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Associate Veterinarian vs. Veterinarian: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A career in veterinary medicine can be both rewarding and challenging. Two common positions in this field are that of an associate veterinarian and a veterinarian. Though these positions share some similarities, there are several key differences between them.

In this article, we discuss the differences between an associate veterinarian and a veterinarian, and we provide additional information about working in veterinary medicine.

What is an Associate Veterinarian?

An Associate Veterinarian is a licensed professional who works under the supervision of a senior veterinarian to provide medical care for animals. Associate Veterinarians examine animals to diagnose their health problems, prescribe and administer treatment, perform surgery, and advise owners on animal care and behavior. They also keep medical records, prepare reports, and consult with other veterinarians and animal specialists. Associate Veterinarians typically work in private veterinary clinics, animal hospitals, zoos, and research laboratories. Some may also work in shelters, humane societies, or rescue organizations.

What is a Veterinarian?

Veterinarians care for the health of animals. They diagnose, treat and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock and other animals. Veterinarians examine animals to check their overall health and identify any problems. They may also perform surgeries on animals, if necessary. In addition, veterinarians work to prevent the spread of diseases by vaccinating animals against common illnesses. They also advise animal owners on how to care for their pets and provide guidance on topics such as nutrition and exercise.

Associate Veterinarian vs. Veterinarian

Here are the main differences between an associate veterinarian and a veterinarian.

Job Duties

Veterinarians perform a wide range of duties, including diagnosing and treating animal illnesses and injuries, prescribing medications and advising owners on proper care. Associate veterinarians typically handle many of the same tasks, but they also assist the veterinarian with administrative responsibilities. This may include scheduling appointments, greeting clients, updating patient records and communicating with other staff members.

Veterinarians often spend much of their workday standing or walking as they examine patients. They may also operate medical equipment and lift animals that need treatment. Associate veterinarians typically have a less physically demanding job, although they may spend more time sitting at a desk or computer than a veterinarian.

Job Requirements

To become an associate veterinarian, you need to complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program at an accredited school and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). Once you have your license, you can begin practicing. Some states also require that you take continuing education courses to renew your license.

To become a veterinarian, you need to first earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as animal science or biology. After completing your undergraduate studies, you must then attend a four-year veterinary school and earn your DVM. Once you have your degree, you must pass the NAVLE to become licensed. You may also need to take continuing education courses to renew your license.

Work Environment

Veterinarians can work in a variety of environments, including private practices, animal hospitals and zoos. Associate veterinarians typically work for large companies that provide veterinary services to multiple locations. These professionals may travel between different facilities or cities on a regular basis.

Veterinarians often work long hours, especially during emergency situations. They also spend time performing physical tasks like lifting animals and cleaning cages. Associate veterinarians usually have more predictable schedules than full-time veterinarians because they don’t perform surgeries or other procedures.


Both associate veterinarians and veterinarians use similar skills when diagnosing and treating animals. They both need to have excellent communication skills to interact with animal owners, as well as strong observational skills to identify potential health concerns. They also both need to be able to work quickly and efficiently under pressure, as many times they are working with sick or injured animals that need immediate attention.

However, there are some key differences in the skills that these two professionals use. Associate veterinarians typically do not have as much decision-making authority as veterinarians. This means that they may need to rely more on the guidance of a supervising veterinarian when it comes to making treatment decisions. Veterinarians, on the other hand, are often responsible for making all treatment decisions for their patients. This can require them to have strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In addition, veterinarians often need to have stronger business skills than associate veterinarians. This is because they may be responsible for managing a veterinary practice, which can include tasks like hiring and training staff, ordering supplies and managing finances.


The average salary for an associate veterinarian is $103,816 per year, while the average salary for a veterinarian is $109,624 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the location of the job, the size of the company and the level of experience the veterinarian has.


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