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How to become a Veterinary Nurse

Posted on 24/02/2021
How to become a Veterinary Nurse

Being a veterinary nurse can be an undeniably rewarding career. You’re on the front line of animal care, helping pets and non-companion animals live a better life.

You go through rigorous training and education to become an effective figure in the vet clinic. And the knowledge you impart to others can help maintain the welfare of all kinds of animals. From domestic to working and even wild breeds.

The job market for veterinary nurses is no doubt competitive. So, you need to do your best to stand out from the crowd of applications. Plus, there are different routes into the profession which have their own benefits.

To help you decide, we’ve detailed the options below and ways to get experience that will help your application shine. We’ve also covered some aspects of the role that you should consider before embarking on this journey. To be sure that it’s definitely for you and removing any unwanted surprises.

Is Veterinary Nursing right for me?

It must be said that being a veterinary nurse isn’t for everyone. And with a fairly lengthy route into the profession, you want to make sure it’s the right path for you.

There’s no taking away from the fact you’ll get to work with many adorable and loving animals. But, with the good days come the bad and sadly it’s not always a positive outcome for your patients.

Dealing with euthanasia is something you’ll have to get used to, as is treating victims of abuse and neglect. You need to keep your composure and stay professional at all times, no matter the situation. Taking solace in the fact that yours and the vets’ actions are in the best interest of each animal.

Aside from this, the duties and physically demanding nature of the role can take some people by surprise. A high percentage of your time will be taken up dealing with animal owners. Which might not sit well with those hoping to work solely with animals. Plus, your senior skills will be in demand in the clinic. Aside from handling animals, you’ll need to be quick on your feet if you’re needed in more places than one. So, physical fitness and stamina are essential.

Overall, you’ll need to be an effective communicator to deal with owners, vets, support staff and people from many backgrounds. Be equally capable of working as a team and independently when required. Have strong attention to detail so you can administer correct doses of medication and monitor vital signs. But above all, stay calm when situations become stressful or emotional, as emergencies can be a common occurrence.

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Ways to become a Veterinary Nurse

You can get into veterinary nursing either through a university course or vocational training. No matter the option you take, your course must be approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). And must include a full-time period of practical nursing training in an approved training practice or practices.

Vocational training

This is the quickest route into vet nursing as courses can take as little as two years to complete. You can study a Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing full-time. Or take it as an advanced apprenticeship alongside employment in a veterinary practice. In some cases, employers of students on apprenticeships choose to fund their fees.

Otherwise, those opting for the non-apprenticeship route gain their practical experience through separate employment or voluntary work placements. Choosing vocational training allows you to blend both classroom and workplace education, which is great if you prefer hands-on learning.

To take a Level 3 Diploma, you’ll generally need at least 5 GCSEs at grades C or 4. Including English, Maths and a science subject. And relevant work experience.

You can browse RCVS accredited colleges here, or apply directly for student/apprentice nurse employment at an approved training practice.


You could choose to study a Foundation Degree or a BA (Hons) in Veterinary Nursing.

Degrees are the longer route as they take between 3-4 years to complete, but they are more academically focussed. So, you spend more time learning about the theory behind veterinary practices. But you still need to gain the same level of work experience through approved training practices.

You might prefer this pathway if you want to know the subject back-to-front before practising in a working environment. This helps you focus solely on your studies as opposed to juggling that and employment. Plus, gaining a degree can open up different career paths. And it allows you to progress to postgraduate courses in specialist areas like physiotherapy.

To get onto a degree, you’ll need to meet the A Level or alternate Level 3 qualification requirements. You’ll also need to have evidence of practical work experience in a veterinary setting. Entry requirements vary between universities, so check beforehand what you need to achieve.

Take a look at the RCVS-accredited degrees in veterinary nursing.

Work Experience

To get onto a vocational course or degree requires work experience. You can gain this in veterinary practices or animal-related environments like catteries, kennels or rehoming centres. But the more relevant experience you have, the better.

You’ll need to enrol with the RCVS to legally carry out some of the procedures you’ll perform in training. Once you’re qualified and have completed your training, you can register with the RCVS as a Registered Veterinary Nurses (RVN).

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Get started with an online course

If you’re considering becoming a vet nurse, there are many online courses available to help you explore veterinary practice.

A Veterinary Nursing Assistant Level 2 Diploma is a great starting point to build your knowledge. Giving you a feel for the role to make sure it’s something you definitely want to pursue.

It teaches you about the many duties you’d perform as a veterinary nurse. As well as other essential information surrounding animal health, hygiene, cleaning and disinfection, the terminology used in clinics and more.

After studying this course you’ll know what is expected of you in a veterinary nursing assistant role. And have a much clearer picture of what it means to become a registered veterinary nurse. 

What’s more, this online course also requires a placement to carry out practical training. Giving you the chance to gain the hands-on experience you need for vocational training or university.

You can also complete this course within a year. So it’s a quick way to upskill, practice and prepare for your career as a veterinary nurse.  

Study online, from home, around your existing commitments during the online element of the course. Then you can organise your practical training for a time that suits you.

Find out more about studying veterinary courses with learndirect below by clicking to view the course specification in more detail.

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