Course overview

Completion of the Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing qualification will allow you to apply for professional registration as a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

Run on a day release or block release basis the programme can be undertaken by students who are employed in a veterinary practice that is approved to train veterinary nurses, or by non-employed students on work placement in a suitable veterinary practice. This small animal qualification will cover the following species – Cat, Dog, Rabbit and Guinea Pig.

This qualification is also available as part of 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.

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.

College sessions offer diverse teaching, learning and assessment approaches catered for the individual needs of learners, enabling them to develop the required knowledge and skills needed to join a rewarding profession as qualified veterinary nurses. What’s more – the easy, remote access to learning resources provided to learners via our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) means that learners get the best out of their studies with us, both in and outside of College.

In addition to the academic theory you will gain significant industry experience in an RCVS approved veterinary practice, either a Training Practice (TP) or an auxiliary Training Practice (aTP). This practical experience can either be gained through employment or, if you are not employed, through a voluntary work placement. Unlike many colleges, we have our own dedicated placement liaison team who will make use of connections with over 600 practices across the UK to help you find a work placement.

The valuable clinical and employment skills you will learn whilst working in a real life setting will help you to better understand how a fast paced veterinary environment operates, and will prepare you for the responsibilities that come with qualifying as a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN).

Key Facts

Duration: 24 months

Attendance and Start Dates – Day release:
Please note our day release programme is open to employed students only.
Huntingdon Start dates –  Tuesday 6 September 2022 or Friday 9 September 2022 (Tuesdays or Fridays), Monday 9 January 2023 (Mondays) 
North LondonStart dates –  Tuesday 6 September 2022 or Friday 9 September 2022 (Tuesdays or Fridays), Monday 9 January 2023 (Mondays) 
LeedsStart dates –  Tuesday 6 September 2022 or Friday 9 September 2022 (Tuesdays or Fridays), Monday 9 January 2023 (Mondays)
SolihullStart date – Tuesday 6 September 2022 (Tuesdays)
County Durham – Start date –  Tuesday 6 September 2022 (Tuesdays) 
Wigan – Start date – Tuesday 6 September 2022 (Tuesdays), Monday 9 January 2023 (Mondays)

Attendance and Start Dates – Block release:
Edinburgh – Starting week commencing 5 September 2022
Huntingdon – Starting week commencing 5 September 2022
Leeds – Starting week commencing 5 September 2022

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 2022 intake – Saturday 31 July 2022

*closing dates are subject to change. 

Further Information

Here are the answers to our most frequently asked questions: FAQs

Enter your email address to download a prospectus

Course content

From assisting veterinary surgeons with the care of animals during treatment and carrying out x-rays and diagnostic tests, through to advising clients on pet care and looking after inpatients in the hospital wards, veterinary nursing involves a wide range of activities and is vital to the running of a successful veterinary practice. Over the course of the qualification you will cover 10 units.

  • Professional Veterinary Nursing Responsibilities – Professional responsibilities of the student and RVN, 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
  • Principles of Veterinary Nursing Care 1 – Underpinning knowledge relating to the care of patients in a veterinary environment including anatomy, physiology and emergency first aid
  • Pharmacology and Dispensary Management – Basic veterinary pharmacology and its application, including the prescription, storage, supply and dispensing of medicines to standards required of an SQP
  • Practical Veterinary Nursing Skills 1 – Developing practical skills in RCVS approved Training Practices through the compilation of a portfolio of evidence
  • Anaesthesia and Theatre Nursing Skills – The principles of anaesthesia and theatre practice including surgical instruments, assisting in theatre and the preparation and monitoring of patients during anaesthesia and sedation
  • Life Stage 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
  • Principles of Veterinary Nursing Care 2 – Nursing requirements of patients including fluid therapy, pain assessment, preventative care and physical therapy techniques
  • Surgical Nursing and Patient Care – Specialised knowledge in surgical nursing, including pre, peri and post-operative nursing from admission to discharge
  • Practical Veterinary Nursing Skills 2 – Developing practical skills in RCVS approved Training Practices through the compilation of a portfolio of evidence

Embedded within this qualification is the content required for you to become an SQP for companion animals.

This qualification is also available as part of an apprenticeship.


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. Final practice examinations (OSCEs) are on successful completion of all other assessments.

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.

We will continue to provide our delivery via the virtual platform as we move into 2022.

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

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.

Students who are already employed in a veterinary practice looking to undertake this qualification must be at least 16 years of age. Non-employed students must be a minimum of 19 years of age on the 1st of the month in which the course starts. Please note non-employed students who are 16 years of age or over and hold the Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants or the VetSkill Level 2 Certificate in Veterinary Care Support qualification are welcome to apply.

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.

This qualification is also available as part of an apprenticeship.

Block release students

The work based nature of the course means that, in addition to meeting the academic entry requirements, you must have either:

  • completed a minimum of two weeks work experience in a veterinary environment within the last 12 months (preferably within a small animal first opinion veterinary practice) and be able to provide a satisfactory reference from a veterinary surgeon or registered veterinary nurse supporting your suitability for veterinary nurse training; OR,
  • be employed in an RCVS approved TP or aTP that is willing to support you through your qualification; a list of these can be found on the RCVS website.

Read our advice for finding work experience in a veterinary practice

COVID-19 Update

In the current climate, if you have not completed two weeks’ work experience in a veterinary environment, we will still be able to consider your application. Interviewing will be undertaken to evaluate whether you are suitable to attend the course without the work experience or whether you need to defer your start on a course until you are able to complete this element. Please be aware this change is temporary and subject to review as the situation develops.

Entry onto the Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing programme, due to its popularity, is extremely competitive; therefore you may wish to read more about how you can strengthen your application. For example, any additional work experience, hobbies or studies in an animal related subject will help your application to stand out. We also recommend providing evidence of equine experience, such as voluntary work at a yard or riding school.

Our placement liaison team are dedicated to sourcing block release students with a placement in a veterinary practice. Connections with over 600 Training Practices across the UK means that they are usually successful in this, however it is never guaranteed. As securing a place on the course relies on having a confirmed work placement, you can try to source your own placement in a veterinary practice. This practice must be an RCVS approved Training Practice (TP) or Auxiliary Training Practice (aTP), and the practice must be able to offer you clinical coach support.

Day release students

In addition to the academic entry requirements, you will need to be employed in an RCVS approved TP or aTP; a list of these can be found on the RCVS website. The practice must be willing to support you through your qualification and provide you with a clinical coach who will mentor you over the course of your training in practice. Read our advice for finding employment in a veterinary practice

Our day release programme is open to employed students only. If you do not meet this requirement, your application will be rejected. 

International students

If you have alternative or international qualifications, and would like to know if these will allow you to undertake the diploma, please contact our administration team for advice.

If you are coming to the UK to study 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 7.0 where your international qualifications were not taught and assessed in English. You will also be required to have your foreign qualifications officially translated into English with a notarised stamp.

If you are from outside the EU or European Economic Area and wish to study in the UK, you must obtain a Tier 4 Student Visa – visit our International Students page for further information.

Read more about how to become a veterinary nurse

Course fees

Course fees can either be paid in full before the beginning of the course, on an annual basis, 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 Annual Pay As You Learn
England £11,356 £5,678 per year £473 per month
Scotland £4,190 £2,095 per year £175 per month
Overseas £13,125 £6,563 per year £547 per month

If you are over 19 years of age you may be entitled to apply for an *Advanced Learner Loan to help fund your studies! (England only)

*Please be aware the maximum amount you can receive from the Advanced Learner Loan is £7,172. This means there will be an outstanding balance of £4,184 left to pay. The following payment options are available to assist students in paying the remaining balance:

Paying in full

You can pay for the remainder of the course fee in one single payment before the course begins.

Paying annually

You can pay for the remainder of the course fees annually at a cost of £2,092 per year, with the first payment being made before the course begins.

Pay As You Learn Scheme

The ‘Pay As You Learn’ scheme allows students the option to pay course fees on a monthly basis (£174.33 per month), however please be aware the scheme is NOT payment by instalments of the single course fee offered at the outset. Your monthly payments will continue to be paid, possibly beyond the originally planned programme end date, until the date on your qualification certificate. This means opting for this payment scheme could cost you more in total course fees than was offered to you at the start of the programme. Read more about the PAYL scheme

CAW Loan Scheme

You can apply for a loan up to the cost of your course fees from The College of Animal Welfare and pay this back on completion of the course or if you decide to withdraw either in full, or through an agreed payment plan. If you’re interested in applying for the CAW Loan Scheme and would like further information, please contact the Funding Team on 01480 422060.

Please note awarding body fees are payable separately and are not included in the annual payment, PAYL or CAW Loan Scheme option.

Awarding Body Fees*

RCVS Registration: £202
Awarding Body Registration: £210
Practical Examination Fee: £350
Online Examination Fee: £30
Remote Invigilation Fee: £25

Please note examinations fees are payable per exam attempt, meaning fees are payable for each exam resit where required.

* Awarding Body Fees are payable by all students or employers and recharged at cost and may be subject to change.

This qualification is also available as part of an apprenticeship – view fees

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?

On completion of the Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing and the required number of hours of veterinary nursing training, 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.

For newly graduated nurses – good news! A national shortage of veterinary nurses in the UK means that your job prospects once qualified are excellent. Salary expectations have also improved in recent years, meaning that you can now expect a veterinary nurse salary to be in excess of £20,000 per year on average. Registered and trainee veterinary nurse jobs advertised on our job board can be found here.

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 teaching, management, research, sales or rehabilitation.

You may also be looking to pursue further training with us. ‘Topping up’ your qualification to a full degree by undertaking the BSc Honours Veterinary Nursing Degree Top Up Programme, available at Edinburgh, means that more opportunities in teaching or post graduate training become available to you. This top up programme is now available by distance learning making it more accessible than ever.

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. Our CPD and short courses are designed for registered and student veterinary nurses a-like, and can be undertaken to refresh veterinary knowledge and keep up to date with the latest developments in the profession.

Find out more about veterinary nursing on our career profiles.

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 really enjoyed the interactive learning sessions, particularly group work and debates. I loved learning about anatomy and found recaps at the end of sessions very useful. I made new friends who shared my passion for animals and found the College staff to be friendly and approachable”. (Read the case study)
Lydia Christie Smith
City & Guilds Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (2014)

“Without a doubt, the work placement in veterinary practice is my favourite part of the programme. This course offers a lot of hands on experience and I love it. It is a lot of work and it’s tough but it is all worth it in the end. You’ll meet a lot of great people, both in College and in placement” (Read the case study)
Linn Cecile Johansen
City & Guilds Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (2015)