Course Overview

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The Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants (VCA) is an online course that can be undertaken alongside employment, or voluntary work, in a veterinary practice. The course is ideal for those looking to gain a formal qualification in veterinary care, whilst training with qualified professionals in a veterinary practice.

All materials related to the course are delivered via distance learning on our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), therefore you will not need to attend College in order to complete your studies. As such this course can be taken anywhere in the UK or overseas, subject to local veterinary laws.

By choosing to study with The College of Animal Welfare – one of the largest providers of veterinary care training in the UK – you are joining a community of like-minded students and staff, who all share a passion for animal welfare.

In addition to the academic theory you will gain from online study, an emphasis on practical experience (a minimum of 600 hours) in a veterinary practice means that you will gain the skills and knowledge needed to prepare you for a career in the veterinary care profession.

Please note: The veterinary practice you are working or volunteering in does not need to be an RCVS training practice.

Key Facts

  • Attendance: Course materials will be supplied via our online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and you will be allocated a distance learning tutor who will support you throughout the course; therefore you will not be required to attend college.
  • Duration: 12-18 months.
  • Start Date: This programme can be started at any time.
  • Location: This online distance learning programme can be studied anywhere in the UK or overseas, subject to local veterinary legislation. In the past we have had students studying from as far away as Bermuda, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Dubai!

This qualification, in combination with a full level 2 qualification in Maths and English (e.g. GCSE Grade A*-C or Level 2 Functional Skills) will allow you to apply for the Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing or Advanced Apprenticeship in Veterinary Nursing programmes, subject to employment in a veterinary practice that is approved to train veterinary nurses (a TP or aTP).

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Course Content

Over the course of the qualification, you will undertake the following three units, which will 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.

Online Learning

This course incorporates online learning materials as part of your studies. Some examples of our interactive course material can be found below:

Functional Skills

We offer online Functional Skills in Maths and English. If you wish to undertake these as part of your programme of study, perhaps to give you the entry requirements to progress onto veterinary nursing, you may be more cost effective for you to undertake this qualification as part of the Veterinary Care Support: Animal Care and Welfare Assistant Apprenticeship. If you are not eligible to undertake an apprenticeship, but still wish to undertake Functional Skills you will be required to pay additional fees for these qualifications.


There are no external examinations; you will be assessed via written and practical unit assignments, together with online short answer question and multi choice question tests.

Entry Requirements

There are no formal academic entry requirements, however you must fulfil the following criteria:

  • Be volunteering or employed within a clinical role in a veterinary practice for a minimum of 10 hours per week for the full duration of your course
  • 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 employed or voluntary work (for a minimum of 10 hours per week) prior to starting the programme, ideally in the practice you will be undertaking the qualification
  • Have a dedicated mentor agreed within your practice
  • Be competent in reading, writing and speaking the English language as all course materials and assessments are delivered in English
  • Complete a pre-course interview

You can undertake this course by either volunteering or by being employed within a veterinary practice on a part-time or full time basis as follows:

  • Part time – you will need to be working, or volunteering, in a veterinary practice, for a minimum of 10-15 hours a week and the course should take a maximum of 18 months to complete
  • Full time – you will need to be working, or volunteering, in a veterinary practice, for a minimum of 30 hours a week and the course should take a maximum of 12 months to complete

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

Course Fees

Course fees can either be paid in full before the beginning of the course, or via our ‘Pay As You Learn’ monthly payment scheme

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

Course Fees

Country Full Fee Pay As You Learn
UK £1,286 £107 per month
Overseas £1,549 £129 per month

Awarding Body Fees*

City & Guilds registration and certification fees: £226.60

* Awarding Body Fees are payable by all students or 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.

What Next?

After you have achieved this qualification you could look for employment as a veterinary care assistant in a veterinary practice if you are not already in such a position. Gaining more experience is a great way to expand on existing skills and gain more confidence in a veterinary care environment.

Take a look at the veterinary care assistant jobs advertised on our job board here.

You could also consider perhaps going on to train as a veterinary nurse by completing the Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing or Advanced Apprenticeship in Veterinary Nursing. You would need to have achieved a full Level 2 qualification in Maths and English Language (e.g. GCSE Grade C or above or Level 2 Functional Skills) in order to be able to do this.

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.

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


“I wanted to write to you and thank you for the extraordinary services that I have received from CAW as a student of the Level 2 VCA programme. My tutor was supportive academically and really helped me navigate the demanding and complex programme. Her feedback was always encouraging and clear to follow. Her attention and support was beyond my expectations. I feel I learnt greatly. Thank you. For the growth, the learning and a very interesting qualification. Thank you for my wonderful assessor and the great programme.”
Louis, Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants (2020-21)

I decided to take the plunge as a mature student, after reading so many great reviews about the College of Animal Welfare. As I was already working as a VCA and raising a family, studying online seemed ideal.

From start to finish I had the support of my fantastic tutor, who guided me through navigating the course interface and content. I absolutely loved the flexibility of the VCA course, it allowed me to work at my own pace and if comfortable to do so, actually choose the pathway through the modules so that it fitted in with my work. What stood out most for me was the content of the course. It was constantly delivered in different formats which kept me engaged and was always very relevant to my role within my practice.

I passed the VCA Diploma with a Distinction and considering I have not studied for 20 years, was incredibly proud. I think is testament to such fantastic distance tutoring and it has given me so much confidence, I have decided to continue my studies.
Lucy, Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants (2020)

“I wanted to let you know that I applied for a full time position at the RSPCA and I got it. I was up against some strong candidates, but given I had been volunteering and had the casual role there for the past year, and I got my diploma, they offered it to me. I wouldn’t have got it without the diploma. Thanks again for all your help with the course , it’s really set me up for this role.”
Tara, Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants (2020)

“We covered a wide range of subjects, more than what I had expected a veterinary care assistant to be able to do in the veterinary care environment. This course is a good starting point if you would like to pursue a career in veterinary nursing. The tutors are lovely and have a good knowledge of the different subjects as they are experienced professionals, they provided support right till the end and I appreciate their hard work. I did my training at Torrington Orthopaedics and I have now been offered the role of a Veterinary Care Assistant with the team which I am very grateful for”.
Lucy Simpson, Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants (2014-15)

“I found the distance learning aspects very good, there was always help on hand when I needed it and my personal mentor was extremely helpful when advice was paramount. Self-discipline is necessary for distance learning as there’s no obligation to physically attend any classes. Overall I found the course very interesting, educational and I learnt a lot. I hope to do the level 3 Veterinary Nursing course in the near future”. Read the case study
Eleanor Stickells, Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants (Spain)

evi collardThis course was recommended to me by my management team. It appealed because it covered all the departments I work in, would increase my medical knowledge and open further opportunities for study. I really enjoyed focusing on the medical side, delving into different conditions, treatment and care and expanding my knowledge of veterinary terminology. My best experience of the College was my course tutor. She was so kind and helpful and constantly reassured me! She gave me lots of encouragement and always answered my questions quickly.
Read the case study
Evangeline Collard, Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants (2016)