Course overview

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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


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.

You may be asked to provide a reference from a veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse supporting your application and confirming you have completed a minimum of three months** of regular work prior to starting the programme, ideally in the practice you will be undertaking the qualification.

* 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).

**we are looking to ensure you are committed to attending a practice and are fully aware of what a veterinary care role entails.

If you have a level 2 (or above) qualification in a similar subject you may 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. 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 Payer (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 £100!

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 – £2,000
College course fees:

Full Fee Annual Quarterly Monthly
£1,761 £881 per year £352 every three months £117 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 as of 1 April 2019 are as follows:

Full Fee Annual Quarterly Monthly
£1,861 £931 per year £372 every three months £125 per month

Awarding Body Fees*

City & Guilds registration and certificate fees: £220.40

* 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?

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.

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


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.