How to become an Animal Technician. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does an Animal Technician do?
Animal technicians are responsible for the care and welfare of animals used in medical and veterinary research. Some are also involved in experimental work.
As an animal technician, you would be in day-to-day contact with the animals – mainly mice, rats, rabbits and guinea pigs, but also sometimes other types such as monkeys, dogs, cats and farm animals. You would carry out routine tasks including:
- providing food and water for the animals and organising special diets if necessary
- carrying out regular observations and health checks
- making sure that animals are clean, comfortable and behaving as expected
- keeping up high levels of hygiene
- controlling heating, lighting and humidity
- monitoring the animals’ weight and growth.
With experience, you could also be involved in setting up scientific studies and breeding animals.
You would need to follow strict legal controls, which are in place to make sure animals used in research are well-looked after and humanely treated.
Animals need care 24 hours a day, all year round, so you would usually work on a rota including weekends, bank holidays, and possibly occasional nights. You would usually work a 37-hour week, but may be able to work part-time.
You would mainly be based in purpose-built animal facilities, but with larger species such as farm animals there would be some outdoor work. Depending on the task, you would need to wear protective clothing and shoes, a face mask, and a hat or hair covering.
How much does an Animal Technician earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Trainee technicians can earn between £15,000 and £18,000 a year.
- Qualified and experienced technicians can earn between £19,000 and £26,000.
- Senior technologists can earn between £27,000 and £33,000.
These are mid-range examples quoted by the IAT – there are no national pay scales, so there are variations between employers.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
There are no specific entry qualifications, but most employers will expect you to have GCSEs (A-D) in English, maths and science subjects, or equivalent qualifications. For some jobs you may need higher qualifications such as A levels or similar.
You will need to convince employers that you are interested in animal care and welfare – it will be useful if you have experience of working with animals, for example kennel work. This could be either paid or voluntary. Visit do-it.org.uk to find out about local volunteering opportunities.
You will also find it useful to have experience of work in a scientific setting, for example as a laboratory assistant.
Training and Development
Once you start work you would receive on-the-job training, learning how to do the routine tasks that are essential for the animals’ care and welfare.
Before you can be involved in the experimental side of animal research, you must have a Home Office licence. You will need at least one year’s experience, and must complete a short training course. This is part of the Home Office regulation of animal research – as well as personal licences for staff, all research laboratories must have a licence, and each separate research project must also be licensed. See the Science and Research section of the Home Office website for details.
- Home Office – Science and Research
The Institute of Animal Technology (IAT) is the professional body representing animal technicians. They offer the following qualifications:
- IAT First Certificate in Animal Husbandry
- IAT First Diploma in Animal Technology
- IAT National Certificate in Animal Technology
- IAT Higher Certificate in Animal Technology.
Foundation degree, BSc, Masters degree and PhD programmes are currently being developed. Details will be on the IAT website when they are available.
As a member of the IAT you can attend IAT training courses, seminars and workshops.
Visit the IAT website for details of careers, qualifications, training providers and IAT membership.
Skills and Knowledge
- commitment to the care and welfare of animals
- a respect for confidentiality
- good maths skills
- close attention to detail
- the ability to keep accurate records
- good computer skills
- the ability to work as part of a team.
You could be employed as an animal technician by universities, pharmaceutical companies, laboratory animal breeding companies or specialist research companies.
With experience and appropriate qualifications, you could progress to senior animal technologist or unit/section supervisor or manager. You could also specialise in areas such as breeding, immunology or training.
You may find the following links useful for job vacancies and general reading (links open in new window):
- Laboratory News
- New Scientist
- Veterinary Laboratories Agency
- Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry