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Choosing between becoming a vet assistant or a vet nurse is a big decision if you love animals and want to work in animal health care. Both jobs are super important in keeping animals healthy and happy, but they're quite different in what you do day-to-day, how you get trained, and where they can take you in your career. Let’s break it so you can figure out which path feels right for you. And remember, with online animal & vet assistant courses, getting started on either path is easier and more flexible than ever.

Vet Assistant & Vet Nurse Roles Compared 


Vet Assistant

Vet Nurse


Supports the vet and vet nurse with administrative tasks, basic animal care, and clinic maintenance.

Provides medical care under a vet’s supervision, including administering medication, assisting with surgeries, and performing diagnostic tests.

Educational Requirements

Online or vocational training. 

More extensive training, involving both coursework and practical experience.

Training Duration

Shorter training period, ranging from a few weeks to several months.

Longer training period, usually 1-2 years, due to the comprehensive nature of the coursework and required practical experience.


Feeding, grooming, cleaning, scheduling appointments, and assisting with general animal care.

More technical tasks, including wound care, sample collection for testing, monitoring anaesthesia, and providing post-operative care.

Work Environment

Works in vet clinics, animal shelters, and pet stores, often in an entry-level position.

Works in vet clinics, hospitals, and specialised animal care facilities, with a role that requires more specialised knowledge.

Career Progression

Opportunities to advance to a vet nurse position with further education and training.

Potential to specialise in areas like dental care, surgery, or emergency care, or advance to practise management roles.


Generally lower than vet nurses due to the entry-level nature and scope of responsibilities.

Higher, reflecting the greater level of training, technical skills, and responsibilities involved in the role.

The Basics of Being a Vet Assistant

What You'll Do:

Vet assistants as the all-rounders in an animal clinic. They do a bit of everything, from welcoming pets and their owners, to feeding and grooming animals, keeping cages clean, and helping out during exams. It’s a hands-on job where you’re often the first friendly face people see.

Read More: A Day in the Life of a Veterinary Assistant

Getting Trained:

Getting the right training to kickstart your career as a vet assistant doesn't require years of formal education. Instead, you can get prepared with the convenience of online courses. These courses provide a solid foundation in animal care, equip you with essential skills for assisting in a clinic, and even teach you effective communication with pet owners. 

Read More: How to Become a Vet Assistant with Online Study

Stepping Up as a Vet Nurse

What You'll Do:

Vet nurses go deeper into animal healthcare than vet assistants. They're involved in more medical roles, like helping with surgeries, doing lab tests, and taking care of animals recovering from illness or injury. It’s a bit more technical and requires a good understanding of veterinary medicine.

Getting Trained:

To become a vet nurse in Australia, you’ll need to undertake a more comprehensive educational path. This often involves in-depth coursework and practical experience, delving into the intricacies of veterinary care on a deeper level. This comprehensive training equips you with the knowledge and skills necessary for a fulfilling career in the field.

Read More: The Skills You Need to Become a Vet Nurse

Which Path Should You Choose?

Think About Your Goals:

If you're eager to start working with animals quickly and prefer a job with lots of variety and less medical responsibility, becoming a vet assistant could be perfect for you. It’s a great way to enter the veterinary field and see up close what animal care is all about.

If you’re drawn to the medical side of animal care, have a keen interest in the science behind it, and are ready for more extensive training, then vet nursing might be your calling. It’s a commitment, but it’s rewarding and opens up more advanced roles in veterinary care.

How Online Courses Australia Can Help

No matter which path feels right for you, Online Courses Australia offers flexible, comprehensive courses to get you started. 

Our Veterinary Assistant Pathway Course is designed to fit into your life, allowing you to study at your own pace, wherever you are. Plus, you’ll have support from experienced teachers and join a community of fellow animal care enthusiasts.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Whether you see yourself as a vet assistant or a vet nurse, the journey starts with the right training. 

Online Courses Australia is here to help you make your dream job a reality, with animal care courses that get you job ready.

Start your journey with Online Courses Australia today and turn your passion for animal care into your profession.

Vet Nurse Vs Vet Assistant Course FAQs

What's the main difference between vet nurse and vet assistant courses?

Vet nurse courses dive deeper into medical care, teaching you about animal anatomy, pharmacology, surgical assistance, and diagnostic procedures. They often require more time to complete due to the extensive hands-on training and theoretical knowledge needed. Vet assistant courses, on the other hand, focus on basic animal care, administrative duties in a vet setting, and support tasks. These courses can be shorter, offering a quicker pathway into the veterinary field.

Do I need previous experience in animal care to enrol in these courses?

Not necessarily. Both vet nurse and vet assistant courses are designed to cater to individuals at the entry-level, with no prior experience required. These courses will equip you with the foundational knowledge and skills needed to start your career in animal care.

Can I progress from a vet assistant to a vet nurse?

Absolutely. Many individuals start their careers as vet assistants to gain practical experience in the field before pursuing further education to become vet nurses. Some courses and employers may even offer pathways or support for continued learning and career advancement.

How long does it take to complete each course?

The duration can vary. Vet assistant courses might take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the program's intensity and your pace of learning. Vet nurse courses are more comprehensive, typically taking 1-2 years to complete due to the required practical experience and depth of study.

What are the career outcomes after completing these courses?

Completing a vet assistant course can lead to roles in veterinary clinics, animal shelters, and pet stores, focusing on general care and support tasks. Vet nurse courses prepare you for more technical roles within veterinary clinics and hospitals, where you'll be involved in direct animal medical care and procedures.

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