Case study

Senior animal technician — Sarah

Sarah enjoys working directly with animals and being able to learn more about the research area

How did you become an animal technician?

After finishing college, where I studied for a BTEC National Diploma Level 3 in Animal Management, I applied for a job after seeing it advertised in the local paper. At the time I was considering going to university to study veterinary science but decided to go for the job instead.

Take into consideration the working hours that are involved but don't let it put you off as the job is extremely rewarding

Is your qualification relevant to your job?

The subject of study was very relevant to my current job. I gained knowledge of animal husbandry and the daily routines which are applied every day in my role. The course helped to give me an understanding of what to expect when working with animals, for example, the hours of work including weekends and holidays and the dedication needed to fulfil job role.

The course included basic science and biology across many species of animals, which in my job role has been useful as I work within a multispecies facility.

I also had to go on work placements as part of the course, which allowed me to gain experience of working with animals in different environments. I did placements at a variety of places including a hedgehog rescue centre, a zoo and an aquarium. This helped me to decide which area I found most interesting and would suit me best.

What does being an animal technician involve?

A typical working day within my facility starts at 8am. I currently work in the fish facility which consists of four holding rooms. In the morning, I feed all of the rooms, which include both juvenile and adult fish, and then prepare the live feed.

Mid-morning I feed the juvenile fish live food, then do routine husbandry such as cleaning, maintenance and sorting of animals, as well as any emails and paperwork and work which has been requested by the researchers, usually to do with breeding.

In the afternoon the adult fish are fed their live food, and then later the juvenile fish are fed again. All areas are cleaned and all equipment used throughout the day is cleaned, before finishing at 4pm. As a senior member of staff I help on other areas when needed, and work alongside researchers when doing procedures.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

During the ten years I have been an animal technician, I have worked in several different areas so have gained knowledge and experience of working with a range of animals including mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs and fish.

This has helped me to develop my understanding of why animals are used and needed in research. When I first started I didn't know anything about working in a research environment but it didn't take long before I knew that this is the perfect job role for me.

Over the years I have attended many courses and gained a lot of qualifications through work, which are still ongoing. I am currently in my fifth year of a degree course. In the future I think I would like to get more involved in the research side of the job, mainly working in the breeding/genetics area, as this is a subject which I have found most interesting from the very beginning.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The thing I enjoy the most is being able to be involved in working with the animals directly every day, from creating them to watching them grow under my care. I enjoy having the responsibility of these animals in my care.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is time management and organisation between the research staff and the animals. As I work in academia, most of the people I come into contact with and work directly with are students, who I am likely to be involved with for up to three years, sometimes longer.

Creating an open and professional relationship so that all concerned can work together and achieve their goals can be hard work but at the same time extremely rewarding. At the same time of trying to achieve this, my role of animal technician also has to be fulfilled.

Any advice for someone who wants to become an animal technician?

Advice I would give to anyone wanting to get into this career is to take into consideration the working hours that are involved which include weekends and holiday periods. But not to let that put you off as the job is extremely rewarding.