Animal Technician

    Industry: Science, Mathematics and Statistics

    Summary: Animal technicians look after the animals used in medical or veterinary research. They may also take part in experimental work.

    Average salary: The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary depending on: where you work the size of the company or organisation you work for the demand for the job. The starting salaries for trainee animal technicians are normally about £12,000 to £15,000 a year. When qualified, earnings can increase to £17,000 to £24,000 a year. Senior animal technicians can earn up to £30,000 a year, while laboratory managers earn up to £40,000.

    The requirements

    • physical fitness
    • IT skills
    • attention to detail
    • methodical
    • not squeamish
    • practical
    • able to work with animals
    • accuracy
    • concentration
    • observant
    • HNC
    • HND
    • National Course (Access / Intermediate) / Standard Grade
    • animal care
    • working with animals

    Read further information about this career



    Animal technician; animal technology; animal technologist; animal lab tech

    The work

    You will mostly work with rats, mice, guinea pigs and rabbits, but sometimes other animals too. You might:

    • feed and exercise animals daily, clean out cages and control the lighting and heating
    • carry out regular health checks on the animals, such as taking weight and measurements
    • calibrate (check the accuracy of), clean and sterilise equipment, and operate it as required
    • do routine parts of experiments, such as give injections, and administer medicines
    • collect and analyse samples, such as blood or urine
    • monitor and record the condition and behaviour of the animals
    • ease the animal’s pain or distress
    • help with scientific and medical research and keep accurate records
    • maintain high standards of cleanliness and hygiene throughout all areas of the laboratory.


    • Animals need looking after 7 days a week, so you would need to work shifts covering evenings, weekends and public holidays.
    • Work is mostly indoors, in a laboratory, often under artificial lights.
    • It can be hot, smelly and messy.
    • You have to wear a lab coat and protective gloves and sometimes a face mask and shoe covers.
    • You may have to lift heavy animal cages.
    • You are at risk of bites, injuries and infection and you must have vaccinations against various diseases.
    You should be aware that:
    • procedures on animals are tightly regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 under the Home Office
    • people who are against vivisection (experimental surgery on live animals) may be hostile to you.

    Getting in

    • You can enter at various levels.
    • You can apply direct from school with at least 3 subjects at Standard grade or National 4 or 5 (normally including English, Maths and a science subject) or Highers including a science subject.
    • You could take a National Qualification (NQ) in working with animals. For entry you might need up to 4 subjects at Standard grade or National 4 or 5, depending on the college.
    • You could take a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND) in animal care or animal management. For entry you need 1-2 Highers.
    • It is helpful to have experience of working with animals, either as pets or through dog-walking or kennel work.
    • You need IT skills to keep records.
    • You should be fit, active and in good health as you will be on your feet a lot.
    • You should not be allergic to fur, feathers or chemicals.
    You could work in a university research department, a medical or vet school, a pharmaceutical company or a company breeding animals for research purposes. You can look for jobs in 'Animal Welfare' and the 'New Scientist' publications.

    What does it take

    You should be:

    • practical and methodical
    • committed to the care and welfare of animals
    • able to deal calmly with animals that may be distressed or in pain
    • aware of the controversy over animal research and assertive enough to deal with any hostility
    • good with your hands, for example to give injections
    • able to concentrate
    • observant, precise and accurate.
    You should have:
    • good communication skills
    • good teamworking skills
    • a strong stomach — not be squeamish.


    • Training is normally on the job and traditionally involves working towards Institute of Animal Technology (IAT) qualifications.
    • The IAT has five qualifications starting with the entry level IAT Level 2 Diploma in Laboratory Animal Husbandry.
    • You could then go onto the various levels of IAT courses in Animal Science and Technology – Levels 2 and 3 Diploma, Level 4 Certificate and Level 5 Diploma.
    • The IAT is developing higher education qualifications including degree and postgraduate programmes. The IAT website has details of the qualifications.
    • Learning about the strict laws relating to animal welfare and vivisection will be an important part of your training. You must keep up to date with new laws that come into place.
    • There are Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) in Animal Care at Levels 2 (SCQF Level 5) and 3 (SCQF Level 6). These are recognised by the IAT. Previous experience of working with animals is useful.

    More Information

    Almost 4 million laboratory animals are used each year in the UK. Many of these animals are used for breeding, but about two thirds are used for medical research. Cosmetic and tobacco products are not tested on laboratory animals in the UK. (Home Office Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals GB 2010).


    Institute of Animal Technology (IAT)
    5 South Parade Summertown Oxford OX2 7JL
    Tel: 0800 085 4380
    Notes: The 'medical mouse' website provides an overview of the work of animal technicians with laboratory animals.

    Lantra Scotland
    Tel: 01738 646762
    Notes: Lantra is the Sector Skills Council for the environmental and land-based sector. The principal areas covered are: land management and production (including agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, trees and timber, fencing, floristry, land-based engineering); animal health and welfare (including animal care, animal technology, equine matters, farriery, veterinary nursing); the environmental industries (including conservation, fisheries management, game and wildlife management, land and amenity design, management and maintenance).

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