Laboratory animal caretakers feed, water and monitor animals involved in research. They assist scientists and research veterinarians by holding animals during exams and procedures, administering medication and taking samples. Laboratory animal caretakers provide postoperative care and ensure animals are treated humanely. They also clean and disinfect cages, equipment and work areas.
Duties and responsibilities
- Feed, bathe, exercise and provide companionship for animals as instructed
- Clean, maintain and sterilise cages, work areas, instruments and equipment
- Hold or restrain animals during exams and laboratory procedures
- Collect laboratory specimens for testing, such as blood, urine or faeces
- Perform routine laboratory and diagnostic tests, including X-rays
- Administer medicines and anaesthesia for animals under scientist or veterinarian's direction
- Monitor animals to determine behavioural changes, clinical symptoms and postoperative health
- Help provide first aid treatment and postoperative care for animals when necessary
- Record information on animals, including genealogy, feeding schedules, behaviour and breeding
- Assist scientists and veterinarians with all research activities, including animal euthanasia
- Compile research information, write reports and complete other clerical duties
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
Nights, weekends, holidays occasionally
Laboratory animal caretakers work in labs for the government, universities or private research firms. Work shifts may include nights, weekends and holidays. Part-time work is also available for this position.
Caring for laboratory animals carries the risk of infection, disease and injury. Animals may bite, scratch or kick. Work can be physically and emotionally stressful.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Laboratory animal caretakers typically only need a high school diploma or equivalent. On-the-job training is provided. Some employers prefer an associate degree in animal science, biology or other related field.
Certification is available from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). There are three levels: Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT) and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG). Depending on the level, candidates must have from one to five years’ lab experience before taking the exam. Those with related two- or four-year degrees can apply with less experience.
Certification can assist you in advancing to higher-level technician and research assistant roles. Caretakers working at biotech and pharmaceutical firms may transition into roles as sales consultants.
Some laboratory animal caretakers pursue further education to become a veterinarian or research veterinarian. Others may prefer alternate career paths in science, research and medicine.