Tips and Advice for Gaining Work Experience in a Veterinary Practice

If you’re interested in studying veterinary nursing with us, you may have noticed that due to the work-based nature of the course, entry onto our Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Small Animal Pathway) programme requires you to either;

  • have completed a minimum of two weeks’ work experience in a veterinary environment within the last 12 months (non-employed students), or;
  • have secured employment within an RCVS approved TP or aTP that is willing to support you through the qualification (employed students)

Veterinary nursing is a popular profession and entry onto our training programmes is often very competitive, therefore work experience opportunities for aspiring student veterinary nurses can sometimes be hard to come by…

Nonetheless, work experience is an incredibly valuable opportunity to take a close up look at the career and ensure you are making the right career choice. Along with the additional benefits of networking within the industry and gaining those ever valuable practical skills required to make the list of becoming a registered veterinary nurse. 

Short video giving tips and advice on how to gain work experience or employment as a Veterinary Nurse

If you’re struggling to gain the experience needed to apply for the course, don’t give up! Take a look at our tips and advice about how to gain work experience in a veterinary practice:

Keep on browsing

Job boards such as the CAW jobs boardVet Times Jobs or Animal Jobs Direct list advertisements from veterinary practices for veterinary care assistants (undertaking the VCA course could be an alternative way for you to qualify for veterinary nurse training), animal nursing assistants or student veterinary nurses (SVNs)

Get social

Many training providers and veterinary practices will post their latest vacancies for student veterinary nurses on their social media pages, so it’s worth following those pages to ensure you are the first to see any new opportunities. You can follow us on social media here:


Also share your interests with friends and family, someone you may know someone who works in or has worked in the industry, they may be able to offer some advice.

Pinpoint practices

Many practices have their own vacancy page or further information about placement opportunities on their website, which can help you learn more about what they’re looking for. This way, you’ll also read more about who the practice is and what they do. Find a veterinary practice near you

Be direct

By contacting practices to introduce yourself and enquire about work placements/employment directly, you are putting a face to your name and showing commitment and enthusiasm! You can drop them an email, give them a call or even stop by the practice to meet staff members in person. Even if they are unable to offer you a placement at that moment, they may be able to hold your details ready for future opportunities, or introduce you to other members of the profession who can help you gain a placement. Find a veterinary practice near you

Be aware that veterinary practices are often very busy, so don’t be disheartened if you aren’t able to speak to someone straight away. Practices are particularly busy at peak times such as Mondays and Fridays, so it’s worth trying to contact them mid-week.

Be prepared to stand out

Keeping your CV up-to-date means you’ll be able to apply for positions as soon as they become available. Make sure your CV contains any relevant experience or hobbies that you may have that will complement your application for work experience, for example any additional animal care studies or work experience in a related environment such as a farm, rehoming centre or kennels/cattery. By showing that you are committed to achieving your goals, you make yourself stand out against the rest!

Go international

Many experience providers such as Oyster Worldwide offer veterinary and animal care internships/work placements abroad for those keen to gain more experience. These projects give you the opportunity to gain practical experience with animals and in some cases shadow qualified vets and vet nurses to learn more about what they do. What’s more – you can see more of a new place too! If you consider undertaking a placement abroad, it is worth contacting us to check your programme will meet the minimum entry requirements for the course first.

Attend relevant open evenings and career events

Career days such as our Careers With Animals Day bring local veterinary employers and colleges under one roof, which is the perfect opportunity to discuss your career plans and gain advice from industry professionals. What’s more – they can be a good opportunity to meet with local practices directly to enquire about work opportunities.

Gain other relevant veterinary work experience

Any experience you can gain working with animals will help to boost your employability prospects and increase the likelihood of you securing a placement in a veterinary practice at a later date. For example, if you’re struggling to get a placement in a practice due to lack of experience, could you volunteer elsewhere to build up more skills and knowledge – for example in a local kennels or rehoming centre?

Please do not be put off from applying if you do not have years of work experience. Good veterinary nurses come from all walks of life, with varying amounts of prior experience and we welcome each application on its own merit.

If you have any questions about the entry requirements for the Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Small Animal) programme, please do not hesitate to contact us at or call us on 01480 422060.

Find out more about the Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Small Animal)

Apply to start veterinary nurse training

Making the most of your placement/work experience

If you want to pursue a career as a veterinary nurse, you will gain a vast amount of your skills and ability through your work experience, making your time in practice crucial. Applying for work experience is a reasonably easy process, but the high demand for placements means they are often in short supply.

Anytime you can secure in a practice will be hugely valuable for any aspiring veterinary nurse, so please do welcome opportunities and make the most of it. We have put together a few top tips to consider before you embark on your time in practice.

Organise in advance

Be timely with your dates, make sure you plan in advance so that you have everything organised for the right time in accordance with the requirements for your course.

Follow the dress code

Wear smart, practical clothing on your first day like trousers and a comfortable top. It is often best to avoid jeans, leggings or joggers until you are able to find out if the employer has a preferred dress code – until then, play it safe with a smart and practical outfit. Most importantly, make sure you wear comfortable shoes as it is likely that you will spend a lot of time on your feet. If the practice gives you a uniform or a name badge to wear, make sure you wear it every time you are in and keep it clean and tidy. If you are working on shifts, you may need to start early – so make sure you leave enough time to get yourself ready for the day

Make a good impression

With any job, it is important to turn up on time and greet everyone in a friendly, approachable manner to make a good first impression. Pay attention to people when they introduce themselves, it is important and useful to understand what each person does within the practice. Making a mental note of people’s names and what they do, that you can jot these down in a notebook later can be useful for future reference. Take the time to get to know your colleagues, this will help you gain a greater understanding of the practice set up.

Don’t be shy

Avoid being a “passive” learner, be proactive – do not be shy in showing your willingness to get involved and show the team you are keen to get involved and contribute to getting jobs done and helping out.

Take as many opportunities to develop your skills and gain insights into the various elements of the job. This is such a valuable time, the more you get involved and see with your own eyes – the greater your understanding will be.

Listen and be prepared

Take a notebook, listen carefully to any instructions you are given and note down important information. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification. Time is precious for all in most practices, however, it is equally important to understand what is asked of you.

Take notes

Take a pen and a pad to note down any useful information, make a record of any tasks you may have completed or want to find out more about, write yourself instructions on how to complete tasks in case you need them for other future occasions. It is useful to keep notes of exact tasks you carried out as this will be useful for future applications.

Ask for feedback

Gather informal feedback from your supervisor as you work, rather than at the end of your placement. This will give you a chance to reflect and refine your approach as you complete tasks and get a better understanding of the processes in place and the reasoning behind them.

Remember to take it all in

Work experience can be nerve-wracking, but take your time and embrace the process. It is vital to keep in mind that it will not only improve your CV, it will also provide you with the chance to figure out whether a career as a veterinary nurse is the right move for you.

52 week placement limits for non-employed/placement students:

We recently made the decision to change the planned amount of placement weeks that students on VN Diploma programmes are required to complete, limiting this to a maximum of 52 weeks over the duration of the training programme. During which the student must complete their practice based skills training to the required standard (i.e. meet the RCVS Day One Skills and Competences).

In making this change the day release programme is no longer offered as an option for placement students due to training weeks being impacted by the college day each week i.e. there would be four training days in practice each week as opposed to five. With the block release programme, the placement blocks are mapped out to ensure that these are optimised as fully as possible and to also avoid clashes with bank holidays.

If a student does not complete their skills training or achieve the required standard within the 52 weeks it may be possible to arrange additional placement time but this is by exception and should not be necessary. As with the 52 weeks of placement designed to be within the programme, exceptional placement would also be unpaid unless the employer chooses to employ the student.

We have previously published legal advice on our website that we have received with regards to National Minimum Wage which whilst confirming the view that placements that are longer than 52 weeks are not subject to National Minimum Wage regulations the advice also notes that it is an untested area in law and as such each employer must decide for themselves what their approach will be. Therefore some veterinary practices and corporate groups have implemented policies limiting placements to 52 weeks.

All non-employed/placement students booked to attend placements do so on the understanding between the student and the practice that the placements are unpaid, but if employers wish to do so, then they may pay the students. If the practice chooses to pay the student, then they must comply with the National Minimum Wage Regulations because the student becomes an employee. The College of Animal Welfare do not have any involvement in discussions regarding payment of students and practices are not obliged to pay placement students.