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Animal technology

The animal technology industry involves the husbandry, care and welfare of animals bred to be used in scientific research and the carrying out of authorised procedures. Research using animals in the UK comes under the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Animal technologists/technicians work in a variety of areas, including: universities; pharmaceutical companies; medical or veterinary colleges; teaching hospitals; research institutes; government departments (e.g. Defra); and special laboratory animal breeders.

Recently, there has been an increased demand for animal technologists. The in vivo workforce (those that carry out clinical trials and animal testing) is forecast to increase by at least 5% or remain stable over the next five to ten years. There will be a need to recruit 140 and 280 animal technologists each year to replace those leaving the industry.

The UK has a high reputation in the research and development of new drugs and is in a competitive position compared to other countries. There is, therefore, a demand for the services of animal breeders and technologists.

Key statistics:

  • In the UK, there are an estimated:
    • 4,000 - 5,000 animal technologists
    • 30 named animal care and welfare officers
    • 14,500 Home Office personal license holders (not all will be qualified animal technologists)
  • There are approximately 232 Home Office approved research establishments in the UK.
  • 56% of the workforce is male.
  • 31% of the workforce is aged 25-34 years and 8% is over 55 years of age.
  • 7% of the workforce is employed part-time.

Jobs in the industry include: trainee animal technician, director of biological services, team leader, deputy unit manager, study director, animal technologist, senior licensed animal technician/technologist, animal facility manager, operational manager, animal auxiliary, licensed animal technician

Entry requirements for this industry vary depending on the job role. There are no strict entry requirements for animal technologists, other than a sound basic education including GCSE maths, English and one or more science subject (grade C and above). Graduates with a degree in pharmacology, physiology, toxicology and pathology courses tend to fill animal technology positions. Post ‘AS’, ‘A2’, graduate and post-graduate entry is common. Direct experience of looking after animals (pets, dog walking, kennel work, school clubs, etc.) can be an advantage.

Skills in animal research are becoming increasingly important, not only to ensure compliance with the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, but also for future advances in developing and implementing further alternatives to animals for pharmacological and toxicological screening of new chemicals and drugs. Skills to design, manage and interpret preclinical safety and efficacy research on animals are also of high importance.

Some of the core technical and practical skills needed by animal technologists are:

  • Preparing environments for scientific procedures
  • Preparing and maintaining animal accommodation
  • Preparing animals and equipment for general, non-surgical, or regulated surgical procedures.
  • Caring for animals
  • Administering substances to animals
  • Delivering basic treatments to animals
  • Collecting samples from animals
  • Ensuring successful mating
  • Preparing and carrying out euthanasia
  • Handling and restraining animals

The expansion of genome research and research centre parks has created an industry wide shortage of animal technologists. There continues to be a lack of applicants for animal technology roles, particularly contract research organisations and educational employers. The shortage is particularly acute in the South East.

Animal technology employers are mostly based in the South East, East of England, London and Scotland. Some major in vivo employers are located in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humberside.

Pay scales in this industry are variable, so the following only provides an indication of the annual salary paid to some full-time positions:

  • Trainee Technician £12,000 - £15,000
  • Technician £15,000 - £20,000
  • Senior Technician £20,000 - £28,000
  • Chief Technician £28,000 - £35,000
  • Manager £35,000 - £40,000 plus

Further information on salaries can be found on the Defra website.

Source: Lantra AACS LMI report 2010