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! Frequently the terms vet tech and vet assistant are interchangeable.

Overall, the veterinary industry has been trying to move away from the public viewing them the same. A veterinary clinic, zoo, emergency hospital, and wildlife center are a few 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 several differences between the two careers. With this in mind, we will attempt to cover the differences between a vet tech vs. a vet assistant.

For sure, 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. 

Note: If you purchase through this Amazon affiliate link, a few pennies will go into our scholarship fund! 

Veterinarian Gifts - I Save Animals, What's Your Superpower - Rose Gold 12oz Tumbler/Mug for Wine or Coffee - Gift Ideas for Vet Tech, Veterinary Technician, School, Medicine, Assistant, Students
  • Veterinarian Gifts - I Save Animals, What's Your Superpower - Rose Gold 12oz Tumbler/Mug for Wine or Coffee - Gift Ideas for Vet Tech, Veterinary Technician, School, Medicine, Assistant, Students, Graduation
  • DOUBLE WALL VACUUM INSULATION: KLUBI Tumblers Keep your beverage at the ideal temperature, hot for 3 hours and cold for 9. Can be used for anything from wine or juice to coffee or tea.
  • 18/8 STAINLESS STEEL & BPA FREE: Made from 18/8 food grade stainless steel. KLUBI TUMBLERS will not rust, won't transfer flavor and are unbreakable! Comes with a clear BPA-free EZ SLIDE lid
  • SPILL RESISTANT & PORTABLE: Clear, push on lid makes this cute novelty tumbler ideal for everyday use, indoor and outdoor events, parties, camping, tailgating, weekends by the lake or evenings at home
  • 12 OZ capacity is the perfect size to hold your favorite beverage and fit in your hand

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 genuine empathy.

A veterinary assistant doesn’t have to have any formal veterinary training to hold the job title. On the contrary, many colleges 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. They are often 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 veterinary 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. They are namely working directly with the clients when they first arrive at the clinic. 

  • They are helping the vet techs. Vet assistants help the vet techs with clients, animal restraints, blood draws, IV catheters, medication, or charts.

  • They are 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 frequently lower than the vet tech salary.

What is a Vet Tech?

Generally, a vet tech will train 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.  

How long is schooling for a vet tech? 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 often interchangeable.

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. Anyone wishing to take the VTNE exam will have to be a graduate of an accredited veterinary technology program. Most vet tech programs are two years, and the student will earn an associate’s degree.

Alternatively, there are a few four 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.

Many veterinary professionals love their job so much that they wear vet tech hoodies! A hoodie with a slogan or animal print is popular among veterinary technicians.

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, you can find each state’s vet techs requirements 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 per 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. Often the difference lies in salary.

Veterinary Technician Salary

The US’s average yearly salary 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, your 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 NY vet tech salary for an LVT is $45,500. 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 excellent 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 to earn a higher salary.

In particular, the 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, to increase your vet assistant salary, you will have to get some official credentials.

Final Thoughts On The Difference Between A Vet Tech And Vet Assistant

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 promptly.

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.