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Animal Health Technologist

Animal health technologists provide primary support to veterinarians by caring for animals, and assisting in the diagnosis and treatment of companion and livestock animal health disorders.

Also Known As:Laboratory Technician/Technologist, Veterinary Technician
NOC Number(s):3213
Minimum Education:2 years post-secondary education/training
Employment Outlook:Job openings generated due to employment turnover. Occupational outlook currently unavailable.
Interests:M O I

Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Related Legislation | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study

Duties

Animal health technologists provide a wide range of animal health services under the supervision of veterinarians. In general, they:

  • collect and prepare laboratory specimens for testing
  • perform blood, urine, fecal and other routine laboratory tests
  • fill and dispense prescriptions and administer prescribed medications and treatments
  • receive and prepare animals for examination or surgery
  • monitor and evaluate clinical symptoms
  • assist veterinarians in procedures and surgical operations
  • administer and monitor anesthetic
  • produce and develop radiographs
  • administer emergency first aid
  • perform dental cleaning
  • restrain animals for examination, vaccination, medication administration and veterinary nursing care
  • calculate and administer medications and fluids
  • implement radiation safety and quality control procedures
  • provide animal health care education to owners (for example, regarding behaviour problems in pets, animal nutrition)
  • assist in the euthanasia of animals
  • clean, maintain and sterilize surgical and medical instruments and equipment
  • manage pharmaceutical and product inventory
  • ensure facility sanitation to control the spread of disease
  • assist in food animal monitoring programs to promote food safety and public health
  • maintain medical records and log books.

Animal health technologists also may:

  • write reports 
  • train new staff
  • recommend and sell non-prescription products according to clinic standards
  • provide support services such as grief counselling, choosing a new pet, house sitting and pet weight loss support
  • maintain research information
  • provide customer service, accounting and invoicing duties.

Working Conditions

Most animal health technologists are employed in veterinary clinics and hospitals, laboratories, research facilities and animal shelters. Some work on farms or in stockyards or feedlots. The work can be physically and emotionally demanding. Depending on the work situation, animal health technologists may be required to lift up to or over 20 kilograms.

Hours of work vary and may include evenings, weekends, nights, emergency on-call rotations or overtime to assist in emergencies.

Animal health technologists sometimes work around strong, unpleasant odours. Occupational hazards include contact with potentially dangerous animals and potential exposure to radiation, biohazardous substances and waste, anesthetics (gases) and diseases that may be transmissible to human beings.


Personal Characteristics

Animal health technologists need the following characteristics:

  • confidence in working with animals
  • a strong interest in medicine
  • the ability to work quickly and decisively under pressure
  • good manual dexterity
  • an aptitude for math, record keeping and writing reports
  • good organization skills
  • good physical health and strength
  • a high degree of integrity
  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • the ability to work well in a team environment.

They should enjoy having clear rules and guidelines for their work, and performing laboratory and diagnostic procedures.


Educational Requirements

Animal health technologists must have a minimum of a two year Animal Health Technology or Veterinary Technology diploma accredited by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. In Alberta, the following institutions offer two year diploma programs in Animal Health Technology:

  • Grande Prairie Regional College in Fairview. Entrance requirements are a high school diploma with English Language Arts 30-1 or 30-2, Pure or Applied Math 30, Biology 30 and Chemistry 30, or equivalents, and 80 hours of volunteer or paid work experience in a veterinary clinic.
  • Lakeland College in Vermilion. The entrance requirements are a high school diploma with English Language Arts 30-1 (or 65 per cent in English Language Arts 30-2), Chemistry 30, at least 60 per cent in Biology 30 and Pure or Applied Math 20, and 40 hours of volunteer or paid work experience in a veterinary clinic.
  • The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton. Entrance requirements include English Language Arts 30-1 or 30-2 , Biology 30, Chemistry 30 and Pure or Applied Math 30, or equivalents, and 40 hours of volunteer or paid work experience in a veterinary clinic. A high school diploma is recommended. Success in the program requires computer literacy. 
  • Olds College. The entrance requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent with at least 60 per cent in English Language Arts 30-1 or 30-2, Pure or Applied Math 30, Chemistry 30 and Biology 30. A minimum of 80 hours of volunteer or paid work experience in a veterinary clinic must be completed within two years prior to admission. This program has an online delivery option.
  • University of Alberta in Edmonton offers a 4 year B.Sc. Animal Health program. Standard admission with English Language Arts 30-1, Chemistry 30, Biology 30, Pure Math 30, and one other approved Grade 12 subject.   

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.

Before enrolling in any program, prospective students should check with the Canadian Association of Animal Health Technologists and Technicians to make sure the program is recognized across Canada.

To maintain licensure, registered animal health technologists must complete 10 hours of continuing education annually.

Section revised July 2012

Related Legislation

In Alberta, membership in the Alberta Association of Animal Health Technologists (AAAHT) is required to work as an animal health technologist under the direction of a registered veterinarian. Graduation from an accredited Animal Health Technology diploma program and successful completion of an examination administered by the AAAHT are required for membership in the association.

To find more information on the certification process see Animal Health Technologist Registration Process on the AlbertaCanada.com website.

Section revised June 2013

Employment and Advancement

Animal health technologists may be employed by:

  • private veterinary practices
  • zoos, wildlife parks and rehabilitation centres 
  • biomedical research laboratories
  • kennels, animal shelters and humane societies
  • the Canadian Forces 
  • government departments and food inspection agencies (see the Agricultural Commodity Inspector occupational profile)
  • pet shops
  • companies that sell animal care or pharmaceutical supplies
  • farms and feedlots
  • post-secondary institutions.

Advancement generally takes the form of increasingly complex duties or management responsibilities.

Animal health technologists are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 3213: Veterinary and Animal Health Technologists and Technicians. In Alberta, 85 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised September 2011

Salary

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Veterinary and Animal Health Technologists and Technicians occupational group earned on average from $17.17 to $23.76 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $19.70.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

EDinfo website: www.alis.alberta.ca/edinfo

Alberta Association of Animal Health Technologists (AAAHT) website: www.aaaht.com

Canadian Association of Animal Health Technologists and Technicians (CAAHTT) website: www.caahtt-acttsa.ca

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) websites: www.canadianveterinarians.net 


Related Occupational Profiles
Agricultural Commodity Inspector
Animal Care Attendant
Farrier
Pet Groomer
Swine Technician
Veterinarian

Related High School Subjects
English Language Arts; Health, Recreation and Human Services (Health Care Services); Mathematics; Natural Resources (Agriculture); and Science (Biology; and Chemistry)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Agriculture and Related Technologies

Produced November 2010
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at alis.alberta.ca, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.


Government of Alberta, Human Services