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 study 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.

Key Facts

Expected duration: 30-36 months.

Location: Available in 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.

Attendance: Day release via Virtual Blended Delivery Classrooms. The majority of the theory element of the programme is delivered in virtual lecture format using our virtual delivery platform that allows you to engage with tutors and your peers in real time either from home or from work. 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. It is therefore essential that you have a working microphone and camera on your laptop or PC to allow this. All virtual classroom sessions are recorded and are available to view after the event for consolidation of learning and revision purposes. Online exams are available via a remote invigilation platform as well as by physically attending one of our main centres. Practical training sessions are held in-centre in the college environment; you will attend your chosen centre for practical training days (approximately 10) throughout your programme. Available centres: Huntingdon, Horsham and Lichfield.

Off-The-Job Training
All apprentices must spend a minimum of six hours per week undertaking off-the-job (OTJ) training – time spent at college counts towards this.

Start dates

College days (virtual blended delivery) can be seen on the table below for forthcoming intakes:

September 2024

Huntingdon, Horsham, Lichfield Tuesdays

July 2025

Huntingdon, Horsham, Lichfield Mondays
Course Content

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

During this 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 – Professional responsibilities of the student and registered veterinary nurse, 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
  • Equine Veterinary Nursing Care Principles – Underpinning knowledge relating to the care of equine patients in a veterinary environment including anatomy, physiology, fluid therapy, pain assessment and preventative care
  • Supply of Veterinary Medicines – Basic veterinary pharmacology and its application, including the prescription, storage and supply of medicines
  • Practical Equine Veterinary Nursing Skills – Developing practical skills in RCVS approved Training Practices through the compilation of a portfolio of evidence
  • Equine Anaesthesia – The principles of anaesthesia including the preparation for, and monitoring of, equine patients during anaesthesia and sedation
  • Equine Theatre Nursing Skills – The principles of theatre practice including surgical instruments, assisting in theatre
  • 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
  • Surgical Nursing and Patient Care – Specialised knowledge in surgical nursing, including pre, peri and post-operative nursing from admission to discharge

The VetSkill 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, completion of a Nursing Progress Log (NPL), 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 (EPA). This consists of:

  1. A 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.
  2. A Practical Assessment
    Once all other assessments have been passed, you will complete a final practical exam – an equine specific Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).
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.

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.

You should have proof of competence in the English Language by holding either the ESOL qualification at levels C1 or C2 or IELTS at a minimum score of 6.0 (with a minimum of 5.5 in each element) where your international qualifications were not taught and assessed in English.

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.

Awarding body fees*

  • RCVS Registration: £210
  • VetSkill Enrolment: £249
  • Theory exam x 6 at £35 each: £210

Please note that the first attempts for the six online exams within the course are invoiced at enrolment. Additional exam fees will be payable if an exam resit is required.

* Awarding body fees are payable separately and are not included in the course fees. RCVS and all awarding body fees (including examination fees) are payable by all employers and will be invoiced at cost

Remote examination invigilation

If as student chooses to undertake a remotely invigilated resit exam, there is an additional fee of £29.50 on top of the normal exam fee which is payable by phone in advance of any booking being processed.

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.