Animal Care Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about an animal care technician's job description, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of an animal care technician career.
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Pros and Cons of an Animal Care Technician Career

If you love spending time with animals, you may want to consider a career as an animal care technician. Learn more about the pros and cons of becoming an animal care technician below.

Pros of Becoming an Animal Care Technician
Average job growth (15% increase from 2012-2022)*
May require only a high school diploma and certification**
Responsible for improving the lives of animals**
May perform a variety of duties (nursing animals, cleaning, assisting visitors, etc.)**
May work in various settings (on-site or transport)**

Cons of Becoming an Animal Care Technician
Can be stressful (may work with injured, sick or abused animals, may euthanize animals, etc.)**
Working with aggressive animals can be dangerous**
May involve physical labor (need to be able to lift up to 50 lbs)**
May be required to work weekends and holidays**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Multiple job postings (found in May 2012).

Essential Career Information

Job Description

Animal care technicians are responsible for the care of research animals or injured, abandoned, sick or abused animals. As an animal care technician, you may work for a city or county animal shelter, rescue center, laboratory or animal welfare organization. You're typically responsible for daily care, such as providing animals with fresh food and water, socializing and exercising animals, and keeping the facility and animal enclosures clean. Depending on the position, you may rescue animals from unsafe or unhealthy environments and transport them to the care facility. You may be responsible for restraining animals as needed and assisting veterinarians with medical procedures, vaccinations and euthanasia. You could measure or observe animals and update records or have a role in supporting the breeding of research animals.

Salary Info and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), non-farm animal caretakers, which includes animal care technicians, earned a median salary of around $20,340 in 2014. The top ten percent earned approximately $33,880 or more in 2014, while the lowest ten percent earned about $16,750 or less, reported the BLS. The BLS also predicted 15% employment growth for non-farm animal caretakers from 2012-2022, as the animal population continues to grow.

What Are the Requirements?

A high school diploma or equivalent and experience working with animals are the typical requirements for many animal care technician positions. Some employers may require you to hold certification from the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) or obtain certification within a specified period of time after hire. This organization offers professional certification to individuals who pass written exams. The Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT) credential is available for individuals who have two years' experience working with animals, one year of experience working with animals and at least a high school diploma, or six months' experience and at least an associate's degree.

In addition to experience working with animals, you must be in adequate physical shape, because many positions require lifting and carrying animals or heavy objects, and you must be able to work well with a team. You may also be required to hold a driver's license in order to responsibly transport animals to and from various locations.

What Employers Are Looking for

The main employment requirement for animal care technicians is a high school diploma or equivalent and work experience. Most job ads focused on the duties required of animal care technicians. Here are a few job postings found in May 2012:

  • A New York adoption center looked for a part-time animal care technician responsible for working in the adoption area, caring for animals, cleaning the facility (including animal cages), and transporting animals as needed. Applicants must have a high school diploma and the ability to perform physical work. Ideal candidates have a valid driver's license and a flexible schedule.
  • A Massachusetts animal advocacy center advertised for an animal care technician to rescue, rehabilitate, and release ill or injured animals. Applicants must be able to capture animals, perform physical exams, administer treatments, and evaluate animals for release. They must also greet and assist visitors, and they must be able to keep the facility clean and organized. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent, a Veterinary Assistant I certificate and 1-3 years' experience.
  • A Chicago laboratory placed an ad for an animal care technician to maintain the animals' health and welfare, assist with handling and keep accurate records of the animals' health and housing areas. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent and a year of experience in animal husbandry. Ideal candidates have ALAT certification, or are willing to obtain it within one year of starting work.

How Can I Stand out?

Aside from obtaining work experience, you may want to take an animal euthanasia course and obtain a specialized certification that allows you to perform the task, as some employers may require it within several months of hire. You can stand out to employers by obtaining a veterinary assistant certificate or associate degree in a related field. These programs typically cover subjects like animal care, office practices, medical terminology and clinical experience, and certificate programs may take less than six months to complete while an associate's degree takes two years.

In addition to schooling, you may want to obtain a more advanced level of certification from the AALAS, such as the Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT) or the Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG) credentials. In order to obtain these certifications, you must hold the previous level of certification, obtain additional work experience and pass an exam. You may also benefit from volunteering at a local animal shelter or rescue center.

Other Careers to Consider

If you would rather work in a clinical setting under the guidance of a veterinarian, you may want to consider a career as a veterinary technician. These workers are responsible for the care of animals during their visit to the clinic or animal hospital, administering treatments, performing tests, obtaining lab samples, monitoring animals and assisting them with recovery after surgery. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most veterinary technicians hold 2-year degrees. The BLS reported that the median annual salary for veterinary technicians and technologists was about $30,000 as of May 2011, and employment was expected to increase by 52% from 2010-2020.

If you'd like more variety in possible employers, consider becoming an animal care and service worker. This field consists of a variety of specializations, such as grooming or pet sitting, and employers can include veterinary clinics, animal shelters, pet stores, zoos, stables and kennels. According to the BLS, most positions require only a high school diploma or equivalent; however, if you have relevant work experience, you could have a leg up on the competition. The median annual salary for animal care and service workers was around $20,000 as of May 2010, and employment was expected to increase by 23% from 2010-2020.

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George Mason University

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Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma: Veterinary Assistant

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American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Health Administration

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Argosy University

  • Health Services Management (MS)
  • Veterinary Technology (AAS)
  • Medical Assisting (AAS)

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Baker College Online

  • Healthcare Management - MBA (Master's)

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Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

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Kaplan University

  • MS in Nursing
  • Bachelor: Health Science
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