What Does a Veterinary Receptionist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A Day in the Life of a Veterinary Receptionist

Maddy Price/The Balance

Veterinary receptionists greet clients, set appointments, and process payments. They're the first person a visitor encounters in the vet's office, and as such should be calm and reassuring. Their tone and demeanor can help a pet owner and a pet feel less nervous about visiting the vet, which makes the experience easier for everyone.

Veterinary Receptionist Duties & Responsibilities

This job generally requires the ability to do the following work:

  • Provide customer service such as greet customers, answer questions, process incoming patients, and handle payments.
  • Answer phone calls, which may involve answering questions and screening and scheduling appointments.
  • Handle incoming and outgoing mail and email.
  • Update and file patient charts.
  • Enter data into a computerized billing program.
  • Process credit card payments and prepare bank deposits.
  • Retrieve prescriptions.
  • Assist with pet supply purchases such as pet food, supplements, and grooming items.
  • Maintain the cleanliness of the waiting room.

In addition to providing excellent customer service to clients and ensuring that front desk operations run smoothly, the receptionist acts as the primary greeter when a client enters the waiting room with their pet, alerts the appropriate technician or veterinarian of the client’s arrival, and processes the client’s payment at the conclusion of the appointment.

Veterinary Receptionist Salary

The salary that a veterinary receptionist earns is usually commensurate with their level of experience and education in the field. It may also be influenced by the prevailing average pay rate where the clinic is located.

PayScale provides salary information for veterinary receptionists as follows:

  • Median Annual Income: $28,982 ($13.93/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Income: $42,412 ($20.39/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Income: $19,463 ($9.36/hour)

Source: PayScale.com, 2019

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary information specifically for veterinary receptionists, however, they do show earnings for receptionists:

  • Median Annual Income: $29,141 ($14.01/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Income: $41,662 ($20.03/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Income: $20,592 ($9.90/hour)

Education, Training, & Certification

To work as a veterinary receptionist, the following education and experience are needed:

  • Education: While a college degree is not necessary for this position, many veterinary receptionists have a degree in business or in an animal-related field. A high school diploma or GED is generally sufficient to meet an employer’s educational requirements. 
  • Training: A background working with animals, particularly in the veterinary environment, can increase chances for employment. Trainees generally go through significant practical training to become familiar with the veterinary practice management software used at their clinic. There are several popular software programs that allow the receptionist to update the patient file database, maintain the clinic’s appointment book, and provide invoices for billing purposes. 
  • Certification: Veterinary receptionists may achieve professional certification through an association such as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). A Veterinary Receptionist Certificate course is offered in an online format that can be completed in three semesters. The AAHA also offers career guidance and internships for qualified applicants.
  • Advancement: Veterinary receptionists may transition into a variety of other veterinary clinic roles such as office manager, kennel manager, or veterinary technician

Veterinary Receptionist Skills & Competencies

Veterinary receptionists should have the following skills:

  • Compassion and sensitivity: Ability to be sensitive to an ill pet, as well as its concerned owner.
  • Customer service skills: Ability to provide friendly, efficient service to patients in-person, as well as on the phone.
  • Interpersonal skills: Ability to feel comfortable dealing with patients, staff, and others.
  • Technology skills: Ability to operate office technology such as computers, fax machines, and copiers.
  • Mental and physical stamina: Ability to stay calm when handling a nervous, defensive animal.
  • Organizational skills: Ability to manage office operations such as taking messages, scheduling appointments, and maintaining patient files.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that employment of receptionists is projected to grow 9% until 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job opportunities for veterinary receptionists tend to come up regularly in most areas. The veterinary profession has shown strong growth in recent years, driving the need for additional support personnel as veterinarians open their private practices. Turnover is also to be expected as experienced veterinary receptionists retire or move into other industries.

Work Environment

A veterinary receptionist usually works in an area that is visible and easily accessible to the public and staff, and is in close proximity to the waiting room and employees. They may work in a private veterinary office, or veterinary hospital or clinic, and must be comfortable working around a variety of animals. They may be required to take animals into the treatment area if all technicians are otherwise occupied.

Work Schedule

Veterinary receptionists can expect to work some evening, weekend, and holiday hours, depending on the schedule at their individual clinic.

How to Get the Job

APPLY

Look for veterinary receptionist positions at your local vet clinics and hospitals. For example, the Long Animal Emergency Center website posts job opportunities for interested candidates. Also, iHireVeterinary, Indeed, and Glassdoor provide job postings for this profession.

JOIN AN ORGANIZATION

Consider joining the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) to attend conferences and connect with others in the industry. Membership in an industry organization can help build a network of contacts, which can lead to employment.

Comparing Similar Jobs

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