Auxiliary Technician

Also known as: 

Animal Technician.

Job Description: 

Animal Technologists are responsible for the care and welfare of laboratory animals that are used in scientific research and assisting Licence Holders.

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 in order to minimise any potential suffering.

The daily responsibilities of an Animal Technologist may include:

    Carrying out regular health checks on the animals in their care
    Ensuring rooms are at the optimum temperature and humidity
    Changing bedding and cleaning out cages or tanks
    Providing fresh water and food and, if necessary, organising special diets
    Making sure that the animals have been eating and drinking, and that their bodily functions are normal
    Handling the animals correctly and monitoring them to ensure that they are comfortable, in good condition and behaving as expected
    Providing environmental enrichment, exercising and training opportunities for animals
    Operating computerised scientific and electronic equipment
    Obtaining samples and measurements from the animals
    Recording and monitoring the animals’ weight and growth on charts and graphs.

Animal Technologists are expected to keep accurate records and input data onto computer systems and some Animal Technologists are also involved in complex breeding programmes and the setting up of scientific studies.

Working Conditions: 

Animals need looking after seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. Therefore a typical working pattern may include early starts, late nights, weekend or bank holiday working, although many facilities operate over 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 including the temperature, humidity, noise and lighting cycles.  Access is also strictly controlled.

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.

Salary & Other Benefits: 

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary depending on the employer and where people live.

    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.
 

Skills: 

    Prepare environments for scientific procedures
    Prepare animals and equipment for general procedures
    Maintain stocks of resources, equipment and consumables
    Support the health and welfare of animals
    Handle animals
    Maintain bio-security procedures and infection controls
    Administer basic nursing care to animals
    Provide feed and water to animals
    Prepare and maintain accommodation for animals
    Select and move animals from one location to another.

Personal Qualities: 


    Good communication skills 
    Flexibility and adaptability
    Attention to detail
    Good organisation skills
 

Qualifications and training: 

There are a variety of qualifications and training opportunities that can help you:

    Learn more about your chosen area
    find employment
    improve your current skills
    gain promotion
    enhance job satisfaction

This a link to the Register of Regulated Qualification held by Ofqual and has been set up to search for a range qualifications in Animal Technology Qualifications.  As this search includes all qualifications at different levels and different kinds, you may need to seek further assistance with your tutor or a local college as to the best ones to suit your needs. The qualifications listed on this website are suited if you are resident in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For those of you living in Scotland you need to search for qualifications with the Scottish Qualifications Authority. You will need to choose the type of qualification you are looking for and then search for qualifications available in Animal Technology

You may also wish to find out about apprenticeships available in Animal Technology and further information can be found on the National Apprenticeship Service website http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk/ for England.

If you are living in Wales follow this link to the Welsh Government website for more information about apprenticeships http://wales.gov.uk/topics/educationandskills/skillsandtraining/apprenti...

If you are living in Northern Ireland this is the link to Department for Education and Learning for more information on apprenticeships http://www.delni.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsni

If you are living Scotland following this link for more information on modern apprenticeship available http://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/our-services/modern-apprentic...

Getting In: 

It is important to:

    Enjoy caring for animals, but understand the need for them in research
    Be interested in working in a scientific research environment.

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.

It is usual for entrants to have at least GCSEs (A*-C) in maths, English and one or more science subjects. Some employers may require A-levels or equivalent qualifications. Graduates from bio-medical 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. It would be beneficial for applicants to display to a potential employer their genuine interest in animal care and welfare.

Getting On: 

Within this career there are many opportunities for specialisation, promotion and career development.  Key opportunities are to become a Licensed Animal Technologist or Named Animal Care and Welfare Officer.

There may be supervisory or management positions available. These are dependent on ability, relevant experience and the appropriate qualifications.

Being an Animal Technologist requires an undertaking for lifelong learning or Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in order to ensure that knowledge and skills are continually updated. The Institute of Animal Technology (IAT) organises and holds a variety of courses and meetings designed to support this.

Further Information: 

You can find additional information from the following organisations and publications:
Industry information

    Institute of Animal Technology - e-mail: Careers@iat.org.uk
    Medical Mouse
    Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - Tel: 0845 933 5577.
    Home Office - Tel: 020 7035 4848
    Medical Research Council

Publications, magazines and journals (some may be priced):

    Animal Technology & Welfare - IAT
    Bulletin - IAT
    Lab Animal Europe
    New Scientist
    Nature 
    A Career as an Animal Technologist
    Introduction to Animal Technology - Wiley Blackwell
    Manual of Animal Technology - Wiley Blackwell
    Hobsons Guide to Careers in Science - Hobsons.