Animal Facility Assistant Career Profile
How do I become a Animal Facility Assistant?
READ: This page helps you read about the career and the information you need to decide whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.
RESEARCH: Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.
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UPDATED: 12 November 2023
What is an Animal Facility Assistant?
An animal facility assistant works with researchers in the day-to-day care of animals, such as basic animal care, cage maintenance, and record-keeping.
Are the career profiles of an animal facility assistant and a laboratory animal technician the same?
While the roles of an Animal Facility Assistant and a Laboratory Animal Technician share similarities, there are differences in their responsibilities, scope, and sometimes in the level of expertise required.
Animal Facility Assistant:
- General Responsibilities: Animal Facility Assistants often have a broader range of responsibilities that may include basic animal care, cage maintenance, record-keeping, and general support for researchers.
- Entry-Level Position: This role is often an entry-level position, and individuals may start with minimal experience or education in animal care.
- Scope of Work: Animal Facility Assistants may be involved in the day-to-day care of animals, ensuring they have proper food and clean environments, and reporting any noticeable changes in behaviour or health.
Laboratory Animal Technician:
- Specialised Role: Laboratory Animal Technicians have a more specialised role, focusing specifically on the care and management of animals used in laboratory research.
- Technical Expertise: This role often requires a higher level of technical expertise, including knowledge of specific laboratory procedures, experimental protocols, and advanced animal handling skills.
- Research Support: Laboratory Animal Technicians may be more directly involved in supporting research activities, working closely with researchers to ensure proper conditions for experiments, administering treatments, and collecting data.
Here is the link if you would like to read through the laboratory animal technician profile:
The Animal Facility Assistant career can be found within the following OZT career categories:
- Animal Care
- Wildlife Conservation
- Zoos and Aquariums
What does an Animal Facility Assistant do?
With which Groups of animals does an Animal Facility Assistant work with?
What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?
With who does an Animal Facility Assistant work?
An animal facility assistant may work with various professionals on a day-to-day basis, depending on the nature of the facility and its activities. Here are some types of careers and professionals that an animal facility assistant might interact with regularly:
- Laboratory Animal Technician: Collaborating closely with technicians responsible for the specialised care of animals used in research
- Veterinarian: Seeking guidance and assistance from veterinarians who provide medical care and oversee the health of the animals in the facility.
- Research Scientists: Assisting researchers in carrying out experiments, handling animals during studies, and providing general support for research projects
- Animal Caretakers: Working alongside fellow animal caretakers who share responsibilities for the daily care, feeding, and maintenance of the animals
- Facility Manager: Reporting to and receiving guidance from the facility manager or supervisor who oversees the overall operation of the animal facility.
- Compliance Officers: Collaborating with professionals responsible for ensuring that the facility adheres to ethical and legal guidelines regarding the use of animals in research.
- Environmental Health and Safety Specialists: Interacting with specialists who focus on maintaining a safe and compliant working Environment within the facility
- Laboratory Technicians: Coordinating with technicians responsible for laboratory work, experiments, and data collection
- Animal Behaviourists: Seeking advice from specialists who study and understand animal behaviour, especially if there are concerns or observations related to the behaviour of the animals
- Administrative Staff: Interacting with administrative personnel for tasks related to scheduling, record-keeping, and communication within the facility
- Facility Maintenance Staff: Coordinating with staff responsible for the physical maintenance and cleanliness of the facility, including the cleaning and upkeep of animal enclosures
- Quality Assurance Specialists: Working with professionals who ensure that the facility’s processes and procedures meet quality standards
The collaborative nature of animal care in research facilities means that an animal facility assistant is likely to interact with a diverse group of professionals to ensure the well-being of the animals and the success of research endeavours.
What does an Animal Facility Assistant focus on?
An Animal Facility Assistant focuses on various tasks related to the care and well-being of animals within a research, testing, or educational facility.
What are the daily tasks of an Animal Facility Assistant?
The daily tasks of an animal facility assistant can vary depending on the specific needs and activities of the facility, but here is a general overview of the common tasks they might perform:
- Animal Feeding: Prepare and distribute food to the animals according to established schedules and dietary requirements.
- Cage Cleaning: Clean and sanitise animal enclosures or cages to maintain a hygienic environment, including removing waste, replacing bedding, and ensuring cleanliness.
- Health Monitoring: Regularly observe animals for signs of illness, injury, or distress. Report any concerns to supervisors or veterinary staff.
- Record-Keeping: Maintain detailed and accurate records of each animal’s health, behaviour, and any treatments or procedures performed. Documentation is essential for compliance and tracking the animals’ well-being.
- Environmental Enrichment: Provide environmental enrichment to promote the well-being and mental stimulation of the animals. This may involve adding toys, structures, or activities to their living spaces.
- Assisting Researchers: Collaborate with researchers by providing support during experiments or studies. This could include handling animals, preparing equipment, and ensuring that conditions align with research protocols.
- Handling and Restraint: Safely handle and restrain animals as needed for routine care, health checks, and research activities. Proper training in animal handling techniques is crucial.
- Coordinating with Veterinary Staff: Work closely with veterinary staff to address any health concerns, administer medications or treatments, and ensure that the animals receive proper medical care.
- Compliance with Regulations: Ensure that the facility complies with ethical and legal guidelines governing the use of animals in research. This includes following established protocols and procedures.
- Collaboration with Team Members: Communicate and collaborate with other members of the facility, including laboratory animal technicians, researchers, veterinarians, and administrative staff.
- Emergency Response: Be prepared to respond to emergencies, such as injuries, escapes, or other unexpected situations, following established protocols to ensure the safety of both humans and animals.
- Training and Professional Development: Engage in ongoing training and professional development to stay updated on best practices, new techniques, and regulations related to animal care.
It’s important to note that the specific tasks can vary based on the type of animals in the facility (e.g., rodents, primates, or farm animals) and the goals of the research or educational activities being conducted. The well-being and ethical treatment of animals are central to the responsibilities of an Animal Facility Assistant.
The work environment of an Animal Facility Assistant
Where does an Animal Facility Assistant work?
An Animal Facility Assistant typically works in environments where animals are housed for research, testing, or educational purposes. As for the places of employment, here are common settings where Animal Facility Assistants may work:
a. The Environment:
The work environment for an Animal Facility Assistant involves areas where animals are kept, and it is characterized by the need for cleanliness, organization, and adherence to ethical and regulatory standards. This environment may include:
- Animal housing facilities: Rooms or areas specifically designed for the housing of animals used in research or testing.
- Laboratories: Spaces where scientific experiments and studies involving animals are conducted.
- Veterinary facilities: Areas where veterinary care is provided to the animals in the facility.
- Support areas: Spaces for tasks such as cleaning, record-keeping, and equipment preparation.
b. Places of Employment:
Animal Facility Assistants can be employed in various institutions and organizations, including:
- Research Institutions: Universities, colleges, and other research institutions often have animal facilities for conducting scientific studies.
- Pharmaceutical Companies: Companies involved in pharmaceutical research and development may have animal facilities for testing new drugs.
- Biotechnology Companies: Organizations in the biotechnology sector may use animals in their research and development processes.
- Government Agencies: Some government agencies, such as those involved in public health or environmental research, may have animal facilities.
- Hospitals and Medical Centres: Facilities conducting medical research or clinical trials may employ Animal Facility Assistants.
- Zoos and Aquariums: While not primarily research-focused, some zoos and aquariums may have facilities for the care of animals, and assistants may be involved in their well-being.
- Veterinary Clinics: Some veterinary clinics may have animal facilities for research or educational purposes.
It’s important to note that the specific type of animals, the scale of the facility, and the focus of the institution will influence the daily tasks and responsibilities of an Animal Facility Assistant. Additionally, they must adhere to ethical standards and comply with regulations governing the use of animals in their specific work setting.
What is the average annual salary of an Animal Facility Assistant?
Salaries for an Animal Facility Assistant can vary widely based on factors such as location, level of experience, education, and the specific employer. Additionally, salary data may change over time due to economic conditions and other factors. It’s essential to note that the figures provided below are approximate and based on general trends as of my last training cut-off in January 2022. Actual salaries may vary.
- USA: $30,000 to $40,000 USD
- Canada: CAD 35,000 to CAD 45,000
- UK: £18,000 to £25,000 GBP
- Europe: €20,000 to €30,000 EUR (This can vary significantly by country within Europe.)
- Nigeria: NGN 1,000,000 to NGN 2,000,000
- Kenya: KES 300,000 to KES 600,000
- South Africa: ZAR 120,000 to ZAR 200,000
- Asia: Salary levels can vary significantly and may depend on factors such as the country’s economic status and cost of living
- India: INR 200,000 to INR 500,000
- Australia: AUD 45,000 to AUD 60,000
- New Zealand: NZD 40,000 to NZD 50,000
Keep in mind that these figures are approximate and may have changed since my last update. Additionally, salaries can vary within countries based on factors such as the specific city or region, the employer’s size and industry, and the individual’s qualifications and experience. It’s advisable to consult recent salary surveys, job postings, or relevant industry sources for the most up-to-date information.
Can an Animal Facility Assistant be promoted?
The levels of promotion for an Animal Facility Assistant can vary depending on the organizational structure, the size of the facility, and the specific career path available within the institution.
It’s important to note that the availability of these promotion levels can vary widely between organizations. Career advancement often depends on an individual’s skills, experience, education, and the specific opportunities offered by their employer. Continuous learning, staying updated on industry best practices, and seeking additional qualifications can enhance an individual’s prospects for career progression.
Here is a general outline of potential levels of promotion for an Animal Facility Assistant:
Entry-level position responsible for basic animal care, cage maintenance, and support tasks within the facility.
After gaining experience, an assistant may be promoted to a senior role with additional responsibilities, such as overseeing specific sections of the facility or taking a lead role in training new staff.
In larger facilities, there may be supervisory roles overseeing a team of Animal Facility Assistants. This role involves more significant responsibilities in managing daily operations, coordinating tasks, and serving as a point of contact for higher-level management.
Some Animal Facility Assistants may choose to specialize in laboratory animal science and move into a role as a Laboratory Animal Technician. This position often involves more technical aspects of animal care and may require additional training or certification.
With significant experience and possibly additional education or training, an individual may progress to the role of Facility Manager. This position involves overall management of the animal facility, including staff supervision, budgeting, and ensuring compliance with regulations.
What kind of difficulties may an Animal Facility Assistant face?
Animal facility assistants may face various challenges and difficulties in their roles, which can vary depending on the nature of the facility, the type of animals they care for, and the specific tasks involved. Some common difficulties that animal facility assistants might encounter include:
- Emotional Stress:
Working with animals in a laboratory or research setting can be emotionally challenging, especially if the animals are used in experiments that may cause discomfort or distress.
- Workplace Hazards:
Handling animals and working in animal facilities can present physical hazards, such as the risk of bites or scratches, exposure to allergens, and the use of potentially hazardous substances.
- Repetitive Tasks:
Daily routines often involve repetitive tasks, such as feeding, cleaning, and monitoring, which can become monotonous over time.
- Physical Demands:
The job may require physical tasks like lifting heavy bags of feed, cleaning cages, and handling animals, which can be physically demanding.
- Regulatory Compliance:
Ensuring compliance with ethical guidelines and regulatory standards for the use of animals in research can be challenging and may require staying updated on changing regulations.
- Limited Career Advancement Opportunities:
In smaller facilities or organisations with limited hierarchical structures, there may be fewer opportunities for career advancement or specialised roles.
- High Responsibility:
The responsibility for the well-being of animals under their care is significant, and Animal Facility Assistants may face pressure to ensure the animals’ health and proper treatment.
- Working Hours:
Animal care is often a 24/7 responsibility, and assistants may need to work weekends, holidays, or irregular hours to provide continuous care for the animals.
- Interpersonal Challenges:
Working collaboratively with a diverse team, including researchers, veterinarians, and other staff, may pose interpersonal challenges, especially if communication is not effective.
- Ethical Dilemmas:
Some assistants may face ethical dilemmas related to the use of animals in research, especially if they are uncomfortable with certain experimental procedures.
- Limited Resources:
Facilities may face budget constraints, leading to limitations in resources, equipment, or staffing, which can impact the quality of animal care.
- Training and Education Requirements:
Keeping up with continuous training and educational requirements is especially important if working with specialised equipment or in fields with evolving best practises.
Despite these challenges, many animal facility assistants find their work rewarding, knowing that they play a crucial role in ensuring the well-being of the animals and supporting important scientific research. Overcoming these challenges often requires dedication, effective communication, ongoing education, and a commitment to ethical and humane animal care.
Future Growth and Possibilities
The career outlook for people working in the animal care industry is good, especially in the sector dealing with research.
Availability of Jobs
Which Skills are required by an Animal Facility Assistant?
The skills required for a career as an Animal Facility Assistant can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.
- Critical thinking
- Creative thinking
- Decision making
- Problem Solving
- Effective communication
- Interpersonal relationship
- Animal handling and care techniques
- Ability to give educational talks to the public
- Good health and physical fitness
- Basic computer literacy
Which Subjects must I have at School to prepare for this career?
Biology provides fundamental knowledge about living organisms, anatomy, physiology, and basic biological processes. It forms the basis for understanding the biology of animals.
A basic understanding of chemistry is valuable, especially if you are involved in preparing diets, administering medications, or working with laboratory equipment.
Basic mathematical skills are useful for tasks such as measuring food quantities, calculating dosages, and recording data accurately.
The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.
OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!
What will I need to Study to become an Animal Facility Assistant?
Minimum educational requirements
To become an animal facility assistant, the specific educational requirements can vary, but many positions require at least a high school diploma or its equivalent (such as a GED).
While not always mandatory, having an associate degree or certification in a relevant field can enhance your qualifications. Programmes in animal science, veterinary technology, or a related discipline are commonly pursued.
Major subjects to focus on if you are planning on studying further:
- Animal Science: Courses in animal science cover a range of topics related to animal biology, nutrition, health, and behavior, providing a solid foundation for animal care.
- Veterinary Technology: If available, programs in veterinary technology can be beneficial, as they often cover practical skills in animal care, health, and laboratory techniques.
- Biology: Courses in biology provide essential knowledge of living organisms, including anatomy, physiology, and basic biological processes.
- Animal Behaviour: Understanding animal behaviour is crucial for ensuring the well-being of animals in a research or care setting. Courses in animal behaviour provide insights into their natural behaviours.
- Environmental Science: Courses in environmental science may be relevant, especially if they cover topics related to habitat management and the impact of environmental factors on animals.
Short Courses and Certifications:
- Laboratory Animal Science Courses: Short courses in laboratory animal science cover the principles of animal care in a research setting and may include topics such as ethics, regulations, and technical procedures.
- Animal Welfare Courses: Courses focused on animal welfare provide an understanding of ethical considerations and responsible care practises for animals.
- First Aid and Emergency Response Training: Training in first aid and emergency response, especially with a focus on animals, can be valuable for handling unexpected situations.
- Technical Skills Training: Short courses in specific technical skills, such as animal handling, restraint, and basic veterinary procedures, can enhance your practical abilities.
- Professional Development Workshops: Attend workshops or conferences related to laboratory animal science, animal care, or related fields to stay updated on industry trends and best practices.
Before pursuing a specific educational path, it’s advisable to research the requirements of the specific facilities or employers you are interested in working for, as requirements can vary. Gaining practical experience through internships, volunteer work, or entry-level positions is also highly valuable in preparing for a career as an animal facility assistant.
The duration of a college diploma or certificate might last a few months to three years. A bachelor’s degree can last between three and four years, while short courses can range from a few days to a few weeks.
Possible Career Preparation Paths
If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.
Why is planning important?
To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A Preparation Path is like your road map to where you want to go.
Possible Combined Career Paths
It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.
Stepping Stone Career
Being an aviculturist can also be used as a stepping stone to a career. A stepping stone career is one that is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (sometimes due to things like high fees, etc.).
You can begin as an intern after basic short courses and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One is paying to help get to the other.
Some of the possible paths are:
Training and apprenticeship
On-the-job training and apprenticeships play a crucial role in preparing individuals for a career as an animal facility assistant. The nature and extent of training can vary depending on the employer, the specific facility, and the complexity of the tasks involved. Here are some elements of on-the-job training and apprenticeship that may be required or beneficial:
- Basic Animal Care Training:
New Animal Facility Assistants often receive training on the basics of animal care, including feeding, cleaning, and monitoring the health of various species.
- Animal Handling and Restraint:
Training in proper techniques for handling and restraining different types of animals safely and effectively is essential.
- Cage Maintenance:
Understanding the protocols for cleaning and maintaining animal enclosures is important to ensure a clean and sanitary environment.
Training on the importance of accurate record-keeping for tracking the health, behavior, and treatments of animals.
- Health Monitoring:
Learning to observe animals for signs of illness or distress and understanding the reporting process for any concerns.
- Compliance and Regulations:
Training on ethical guidelines, regulations, and compliance standards related to the use of animals in research or testing.
- Collaboration and Communication:
Developing communication skills and learning how to collaborate effectively with other team members, researchers, and veterinarians.
- Emergency Response:
Training on responding to emergencies, such as injuries, escapes, or other unexpected situations, following established protocols.
- Use of Equipment and Tools:
Familiarization with the use of equipment and tools relevant to animal care, such as feeding equipment, cleaning tools, and, in some cases, laboratory equipment.
- Introduction to Research Procedures:
If the facility is involved in research, assistants may receive training on supporting researchers, understanding experimental protocols, and handling animals during studies.
- Environmental Enrichment:
Learning about the importance of environmental enrichment for animals and methods for providing stimulation and comfort.
- Safety Protocols:
Understanding and adhering to safety protocols, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), to ensure the well-being of both the animals and the staff.
- Continuous Professional Development:
Encouragement to engage in continuous learning and professional development to stay updated on industry best practices and advancements.
Apprenticeships or mentorship programs may also be available in some settings, where new Animal Facility Assistants work closely with experienced professionals to gain hands-on experience and practical skills.
It’s important to note that the specific training program can vary by employer and the complexity of the facility’s operations. Individuals entering this field should be prepared for a combination of hands-on training, workshops, and ongoing learning experiences to develop the necessary skills for success in their role.
Join the Animal Facility Assistants Group to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!
Average level of education of people entering this career
Licenses, Certificates, Registration and Professional Associations
Certain animal care careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work and work with the necessary equipment.
The specific licences, certificates, and registrations required to become an animal facility assistant can vary by country and region. In some cases, regulatory requirements may differ based on the type of animals involved and the nature of the facility. However, here are some common certifications and professional associations that can enhance the qualifications and credibility of an animal facility assistant:
- AALAS Certification:
The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) offers various certification levels for professionals involved in laboratory animal science. The most relevant certification for Animal Facility Assistants might be the “Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT)” credential.
- ALAT Certification (AALAS):
The ALAT certification from AALAS is designed for individuals who are beginning a career in laboratory animal care. It covers the basic principles of animal care and facility management.
- CVT or LVT Certification:
In some regions, animal facility assistants may pursue certification as a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) or a Licenced Veterinary Technician (LVT). This certification is typically earned through accredited veterinary technology programmes and may be relevant for those involved in the veterinary aspects of animal care.
Note: Always check with local regulatory authorities and employers to ensure compliance with specific requirements in your region.
Obtaining relevant certifications and joining professional associations demonstrates a commitment to professional development and adherence to industry standards. It’s important to stay informed about any changes in regulations and seek opportunities for continuous learning in the field of laboratory animal science or animal care.
Joining professional associations provides opportunities for networking, access to resources, and staying informed about industry trends. Some international associations relevant to animal facility assistants include:
- AALAS (American Association for Laboratory Animal Science): While based in the United States, AALAS has an international membership and is a key organisation in laboratory animal science.
- IAAAM (International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine): Relevant for those working with aquatic animals.
- ICZ (International Congress of Zookeepers): Applicable to professionals working in zoo settings.
- IFER (Institute for Laboratory Animal Research): Offers resources and information on laboratory animal science.
- FELASA (Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations): Relevant for those in Europe, providing guidance on laboratory animal science and welfare.
Where can I study further?
All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.
See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards animal care.
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