Laboratory Animal Technician

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Laboratory Animal Technician


There is a lot of controversy surrounding the use of animals in experiments. Animals are used to test everything from eyeliner to vaccines for HIV, but many people feel that animals shouldn't be used in any case.

The fact is, however, that most medical research teams especially the teams studying major illnesses, like HIV, cancer, and heart disease, is done with the help of all sorts of animals. Rats, rabbits, cats, dogs, horses....even birds and chimpanzees have found a role in research. And not all the animals used are put in harmful or dangerous situations--some scientists use animals to make discoveries about learning processes or mental behaviors.

Regardless of the research they are used in, the animals are cared for by dedicated laboratory animal technicians. Some of their responsibilities include feeding the animals, cleaning the animals' housing, monitoring or checking the overall comfort of the animals and providing basic treatments such as giving medication, exercising the animals, and assisting new employees in learning about the laboratory and the animals. They may be involved in surgery, euthanasia, and administrative duties, as well.

Some laboratory animal technicians only work with one or two species, but others are exposed to many different animals. They must be ready to prevent illness or diagnose diseases early, and must be able to recognize true illness or reactions to the scientific study. They must also be able to learn about the differences in diet and nutritional requirements, habitats, and stimulation to stave off boredom. The goal is to keep the animals as comfortable and stress-free as possible. This can involve lots of research on different species, as well as a lot of holding, petting, and communication.

The bond that grows between laboratory animals and the technicians can be strong, and the end of a project often brings the end of the animal, who may have helped in the discovery of a vaccine or treatment, or taught the scientists something about human interactions. The laboratory technician worked alongside those animals, ensuring that they were comfortable, healthy, and successful in fulfilling their role, and must be brave and proud when letting the animals go.
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Penn Foster College
Earn your AVMA-CVTEA fully accredited Veterinary Technician Associate Degree online from Penn Foster College.
Programs Offered:
  • Veterinary Technician



  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Laboratory animal technicians should enjoy being with animals, and be confident in their ability to relate to them. They should be strong, and have good powers of observation and communication--they should be able to speak with the animals, but also the other staff. They must be willing to learn new things, and dedicated to working hard until they get a problem solved. They should enjoy working with others, as well as independently. They should be sensitive, and loyal as well as patient. Laboratory animal technicians should be resourceful, physically and mentally alert, and able to work effectively in crisis situations. Manual dexterity and an eye for detail are also assets.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Perform routine physical examinations of animals
  • Assist in taking x-rays
  • Prepare medications
  • See to exercise, cleanliness, and stimulation of animals
  • Assist in surgery by restraining and monitoring the animals
  • Enter and collate data on animals
  • Assist in euthanasia services when necessary
  • Clean and sterilize equipment
  • The typical day for a laboratory animal technician involves working closely with animals within a lab setting. Each day is different, including many examinations, treatment preparations, and time spent cuddling, playing, or watching for changes in behavior and health. Some days will involve emergency situations and euthanasia--not every day is successful in the world of animal health care. They work with a variety of scientists and animals. The job is performed indoors, with few chances to travel.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Laboratory animal technicians work along side scientists and animals in hospital laboratories, with pharmaceutical companies, cosmetics companies, and animal hospitals. They work in clean, comfortable surroundings. They may work in the evenings and on weekends, or only during regular hours--it depends on the research facility.
  • The work can be dangerous, as they are exposed to radiation, diseases, and angry, sick, and frightened animals.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Laboratory animal technicians can take their skills world wide, and help treat disease and uncover preventions for farmers all around the world, especially those in developing areas. They can work in veterinary clinics, or train to become vets or animal scientists themselves. They can open their own practice, or may become a manager of a large clinic or animal shelter. They may choose to breed, train, or judge animal shows. They can get into retail by opening up a pet food and supply store, or by selling animal pharmaceuticals or nutritional supplements for a manufacturer. They can become consultants to farmers or work with the government as inspectors.

  Educational Paths  
In order to work as a laboratory animal technician completion of a two-year college course in veterinary or animal health technology is required, as well as some training or experience in laboratory work with animals. The programs cover subjects like anatomy, nursing, disease, laboratory procedures, reproduction, parasitology, and anesthesiology, among others, and is offered by many colleges across the country.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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Penn Foster College
Earn your AVMA-CVTEA fully accredited Veterinary Technician Associate Degree online from Penn Foster College.
Programs Offered:
  • Veterinary Technician

Charter College

You can prepare for a new career with help from Charter College.

Programs Offered:
  • Certificate - Veterinary Assistant

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