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What does an Animal Technician do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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An animal technician provides care to animals with the supervision of a veterinarian. There are two main groups of animal technicians who pursue different educational paths to start their careers. Veterinary technicians and technologists work in clinical settings, acting like nurses to the veterinarian's doctor. Laboratory animal technicians work with lab animals, making sure the animals receive appropriate care during studies and experiments. Both jobs require education and successful passage of a licensing exam.

This work can be challenging, whether people work in veterinary clinics or laboratory settings. Stress levels can be high, and working with animals can be dirty, as well as emotionally draining when people must deal with situations like animal abuse or illness. Veterinary technicians often deal directly with pet owners who may be upset or worried about their animals, and this can add to the stress. In facilities where euthanasia is routinely performed, an animal technician may develop psychological distress.

Animal technicians can perform basic procedures on animals, and may have a variety of job duties, depending on where they work. Their work can include taking samples for analysis, performing basic physical examinations, charting, and doing procedures like dental work. Animal technicians can administer and supervise anesthesia while veterinarians perform surgery, and an animal technician can give injections and provide other basic medical interventions. Basic animal care like cleaning kennels is usually performed by a kennel attendant.

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Animal technician training includes several years in school to learn about biology, medical ethics, and the basics of medical procedures. Technicians typically work in clinics or labs while in school to get practical experience, and are also provided with clinical opportunities as part of their education. After school, students can apply for certification. In they pass the examination, they are certified as animal technicians. Certification for veterinary and laboratory technicians is done separately in most nations, although labs can hire veterinary technicians as well as lab technicians.

Available compensation varies. People who pursue continuing education and have advanced skill levels are usually more valuable to their employers and may make more money. Experience is also helpful, as is special training in a particular area like equine reproductive medicine or primate care. The work may come with benefits, but can also include unusual working hours; an animal technician may need to be on duty in a facility 24 hours a day for complete animal safety, and the individual shift work can be stressful.

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irontoenail
Post 3

@Iluviaporos - You can get creative with a qualification in this kind of area though. I know that the SPCA where I volunteer will often hire a vet assistant to work as an animal inspector. You might also get to work as an inspector for the government, looking over stock, or in an animal collection like a zoo or an aquarium, or even in a pet store. I know that conservation outfits will often hire them too.

While most people would prefer to work with a vet, it's not the only place that's looking for people with this kind of qualification.

Animal technician jobs are quite wide ranging, so if you are studying in this area I would keep an eye out for different kinds of volunteering work you can do to widen your job options for later on in your career.

lluviaporos
Post 2

@bythewell - It is a good job, my sister is training for it at the moment. It's nowhere near as difficult as training to be a full vet, and not as competitive to get into, either, but it's also not really as well paid, even though you work the same hours as the vet and have to do most of the dirty jobs, like cleaning out cages.

And it can be known as an animal technician or by various other names, like vet nurse or vet tech.

If you are considering it, though, make sure you check that there will be a job available to you when you graduate. My sister is doing it because she's always wanted to, but she was quite disappointed to see that there are hardly ever vacancies in our area, and there are lots of applicants to every vacancy. Lots of people have trained in this position, because lots of people love working with animals.

bythewell
Post 1

An animal technician sounds a lot like the job I know as a "vet nurse".

Basically someone who trained as a veterinary assistant, the equivalent of a human nurse, although possibly not quite so skilled.

As I understand it, often vet nurses are expected to work with the papers of the vet practice as well, particularly in smaller practices where there aren't the funds to hire dedicated secretaries for that job.

It seems like it would be a really interesting profession, although frustrating at times and you'd have to love animals but be OK if they occasionally died around you.

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