Course Overview

Is veterinary nursing for you?

Registered Veterinary Nurses (RVNs) are a vital part of the veterinary team. They work alongside veterinary surgeons to provide expert nursing care and support to animal patients and educate owners on maintaining the health of their pets.

As a vet 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! 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. 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, earning a wage, and gaining vital practical skills and experience. This small animal qualification will cover the following species – Cats, Dogs, Rabbits and Guinea Pigs. You will study on a day release basis and have access to your course materials via our online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

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 and pushing the profession forward. Our veterinary nursing lecturers are registered veterinary nurses or veterinary surgeons with strong industry experience, and they all share a common trait; their enthusiasm for helping the next generation of students to achieve their formal veterinary nursing qualifications and be the best vet nurses that they can be. College sessions offer diverse teaching, learning and assessment approaches catered for the individual needs of learners, enabling them to develop the required knowledge and skills needed to join a rewarding profession as qualified veterinary nurses.

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 there are details of veterinary nurse apprenticeship vacancies. You can also sign up to receive apprenticeship vacancy alerts on the former page.

As part of this apprenticeship you will undertake the VetSkill Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing and be eligible to apply for professional registration with the RCVS as a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN).

Quick Facts

Expected duration: 30-36 months.

Location: Available in England. It may be possible to undertake an apprenticeship at our Edinburgh centre if the apprentice is resident in England and spends at least 50% of their employment in England.

Attendance: Day release via Virtual Blended Delivery Classrooms or Centre Attended (available at selected centres). Details of these two options can be found below.

Virtual Blended Delivery: The majority of the theory element of the programme is delivered in virtual lecture format using our virtual delivery platform that allows you to engage with tutors and your peers in real time either from home or from work. During virtual lectures you will be expected to participate in a diverse range of learning and assessment activities including live chat, group chat, breakout room activities, independent activities e.g. research, polls and Q&A sessions. It is therefore essential that you have a working microphone and camera on your laptop or PC to allow this. All virtual classroom sessions are recorded and are available to view after the event for consolidation of learning and revision purposes. Online exams are available via a remote invigilation platform as well as by physically attending one of our main centres. Practical training sessions are held in-centre in the college environment; you will attend your chosen centre for practical training days (approximately 10) throughout your programme.

Centre Based Programmes: You will attend your chosen college centre on a day release basis (one day per week during term times) for face-to-face teaching in a classroom/clinical skills setting. Practical sessions are held in-centre in the college environment.

Off-The-Job Training
All apprentices must spend a minimum of six hours per week undertaking off-the-job (OTJ) training – time spent at college counts towards this.

Start date: You may start this course at any time once you are enrolled with the RCVS and VetSkill as a student veterinary nurse. You will undertake pre-course activities (such as preparing to study, course induction, healthy and safety) and be able to log your practice hours before your classroom lessons (virtual or in centre) begin as detailed below:

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

Start dates

College days (Classroom-based or virtual blended delivery) can be seen on the table below for forthcoming intakes:

April 2024 (Applications are now closed)

Basildon, Huntingdon, Leeds, North London Classroom delivery Tuesdays
Bodmin, Chorleywood, County Durham, Edinburgh, Solihull, Wigan Blended virtual learning Tuesdays
Derby, Guernsey, Horsham, Lichfield, Stoke-On-Trent No April 2024 Start No April 2024 Start

July 2024

All centres (Except Lichfield and Guernsey) Blended virtual learning Wednesdays

October 2024

Basildon, Huntingdon, Leeds, North London Classroom delivery Fridays
All centres (Except Lichfield) Blended virtual learning Fridays

January 2025

Huntingdon, Leeds, North London Classroom delivery Mondays
All centres (Except Lichfield and Guernsey) Blended virtual learning Mondays

Find your nearest centre

We deliver this programme from centres located throughout the UK, including: Basildon, Bodmin, County Durham, Derby, Chorleywood, Edinburgh, Guernsey, Horsham, Huntingdon, Leeds, North London, Solihull, Wigan and Stoke-on-Trent. Find your nearest centre

Course Content

Throughout this apprenticeship you will gain the essential knowledge, skills and behaviours that are needed to work in the veterinary industry as a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN). As part of this apprenticeship you will undertake the VetSkill Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing and be eligible to apply for professional registration with the RCVS as an RVN.

Embedded within this qualification is also the content required to become a Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) for companion animals, which will allow you to prescribe certain categories of veterinary medicines.

From assisting veterinary surgeons with the care of animals during treatment and carrying out x-rays and diagnostic tests, through to advising clients on pet care and looking after inpatients in the hospital wards, veterinary nursing involves a wide range of activities and is vital to the running of a successful veterinary practice. Over the course of the qualification you will cover the following nine units:

  • Professional Veterinary Nursing Responsibilities – Professional responsibilities of the student and RVN, including the RCVS Code of Conduct, health and safety in the veterinary practice and legal/ethical duties
  • Diagnostic Principles – Key principles of imaging and laboratory techniques to support the veterinary surgeon in diagnosis; including microscopy, endoscopy, ultrasound and radiography
  • Principles of Veterinary Nursing Care 1 – Underpinning knowledge relating to the care of patients in a veterinary environment including anatomy, physiology and emergency first aid
  • Pharmacology and Dispensary Management – Basic veterinary pharmacology and its application, including the prescription, storage, supply and dispensing of medicines to standards required of an SQP
  • Practical Veterinary Nursing Skills  – Developing practical skills in RCVS approved Training Practices through the compilation of a portfolio of evidence
  • Anaesthesia and Theatre Nursing Skills – The principles of anaesthesia and theatre practice including surgical instruments, assisting in theatre and the preparation and monitoring of patients during anaesthesia and sedation
  • Life Stage and Medical Nursing Care and Support – How the patient’s life stage influences their individual needs. The patient’s response to disease and trauma, reproduction, nursing care of medical conditions, palliative care and euthanasia
  • Principles of Veterinary Nursing Care 2 – Nursing requirements of patients including fluid therapy, pain assessment, preventative care and physical therapy techniques
  • Surgical Nursing and Patient Care – Specialised knowledge in surgical nursing, including pre, peri and post-operative nursing from admission to discharge

Functional Skills

You will also undertake Functional Skills Level 2 in English and Maths unless exempt.

Online learning at CAW

Are you wondering what studying online looks like? We are extremely proud of our online learning platform and virtual classrooms. Our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) provides interactive content and resources available at any time of the day or night. As well as accessing your course materials, you will be able to utilise wellbeing tools, study resources and an eLibrary. Our Virtual Classrooms offer live, realtime interactive lessons with chat features where you can get involved and ask (and answer!) questions. You can take part in polls and collaborate with your lecturer and peers using an interactive whiteboard. Learning from the comfort of your own home has never been easier! Watch the video below to find out more.

Virtual Reality Learning at CAW

The College of Animal Welfare’s new virtual reality technology is changing the way we think about learning. All CAW students will have the opportunity to use virtual reality headsets to prepare for their OSCEs (practical exams). Virtual reality helps create muscle memory, leading to the development of practical skills and alleviating exam anxiety. Students can practise the OSCE tasks that they may come across in their real exam, such as taking x rays, packaging samples and identifying parasites. We are the first veterinary nurse college to use virtual reality and we are very excited about the potential application of it. So, the only question we have left to ask is, are you ready to step into the future of veterinary nurse training and join us?


You will undertake a variety of assessments including online examinations, assignments and case studies. You will also complete an online Nursing Progress Log (NPL) over the course of your training, as evidence of practical competence. At the end of year two there is a formative practical assessment.

If you are required to undertake Functional Skills Level 2 in English and Maths, these are assessed via online examinations and practical assessments.

Once you have completed these assessments, and undertaken the required amount of training hours, you will be able to undertake the End Point Assessment (EPA). This consists of

  1. A Professional Discussion
    The Professional discussion is a structured 45 minute interview between the apprentice and an independent assessor covering a range of knowledge, skills and behaviours through scenario competence-based questions.
  2. A Practical Assessment in the form of an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)

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

Industry Experience

In addition to your college studies, you will gain significant industry experience whilst working in an RCVS approved veterinary practice, either a Training Practice (TP) or an auxiliary Training Practice (aTP).

The valuable clinical and employment skills you will learn whilst working in a real-life setting will help you to better understand how a fast paced veterinary environment operates, and will prepare you for the responsibilities that come with working as a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN).

Entry Requirements

You must have a minimum of five GCSEs at grade C or above (4-9), 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, or VetSkill Level 2 Certificate in Veterinary Care Support, 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 30-36 month time frame 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 apprentices attending our Edinburgh centre must be resident in England and spend at least 50% of their employment in England.

Before applying, please ensure you read the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Fitness to Practise: A Guide for UK Providers of Veterinary Nursing Education and Student Veterinary Nurses, which can be downloaded here.

International qualifications

Students with foreign qualifications are required to have their certificates translated using a UK ENIC Statement to confirm if they have previously achieved Level 2 English and Level 2 maths for their apprenticeship. If a student has not previously achieved this, they will need to complete Functional Skills English and/or maths as part of their apprenticeship. More information about how to apply, how it works and prices can be found on the UK ENIC’s website here.

You should have proof of competence in the English Language by holding either the ESOL qualification at levels C1 or C2 or IELTS at a minimum score of 6.0 (with a minimum of 5.5 in each element) where your international qualifications were not taught and assessed in English.

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

Course Fees

Apprenticeship fees are payable by the employer. Prior to starting the course an invoice will be issued for the total course fee.

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.

Fees as of 1 April 2019:

Small employers/Non-levy payers (with an annual payroll bill of less than £3 million)

Non-levy paying employers in England are required to contribute 5% (£750 in one payment) towards the cost of the apprenticeship provided they use their digital account to process the claim for 95% funding available.

Large employers/Levy payers (with an annual payroll bill of more than £3 million)

Levy payers in England will pay the full apprenticeship amount of £15,000 using their digital account.

Awarding body fees*

  • RCVS Registration: £210
  • VetSkill Enrolment: £249
  • Theory exam x 6 at £35 each: £210

Please note that the first attempts for the six online exams within the course are invoiced at enrolment. Additional exam fees will be payable if an exam resit is required.

* Awarding body fees are payable separately and are not included in the course fees. RCVS and all awarding body fees (including examination fees) are payable by all employers and will be invoiced at cost

Remote examination invigilation

If as student chooses to undertake a remotely invigilated resit exam, there is an additional fee of £29.50 on top of the normal exam fee which is payable by phone in advance of any booking being processed.

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 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.

Apprenticeship vacancies available: