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Contract Technician FAQ

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Q. What's it like to be an animal technician?

A. Animal technicians are responsible for the care and welfare of all the animals used in medical research. As an animal technician you have day to day contact with animals including providing food and water, carrying out observations, general cleaning and care of the animals and monitoring the weight and growth of the animals in your care. As an animal technician you will come into contact with a variety of animals. The most common ones you will come across are mice and rats, however sometimes you will also work alongside other animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs, fish, dogs, cats, farm animals and monkeys. All animal technicians have to follow strict guidelines set out by the Home Office which are in place to ensure that all animals used in medical research are well looked after and humanely treated.

Q. What is the Welfare First programme?

A. Agenda is committed to delivering excellent care and welfare for the animals used in research, to support this it provides a Welfare First programme that defines how it supports the animal technicians, with training, continual professional development, recognition, “Got a Concern?” processes as well as a signed welfare contract.

Q. What hours do animal technicians work?

A. Animal technicians typically work a 37 hour week, however in some cases part time work is available. Animal technicians work a variety of hours as animals need care 365 days a year. Hours are usually worked out on a rota system which includes weekends and bank holidays.

Q. What is the pay like as an animal technician?

A. Junior animal technicians can expect to earn between £12,000 and £15,000 per year. Qualified/Licensed and experienced technicians can expect to earn between £15,000 and £20,000 per year. Senior Technicians can expect to earn £20,000 and above. However salaries are often dependent upon the location and specific research organisation as there are no national pay scales for this sector.

Q. What general skills and interests do I need to become an animal technician?

A. Any individual who is looking for a career as an animal technician needs to have a keen interest in the care and welfare of animals. They need to be able to pay close attention to detail, have the ability to work as part of a team and be able to keep accurate records. Previous animal based experience is useful, this could be working on a farm, in a pet shop or as a hobby.

Q. What kind of qualifications do I need when looking for a job in the animal technology industry?

A. Although there are no specific entry requirements for a junior role, employers would expect you to have the minimum of GCSE's in Maths, English and Science (Grades A-D) or equivalent. For some roles you may be expected to have further qualifications such as A-Levels or industry specific ones such as BTEC in Animal Management or Certificate of the Institute of Animal Technology (CIAT). It is always useful when looking for work in this industry, to have had experience of with animals such as kennel work or pet shop work.

Q. How do I progress once in the industry?

A. Once you have started work with an organisation, you will receive training on the job and will learn how to undertake routine tasks that enable the animals to be looked after according to the Home Office and EU Directive guidelines. Before you can participate in any of the scientific procedures that take place you must have a Home Office licence. In order to obtain a Home Office licence you will need at least one years’ experience in the animal technology industry and complete an approved training course. This is all part of the Home Office's regulations regarding the usage of animals in research. You may have the opportunity to work towards NVQ's in Animal Technology and take The Institute of Animal Technology qualifications that range from IAT certificate in Laboratory Animal Husbandry through to BSc degrees. From this you can progress to a Membership or Fellowship diploma and can then apply to join the Named Animal Care and Welfare Officer's register.

Q. What are the career opportunities?

A. Animal technicians often start work within cage-wash, support or basic husbandry roles. Each of these is important to the running of an efficient research facility.  Progression often depends upon an individual’s aptitude and attitude.  Having a can-do positive attitude can be as important as qualifications as the role of animal technicians is a very practical hands-on one.  Opportunities to develop new skills on the job and through formal training courses can lead to promotions, grade and/or pay increases.  Experienced technicians may conduct scientific procedures and specialise in certain disciplines such as the development of transgenic animals.  Career animal technicians often aspire to be team leaders, supervisors and managers, although some may prefer not to manage people and may take alternate career routes such as becoming a trainer, working in the support laboratories such as necropsy or histology or in larger organisations becoming a quality assurance officer or business development executive.  Animal technology provides an excellent starting point for your career wherever you want to progress to.

Q. What are the options if I don’t want to be a contract technician forever?

A. Being a contract technician enables individuals to work within many different types of research facilities, to meet new people and to see different types of research projects. Whilst this is interesting Agenda understands that seem technicians may want to settle down in one area or enjoy working at one particular research organisation so much that they want to join them as a full time employee.  This is fine, Agenda assists contract technicians who want to seek a permanent position and has placed technicians into practically every research facility.

Q. Whilst I am out on placement where will I stay and how is my accommodation paid for?

A: All travel and accommodation is paid for by Agenda whilst you work away from home. If you cannot commute to your place of work you will stay in B&Bs or guest houses from Sunday to Thursday night. For long term placements, fully equipped self-service flats are arranged so you are more comfortable. We have a strong relationship with many B&B’s throughout the UK, which we do regular business with, and quite often you will be staying with other technicians from the company as well so you can meet new people and socialise with others within the industry.