The Military Career of an Animal Care Specialist
Animal care specialists (68T) are U.S. Army soldiers who work in the animal health field. These health care professionals assist with basic care and veterinary treatment for government animals.
Animal care specialists (68T) are U.S. Army soldiers who provide care for government-owned animals such as dogs, horses, marine mammals, and a variety of laboratory research animals. They also work to minimize the occurrence of disease in the animal populations which they are responsible for, ensuring that sick animals are quarantined and that healthy animals are properly vaccinated.
The duties of an animal care specialist usually match up closely with those of civilian veterinary technicians. Typical responsibilities include assisting veterinarians with surgeries, providing emergency treatment and management of traumatic injuries, helping to restrain animals safely, administering medications and fluids, taking radiographs, cleaning and sterilizing equipment, taking bodily fluid samples, updating patient records, and running lab tests.
Individuals working in a lab environment may be responsible for additional duties such as monitoring animal behavior, dietary intake, or physiological qualities such as weight gain or growth. They may also be responsible for collecting data, compiling and analyzing results, writing reports, and supervising any specialized care required for an experiment’s successful completion.
Animal care specialists can work in either a veterinary clinic setting or a research lab while in the military. While these areas are usually located on a military base, it is also possible for animal care specialists to work in a mobile unit in the field when necessary.
Those who pursue this career path while in the Army can go on to become certified as a veterinary technician or lab animal technician when they leave the military. The skills learned as an animal care specialist are readily transferable to a wide variety of animal careers, particularly those connected with the animal health field.
Animal care specialists may also qualify for special education funding from Army programs if they decide to pursue a degree after serving in the military.
Education and Training
Animal care technicians must complete 10 weeks of basic combat training and 11 weeks of advanced training in animal care. They must also have an Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test score of 91 (with a 15 in Skilled Technical).
Individuals who have prior work experience as veterinary technicians or who have completed coursework in areas such as animal science, zoology, or biology will be especially well suited to this position. A good working knowledge of animal behavior and care will also be valuable to candidates seeking a position in this field.
The Army compensation package includes a combination of basic salary, housing, medical insurance, food allowances, paid vacation, special tax breaks, and more. Basic pay scales are available on U.S. military recruitment websites and through recruiter offices. The salary paid to animal care specialists is considered to be comparable to that which is paid to those working in related civilian roles such as veterinary technicians, lab technicians, or nonfarm animal care workers.
The median wage for veterinary technicians, a similar career path, was approximately $29,710 per year according to the 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) salary survey. Earnings reported in the BLS salary survey ranged from less than $20,500 per year ($9.85 per hour) for the bottom ten percent of technicians to more than $44,030 per year ($21.17 per hour) for the top ten percent of technicians.
The median wage for lab animal technicians, another similar career path, was approximately $22,040 per year according to the 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary survey. Earnings for this position ranged from less than $16,490 per year for the bottom ten percent of technicians to more than $33,780 per year for the top ten percent of technicians.
In a 2012 publication, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that veterinary technician positions would grow at a very strong rate of 52 percent over the decade from 2010 to 2020. Nonfarm animal caretaker positions are also expected to show a strong rate of growth at approximately 24 percent over the same period, much faster than the average for all careers.
The animal health industry is expected to continue to show rapid growth for the foreseeable future, and prospects should be good for those with the skills and training to pursue this type of work.
While there is strong interest in this sort of position with the military, prospects should be good for those who already have a background in animal health care before entering the service.