Mar 24, 2021
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  1. Pre-Veterinary
Hello,
I am only just beginning my journey towards applying to vet school. I'm preparing to leave my current career (Environmental consultant) and have been looking for jobs in the veterinary field. Before I can apply, I'll have to go back to school to fulfill some prerequisites and get real-life experience. Today I interviewed at two places for vastly different positions and would like advice on which would better help me in my eventual application to vet school. As of now, I have no formal clinic experience.

Previous animal experience:
3 years 'interning' (AKA under the table paid) at a dog training studio while I was in college. Learned great training techniques, some dog handling techniques, and also took care of the nitty-gritty cleaning up messes and keeping classes organized. Sometimes I got to lead lessons.​
6 months volunteering in a shelter with cats. Sadly I had to quit so quickly because I didn't have a car and my bus route got canceled.​
~9 months volunteering 4 hours on Saturdays at an animal clinic when I was a senior in high school. (I'm 26 now though so that was like 8 years ago, I hardly remember anything specific)​
~4 years off and on helping rescues with adopting events from when I was in middle school through high school.​
Now onto the positions. I've only interviewed at these so far, no offers yet.

Position 1: Veterinary Assistant at a GP clinic
Will be hired on as an actual veterinary assistant so definitely more hands-on. No guarantees about the number of hours I'd be working each week but I'd always be working Saturdays. No benefits unless I'm full-time (obviously). No mention of holidays or PTO. About a 30-35 minute commute (I live in Phoenix so while I'd prefer to not drive so far it's also the kind of place where everything is at least 20 minutes away ha)​
Wage starting at $15/hr, mentioned it could be higher if I don't accept benefits. I also told them my current hourly wage is $19.50/hr in case it inspires them.​
Position 2: Veterinary Scheduler-Client Service at a surgical specialty clinic
This caught my attention because I'd love the opportunity to get experience in a specialty clinic. The problem is I wouldn't be a veterinary assistant, it would be a receptionist position (answering phones, scheduling appointments, talking to clients about aftercare, managing patient histories, and keeping records, plus more that I've forgotten) so I would be getting less hands-on experience. There are two locations, both about a 20-30 minutes commute. Full-time Mon-Fri schedule working 7:45am-4:45pm with benefits (M/D/V 75% paid) and paid holidays and time off.​
Starting wage wasn't specified, but once again I noted my current hourly wage (albeit with the acknowledgment that I'd be starting fresh in the field).​
What are your thoughts? If I'm offered both, which should I take? Eventually of course I'll have to go back to school to get those prereqs, but there's the option of evening classes or online (for ones that don't require a lab).

Thanks!
 

raegan117

vmcvm '25
May 11, 2020
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  1. Pre-Veterinary
I think the receptionist position sounds like a good deal! I personally would choose it over the assistant position. Yes, your hands-on experience will be virtually non-existent, but that doesn't mean you won't be working with the vet. In my experience, the doctors and receptionists are constantly communicating with each other about surgeries, client concerns, and charges. The client communication skills that you will gain from the position are invaluable. Plus, you can always get more direct vet experience and potentially hands-on opportunities while shadowing. If you're down for it, you could shadow at a closer GP clinic for a few hours on Saturdays just to get a taste.
Ultimately, choose which one you think you'd feel most comfortable at. If one clinic gave you super good vibes, then they're probably a better fit for you. Also consider if you can make do with the position's pay, especially if it's going to be lower than your current pay.
 
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EngrSC

VMCVM c/o 2024!
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Jul 25, 2012
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Agree with what @raegan117 said. I worked as both a receptionist and veterinary assistant prior to vet school and feel like I learned more by being a receptionist. You learn so much about how to communicate effectively with clients by being on the "front lines" and the middle-man between them and the vet. Vet school teaches you the clinical skills you need, the soft skills (communication) are a lot harder to teach and take a lot more time to master IMO. If your intentions are to enter general practice or a specialty with client interaction you will have a much more difficult time if your communication skills are crap.
 
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Mar 24, 2021
2
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  1. Pre-Veterinary
I think the receptionist position sounds like a good deal! I personally would choose it over the assistant position. Yes, your hands-on experience will be virtually non-existent, but that doesn't mean you won't be working with the vet. In my experience, the doctors and receptionists are constantly communicating with each other about surgeries, client concerns, and charges. The client communication skills that you will gain from the position are invaluable. Plus, you can always get more direct vet experience and potentially hands-on opportunities while shadowing. If you're down for it, you could shadow at a closer GP clinic for a few hours on Saturdays just to get a taste.
Ultimately, choose which one you think you'd feel most comfortable at. If one clinic gave you super good vibes, then they're probably a better fit for you. Also consider if you can make do with the position's pay, especially if it's going to be lower than your current pay.
Agree with what @raegan117 said. I worked as both a receptionist and veterinary assistant prior to vet school and feel like I learned more by being a receptionist. You learn so much about how to communicate effectively with clients by being on the "front lines" and the middle-man between them and the vet. Vet school teaches you the clinical skills you need, the soft skills (communication) are a lot harder to teach and take a lot more time to master IMO. If your intentions are to enter general practice or a specialty with client interaction you will have a much more difficult time if your communication skills are crap.
Thank you both for your reply! I am definitely leaning toward the receptionist position more, I just needed a little push to show me it wouldn't be a terrible decision. Hopefully this week I get positive news back from them!
 
May 30, 2020
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Different opinion here: I would much rather choose the assistant job. Maybe my experience in the field was different from @raegan117 and @EngrSC , but in both GP and referral specialty hospitals I've worked in, animal care staff (techs and assistants) are a lot more involved in both vets' diagnosis and treatment processes as well as client communication. Client communication staff (front desk staff) don't take histories, don't go over estimates or discharge instructions, don't answer animal care related questions. Think about it - in most clinics they work in separate areas than where animal care takes place.

I highly respect our client care staff, and I firmly believe professional front desk staff makes a world of difference in client experience. I do, however, believe you'll learn a lot more by being an assistant, and probably will have better chance of locking down better eLORs.
 
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Sierra_mountains11

WSU c/o 2025
Dec 1, 2020
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I agree with @Ariel-Li. I learned much more as an assistant than a receptionist. Yes there is the benefit of interacting with the clients a *little* more, but in my experience, that communication was more bill related or scheduling....anything overly technical and we would transfer the call to the tech/assistant/vet that had helped with the case (more to save time and get to the next call than for lack of knowledge). You'll still get plenty of client interaction as an assistant. @raegan117 had a great idea though of shadowing too if you take the receptionist job, so that could be a good compromise!
 
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