Becoming a Veterinary Nurse

What you need to do to follow a career in veterinary nursing

A Career as a veterinary nurse

For a veterinary practice such as Highcliff to run efficiently and effectively takes a team of committed people fulfilling a number of different career roles which include Veterinary Surgeons (partners and assistants), Veterinary Nurses, Practice and Finance managers, receptionists, coordinators and cleaning staff.

Veterinary Nurses (VNs) work alongside Veterinary Surgeons in order to provide a high standard of care for animals. Veterinary Nurses normally work within a veterinary surgery or veterinary hospital and are involved in a wide range of care and treatment. They provide skilled supportive care for sick animals as well as undertaking minor surgery, monitoring during anaesthesia, medical treatments and diagnostic tests under veterinary supervision.

Veterinary Nurses also play an important role in the education of owners on good standards of animal care.

As with any worthwhile job, the training you will need takes time, hard work and commitment - but if you are willing to put in the effort, you will be rewarded with a career, which offers variety, interest and daily contact with animals and their owners.

  • Skills required
  • Requirements
  • Training

Skills required

Skills required

  • Be able to enjoy working with people and animals
  • Be able to work as a team member
  • Be able to work under pressure
  • Be aware that at times this job is not very glamorous
  • You will train to carry out many practical nursing skills, prepare and assist for operations/procedures etc.



  • You must be 17 years or older
  • Employed at a Veterinary Nurse Approved Centre (VNAC) or at an RCVS registered Training Practice (TP). For up-to-date details of practices please consult the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons website:
  • Have 5 GCSE's at grade C or above including English Language and two science subjects, one of which may be mathematics.


  • Have passed the Animal Nursing Assistant qualification which is a direct entry route qualification enabling individuals to enrol with the RCVS as a Student Veterinary Nurse without any other qualifications. Please refer to the information contained within this section and the education section of this website for more information on this qualification.


  • Alternative qualifications of a comparable or higher standard may be accepted in lieu of the usual requirements at the discretion of the RCVS. If you are unsure whether you can meet the entry requirements, please contact the RCVS directly.
  • Alternatively, if you wanted to undertake a four year BSc Honours in Veterinary Nursing degree, the minimum requirements are as above plus at least: two A-Levels, BTEC National Diploma in a science subject or Advanced GNVQs. Equivalent qualifications (including the VN Certificate) will also be considered. If you are over 21 without formal qualifications and can show high levels of ability and experience then you can also apply.


Training to be a veterinary nurse

As a Student Veterinary Nurse, you must:

  • Have fulfilled all the requirements outlined in the 'How to become a Veterinary Nurse' section above.
  • Contact the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to enrol as a Student Veterinary Nurse

Training to be a Veterinary Nurse usually takes at least two years and leads to a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) at levels 2 and 3.

During training, students undertake a broad range of veterinary nursing practice under supervision. Practical training will usually be supported by a college-based course on either a day or block release basis. This is arranged through the training centre.

Students will be assessed in practice and will also undertake RCVS examinations at the end of their first and second years and complete portfolios of evidence.

Summary of course

Stage 1.

Gain GCSE's or take a one-year course on Pre-Veterinary Nursing, whilst working in a veterinary practice. Exams are then taken at the end of the first year and your first part of your portfolio needs to be assessed.

Stage 2.

Enrol onto Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Veterinary Nursing Scheme and begin training whilst working in a veterinary practice that is RCVS approved to train nurses (an ATAC - approved training and assessment centre).

Academic training is then usually provided by attending college one day a week, or in block sessions. In addition to doing plenty of theoretical work at home and learning a lot of practical nursing care at the surgery. A portfolio of case logs in subjects such as Basic Animal Management, Communications, Animal First Aid, Human First Aid and Dispensing is to be completed.

Stage 3.

Second-year of training.

Further practical experience is gained at the ATAC. The second part of the portfolio needs to be completed including anaesthesia, exotic pets, theatre practice, radiography, medical and surgical case logs. There is an exam at the end of the second year.

When both the portfolio of case logs and the examinations are passed that person then qualifies and can use the title 'Veterinary Nurse'.

Alternatively, you can study for a BSc Honours in Veterinary Nursing degree, which consists of four years, full-time study at Bristol University. During the degree programme, students will be eligible to take Level 2 (Part 1) and Level 3 (Part 2) of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons veterinary nursing examination leading to the professional qualification for veterinary nursing.

There is also a Higher National Diploma for Veterinary Nursing available at a number of Colleges.

If you are specifically interested in equine veterinary nursing, contact the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for details of the RCVS Certificate in Equine Veterinary Nursing.

There is usually high competition for places in veterinary practice for non-experienced members of staff to get their foot in the door. Voluntary work may be necessary in order to show you have some experience of veterinary practice life. If this is not possible try to get work experience in other animal environments, e.g. kennels and catteries.