can you be a vet assistant without a degree

Last Updated on January 7, 2022

Veterinary Assistant, Veterinary Nurse, Veterinary Technician – so what’s the difference?

The world of veterinary medicine is complex. There are a myriad of career paths that can be followed, each of which holds different responsibilities and requires various levels of education or certification to qualify. For someone being introduced to the field, the number of titles and the distinctions between them can seem overwhelming, but each role has distinct duties and functions within veterinary system. According to the Australian Veterinary Association, veterinary medicine is a suitable field for those who respect and empathise with creatures, and who wish to devote their careers to caring for them. It is a rapidly evolving, high-impact area of study that offers opportunities for many tiers of work.

Vet nurse - vet assistant - vet tech - what is the differenceVeterinary Nurse Assistant

Though no formal qualifications are required to pursue a career as a veterinary nurse assistant, it is recommended that a Certification II in Animal Studies or a Certificate III in Animal Studies and previous experience handling animals, is attained. Several programs can prepare students in techniques in working with animals, and employees will primarily work under the supervision of a veterinary nurse. They may perform tasks such as feeding animals, monitoring their weight, cleaning their cages, administering medications, and nursing the animal after procedures.Start Studying Today

Veterinary Nurse

The job description of veterinary nurses is quite diversified. While veterinary nurses often assist in cleaning and sterilising cages and equipment, they also perform higher-level tasks such as aiding with the administration of anaesthesia during surgery, taking and running tests on blood and stool samples, performing dental procedures, preparing animals for surgery, and educating owners on proper aftercare. They work closely with veterinarians to provide both routine and emergency care. To work as a veterinary nurse, it is a general expectation that applicants have attained a Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing.

Veterinary Technician

In Australia, a veterinary technician or sometimes referred to as a vet tech must hold a Bachelor’s Degree of Veterinary Technology to be considered for the career. This is often more of an academic path than an applied one, as there are generally very few clinical roles for veterinary technicians in Australian general practice veterinary medicine hospitals.

If so, roles can be found mostly in emergency hospitals and specialist centres where they may recognise the higher level of knowledge and support that can be offered by a veterinary technician. In these cases they may be able to alleviate the veterinarians’ workload. Veterinary Technicians may also take on supervisory and management roles within a hospital.

Those interested in pursuing animal research, working in animal welfare, or teaching may find the path of Veterinary Technician to be most relevant to their goals and interests. Generally the scope of education of Veterinary Technician is similar to that of a Veterinary Nurse, but of a more theoretical and research-based, instead of clinical, focus. Veterinary Technicians can study a broad array of fields, including diagnostics, zoos, poultry, cattle, or horse farms.

Are the terms Vet Nurse, Vet Assistant and Vet Technician the same everywhere in the world?

The use of this terminology varies widely across the world as does the training and qualification requirements for each title.  Because international definitions of the various job titles and their responsibility and scope vary across the US, the National Association of Veterinary Technologies in America (NAVTA) is working towards unifying standards within the field in America.

Choosing what’s right for you

Those seeking to enter the field of animal care including veterinary medicine, whether it be a hands-on role or a career focused on research or teaching, can find a niche that is suited to their career goals. Those new to the field, or who are considering gaining entry-level experience prior to the investment that extended education demands, might consider working as a veterinary nurse assistant or animal carer. Those who have completed more advanced training and who wish to assist in the more technical aspects of animal care may choose to pursue veterinary nursing. The more academically oriented, who prefer to teach about theories or ideas of animal care or to perform research that can optimise the field, may consider choosing the Veterinary Technician path in the University.

Veterinary medicine including support roles are competitive, and highly demanded careers on all levels. Working with animals is widely considered to be a meaningful, satisfying and rewarding choice, and has suitable openings for a variety of educational levels and technical proficiency. 

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