animal technician

How to become an animal technician

What does an animal technician do?

Animal technicians are responsible for the care, husbandry and welfare of animals being bred for, or used in, bio-medical research. New entrants are mainly concerned with the physical care of the animals - particularly mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits and hamsters. They carry out routine tasks like cleaning the cages, monitoring the animals’ health, providing food and water, handling and moving animals safely, and keeping records.

More experienced technologists may be involved in experimental studies and scientific procedures, which requires an understanding of the physical, behavioural and environmental needs of individual species, and the ability to predict and interpret their responses. Technologists may be involved in selecting animals for experiments, and developing and carrying out dosing, assessment and sampling techniques.

The work is highly scientific and uses a variety of computer packages for record keeping. Compliance with current laws governing animal research is essential.


What's the working environment like for an animal technician?

Animals need care 24 hours a day, all year round, therefore the work could involve weekends, bank holidays, and possibly shifts and occasional nights (normally on a rota). A 37-hour week is normal, and there is the possibility of working part-time after gaining experience.

Most animal technologists work indoors, in purpose-built animal facilities, but there will be some outdoor work with larger species such as farm animals. Depending on the task being carried out, protective clothing and shoes, a face mask, and a hat or hair covering may be worn.

As animals are involved in research, it is expected that working temperatures and other factors like humidity, noise and lighting will be controlled. 


What does it take to become an animal technician?

To be an animal technologist you need:

  • commitment to the care and welfare of animals
  • a responsible attitude to issues of confidentiality
  • good mathematical skills
  • to pay close attention to detail and keep accurate records
  • physical fitness, stamina and good health
  • manual dexterity
  • good computer skills
  • willingness to work as part of a team.

Employers will expect you to have GCSE's in English, maths and science grades A*-C. 

Addition experience in subjects like animal care, animal studies, biology or pharmacology will stand you in good stead. This could be achieved through a HND, A Levels or a degree. There may also be the chance to gain entry through an apprenticeship. 

College courses in animal care and experience working with animals will also be useful when applying for animal technician roles. 

As you will be working with animals, you should be comfortable working and handling them. 

Animal technician career opportunities

The number of animal technologists have decreased in the past few years, partly because research work has been transferred to other countries. However, because the government has recently acted to support the research industry in the UK, the decline in the number of technicians is expected to slow and may even reverse.

Typical employers include:

  • universities
  • hospitals
  • pharmaceutical companies
  • laboratory animal breeders
  • specialist research companies.

There are opportunities for animal technology work in most major cities in the UK, but the greatest number of jobs is to be found in south-east England, where there is a shortage of suitable applicants. Opportunities for work overseas are good.

There may be prospects of promotion to supervisory and higher grades for technicians with relevant experience and appropriate qualifications.


Further information

If you would like to find out more about becoming an animal technician that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Institute of Animal Technology (IAT)
5 South Parade

Lantra House
Stoneleigh Park
Nr Coventry
Tel: 0845 707 8007

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