Lab Animal Technician: Salary and Career Facts

Lab animal technicians provide day-to-day care for the rodents, primates or other animals used in medical and scientific research. Learn about the salary, duties, training and certification for this entry-level job. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Lab Animal Technician Do?

A lab animal technician prepares and sterilizes laboratory equipment, oversees the feeding and care of lab animals, disinfects cages, prepares work areas and prepares samples. They are typically supervised by a scientist as they monitor animals in the lab. Other duties you might be required to complete as a lab animal technician include keeping track of animals' histories, developing radiographs, administering medications to animals, monitoring an animal's weight and size and preparing tissue samples. Check out the chart below for important information on working as lab animal technician.

Degree Required High school diploma or GED; 2-year degree programs available
Education Field of Study Veterinary technology, animal care
Key Duties Care for animals used in laboratories or for research
Certification Multiple certifications available; requirements vary by employer
Job Growth (2014-2024) 19%* (for all veterinary technologists and technicians)
Median Salary (2015) $31,800* (for all veterinary technologists and technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is a Lab Animal Technician?

As a lab animal technician, you are responsible for providing care to animals used for research in medical or scientific laboratories. The position is not to be confused with an animal lab technician, who acts as an assistant to licensed veterinarians. You might find work in an independent scientific research agency, a university or a medical testing facility. Some social advocacy organizations also hire technicians to work with animals in a laboratory setting.

What Education and Training Do I Need?

No one educational path can prepare you to become a lab animal technician. You may obtain a job as a lab animal assistant with just a high school diploma, complete on-the-job training and work your way up in the field.

Alternatively, you might complete a 2-year associate's degree program in veterinary technology, offered through a community college or university and accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). You learn how to work with animals in a clinical environment.

Common courses offered include veterinary pharmacology, anatomy and physiology of animals, veterinary surgery, veterinary anesthesia, radiology and hematology. You are typically required to complete a clinical practicum before graduation. Lastly, a bachelor's degree in animal science may also prepare you for the position.

What Certifications are Available?

The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science offers three levels of certification for lab animal assistants. You may become an Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), a Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT) or a Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG). Some employers may require you to have one of these certifications before hiring you. Requirements for certification include passing an examination and showing proof of required education and experience.

What Salary Could I Expect to Earn?

Veterinary technologists as well as technicians held 95,790 jobs across the country in 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported (www.bls.gov). The median annual salary for technologists and technicians in 2015 was $31,800.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Animal care and service workers are related positions that require a high school diploma or equivalent. These workers can do a variety of tasks to care for animals, including bathing, feeding and exercising them. Radiologic and MRI technologists also perform similar jobs, but require an associate's degree. Radiologic technologists create diagnostic images for patients, such as x-rays. MRI technologists also produce diagnostic images, but by using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners.

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