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 – Cat, Dog, Rabbit and Guinea Pig. 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).

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.

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.

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

New Veterinary Nursing Apprenticeship Standard Download the information booklet on this new programme.

Quick Facts

  • Expected duration: 30-36 months.
  • Attendance: The first two years require some attendance in centre.
    A minimum of six hours per week of the apprentice’s time must be spent undertaking off-the-job – time spent at college counts towards this.
  • 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
  • This course is also available as a Level 3 Diploma for those not eligible for an apprenticeship

Please visit the course content tab towards the top of the page to gain a greater insight into the delivery of this course during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Attendance and Start Dates – Block release:
Please note that this blended learning course, requires attendance at centre for practical skills blocks.

EdinburghSeptember 2024
HuntingdonSeptember 2024
LeedsSeptember 2024

If you are attending our Huntingdon centre on a block release basis we can help source local accommodation if required – please contact us for details and costs.

Attendance and Start Dates – Day release:
Please note our day release programme is open to employed students only.

Centre Start dates Study day Format
Basildon Thursday 11 January 2024 Thursdays Blended virtual learning
Tuesday 9 April 2024 Tuesdays Centre attended
Bodmin Thursday 11 January 2024 Thursdays Blended virtual learning
Tuesday 9 April 2024 Tuesdays Blended virtual learning
County Durham Tuesday 9 April 2024 Tuesdays Blended virtual learning
Derby Thursday 11 January 2024 Thursdays Blended virtual learning
Huntingdon Thursday 11 January 2024 Thursdays Centre attended
Tuesday 9 April 2024 Tuesdays Centre attended
Horsham Thursday 11 January 2024 Thursdays Blended virtual learning
Leeds Thursday 11 January 2024 Thursdays Centre attended
Tuesday 9 April 2024 Tuesdays Centre attended
London Wednesday 10 January 2024 Wednesdays Blended virtual learning
Thursday 11 January 2024 Thursdays Centre attended
Tuesday 9 April 2024 Tuesdays Centre attended
Solihull Tuesday 9 April 2024 Tuesdays Blended virtual learning
Stoke-on-Trent Thursday 11 January 2024 Thursdays Blended virtual learning
Wigan Thursday 11 January 2024 Thursdays Blended virtual learning
Tuesday 9 April 2024 Tuesdays Blended virtual learning

Closing dates for applications:*
January 2024 intake – Friday 1 December 2023
April 2024 intake – Friday 1 March 2024

*closing dates are subject to change. 

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. 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

You will gain the essential knowledge, skills and behaviours needed of a professionally registered veterinary nurse to work within the standards and scope of practice defined by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

With this apprenticeship the VetSkill Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing is studied. Embedded within this qualification is the content required to become a Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) for companion animals.

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


You will gain a comprehensive understanding of:

  • Legislative compliance and regulatory requirements
  • Comparative functional anatomy for veterinary nursing practice
  • Infection control in veterinary practice
  • Materials, equipment and resources
  • Veterinary Nursing Care
  • Emergency and critical care
  • Diagnostic techniques for veterinary nurses
  • Communication
  • Self-Management


You will gain the Veterinary Nursing Day One Skills required by the RCVS and understand the importance of:

  • Legislation affecting practice
  • Communication
  • Clinical skills
  • Self-Management
  • Professionalism


You will understand the importance of abiding by the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses including:

  • Working within legal and ethical limits
  • Accountability
  • Responsibility
  • Self-improvement

Course Content

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 9 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

Embedded within this qualification is the content required for you to become an SQP for companion animals.

Functional Skills

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


On programme assessments

You will undertake a variety of assessments including online examinations, assignments and case studies. You will also complete an e-portfolio over the course of your training, as evidence of practical competence. At the end of year one 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, and undertaken the required amount of training, you will be able to undertake the End Point Assessment.

End Point Assessment (EPA)

The EPA consists of

  1. A Professional Discussion
  2. A Practical Assessment in the form of an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)

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.

Practical Assessment
Once all other assessments have been passed, you will complete a final practical examination (OSCEs).

Blended virtual learning delivery 

For the blended virtual learning format you will receive a combination of lectures, independent online learning activities and practical skills sessions.

We use a virtual classroom platform which allows you to engage with tutors and peers in real time either from home or from work. You are expected to participate in all learning activities and it is important that you have a working mic and camera on your laptop or PC to allow this. Practical sessions are in the college environment and most exams are also completed in the college centres. All virtual classroom sessions are recorded and are available to view after the event for consolidation of learning and revision purposes.

Blended learning 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. What’s more – the easy, remote access to learning resources provided to learners via our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) means that learners get the best out of their studies with us, both in and outside of College.

Click here to take gain a greater insight into what blended virtual learning looks like

Make the most of virtual learning

Please find a copy of our guide to making the most of virtual learning here, for hints and tips on making the most of virtual learning.

Face-to-face classroom delivery

You will attend your centre on a day release (one day per week during term time) basis as per the Scheme of Work requirements. You will receive your teaching in a classroom/clinical skills setting with class sizes limited to a specified capacity and you will be studying, learning, and developing your skills directly alongside your peers.

Many theory sessions build on the independent online learning element of the programme therefore it is critical that you prepare for your lectures by having completed the necessary online activities ahead of your live session.

Industry Experience

In addition to your college studies you will gain significant industry experience 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 qualifying 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.

If you have a level 3 (or above) qualification is a similar subject you may 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.

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.

View Current Apprenticeship Vacancies 

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.

* RCVS and all awarding body fees (including examination fees) are payable by all employers and will be invoiced at cost.

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.

CAW Connect

After you complete your studies with The College of Animal Welfare, you will be invited to join our alumni association, CAW Connect. CAW Connect is a social networking website and education hub which gives you the opportunity to connect with other alumni, enjoy industry discounts, make use of exclusive careers advice and resources, find new job opportunities and keep up-to-date with the latest industry news. Find out more about CAW Connect

Apprenticeship vacancies available: