Course overview

Quick Facts

  • Expected duration: 30-36 months, including two years of college attendance. 20% of the apprentice’s time must be spent studying off the job – time spent at college counts towards this
  • England (Huntingdon, North London, Leeds, Wigan). 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 – Day release:
Please note our day release programme is open to employed students only.
HuntingdonJanuary 2022 (Fridays), April 2022 (Tuesdays)
North LondonJanuary 2022 (Fridays), April 2022 (Tuesdays
LeedsJanuary 2022 (Fridays), April 2022 (Tuesdays)
SolihullApril 2022 (Tuesdays)
County Durham – April 2022 (Tuesdays)
WiganJanuary 2022 (Fridays), April 2022 (Tuesdays)

Attendance and Start Dates – Block release:
Edinburgh – TBC
Huntingdon – TBC
Leeds – TBC

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.

Closing dates for applications:
September 2021 intake – Friday 20th August 2021

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

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 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! 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.

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

Enter your email address to download a prospectus

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

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).

Virtual Delivery (in response to Covid-19 pandemic)

Since March 2020 and the initial lockdown, the programme team continued to ensure that students were able to progress with their programme of study. The College was able to successfully replace its face to face classroom lectures with live streamed sessions and online support, allowing students to engage with their lecturers and tutors in real time either from home or from work.

The College has invested in adopting inspiring digital delivery solutions with the capabilities to match the needs of the theory elements of this course. We utilise the virtual delivery platform, BigBlueButton, to ensure that the safety of our students and staff is maintained.

Regular meetings take place with Public Health England and other college principals to review Covid-19 positive reportings amongst the population of students and to ensure that the approach we are taking is fit for purpose.

To confirm that we will continue to provide our delivery via the virtual platform as we move into 2021.

As a result of being able to deliver the theory elements of this course virtually, we have been able to offer students, where required, the opportunity to attend college for crucial practical skills sessions and exams in a safe environment.

The College is committed to continuing to provide a safe environment for students, while still maintaining a quality education to ensure students can achieve their goals.

What does virtual learning look like?

The theory element of this course will continue to be delivered via our interactive, live, virtual classroom platform, with additional access to our well-resourced Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Staff will continue to provide remote academic support (for example, small group meetings or learner reviews) in line with set timetables via online communication tools. This enables us to maintain our intention is to keep the number of students in the college to a minimum.

Take a look at the video below to gain a better insight into how our virtual delivery looks.

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 to help make remote learning more effective for our students during this time.

Practical learning

Due to the practical nature of this course, some of our students may be required to come into centre to sit exams or attend practical sessions. Please read our return to centre guidance below, which outlines the measures we have in place to keep students safe and give an insight in what to expect if you come into centre.

How are we keeping everyone who needs to come into centre safe?

The following video shows safety measure in place at college to see how we are keeping those who need to come in as safe as possible while gaining those vital practical skills.

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 (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) Disability Guidance on the Recruitment of VN Students, 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.

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.

Recruit an apprentice and save up to £3,000!

From 1 April 2021 to 31 January 2022, businesses that recruit a new apprentice, regardless of age, will receive a £3,000 incentive from the government towards the cost of training.

These payments will be in addition to the existing £1,000 incentive the government already provides for new 16-18 year old apprentices. This means that if you hire a 16 to 18 year old apprentice, you could receive £4,000! If you also have less than 50 contracted employees, the apprenticeship fees for those aged 16-18 years of age will be fully funded!

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

Fee as of 1 April 2019 – £750 payable in one payment

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

Digital account payment – £15,000

Please note these fees are also fully inclusive of RCVS student registration, awarding body fees and first exam and End Point Assessment attempts.

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


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.