Course Overview

Are you interested in training as a veterinary nurse, but not employed in a veterinary practice?
Join our *virtual* Open Evening on Tuesday 6 August (7pm-8pm)

Completion of the VTEC 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).

As the largest provider of vet nurse training in the UK, we have a commitment to promoting animal welfare and raising the standards of veterinary nurse care. 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. You will join a community of like-minded students who all share a passion for animals and a desire to join an exciting and rewarding profession.

College sessions offer diverse teaching, learning and assessment approaches catered for the individual needs of learners, enabling you to develop the required knowledge and skills needed to work as a qualified, Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN). In addition to the academic theory you will learn from college, you will gain significant industry experience in an RCVS approved veterinary training practice. This practical experience can either be gained through employment or through an unpaid work placement. We have our own dedicated placement liaison team who will make use of connections with over 700 practices across the UK to help you find an unpaid work placement if you are not employed in a veterinary practice.

Students who are employed in a veterinary practice in England may be eligible for the Veterinary Nurse (Level 3) Apprenticeship.

Key Facts

Students who are employed in an RCVS approved veterinary practice

Duration: 30 months (2 1/2 years)

Attendance: Day release via Live Online Delivery Classrooms or Centre Attended (available at selected centres). Details of these two options can be found below.

Live Online Delivery: 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.

Centre Based Programmes: You will attend your chosen college centre on a day release basis (one day per week during term times) for face-to-face teaching in a classroom/clinical skills setting. Practical sessions are held in-centre in the college environment.

Start date: If you are employed in an RCVS approved training practice, you may start this course at any time once you are enrolled with the RCVS and VetSkill as a student veterinary nurse. You will undertake pre-course activities (such as preparing to study, course induction, health and safety) and be able to log your practice hours before you classroom lessons (virtual or in centre) begin.

Non-employed students with unpaid placement year

Duration: 36 months (3 years)

Attendance: In years 1 and 3, you will undertake lessons on a day release basis either by coming into college for classroom tuition, or studying remotely via online lessons in our virtual classroom. Our Huntingdon, Leeds and North London centres offer a classroom-based face-to-face programme. All other centres require you to join your day release lessons via our virtual online classroom (except Lichfield which does not run the companion animal veterinary nursing course). In addition, you will be required to spend one additional day per week working through online course materials with up to a further six hours per week developing your practical skills using a virtual reality headset. When you are not undertaking college lessons, online learning or practical skills training in years 1 and 3, you are able to undertake casual work (working in any type of employment) to financially support yourself during the programme. During year 2 of the programme you will undertake a full-time unpaid work placement in an RCVS approved veterinary practice. You will undertake 40 hours per week for 45 weeks of placement across the 52 weeks.

Start dates

College days (Classroom-based or live online delivery) can be seen on the table below for forthcoming intakes:

July 2024

All centres (Except Lichfield and Guernsey) Live online learning Wednesdays

October 2024

Huntingdon, Leeds, North London Classroom delivery Fridays
All centres (Except Lichfield) Live online learning Fridays

January 2025

Huntingdon, Leeds, North London Classroom delivery Mondays
All centres (Except Lichfield and Guernsey) Live online learning Mondays

Find your nearest centre

We deliver this programme from centres located throughout the UK, including: Basildon, Bodmin, County Durham, Derby, Chorleywood, Edinburgh, Guernsey, Horsham, Huntingdon, Leeds, North London, Solihull, Wigan and Stoke-on-Trent. Find your nearest centre

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. This small animal qualification will cover cats, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs. Over the course of the qualification you will cover nine units.

  • Professional 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
  • 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 a Suitably Qualified Person (SQP)
  • Practical Veterinary Nursing Skills – 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 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
  • 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

Embedded within this qualification is the content required for you to become a Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) for companion animals, allowing you to prescribe and/or supply certain veterinary medicinal products.

Online learning at CAW

Are you wondering what studying online looks like? We are extremely proud of our online learning platform and virtual classrooms. Our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) provides interactive content and resources available at any time of the day or night. As well as accessing your course materials, you will be able to utilise wellbeing tools, study resources and an eLibrary. Our Virtual Classrooms offer live, realtime interactive lessons with chat features where you can get involved and ask (and answer!) questions. You can take part in polls and collaborate with your lecturer and peers using an interactive whiteboard. Learning from the comfort of your own home has never been easier! Watch the video below to find out more.

Virtual Reality Learning at CAW

The College of Animal Welfare’s new virtual reality technology is changing the way we think about learning. All CAW students will have the opportunity to use virtual reality headsets to prepare for their OSCEs (practical exams). Virtual reality helps create muscle memory, leading to the development of practical skills and alleviating exam anxiety. Students can practise the OSCE tasks that they may come across in their real exam, such as taking x rays, packaging samples and identifying parasites. We are the first veterinary nurse college to use virtual reality and we are very excited about the potential application of it. So, the only question we have left to ask is, are you ready to step into the future of veterinary nurse training and join us?


You will undertake a variety of assessments including online examinations, assignments and case studies. You will also complete an online Nursing Progress Log (NPL) over the course of your training, as evidence of practical competence. At the end of year two there is a formative practical assessment. Final practical examinations (OSCEs) are undertaken on successful completion of all other assessments at the end of your programme.

Industry Experience

In addition to your college studies you will gain significant industry experience in an RCVS approved veterinary training practice.

For those students who are not employed in a veterinary practice and are undertaking the three year programme, your one year of work placement is unpaid; our practice liaison team will help you to find a placement.

Entry Requirements

You must have a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 9-4 (A*-C), 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 such as the Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants, the VetSkill Level 2 Certificate in Veterinary Care Support, or the Veterinary Care Support (Level 2 Apprenticeship), along with GCSEs grade C or above (or Level 2 Functional Skills) in English Language and Maths.

Before applying, please ensure you read the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Fitness to Practise: A Guide for UK Providers of Veterinary Nursing Education and Student Veterinary Nurses, which can be downloaded here.

Employed Applicants

Students who are already employed in a veterinary practice looking to undertake this qualification must be at least 16 years of age, be working in an RCVS approved TP or aTP and have the full support of the practice to support you through your qualification; a list of TPs/aTPs can be found on the RCVS website.

Non-employed Applicants

Non-employed students must be a minimum of 18 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, the VetSkill Level 2 Certificate in Veterinary Care Support or the Veterinary Care Support (Level 2 Apprenticeship) qualification are welcome to apply.

You will also need to have 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.

Read our advice for finding work experience in a veterinary practice

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.

International students

If you have alternative qualifications, and would like to know if these will allow you to undertake this qualification, please contact our student services team for advice. All applicants with international (non UK-based) qualifications require an ENIC statement.

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 6.0 (with a minimum of 5.5 in each element) 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 over 19 years of age, live outside the UK and wish to come to the UK to study you will need to obtain a student visa and will need to meet certain requirements under UK law – visit our International Students page for further information.

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. A CAW Loans2Learn scheme is also available, details can be found below.

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 has been achieved.

Course Fees

Two and a half year programme for employed students

Full Fee Annual Pay As You Learn
UK £13,000 £5,200 at the start of the programme
£5,200 at the start of year 2
£2,600 at the start of year 3
£473 per month

Three year programme for non-employed students

Full Fee Annual Pay As You Learn
UK £18,000 £6,000 at the start of the programme
£6,000 at the start of year 2
£6,000 at the start of year 3
£509 per month
Overseas £20,500 £6,835 at the start of the programme
£6,835 at the start of year 2
£6,830 at the start of year 3
£569 per month*

* Please note Pay as You Learn is not available to students in the UK who are studying on a student visa.

Non-employed students will be loaned a virtual reality headset which they can use to develop their practical skills during the programme.

Awarding Body Fees

In addition to the course fees, awarding body fees are payable as below:

  • RCVS Registration: £210
  • VetSkill Enrolment: £249
  • Theory exam x 6 at £35 each: £210
  • OSCE fee: £525

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. All practical examination fees (and any other outstanding fees) must be settled in advance of any entry to the examination being processed.

Awarding Body Fees are payable separately and are not included in the course fee. RCVS and all awarding body fees (including examination fees) are recharged at cost and may be subject to change. Please note awarding body fees are not included in the annual payment, PAYL or CAW Loan2Learn scheme.

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.

Payment Options

Payment in full
You can pay the course fee in one single payment before the course begins.

Paying annually
You can pay the course fees annually, with the first payment being made before the course begins.

Pay As You Learn Scheme
Our ‘Pay As You Learn’ scheme allows you to pay course fees on a monthly basis whilst you are studying. 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.

Loan options

Advanced Learner Loan – Two year, employed programme
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). The maximum amount you can receive from the Advanced Learner Loan is currently £7,172 (May 2024). This means there will be an outstanding balance left to pay. This outstanding balance can be paid in full (one single payment of £5,828 before the course begins), annually (three annual payments: £2,350 at the start of the programme, £2,350 at the start of year 2, and £1,130 at the start of year 3), or via our Pay as You Learn scheme (£210 per month).

Advanced Learner Loan – Three year, non-employed programme
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). The maximum amount you can receive from the Advanced Learner Loan is currently £7,172 (May 2024). This means there will be an outstanding balance left to pay. This outstanding balance can be paid in full (one single payment of £10,828 before the course begins), annually (three annual payments: £3,610 at the start of the programme, £3,610 at the start of year 2, and £3,610 at the start of year 3), or via our Pay as You Learn scheme (£315 per month).

CAW Loans2Learn
The CAW Loans2Learn scheme is a personal loan and is subject to interest. It can help you to spread the cost of your course into manageable payments. The loan can be used to full or partially cover your course fees* (but does not cover any awarding body fees, such as enrolment and examination fees). Your loan repayments will commence at the completion of your programme, or if you leave, whichever is soonest. These loans are only available to UK citizens who live in the UK.
Please note the maximum amount of loan for students undertaking the three year non-employed programme is £12,600. (the remaining amount must be self-funded).

More information can be found here.

Other 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.

ELC Funding

This course is eligible for the Ministry of Defence Enhanced Learning Credits (ELC) Funding. Read more here.

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 prospects have improved significantly in recent years, the median salary package for qualified veterinary nurses is now £30,500 (SPVS Salaries Survey 2022/3). 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.