Course overview

This course is also available as a Level 2 Diploma for those not eligible for an apprenticeship

Quick Facts

Train to become a veterinary care assistant

Veterinary Care Assistants (VCAs) are important members of today’s modern veterinary practice, working alongside veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses to provide vital nursing care to small animal patients. No two days are the same, making the work both exciting and rewarding! During a typical day, as a VCA, you may be involved in:

  • Exercising, grooming and feeding hospitalised animals
  • Monitoring and providing supportive care to inpatients
  • Preparing theatre and relevant equipment
  • Cleaning and preparing accommodation for animals
  • Reception duties and client care, including advising clients on preventative health care e.g. flea treatments

As a veterinary care apprentice, you will be employed in a veterinary practice gaining vital practical skills and experience, and earning a wage alongside studying your formal apprenticeship qualification.

By choosing to study with The College of Animal Welfare – one of the largest providers of veterinary care training in the UK – you will be joining a community of like-minded students and staff, who all share a passion for animal welfare.

Your apprenticeship materials will be delivered online via our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE); as such, you can apply to start at any time of the year and will not be required to attend College for tuition. You will be allocated a Distance Learning Tutor who will support you through your qualification via email and telephone contact.

This qualification, in combination with a full level 2 qualification in Maths and English (e.g. GCSE Grade C or above or Level 2 Functional Skills), will also allow you to go on to apply to train as a veterinary nurse, subject to employment or work placement in a veterinary practice that is approved to train veterinary nurses (a TP or aTP), if you so wish.

Benefits to employers

  • Increased productivity: Free up valuable nursing time by providing support from trained care staff
  • Cost effective: Provide valuable opportunities whilst minimising recruitment and training costs
  • Gain valuable talent: Develop the next generation of motivated and loyal employees
  • Develop skills: Gain staff with industry relevant knowledge and practical skills

The College of Animal Welfare has a well-earned reputation for excellence; delivering quality training and education and employer support. We are dedicated to providing your apprentice with superior training based on the needs of your organisation. Your apprentice will benefit from:

  • Support and guidance from a dedicated and qualified Distance Learning Tutor
  • Access to learning materials via our unique Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and extensive eLibrary resources

* Any employer taking on an apprentice under 19 years of age, will receive an incentive of £1,000. £500 will be paid to you after the first three months of the apprenticeship and the remaining £500 after the first year on programme. *

Employers with less than 50 employees
If you take on an apprentice under 19 years of age (or 19-24 years who has an EHC plan or who has been in the care of their local authority), the apprentices training will be fully funded.

Course content

This course is also available as a Level 2 Diploma for those not eligible for an apprenticeship

This apprenticeship consists of:

  • City & Guilds Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants
  • Functional Skills Level 1 in Maths and English
  • Lantra Employment Right and Responsibilities Workbook
  • Personal Learning and Thinking Skills
  • Lantra Course Log Book

City & Guilds Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants

Over the course of the qualification, you will undertake the following units, which cover the underlying knowledge needed to thrive as a VCA in a fast-paced veterinary care environment.

Unit 201 – Principles and Practices of Animal Handling and Care in the Veterinary Environment
This unit covers the general care and nursing of animals within a veterinary practice environment; including the signs of normal and abnormal health, accommodation and feeding requirements, safe handling, identification, first aid for animals and the legal limitations of treatment.

Unit 202 – Principles and Practices of Assisting with Veterinary Care in the Veterinary Environment
In this unit you will look at common veterinary terminology, basic anatomy and assisting with the nursing care of animals in the practice environment including: medical and surgical conditions; anaesthesia procedures; radiography; drug calculations and fluid therapy.

Unit 203 – Principles and Practices of Administrative Duties in the Veterinary Care Environment
Upon completion of this unit you will have developed the skills needed to ensure the smooth running of a veterinary practice; such as communication, team work, administration, advising clients on aspects of veterinary care, pet bereavement, reception skills, telephone techniques and record keeping.

There are no external examinations for the VCA qualification; you will be assessed via written and practical unit assignments, together with online short answer question and multi choice question tests.

Your course materials will be delivered online; examples of our interactive course material can be found below:

Functional Skills

You will undertake Level 1 Functional Skills in English and Maths unless exempt. If you are planning on training as a veterinary nurse in the future it may be possible to undertake Level 2 Functional Skills as part of your programme of study if deemed appropriate at the discretion of the College (this may incur additional fees); this would then give you the academic entry requirements to go on to apply for the Advanced Apprenticeship in Veterinary Nursing programme.

Functional Skills are assessed via online examinations and practical assessments. Attendance at a City & Guilds examination centre is required to complete the examinations; this can be arranged near to your home where possible.

Entry requirements

This course is also available as a Level 2 Diploma for those not eligible for an apprenticeship

View Current Apprenticeship Vacancies 

There are no formal academic entry requirements. However, you will need to be living and working in England in a veterinary environment* and earning at least the National Minimum Wage for Apprentices. To complete this apprenticeship within 15 months you will need to be working for a minimum of 30 hours per week, if you are working less than 30 hours a week the length of your apprenticeship will be extended depending on your working hours.

* Please note the veterinary practice does not need to be a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ (RCVS) approved Training and Assessment Practice (TP or aTP).

If you have a level 4 (or above) qualification, from May 2017 you are now still able to undertake this apprenticeship if your current qualification is in an unrelated subject. If your existing qualification is in a similar subject you will not be able to undertake this apprenticeship, in which case you may wish to undertake the City & Guilds Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants as a standalone qualification.

Course fees

Apprenticeship fees are payable by the employer. We offer two different payment options; our ‘Annual Fee Scheme’ or our ‘Pay as You Learn’ monthly payment scheme. Details on both of these payment options can be found here.

Sources of financial help if you require support during your studies can be found on our student finance page. Before making any financial decision it is recommended that you seek advice from an independent source, for example the Money Advice Service.

Please note that course fees listed below apply to courses starting before the 1 May 2017. Fees for courses starting on, or after, 1 May 2017 will be published in due course.

Intermediate Apprenticeship for Nursing Assistants in a Veterinary Environment

Age at start of course Annual Fee Scheme (?) Pay as You Learn Scheme (?) Awarding Body Fees*
16-18 No fees payable No fees payable No fees payable
19-23 £850 payable by employer £69 per month payable by employer £214.20 payable by employer
24+ £950 payable by employer £74 per month payable by employer £214.20 payable by employer

If paying the course fee up front (Annual Fee Scheme) the apprentice will receive support during their programme for up to 18 months. After this time, if they have not achieved their qualification, their access to the course and support will cease. If they wish to continue and complete their apprenticeship after this time, their employer will be required to make monthly direct debit payments for a further six months maximum or until certification of their qualification, whichever occurs soonest.

Fees listed are current figures and may be subject to change. Course fees reflect the level of funding that is available as a result of government policies and priorities. These may be the result of age, employment status, previous education achievements or location for example, and are outside the control of The College of Animal Welfare.

* Awarding Body Fees are recharged at cost and may be subject to change; these are payable in full prior to the commencement of the course and are non-refundable.

What next?

After completing this qualification, you may wish to consider going on to train as a veterinary nurse by completing the Advanced Apprenticeship in Veterinary Nursing programme. To do so, the veterinary practice you are working in will need to be an RCVS approved TP or aTP; if your practice is not currently in this position we offer a TP approval service that is second to none. You would also need to have a level 2 qualification in Maths and English.

If you do not wish to go on to train as a veterinary nurse, but are involved in helping veterinary surgeons with the assisting of monitoring of animals under anaesthesia or sedation in your current role as a veterinary care assistant you may wish to look at undertaking the City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate in Assisting Veterinary Surgeons in the Monitoring of Animal Patients Under Anaesthesia and Sedation qualification.


Evangeline Collard (Evi) completed the Intermediate Apprenticeship for Nursing Assistants in a Veterinary Environment (Veterinary Care Assistants) in April 2016. We caught up with Evi and asked her about her time on the course, and her plans for the future. Read the case study.