Opportunities for Advancement: Promoting Employee Engagement in Animal Care and Use Programs

By Angela Craig, DVM, lab animal veterinarian and institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) member at the University of Minnesota


Each of us has a unique path that brought us to our career in laboratory animal care and use. I started my career in laboratory animal medicine twenty years ago as a member of the husbandry staff. I enjoyed the close connection I made with the animals under my care, and I understood that they depended on me for their basic needs. I further realized how the scientific discoveries unfolding were dependent on physically and psychologically healthy animals. When you feel deeply invested in the work you do, it is natural to think about the ways you can improve your knowledge, skills, and experience for the benefit of the animals and the research program. You think about how the work you enjoy might develop into a lifelong career. For me, the connection I felt to the animals in my care led me to become a laboratory animal veterinarian.

Opportunity for advancement is frequently cited as a key factor affecting employee job satisfaction. Advancement may include the development of new skills, greater responsibility, and/or promotion. Within an animal care and use program, there are many options for growth, but staff members are not always aware of how to get on the right track. They also may not realize the various directions they can go with their interests. In addition to careers oriented toward husbandry and veterinary care, there are also the paths of laboratory animal resource management, and animal program administration and compliance.
Managers and supervisors are in a position to learn about the goals of their staff and mentor each on to achieve his or her personal best within the field. One way to do this is to direct people to training and certification which will lead to new opportunities for advancement. As a lab animal veterinarian I frequently direct staff to technician certification through the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS), but this is just one of many sources for career-advancing education. For staff members who are interested in management, pursuing the Certified Manager of Animal Resources (CMAR) certification is another route.

When ethics, welfare, and compliance are at the top of a staff member’s list of interests, PRIM&R offers two unique opportunities for education and growth. They are a Certificate in the Foundations of Animal Care and Use and Certified Professional IACUC Administrator (CPIA®) credential. Each of these programs promotes the acquisition of skills and expertise necessary for a career supporting ethical animal care and use and compliance, both of which require knowledgeable and dedicated individuals.
Lifelong learning in each of the roles described is further supported by PRIM&R’s yearly IACUC Conference, webinars, short courses, and mentoring from others in the field. Similarly, AALAS has a National Meeting and offers continuing education.
Every day in our institutions, we have the opportunity to encourage the growth of our staff members and give them guidance which can lead to advancement and greater job satisfaction. The more invested they are in their careers and engaged in lifelong learning, the better it is for the animals we serve. With educational offerings from AALAS and PRIM&R, we do not have to invent the path or the opportunities, merely introduce staff to what is possible and support their journey.