Vet Tech Vs. Vet Assistant: What’s the difference?


Let’s cover vet tech vs. vet assistant, an overview of the job requirements, and salary differences! Oftentimes the term vet tech and vet assistant are interchangeable. On the whole, the veterinary industry has been trying to move away from these being viewed as the same thing. A veterinary clinic, zoo, emergency hospital, and wildlife center are a few of the places that will employ both vet techs and vet assistants.


Being licensed is a feature held by a vet tech. On the other hand, a vet assistant is not licensed but can hold a certificate. Generally speaking, there are a number of differences between the two careers. With this in mind, we will attempt to cover the differences between a vet tech vs a vet assistant. One thing for sure is that if you are going into the vet tech profession you will need to purchase comfortable vet tech shoes. Don’t make the mistake of starting your first day without the proper shoes. 

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What is a Vet Assistant?


What type of person would make a great veterinary assistant? An engaged and ready to learn person would make an excellent vet assistant. Secondly, they must love animals, love people, and show true empathy.


A veterinary assistant doesn’t have to have any formal veterinary training to hold the job title. On the contrary, there are many colleges that offer veterinary assistant certificate programs. This type of program might be beneficial for someone who needs to familiarize themselves with medical terminology.


Conversely, there is no credentialing exam for veterinary assistants at this time. Many veterinary assistants begin their careers through on-the-job training. Oftentimes starting as a kennel assistant, working their way up to vet assistant or vet tech. 


The veterinary assistant usually works under a vet tech, who works directly under the veterinarian. In other words, the vet assistant is there to help the vet and the veterinary practice. Generally, the vet assistant holds many roles depending on their interests. The role of the vet assistant can also depend on the needs of the practice. This student went from being a veterinary assistant to a veterinarian.

What is the difference between a vet assistant and a vet tech?

The job requirements of a veterinary assistant will differ depending on the veterinary practice.


  • Front of the hospital. Namely working directly with the clients when they first arrive at the clinic. 
  • Helping the vet techs. Assisting the vet techs with clients, animal restraint, blood draws, IV catheters, medication, or charts.
  • Working directly with the veterinarian. Many clinics don’t have a licensed vet tech on staff. Therefore the vet assistant fills that role.
  • The vet assistant salary is oftentimes lower than the vet tech salary.


What is a Vet Tech?


Generally, a vet tech is trained in the care and handling of animals in a medical setting. Afterward, they pass an exam called the VTNE test. In addition, some states also have a second statewide exam that you have to pass.   Usually, a vet tech has between 2-4 years of a college education. 


Whether the vet tech has a license or not they can still work in the US in some states. As a rule, the term we still use for both is “veterinary technician”. A vet tech can have more responsibilities than a vet assistant within a practice.  Licensed vet techs (LVT), registered vet techs (RVT), and certified vet tech (CVT) are all under the umbrella of the term veterinary technician. If your ultimate goal is to go from vet tech to veterinarian that is possible too! 


Last year we interviewed Chris, a vet student at LMU, who did just that. What is the difference between the LVT, RVT, and CVT? Mostly this has to do with statewide regulatory differences, but they all have to pass the VTNE test. However, all three terms are oftentimes used interchangeably.


Job requirements of a vet tech (this lists only some of the job requirements)

  • Performs physical exams and records the observations.
  • Conduct clinical laboratory procedures like fecal flotations and heartworm tests.
  • Takes radiographs and administers EKGs and EEGs.
  • Understands usage and dosage for all prescription drugs and can readily explain them to the clients. 
  • Admits and discharges patients on the doctor’s orders. 


LVT vs. RVT vs. CVT


  • Licensed Veterinary Technician 

An LVT is similar to a nurse. In particular, the student will have to pass the national VTNE exam. Hence anyone wishing to take the VTNE exam will have to be a graduate of an accredited veterinary technology program. Most vet tech programs are 2 years and the student will earn an associate’s degree. Alternatively, there are a few 4 years, Bachelor’s vet tech programs as well. Overall there are approximately  230 AVMA accredited Veterinary Technology Programs located around the United States. Furthermore, a number of these are online programs.


States that license veterinary technicians include Alaska, Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.


  • Registered Veterinary Technician

The term RVT has to do with state regulations and terminology. An RVT is a veterinary technician that has registered with their state. Registration just means that your state wants vet techs to register with them.


As an example, California requires vet techs to register with the Government. Requirements are application fee, photo ID, a transcript from AVMA approved school, fingerprints, and passing the VTNE exam. Furthermore, what each state requires for vet techs can be found by doing a google search on the state’s website.


States that currently register veterinary technicians include California, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and West Virginia.


  • Certified Veterinary Technician

A CVT is a vet tech that has passed the VTNE examination, in accordance with their state laws.  If you live in one of the below states just go through the steps to become a CVT.


States that currently certify veterinary technicians include Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.


Salary for a Vet Tech VS. a Vet Assistant 


Deciding on whether you want to become a  vet tech vs a vet assistant can all depend on your circumstances. For the most part, you will earn more by becoming an LVT, RVT, or CVT. Many people wonder what the difference is between a vet assistant and a vet tech. Oftentimes the difference lies in salary.


Veterinary Technician Salary

The average yearly salary in the US for a veterinary technician can range anywhere from $25,500 to $65,000. With this in mind, it all depends on what state you live in, experience, license, and education. 


An unlicensed vet tech averages $15/hour. On the other hand, an LVT averages $21/hour. 

In NYC the average annual salary for an LVT is $40,000. In comparison, the average salary for an LVT in Oregon is $34,600.

Since we all know that veterinary technicians are overworked and underpaid, why not get your favorite vet tech a gift? Our awesome gift guide for vet techs can help you pick out something unique for them.

Veterinary Assistant Salary

The average yearly salary in the US for a veterinary assistant ranges from $20,800 to $28,500. As you can see the veterinary assistant salary is quite a bit lower than a vet tech. A veterinary assistant will have to get the education and pass the VTNE in order to earn a higher salary.

In particular, a veterinary assistant can increase their salary by at least 14%. As long as they get the certifications required to become an LVT, CVT, or RV. As you can see in order to increase your vet assistant salary, you will have to get some official credentials.




Whether you are a vet tech or a vet assistant, your contribution will be critical to a well run veterinary practice. The veterinary doctor will not be able to succeed without you. A vet tech helps the veterinary practice see more patients in a timely manner. If you have a passion for working in the veterinary medical field but don’t want the burden of becoming a DVM then a vet tech might be the next best thing. As previously stated a vet tech will be able to make more money than a vet assistant. 


If this is your passion then going the extra step to get licensed will be worthwhile. It will also give you more respect and job opportunities within the field.