Animal technologists are responsible for the care and welfare of laboratory animals that are used for scientific research. Research involving animals is a small but essential part of developing medicines, cures and therapies. Most of the animals used are rodents, such as mice and rats, but they can also include fish, frogs, ferrets, guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs, cats, monkeys and farm animals.
Approximately three-and-a-half million animals are used in research each year in the UK. The industry is tightly regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Under this Act, research establishments have to be certified and all scientific projects using animals must be licensed by the Home Office. Technologists must also prove they are suitably qualified, trained and experienced. The Act acknowledges the necessity of using animals in research, but demands a high level of protection for them to minimise any potential suffering.
The daily responsibilities of an animal technologist may include:
Animal technologists are expected to keep accurate records and input data on to computer systems. Some animal technologists are also involved in complex breeding programmes and the setting up of scientific studies.
Animal technology is a career that involves caring for animals within the evolving and sophisticated environment of a biomedical research centre.
Animals need looking after seven days a week, 52 weeks a year; therefore a typical working pattern may include early starts, late nights, weekend or bank holiday working, although many facilities operate core hours during the normal working week.
There may be opportunities to work on a part-time basis.
Research work is carried out in laboratories. The environment is carefully controlled, which includes temperature, humidity, noise and lighting cycles.
Technologists are provided with protective clothing and overalls to help to maintain a hygienic environment. Depending on the work, disposable masks, gloves and shoe covers may also be worn.
The starting salary for a trainee animal technologist is about £12,000 to £15,000 a year. Once fully qualified, animal technologists may earn between £15,000 and £30,000 a year.
Senior technologists with managerial experience often earn in excess of £40,000 a year.
Animal technologists work for a variety of organisations within the academic and commercial sectors. These include pharmaceutical companies, universities, veterinary colleges, specialist research organisations and animal breeding companies.
There are estimated to be between 4,000 and 5,000 animal technologists employed in the UK and employment prospects are good. Opportunities may be found throughout the UK in towns, cities and rural areas. There is a high concentration of pharmaceutical research in the south-east, London and the east of England.
Vacancies are advertised in Animal Technology & Welfare and Bulletin, available from the members section of the Institute of Animal Technology's (IAT's) website: www.iat.org.uk Other publications advertising vacancies are Lab Animal Europe, Nature and New Scientist. Positions may also be found through recruitment agencies and in local and national newspapers.
There are no formal entry requirements, but generally it is usual for entrants to have at least three GCSE's (A*-C) in maths, English and one or more science subjects. Some employers may require A levels or equivalent qualifications. Graduates from biomedical science courses also tend to apply for these positions.
Experience of caring for animals, either paid or voluntary, is useful in demonstrating a commitment to working in this area. This may include experience at farms or kennels or in veterinary practices. Employers are also looking for a genuine interest in animal care and welfare.
Training is considered vital to ensuring a continually high standard of care for animals involved in research, and is closely monitored and regulated. In-house training is likely to cover subjects such as animal husbandry, health checks, handling animals, and animal behaviour and welfare.
The IAT, as the awarding body for animal technicians, accredits the following qualifications:
First Certificate in Animal Husbandry
First Diploma in Animal Technology
National Certificate in Animal Technology
Higher Certificates in Animal Technology
The IAT is currently developing a graduate programme leading to degree-level qualifications and Fellowship (FIAT) of the IAT.
IAT courses are offered at locations throughout the country. The courses may be delivered through regular day-release programmes, as well as visits to organisations and distance learning. Details of centres providing courses can be found in the Education section of the IAT website: www.iat.org.uk
Level 2 and 3 Awards, Certificates and Diplomas in work-based animal care are also available.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
An animal technologist should:
There are many opportunities within this career for specialisation, promotion and career development.
There may be supervisory or management positions available. These are dependent on ability, relevant experience and the appropriate qualifications.
Being an animal technologist requires a commitment to continuing professional development (CPD) in order to ensure that knowledge and skills are continually updated. The IAT organises and holds a variety of courses and meetings designed to support this.
Institute of Animal Technology (IAT), 5 South Parade, Summertown,
Oxford OX2 7JL
Tel: 0800 085 4380
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI),
12 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY
Tel: 0870 890 4333
Department for Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs (Defra),
Eastbury House, 30-34 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TL
Tel: 0845 933 5577
Home Office, Direct Communications Unit,
2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF
Tel: 020 7035 4848
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.