Veterinary Technicians and Laboratory Animals - Vet Tech Guide

Veterinary Technicians and Laboratory Animals

Veterinary technicians can be found working in a variety of settings including small animal practices, emergency clinics, large animal practices, zoos and research facilities.

Those who choose to work in research facilities are responsible for taking care of many different types of animals that are involved in various research projects.

Common Tasks

Veterinary technicians working in research facilities provide basic medical care to such laboratory animals as rodents, primates, reptiles and rabbits.

While their responsibilities may vary depending on the facility they work in, some of the most common tasks they may need to perform are as follows.

  • Cleaning and Disinfecting Cages
  • Feeding Animals
  • Monitoring and Recording Behavior
  • Assisting with Examinations and Medical Procedures
  • Monitoring and Recording Weights and Food Intake
  • Collecting Blood, Fecal, Urine and Other Samples
  • Performing Simple Laboratory Tests
  • Cleaning and Sterilizing Equipment
  • Maintaining Inventory of Supplies

The most important task that veterinary technicians are responsible for when working in a research facility is to adhere to all guidelines as set by the Animal Welfare Act.

They must also follow all standards and guidelines set forth by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Employment Options

veterinary technicianVet techs who would like to work with laboratory animals can choose among many different types of employers. In fact, there are research facilities in both public and private sectors.

Some of the facilities that often employ veterinary technicians to care for lab animals can be found listed below.

  • Private Research Facilities
  • Biotechnology Companies
  • Government Agencies
  • Pharmaceutical Companies
  • Military Laboratories
  • Veterinary and Medical Schools
  • Colleges and Universities

Certification Paths

Laboratory animal science is a highly competitive field and while you may be able to obtain employment in the field with just an associate degree in veterinary technology, it is best to choose a specialty certification path.

According to the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, the most popular certification paths for this field are as follows.

  • Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician
  • Laboratory Animal Technician
  • Laboratory Animal Technologist

To follow one of these paths and become certified, you will need to complete a specified amount of laboratory animal-related coursework as set by the AALAS and pass a certification exam.

You must also work as a veterinary technician for a certain number of years depending on the state where you will be working.

To maintain your lab animal certification status, you will need to complete 15 to 20 hours of continuing education depending on your state’s requirements.

Continuing education helps to keep vet techs current on any new procedures or technology in the field of lab animal science.

Advancement Opportunities

Veterinary technicians who have become certified in lab animal science may be able to advance to management positions in their facilities as well.

For you to obtain a management position, you will first need to complete the AALAS’s Certified Manager Animal Resources program and certification exam to obtain management certification.

According to the U.S. Labor Statistics Bureau, the field of lab animal science is expected to grow by about 36 percent until around 2018, which is much faster than the average rate for all careers in the United States. This is due mainly to the rapid growth of the biotechnology industry.

What this means for you is that with the proper training and certifications, you will have a vast array of employment opportunities.