Animal technologists look after the animals used in medical research. These animals are usually rats and mice, although you might also work with animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, monkeys, cats and dogs.
Also known as
- Laboratory Technician, Animal
As an Animal Technologist, you will be responsible for keeping the animals clean, healthy and content. This means understanding their diet, knowing the right way to handle them, recognising signs of ill health and observing changes in their behaviour.
You will feed and water the animals, and clean cages, rooms and equipment. Some Technologists use their knowledge of nutrition to prepare special diets.
You will be in daily contact with animals, and are able to spot early signs of disease and changes in behaviour. You'll look after sick animals, and report findings to the Veterinary Surgeons (Vets) and Scientists.
Once you become an experienced Technologist you will help to breed animals especially for use in research. You'll monitor pregnancies, care for newborn animals, and measure weight gain and growth, often using charts and graphs.
After further training, you might be involved in actual experiments on the animals.
This is a practical job, and the work can be hot and tiring. Animal Technologists normally wear protective clothing.
You will have to learn about and work under strict legal controls to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare. You'll need to learn about and keep up to date with these legal controls.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
You must be interested in the care and welfare of animals. You should also bear in mind that the animals you look after are being used in experiments. This means you should agree with the belief that the use of animals is justified because it is vital to our health and quality of life.
To become an Animal Technologist, you'll also need:
- a thorough and methodical approach to monitoring animals
- number skills and attention to detail, for example, when weighing animals
- observation skills to notice subtle differences in animals' behaviour
- communication skills to explain your findings
- teamwork skills
- a level of physical fitness, as the job involves some lifting and carrying
- computer skills to record information
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £15,000 - £16,000
- With experience: £16,500 - £18,000
- Senior Animal Technologists earn £19,500 - £21,000
Hours of work
Animal Technologists usually work 35 to 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday, although you might have to work weekends and bank holidays on a rota basis.
Where could I work?
Employers throughout the UK include pharmaceutical companies, contract research organisations, university research departments, medical and veterinary colleges, and companies that breed animals for use in laboratory research.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on recruitment and employers' websites, and on Find a Job (www.gov.uk/jobsearch).
Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.
Take a look at our General Information Article
GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers:
Entry Routes and Training
It's possible to start work as a trainee Animal Technologist without qualifications, usually if you have developed skills and knowledge through relevant work experience. This could include working in a pet shop, kennels or an animal sanctuary.
However, employers will usually ask for GCSEs (A*-C or 9-4), including English, maths and one or more science subjects. Some people enter with higher qualifications, such as A levels or equivalent.
An advanced or intermediate level apprenticeship will also help you to get into this job.
Training can be on-the-job, under the supervision of experienced staff.
Trainee Technologists can follow a structured programme of training and qualifications from the Institute of Animal Technology (IAT). Its courses are available at locations throughout the country. You can work towards them through on-the-job training, day-release, seminars, workshops and distance learning. Your employer might pay for this training.
The IAT Qualifications are:
- IAT level 2 diploma in laboratory animal husbandry (see below)
- IAT level 2 - 6 diploma in laboratory animal science and technology
The IAT training path also leads to awards in continuing professional development.
If you would like some training, then the IAT offer a level 2 diploma in laboratory animal husbandry. By the end of the course, you would have learnt:
- laboratory animal housing and routines
- the production of laboratory animals
- laboratory animal nutrition
- laboratory animal facility ethics
- laboratory animal health and husbandry
Other courses could be available in your area.
Further qualifications are under development, leading up to foundation degrees, degrees and postgraduate courses.
Previous experience working with animals would be really useful for this career.
There is a structured career path. You progress not just by achieving qualifications but by learning new skills through continuing professional development.
You could progress to a Senior Animal Technologist post. From there, you could specialise, for example, in training or animal care and welfare. You could also become a unit or section Supervisor or Manager.
Although it's possible to start without qualifications (usually if you have work experience with animals), most employers prefer GCSEs (A*-C or 9-4), including English, maths and one or more science subjects, or equivalent.
However, a BTEC level 2 qualification in animal care would help you to stand out from the crowd.
Entry after AS and A levels is also common.
To get onto an advanced or intermediate level apprenticeship, you might need 5 GCSEs, grades A*-C or 9-4, possibly including English and maths.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Some entrants have developed skills through laboratory work experience, or through working with animals.
Colleges will usually consider applications from adults who don't meet their usual entry requirements. You should check the admissions policy of individual colleges.
Skills for land-based and environmental industries
Address: Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park, Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 02476 696996
Engineering technology news
Institute of Animal Technology
Address: 5 South Parade, Summertown, Oxford OX2 7JL
Tel: 0800 0854380