure the health and well-being of animal populations housed in shelters.
The role of a veterinary technician combines elements of many disciplines such as nursing, imaging, lab work, and customer service. Typical duties include:
- Providing first aid and nursing care
- Assisting veterinarians during examinations and procedures
- Performing or helping with diagnostic tests such as X-rays, urinalysis and blood counts
- Conducting routine procedures like dental cleanings and immunizations
- Preparing animals for surgery
- Monitoring the condition of patients
- Educating pet owners on animal care and welfare
- Ensuring that lab animals receive humane treatment
For animal lovers with a passion for science, a career as a veterinary technician is extremely rewarding. Technicians often see the same patients throughout their entire lives and develop close, caring relationships with the animals and their owners. The care and education technicians provide makes an immense difference in an animal’s quality of life, both in the medical setting and in the animal’s home environment.
Who are Veterinary Assistants?
While every position within the veterinary practice team is important, veterinary assistants play a pivotal role, literally.
In the course of a single day, an assistant provides help to veterinarians and veterinary technicians which in turn allows those team members to perform the tasks and responsibilities of their positions. The next minute, the assistant may be helping a client understand why having their pet's teeth cleaned is so important or providing a receptionist with a second set of hands at the front desk. Helping to fill scripts, keeping exams rooms cleaned and prepped, setting up lab work, helping with inventory, updating medical records, assisting with nursing care - there are more things that veterinary assistants do in a day than most people realize.
What is the Approved Veterinary Assistant designation?
In recognition of the contributions veterinary assistants make to the practice team and to the health of pets, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) has created the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation. This designation is currently used across the United States.
Upon graduation from a NAVTA approved veterinary assistant program, a participant is eligible to sit for the Approved Veterinary Assistant examination. Upon successful completion of the exam, the participant would be entitled to use the designation AVA and would receive a documenting certificate.
How do I take the Approved Veterinary Assistant Examination?
The AVA designation examination was written by NAVTA's AVA committee. The regulations and requirements have been determined by NAVTA. The designation examination is through VetMedTeam, on behalf of NAVTA, and is open to all graduates of a NAVTA approved training program.
In order to qualify to sit the final exam, participants must obtain a code from their assistant program, which would be used in the VetMedTeam shopping cart. An exam mentor will need to proctor the examination by observing the candidate as the exam is taken. The exam mentor may be a veterinarian, a credentialed technician, an instructor from the student’s program, or a licensed testing center. Please visit VetMedTeam for more information.
NAVTA Approved Training Programs
In order to be eligible to take the Approved Veterinary Assistant designation examination, candidates must complete a NAVTA approved training program. NAVTA's Veterinary Assistants Program provides a list of approved options.