Veterinarians, doctors who treat animals, are assisted by two kinds of workers: the veterinary technician, or technologist, and the veterinary assistant. Vet techs run medical tests and assist with diagnoses, while vet assistants care for animals and perform routine tasks, such as feeding and grooming. Pay can differ with their responsibilities, as a vet tech's education reflects the extra duties. These workers have often completed a college program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association -- with vet technicians normally earning an associate degree, and veterinary technologists earning a bachelor's. Vet assistants, on the other hand, normally need only a high school diploma or equivalent.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 78,800 veterinary technicians working nationwide as of May 2011. These vet techs earned an average annual wage of $31,570, or $15.18 an hour. The best-paid 10 percent could earn $44,740 or more, the equivalent of $21.51 an hour, while the lowest-paid 10 percent could earn $20,880 or less, the equivalent of $10.04 an hour.
The BLS reported 72,530 veterinary assistants working nationwide. These vet assistants earned an average annual wage of $24,430, or $11.75 an hour. The top 10 percent could earn $34,970 or more annually, the equivalent of $16.81 an hour, while the bottom 10 percent could earn $16,970 or less, the equivalent of $8.16 an hour.
Vet technicians' average annual wage was 29 percent higher than that of vet assistants, according to the BLS. That difference was fairly proportionate, as the best-paid vet techs earned 28 percent more than the best-paid vet assistants, and the lowest-paid techs earned 23 percent more than the lowest-paid assistants.
The job outlook for veterinary technicians was also better than the outlook for veterinary assistants. Vet techs were expected to experience 52 percent job growth between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS, while vet assistants were only supposed to see 14 percent growth. The vet techs' estimate was much faster than that for all jobs nationwide, while the vet assistants' estimate was in line with overall national growth.