Laboratory Animal Care Worker Job Description, Career as a Laboratory Animal Care Worker, Salary, Employment
Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job
Education and Training: High school
Salary: Median—$7.86 per hour
Employment Outlook: Very good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Laboratory animal care workers take care of animals that are used in scientific research. Laboratory animal care workers include assistant laboratory animal technicians, laboratory animal technicians, and laboratory animal technologists.
Scientists use laboratory animals for a variety of purposes. Sometimes laboratory animals are used in the classroom for teaching purposes. They are also used for testing drugs and other substances, and for basic medical and non-medical scientific research. Some scientists study animals to learn about animal behavior and intelligence. Animal care workers help scientists and carry out their instructions.
Laboratory animal care workers look after a wide variety of animals, including mice, guinea pigs, rats, rabbits, monkeys, dogs, birds, insects, frogs, snakes, and fish. Animal care workers provide food and water for the animals and keep their cages clean. They check for signs of illness, injury, or disease. They also maintain careful records on each animal regarding such things as diet, weight, medication, and behavior. They may also order food and supplies for the animals. Sometimes they take samples from the animals and help scientists or medical doctors perform experiments.
Some laboratory animal care workers are veterinarian's assistants. They may administer medication orally or by injection, treat minor wounds, and prepare animals for surgery.
Education and Training Requirements
A high school education is usually required for unskilled jobs in laboratories. Courses in science, particularly biology, are helpful. Some laboratories provide on-the-job training. Many community colleges and technical schools offer two-year programs in animal care. Certification is available from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS), but it is not required for work. There are three levels of certification: assistant laboratory animal technician, laboratory animal technician, and laboratory animal technologist. For each level of certification there are age, education, experience, and examination requirements.
Laboratory animal care workers need a knowledge of animals' eating and sleeping habits. They should enjoy working with animals and be able to follow directions carefully.
Getting the Job
You can apply directly to medical schools, drug companies, research centers, universities, or animal hospitals. Your school placement office may also have a list of openings. Some laboratories place want ads in the newspapers or in job banks on the Internet.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
With training and experience, laboratory animal care workers can become supervisors, research assistants, or animal breeders. The employment outlook is expected to grow faster than the average through the year 2014. Drug companies, medical schools, and research centers are employing increasing numbers of technicians to help them with experiments. At the same time, a growing concern for animal welfare is leading many commercial product companies to limit or eliminate their animal-testing activities.
Laboratory animal care workers usually work forty hours a week. Sometimes they must work nights and weekends. Working areas are usually well lighted and pleasant. However, animal care workers are exposed to unpleasant smells. They spend most of their time working with animals rather than with people.
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries vary depending on education and experience. In 2004 the median salary for laboratory animal care workers was $7.86 per hour. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, sick leave, and sometimes retirement plans and free tuition.
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