Course overview

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ImportantThe Veterinary Nursing Apprenticeship Framework currently detailed on our website is being replaced by the Veterinary Nursing Standard and this is now available for those starting from September 2018. All new applicants will be enrolled onto this new standard. For full details of this course please click here and read the information booklet.

This course is also available as a Level 3 Diploma for those not eligible for an apprenticeship

Quick Facts

Day release courses are run from our Huntingdon, Potters Bar and Leeds centres each January, April and September. In addition, a block release programme is available at our Huntingdon centre in January each year.

Is veterinary nursing for you?

Registered Veterinary Nurses (RVNs) are a vital part of the veterinary team, working alongside veterinary surgeons to provide care and support to a variety of animal patients. The work can involve long and unsociable hours, but the rewards from making a difference to the lives of animals and owners every day make the job so worthwhile.

As a veterinary nurse you should be hard working, passionate about animals, pragmatic and dedicated to your work; many veterinary nurses end up taking their work home with them – often quite literally in the form of kittens and that need hand rearing or abandoned or stray animals!

No two days are the same! Some of the tasks you may be involved with include:

  • Preparing animals for surgery and performing minor surgical procedures
  • Monitoring anaesthetised animals
  • Nursing sick animals and administering medication
  • Taking x-rays and carrying out diagnostic tests
  • Advising owners on the health and welfare of their pets
  • Taking bookings, payments and completing necessary paperwork
  • Running nurse clinics, such as diet, worming and grooming consultations

As a veterinary nurse 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.

You will attend College on either a day release, or block release, basis and have access to your course materials via our online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The rest of your time will be spent gaining vital practical skills on-the-job.

If you are looking for employment as a veterinary nurse apprentice, please take a look at our current apprenticeships vacancies or Jobs Board; from time to time we have details of vacancies that we are helping employers to fill.

Benefits to employers

  • Increased productivity: Maximise staff efficiency though the development of knowledge, skills and professional responsibilities
  • Cost effective: Minimise recruitment and training costs
  • Grow your own: Develop your next generation of registered veterinary nurses
  • Enhanced reputation: Provide client reassurance by investing in trained staff

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 qualified lecturers with strong industry experience
  • Diverse teaching, learning and assessment approaches catered for individual needs
  • Access to our unique Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and extensive eLibrary resources
  • Access to state-of-the-art clinical skills facilities


Course content

This course is also available as a Level 3 Diploma for those not eligible for an apprenticeship

This apprenticeship consists of:

  • Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing
  • Functional Skills Level 2 in Maths and English
  • Lantra Employment Right and Responsibilities Workbook
  • Personal Learning and Thinking Skills

Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing

Over the course of the qualification you will look at the following areas:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Professional responsibilities and ethics
  • Infection and immunity
  • Pharmacology
  • Animal handling and restraint
  • Applied animal welfare, health and husbandry
  • Nutrition and feeding
  • Nursing models and care plans
  • Diagnostic imaging and aids
  • Fluid therapy
  • Anaesthesia and analgesia
  • Theatre practice and surgical nursing

You will undertake a variety of assessments including online examinations, assignments and case studies. You will also complete a Nursing Progress Log (NPL) as evidence of practical competence. On successful completion of all other assessments you will take a final practical examination (OSCEs).

Functional Skills

You will undertake Level 2 Functional Skills in English and Maths unless exempt. Functional Skills are assessed via online examinations and practical assessments.

Entry requirements

This course is also available as a Level 3 Diploma for those not eligible for an apprenticeship

View Current Apprenticeship Vacancies 

You must have a minimum of five GCSEs at grade C or above, including English Language, Mathematics and a Science subject. If you do not meet the GCSE requirement, there are alternative qualifications that may be acceptable; one of these combinations is the City & Guilds Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants, along with full Level 2 qualifications in English and Maths i.e. Level 2 Functional Skills or GCSE at grade C or above.

You will also need to be living and working in England in a veterinary practice that is approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) as a Training Practice (TP or aTP) earning at least the National Minimum Wage for Apprentices. To complete this apprenticeship within the two years 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.

Before applying, please ensure you read the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Disability Guidance on the Recruitment of VN Students, which can be downloaded here.

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 Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing as a standalone qualification.

Course fees

Apprenticeship fees are payable by the employer. Prior to commencing the course an invoice will be issued for the total course fee. There are, however, several payment options to choose from:

  • Full Fee:  Payment in full before the beginning of the course
  • Annual:  One payment prior to the start of the course followed by equal payments every 12 months thereafter
  • Quarterly:  One payment prior to the start of the course followed by payments every three months thereafter
  • Monthly:  One payment prior to the start of the course followed by monthly payments thereafter

If you have not achieved your qualification by the planned end date detailed in your individual learning plan, your employer will be able to pay monthly direct debit payments to allow you to continue to receive support and access to your course until certification of your award.

Course Fees

The way apprenticeships are funded, and paid for, has now changed. Employers should take note of the fees that are applicable to their organisation. As an employer you will either be an Apprenticeship Levy Payer (employers with over a £3 million pay bill) or Non-Levy Payers (employers with less than a £3 million pay bill).

Employ an apprentice aged 16-18 and save over £1,000!

If you take on an apprentice under 19 years of age, you will receive a £1,000 incentive from the government towards the training fees! In addition, if your organisation has less than 50 contracted employees the course fees will be reduced by a further £600!

Course fees for Apprenticeship Levy Payers

Course fees are made up of two parts; a digital account payment and college course fees, as below:

Digital account payment – £6,000
College course fees:

Full Fee Annual Quarterly Monthly
£5,514 £1,838 per year £460 every three months £153 per month

Course fees for Non-Levy Payers

Course fees for Non-Levy Payers are paid via co-investment with the government, meaning that the government provide some funding towards course fees. The additional fees that you will be required to pay are as follows:

Full Fee Annual Quarterly Monthly
£6,114 £2,038 per year £510 every three months £170 per month

Awarding Body Fees*

RCVS Registration: £185
Awarding Body Registration: £206
Awarding Body Exam Fee: £273.10

* Awarding Body Fees are payable by all employers and recharged at cost and may be subject to change.

Sources of financial help 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.

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

What next?

On completion of your apprenticeship and the required number of hours of veterinary nursing training, you will be eligible to apply to join the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ (RCVS) Register of Veterinary Nurses and use the post nominal term, RVN. Entry on the register allows you to legally practice as a veterinary nurse under the direction of a veterinary surgeon.

Many veterinary nurses choose to remain in first opinion veterinary practice, however there are also opportunities to pursue more specialist roles in referral practices, emergency ‘out of hours’ practices or large veterinary hospitals; perhaps specialising in a particular area such as surgical nursing. You could also find work in, for example, teaching, management, research or sales.

You may also look to pursue further training by ‘topping up’ your qualification to a full degree by undertaking the BSc Honours Veterinary Nursing Degree Top Up Programme, available at Edinburgh Napier University via distance learning. A degree would open up further opportunities in post graduate study, such as veterinary physiotherapy.

Remember that once you are qualified, it is your professional responsibility to ensure that your professional knowledge and skills remain up-to-date. You can do this by undertaking short courses or further veterinary nursing qualifications. Our CPD and short courses are designed for registered and student veterinary nurses alike, and can be undertaken to refresh veterinary knowledge and keep up with the latest developments in the profession.


Lydia Christie Smith first joined the The College of Animal Welfare by undertaking the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management course. During her time on this course she completed two weeks of work experience within a veterinary practice and realised that veterinary nursing was the career for her! After her course, she was offered a full time position as a student veterinary nurse and Lydia went on to complete the Advanced Apprentcieship/Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing course. We caught up with Lydia and asked her to share some of her experiences about her time at College. Read the case study.