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Animal Handling Technician: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an animal handling technician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certifications to find out if this is the career for you.

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Animal handling technicians have varying educational requirements. Some positions require only a high school diploma or GED, while others require a bachelor's degree. The job growth outlook for these workers is faster than average.

Essential Information

Animal handling technicians work with all types of animals in many settings, including zoos, veterinarians' offices and kennels. Their job duties depend on the employer, but can include feeding, cleaning and exercising the animals.

Education requirements vary by position, with a high school diploma required for some jobs, while others, such as those at a zoo, calling for a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. Some animal handling technicians are required by their employers to earn professional certifications.

Required Education High school diploma at minimum, but some positions call for a bachelor's degree
Certification Some employers require professional certifications
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers; 11% for nonfarm animal caretakers
Median Salary (2015)* $24,360 for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers; $21,010 for nonfarm animal caretakers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job Description

Animal handling technicians work with animals on a daily basis, providing care, food, attention and exercise. These positions might involve working in a lab, veterinary office, kennel or pet store. Though animal lovers might find these roles rewarding, they also might be exposed to physically and emotionally challenging situations, which can be unpleasant and sometimes even dangerous. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), animal care technicians experience a higher level of on-the-job injury than the average profession (www.bls.gov).

Salary and Employment Outlook

As reported by the BLS, animal care and service worker positions are expected to grow by 11% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also notes that salaries vary depending on specialization. For example, while nonfarm animal caretakers earned a median hourly wage of $10.10 per hour as of May 2015, veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers received a median hourly wage of $11.71 at that time.

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Job Duties

Basic duties for animal handling technicians include bathing and grooming animals, as well as disinfecting cages and monitoring each animal's health. Specific duties for animal handling technicians vary significantly based on their workplace. For example, animal handling technicians employed in pet shops might interact with customers and complete business transactions in addition to maintaining the welfare of animals. Alternatively, those working in a veterinary clinic might be required to administer medications.

Requirements

There are no industry-wide educational requirements for animal handling technicians. Nonetheless, a college degree is required to gain some entry-level positions, such as animal trainers working in zoos or other facilities. Coursework for these professionals can range from marine biology to animal nutrition. Those receiving on-the-job training might receive instruction on restraining animals and advising pet owners on how to deal with specific situations.

Certification

Certification might be required by some institutions to work with lab animals. The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science provides access to three levels of certification for lab positions. Eligibility requirements typically include a combination of work experience and education; once eligible, applicants must pass a certification exam to earn their credentials.

Animal handlers work in many environments, including zoos, pet stores, and veterinary clinics, performing a variety of duties, such as bathing and grooming animals, monitoring animal health, and disinfecting cages. This profession requires minimal education for entry-level positions and the salaries vary by position.

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