Course Overview

Equine 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 equine (horse) patients. As a veterinary nurse you should be hardworking, pragmatic and dedicated. 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 worthwhile.

As an apprentice vet nurse undergoing the equine pathway, you will be employed in an equine or mixed (equine and small animal) veterinary practice, earning a wage, and gaining vital practical skills and experience. You will attend College on a day release, basis and have access to your course materials via our online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

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

As the largest provider of veterinary nurse training in the UK, we have a commitment to promoting animal welfare and raising the standards of veterinary nurse care. We can offer you the opportunity to train as a veterinary nurse by joining a community of like-minded students who all share a passion for animals and a desire to join an exciting and rewarding profession.

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.

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 clinical skills facilities

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

Key Facts

Attendance and Start Dates
HuntingdonTuesday 9 January 2024 (Tuesdays)
HorshamTuesday 9 January 2024 (Tuesdays)
LichfieldTuesday 9 January 2024 (Tuesdays)

Closing dates*
January 2024 – Friday 1 December 2023

*closing dates are subject to change. 

Course delivery:

  • Virtual college sessions
  • Practical skills training in blocks of two/three days (eight practical skills days per year)

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

30-36 months, including two years of college attendance. 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.

Course Content

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

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).

The qualification consists of a number of core units which cover the following subjects:

  • Professional Equine Veterinary Nursing Responsibilities
  • Diagnostic Principles
  • Equine Veterinary Nursing Care Principles
  • Supply of Veterinary Medicines
  • Practical Equine Veterinary Nursing Skills
  • Equine Anaesthesia
  • Equine Theatre Nursing Skills
  • Life Stage and Medical Nursing Care and Support
  • Surgical Nursing and Patient Care


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

The Level 3 Diploma in Equine Veterinary Nursing will be gained alongside the apprenticeship qualification.

Functional Skills

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


On programme assessments

Assessments will include examinations, assignments/case studies, online evidence of practical competence, and formative practical assessments. 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 equine specific 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 (Equine OSCEs).


Assessments will include examinations, assignments/case studies, online evidence of practical competence, and formative practical assessments. On successful completion of all other assessments you will take the final practical examination (Equine OSCEs).

Blended Virtual Learning

For the blended learning programmes, you will receive a combination of lectures, independent online learning activities and practical skills sessions. We use a virtual platform called BigBlueButton and this method of delivery allows you to engage with tutors and peers in real time either from home or from work. 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.

What does virtual learning look like?

The majority of the theory element of the programme is delivered in lecture format; this is currently virtual via Big Blue Button. 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. 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.

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 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C (or 9-4), including English Language, Mathematics and a Science subject. Students with Scottish qualifications are required to have 5 subjects at a National 5 or Higher/Advance Higher at level A, B or C; to include Maths, English and a Science. If you do not meet these requirements, there are alternative qualifications that may be acceptable. One of these combinations is the Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants, along with GCSEs grade C or above (or Level 2 Functional Skills) in English Language and Maths.

You will also need to be living and working in England in an equine or mixed (equine and small animal) 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.

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 City & Guilds Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing, Equine Pathway 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.

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 practise as a veterinary nurse under the direction of a veterinary surgeon.

Remember that once you are qualified, it is your professional responsibility to continue your veterinary nurse training by ensuring that your professional knowledge and skills remain up-to-date. You can do this by undertaking short courses or further veterinary nursing qualifications.

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