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What do you want to be when you grow up?

Did you love hearing that question when you were younger? Perhaps it made you uneasy with such a big decision, or maybe a thousand answers would rush through your mind. Has the answer changed between then and now?

Choosing a career path can be daunting, whether it’s the first time you’ve chosen a new profession or the tenth. But it’s never too late to start fresh – even your career in veterinary medicine. Whether you’ve dreamed of working in a vet clinic your whole life or only recently, you have many options to launch your new career path.

Why Choose to Work in Veterinary Medicine?

Veterinary Careers Offer Excellent Job Security

Careers in veterinary medicine offer an impressive job outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the projected job growth between 2020 and 2030 is much faster than the average for occupations in other fields.

Employment for veterinarians is expected to grow by 17% while vet tech employment is expected to grow by 15%, and veterinary assistants will see an increase of 14%. But the fastest-growing positions are animal care and service workers, which have projected job growth of 33%.

Regardless of which position fits your career goals, breaking into the veterinary medicine field will provide you with excellent job security. You’ll also get to provide much-needed care to pets and impact their lives daily.

How to Start Working in the Veterinary Field

So you’re ready to take the leap and start working at a vet clinic. You’ve done the research, felt the tug on your heart, and you’re ready to build a rewarding career helping pets enjoy long, happy lives with their owners.

Veterinary technician holding a white dog.

So how do you get started? Here are five entry-level positions to help you kick off your career in veterinary medicine.

*All salary information as of 2022 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates.

1. Animal Caretaker

  • Average starting salary range per BLS: $21,380 – $38,750
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or equivalent

Animal caretakers often work in vet clinics, animal hospitals, shelters, and rescues. They provide basic animal care like:

  • Feeding and watering
  • Exercising
  • Maintaining cages/kennels
  • Grooming and bathing

In animal shelters or humane societies, animal caretakers may also have administrative duties such as screening potential adoptive families, providing animal education, and keeping records of animals in their care.

Even if your local vet clinic or animal hospital isn’t hiring animal caretakers, working in an animal care facility will stand out on your resume. You’ll gain invaluable experience that you can use to make your next career move into the veterinary field.

2. Kennel Assistant

  • Average starting salary range per BLS: $21,380 – $38,750
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or equivalent

Kennel assistants are essential to a vet clinic’s daily functions. They provide care for pets staying overnight, give them baths, and may administer medications to recovering patients. Kennel assistants clean cages to maintain sanitary, healthy environments for the animals in their care. This position is also responsible for exercising and playing with the pets in the clinic or hospital to keep them active and regulate their energy while they recover.

Becoming a kennel assistant is an excellent way to get your foot in the door at a veterinary facility. You can use that experience to boost your credentials and find out what kind of environment you’d like to work in long term.

3. Receptionist or Coordinator

  • Average starting salary range per BLS: $23,050 – $45,760
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or equivalent
Front desk associates at BluePearl

If you’d like to work in the veterinary field, but your strengths are working with two-legged beings, working as a veterinary receptionist or coordinator may be the perfect fit. Owners need someone to communicate with them and schedule appointments, relay at-home care instructions, coordinate billing information and gather the preliminary information for the veterinary team.

Quality care for animals and their families starts from the moment they walk through the door. A friendly welcome and kind smile can make a world of difference for owners and pets going through stressful situations, and BluePearl wants to provide the best experience possible for every animal we treat – and their owners. We have many veterinary receptionist and coordinator positions at clinics all over the country that are invaluable to our daily operations.

BluePearl Receptionist & Coordinator Positions

  • Veterinary Receptionist
  • Client Service Coordinator
  • Client Service Representative
  • Veterinary Financial Coordinator
  • Veterinary Referral Coordinator

4. Veterinary Assistant

  • Average starting salary range per BLS: $22,920 – $38,860
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or equivalent

Veterinary assistants have a wide range of responsibilities to help a vet clinic run smoothly. While they may have duties similar to kennel assistants, including feeding and exercising animals, they also provide much-needed help in the exam room.

Vet assistants may restrain animals so the veterinarian can safely perform an examination or procedure. They also help provide first aid to sick or animals in urgent situations and help administer medication or immunizations as directed by the veterinarian. In some cases, vet assistants may also help veterinarians or vet techs collect urine, tissue, or blood samples.

Some veterinary assistants who work with specialists or surgeons may also have responsibilities inside the operating room. They typically sterilize and maintain surgical instruments before and after procedures, and often assist with surgeries by providing the operating doctor with the tools and equipment they need.

Closeup of a patient with a vet tech in the background.

5. Veterinary Technician

  • Average starting salary range per BLS: $28,370 – $48,100
  • Minimum education: Associate degree

While you will need an associate degree from an accredited program to become a vet technician, it is a faster path into veterinary medicine than going to vet school.

Vet technicians typically provide nursing care, assist veterinarians with conducting exams, administering medications and immunizations, and performing many more clinical tasks. Vet techs are also responsible for taking x-rays, collecting samples, and preparing patients for surgery. Advanced vet techs may even administer the anesthesia and monitor the animal’s response.

Becoming a vet tech or veterinary technician specialist (VTS) may seem daunting, but many options exist to pursue this career. Chances are you’re close to a community college or specialty school that offers an accredited program. And if you require a flexible school schedule, Penn Foster College offers an online vet tech program so you can complete your education requirements from anywhere in the country.

BluePearl is always looking to support the next round of talent breaking into the veterinary medicine field. To help them reach their career goals, our Associates are eligible to receive up to 90% paid scholarships through Penn Foster’s AVMA CVTEA-accredited program to become a certified veterinary technician. We also encourage growth through CareerTrax, which is designed to help Associates advance into other positions in the organization, such as progressing from a credentialed veterinary technician (LVT, CVT, or RVT) to a veterinary technician specialist (VTS).

Getting your foot in the door at a BluePearl hospital in your area yields endless possibilities for your career in veterinary medicine.

FAQ About Careers in Veterinary Medicine

Below are some common questions about getting started in veterinary medicine and advancing your career.

Two veterinary technicians working together.

Can I Work At a Vet Clinic Without Experience?

In many cases, yes! Many positions, including kennel assistants, client service coordinators, and veterinary assistants, typically do not require previous experience. These roles include on-the-job training and an orientation period to get you up to speed and make sure you’re comfortable handling all duties and expectations.

What Career Advancement Opportunities Will I Have?

Entry-level positions like these offer many opportunities for advancement, especially in an organization like BluePearl. We genuinely care about our Associates and do everything we can to give them the tools and resources they need to succeed, personally and professionally.

In addition to our partnership with Penn Foster College for aspiring vet techs, we also offer professional development through CareerTrax to provide a clear, tangible plan for advancement in all positions and departments. Our Associates also receive support for continuing education, including free opportunities via ConferenceTrax to earn continuing education credits. There is an additional CE allowance that gives you options to earn CE credits outside of BluePearl.

Innovation, excellence, and medical quality drive everything we do at BluePearl, and we want to help every member of our team flourish.

Will Entry-level Jobs Help Me Become a Veterinarian?

If becoming a veterinarian is your ultimate goal, these positions can help you get there. Not only will you gain valuable experience and knowledge that will serve you well throughout your career, but you can also include that experience in your vet school application. Every bit of experience counts in a competitive program like veterinary medicine.

Final Thoughts

From animal care techs to veterinary technicians, it takes a village to run a vet clinic smoothly and safely for all patients who come through the doors. And there are many entry-level positions available that will suit your current ambitions while providing growth opportunities to help you achieve future goals.

Providing care for pets and their owners, regardless of which role you play, is fulfilling work like no other field can offer. No matter which path you choose as you blaze your trail into veterinary medicine, we know you will find the work rewarding, exciting, and immensely gratifying.

Ready to Grow Your Career?