If you are interested in becoming a veterinarian, or just enjoy working with animals, you may be interested in working at a veterinary clinic. There are 5 main types of jobs in most veterinary clinics
- Veterinary technician
- Veterinary assistant
- Kennel attendant (for those clinics that board animals)
Since working as a veterinarian or a veterinary technician require a specialized degree, if you are looking for an entry level position in a veterinary clinic you will need to apply for one of the other three positions. This post will focus on the veterinary assistant position.
What does a veterinary assistant do? The answer to this may differ some from clinic to clinic, but generally, veterinary assistants help veterinarians and veterinary technicians with day to day tasks. From getting appointments into rooms, taking detailed medical histories, answering phone calls, restraining animals for exams and blood draws, assisting with nail trims, helping with cleaning, and setting up lab work, veterinary assistants are a pivotal part of a veterinary team.
How do you get a veterinary assistant job? While some veterinary assistant jobs will be posted on generic job boards (like Indeed.com) or on state veterinary job boards, many veterinary clinics will offer these positions to someone they know first. A great way to get your foot in the door is to start by working in the kennels (if your veterinary clinic has one) or by job shadowing.
In this article, we will discuss how to find veterinary assistant job openings, and how to set yourself up for success when you do find a job to apply for.
Finding Job Openings for Veterinary Assistants
The first step in getting a job as a veterinary assistant is finding a veterinary clinic that is hiring. This can be accomplished in three main ways: look for available job positions, ask around at local veterinary clinics, or develop a relationship with a specific veterinary clinic by starting in a different position.
While dropping off your resume at various local clinics can sometimes result in a job offer, the easiest way to get an interview is to apply to a veterinary clinic that you know is hiring.
Searching the Local Job Postings
Most veterinary clinics will post jobs for receptionists, kennel attendants, and veterinary assistants in general job boards – like Indeed.com. A search on Indeed.com for veterinary assistants within 25 miles of my local zip code in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, yielded 62 results. While some of these were not truly veterinary assistant positions, there were still plenty of opportunities posted on Indeed.
Another place to check is your local state’s veterinary association. However, at the time of writing, the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) classifieds only had 1 veterinary assistant posting.
Starting In a Different Position (Developing a Relationship with a Veterinary Clinic)
While searching job boards is a good first place to start, many veterinary assistant jobs are never posted to job boards. Instead, they are offered to someone the practice owner already knows. Maybe it is a receptionist who wants to transition into part-time work directly with the animals. Often it is a kennel attendant or pre-veterinary job shadow who has proven to be a hard worker and good with animal-related tasks.
If you have applied to veterinary assistant positions and not been successful, consider taking a different position within the veterinary clinic first. This allows you to develop a relationship with the clinic and demonstrate your good work ethic and great people and animal skills. And the more experience you gain working in a veterinary clinic, the better your resume will look.
Writing a Great Resume
Just like any career, getting the perfect job starts with creating the perfect resume. If this is your first time applying for a job, there are several great websites that help guide you through creating a resume. TheBalanceCareers.com has a great guide on creating a professional resume.
But how do you make your resume stand out when you are applying to work as a veterinary assistant specifically?
First of all, highlight any experience that you have working in a veterinary clinic. This helps show that you understand what goes on inside a veterinary clinic.
Second, make sure to list any experience you have working with the animals that are seen at the veterinary clinic you are applying to. (And check to see which types of animals the clinic sees before you apply). Work experience like dog boarding or working at a horse riding stable show that you have some basic animal knowledge.
List all of your customer service experience. Most veterinary assistants do a lot of customer service as they interact with the clients who are bringing their animals (the patients) into the veterinary clinic. Being able to deal with people as well as you deal with animals is an important part of the job.
Finally, write a good objective. At the top of your resume make sure to mention why you want to work as a veterinary assistant for this veterinary clinic. If you have plans to become a veterinary technician or a veterinarian, mention them. Veterinary clinics love to be able to give an assisting job to someone who wants to make a career out of working in veterinary medicine.
Ace-ing the Veterinary Assistant Interview
Interviews can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t participated in many of them. But with a little preparation, you will be ready to impress anyone during your interview.
First impressions count, so make sure to show up on time and be dressed professionally. It is hard to overdress, so when in doubt, choose the more professional outfit. Personally, I have always worn dress pants to interviews, but these days for women even nice black jeans or jeggings without any holes can look nice and presentable with the right top. Pair that with a dress shirt – a blouse or collared button-up and you will be set to go. For men, dress pants or khakis work great with a button-up shirt.
When you enter the veterinary clinic, smile and greet everyone. Being pleasant with all of the staff members and clients you meet is important. While the practice manager or veterinarian-owner may be the one making the final hiring decision, they usually talk to other staff members about first impressions. And if you are hired, you will be working with everyone, not just the boss. Don’t ignore the front desk and sit with your phone out while you wait for your interview to start. Instead, be aware of your surroundings and friendly with everyone.
The interview itself may require a small amount of preparation depending on your experience with interviews. There are many youtube videos and online articles written about how to interview well. The following video does a great job of discussing how to prepare for an interview, how to ask questions, how to dress, and how to follow up.
These principles are general guidelines that apply to just about any job. You might not ace your first interview, but with a little practice, you will learn how to showcase yourself and let a potential employer know all the great ways you would be a beneficial hire.
So now that you have the basics, it’s time to get out there and start applying for your first position as a veterinary assistant.
How old do I have to be to apply for a veterinary assistant position? For most full-time positions you will have to have graduated from high school and be 18+. Occasionally, some part-time veterinary assistant jobs can be filled by those who are 16+. If you aren’t ready for a part-time job, consider job shadowing. We have devoted an entire blog post to helping you figure out what the best age to begin veterinary job shadowing is.
How much do veterinary assistants make? Generally from $9 to $15/hr.
- Salary.com lists the range as $9 to $20/hr.
- ZipRecruiter.com states the range is from $9.38 to $15.4/hr.
- And PayScale.com says $9.27 to $15.6/hr.