Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have a high school diploma and learn on the job. Experience working with animals can be useful.
There is no postsecondary education requirement for becoming a veterinary assistant or laboratory animal caretaker. However, most workers entering the occupation have a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are trained on the job, but some employers prefer candidates who already have experience working with animals.
For laboratory animal caretakers seeking work in a research facility, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) offers three levels of certification: assistant laboratory animal technician (ALAT), laboratory animal technician (LAT), and laboratory animal technologist (LATG). Although certification is not mandatory, it allows workers at each level to demonstrate competency in animal husbandry, health and welfare, or facility administration and management. To become certified, candidates must have work experience in a laboratory animal facility and pass the AALAS exam.
Compassion. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must treat animals with kindness and be compassionate to both the animals and their owners.
Detail oriented. These workers must follow strict instructions. For example, workers must be precise when sterilizing surgical equipment, monitoring animals, and giving medication.
Dexterity. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must handle animals and use medical instruments and laboratory equipment with care.
Physical strength. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must be able to handle, move, and restrain animals.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition