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Become A Vet's Assistant

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 17 Aug 2019 | comments*Discuss
 
How To Become A Vet’s Assistant How To

You would normally train to become a vet’s assistant (often referred to as a ‘veterinary nurse’) either through higher education or via work-based vocational training. Whichever route you decide to take, it will lead you to obtaining your registration as a veterinary nurse through the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

The Work-Based Training Route

In order to qualify as a veterinary nurse through work-based training, you must be aged 17 or over and be employed by a RCVS approved veterinary practice. To gain employment in a vet’s practice, you should have obtained 5 GCSEs at grade C or above which must include Maths, English and at least two science-related subjects. If you do not have the relevant GCSE qualifications, you can also find work if you have successfully completed the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) Animal Nursing Assistant qualification. Alternatively, the City and Guilds/NPTC National Certificate for Veterinary Care Assistants is a recognised equivalent qualification.

When applying for jobs, it often helps if you’ve worked with animals previously in either some kind of paid or voluntary capacity. Helping out at your local kennels, the RSPCA or an animal or pet rescue centre will be highly advantageous in your search for work. Once you have found a job within a veterinary practice, you’d combine on the job experience and training with either day or block release study at college and it would take a minimum of 2 years, with exams at the end of each year, to obtain both NVQ levels 2 and 3 in Veterinary Nursing as well as the RCVS Certificate in Veterinary Nursing Theory.

In some areas, you may even be able to enter the profession via an Apprenticeship route. For more details on that you should take a look at the Apprenticeships website. Another useful website is LANTRA which is the National Training Organisation for Land Based Industries.

The Higher Education Route

As an alternative to the above, you may decide to enter the veterinary profession by doing an RCVS-approved veterinary nursing degree or a BTEC, HND course. If you go down this route, you’ll still have the opportunity to combine your academic studies with some RCVS-approved work placement training. You’d still be required to have a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grade C or above, including Maths, English and two science subjects along with at least 2 A levels (or their equivalent) which would preferably be in biology and chemistry. The RCVS website is a good resource to identify the universities and colleges that offer these courses and what each of their individual entry requirements is.

Entering the veterinary profession via higher education does inevitably take longer than by going down the work-based training route. However, on the plus side, your career options further down the track will be much broader such as going into teaching or research.

Further Training

Once you are fully qualified and have some experience under your belt, you can increase your career prospects even further by adding to your skills and knowledge by undertaking courses which include:

  • BVNA Pharmacy Management for Veterinary Nurses
  • BVNA Certificate in Dentistry
  • RCVS Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nurses

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[Add a Comment]
Hi, I am 63 and for the past 20 years have worked in an Emergency Department as an Enrolled Nurse dealing with a variety of presentations as part of a team and autonomously. I have a number of skills including blood taking, cannulation, casting, assessment, dressings and as part of the resus team. I am returning to the UK after 35 years in Australia and would love to work as a veterinary assistant. Please can you advise me of the best way to go about this and which course would be most beneficial. Thank you.Nina
Ballerina - 17-Aug-19 @ 8:00 AM
Hi, I’m currently at Angus college at the moment doing assess to animal care part 2 as I have already done part 1 of assess to animal care! I was wondering if I stay onto college and do introduction to animal care then do the NC for animal care! Where would be my next step for doing the training I need to be a vet assistant? Thanks, I’m in Scotland! ??
Kez - 27-Jan-19 @ 11:30 AM
Hi, I’ve been working in nhs mental health for 16yrs now, I want to change career and animals is the way forward for me, I have 2 gcse’s in English and have just learnt what I know from watching and observing staff. What would I have to do to get onto a course to be a vet assistant? Thanks
Sassy - 24-Jan-19 @ 7:03 PM
Fluffy - Your Question:
Hi I'm 48 years old & want to change careers. I've always loved animals & owned my own dogs. School was obviously a long time ago for me & not even sure where my exam certs are & what my results were but would love to train as a veterinary nurse/assistant. What would I need to gain qualifications to help me in changing careers. I would like to be able to learn from home as I currently work part time.

Our Response:
The link here should give you further information to help you on your way.
ExploreAdultLearning - 12-Jul-18 @ 11:38 AM
Hi I'm 48 years old & want to change careers. I've always loved animals & owned my own dogs. School was obviously a long time ago for me & not even sure where my exam certs are & what my results were but would love to train as a veterinary nurse/assistant. What would I need to gain qualifications to help me in changing careers. I would like to be able to learn from home as I currently work part time.
Fluffy - 11-Jul-18 @ 1:37 PM
Hello I am a 21 year-old female and I am a full time waitress and this supply's my bills to my rented house. I am in a position that I can not give up this job for years of training as you can understand the costs of a house. I have five GCSE however took a BTEC for science as that was my only offer at the time. I went on to completing childcare then health and social care at level three diploma and got high merits. However fell into waitressing and I would love more than anything to work with animals! I was curious to see if there is anyway I can study and also work and where to find these courses if possible.
Ronni - 27-Apr-18 @ 6:30 PM
Samantha- Your Question:
Hi, I’m 16 and I’m still in school, I’ve always loved anything to do with animals and would have loved to become a vet or veterinary nurse, however, I feel as though I may not be able to get the GCSE results I need including maths and maybe a science, if I do not pass Is there any possible way I could still become a vet or veterinary nurse without these qualifications?

Our Response:
The qualifications to become a veterinary nurse can be found via the link here . This should tell you all you need to know.
ExploreAdultLearning - 20-Mar-18 @ 2:29 PM
Hi, I’m 16 and I’m still in school, I’ve always loved anything to do with animals and would have loved to become a vet or veterinary nurse, however, I feel as though I may not be able to get the GCSE results I need including maths and maybe a science, if I do not pass Is there any possible way I could still become a vet or veterinary nurse without these qualifications?
Samantha - 18-Mar-18 @ 11:59 PM
Hi, I'm 26 and applied to do a nursing assistant course last year. I did not get in as I was essentially too qualified from having a previous unrelated degree, which i completely understand. I would love to still become a veterinary nurse but the practice I am with is not a training practice. I was wondering if there are any credited online courses that are approved by the bvna along the lines of animal nursing assistant etc. I have seen a few but it is difficult to know which are legit. I am very much eager to go down vocational rather than higher educational route as I already have student debt haha!
K - 24-Apr-17 @ 7:06 PM
Hello i am 29 and very keen on this course but i am confused at the different option out ther soJust checking... If I study the level 3 diploma, am I a fully qaulified veterinary nurse? as it's only 2 years...at a level 3....and a degree is 4 years level 8 ? This confuses me as ther is such a difference in the level and time. Does this affect my job opportunities in end result as I can imagine a vet nurse at a level 8 would be favoured!?
Wendy - 3-Mar-17 @ 7:38 PM
@jo - your daughter would still have to go through the full training to be a vet if she wanted to qualify. There are no short cuts. Regards, Mel.
Melissa78 - 22-Feb-17 @ 11:38 AM
Hi, my daughter is doing an animal management level 3 diploma course. After this she is thinking of becoming a veterinary assistant either through an apprenticeship or 3 years at University. But as her mother I am horrified that after all this training the average wage is around £16-23k a year. If she chose to, could she go on to become a vet using this route? Like perhaps once she has gained some experience, could she continue studying and go on to become a qualified vet, possibly not having to do so many years training?? Thank you Jo
jo - 21-Feb-17 @ 4:44 PM
DANI- Your Question:
I my name is Daniela I'm 19 studying animal studies level three. I really want to become a vet assistant. I have the GCSE in English but maths I struggle with what other options can I do if I can't octane the GCSE is that are required. This is my dream job and I will take any advice given.

Our Response:
You can ask this question via the College of Animal welfare who may be able to help you further, please see link here. I hope this helps.
ExploreAdultLearning - 14-Dec-16 @ 11:03 AM
Imy name is Daniela I'm 19 studying animal studies level three. I really want to become a vet assistant. I have the GCSE in English but maths I struggle with what other options can I do if I can't octane the GCSE is that are required. Thisis my dream job and I will take any advice given.
DANI - 13-Dec-16 @ 2:56 PM
Blackdraco - Your Question:
Hi, Im 51 years old, a former RMN and now am an Assistant Manager of a shop for an animal charity. Am I too old to train as a Veterinary Nurse?

Our Response:
You are never too old to re-train, if that is what you wish to do, as there is no age discrimination.
ExploreAdultLearning - 20-Sep-16 @ 1:47 PM
Hi, Im 51 years old, a former RMN and now am an Assistant Managerof a shop for an animal charity.Am I too old totrain as a VeterinaryNurse?
Blackdraco - 19-Sep-16 @ 4:49 PM
Hi I'm 34 I have englisg, maths & science gcse and have completed animal management levels 2 & 3. I have seen job vacancies for veterinary care assistant asking for Veterinary Care Assistant Level 2 diploma or equivalent do you know what would be classed as an equivalent? I've ask a couple of companies advitising however I've not received any replies.
Vicky - 12-Aug-16 @ 12:25 PM
Hello, I'm currently doing a certified vet assistant course online, I already currently work in a GP practice in admin but I would much rather work with animals and would like to be more clinical/hands on than just a receptionist. Would this online course enable me to get a job as an assistant in a vets or not? I was unsure where to start and I'm sure doing this course can only better my chances in getting employed to enable me to work my way up in a vets/animal hospital.. right ?
Chloe - 2-Jul-16 @ 10:34 PM
Stacey - Your Question:
I have a great love for animals having ben owned by several cats throughout my lifetime. I am 38 and rather tired of working in a supermarket. I really would like to turn this into a career and am willing to put in the time required to qualify as a Veterinary Apprentice Assistant. Any help given would be great.

Our Response:
I would suggest taking up some voluntary work with animals first which may give you a good route into the career without having to give up your current job, just yet. To apply for any basic job with animals it helps if you have experience and can show that you have more than a passing interest. From voluntary work you would be able to see whether you wish to study for a qualification or work your way up through work-based training and/or experience. You can see if there are any voluntary organisations near you via the Do-It site, here. I hope this helps.
ExploreAdultLearning - 28-Jun-16 @ 12:21 PM
I have a great love for animals having ben owned by several cats throughout my lifetime.I am 38 and rather tired of working in a supermarket.I really would like to turn this into a career and am willing to put in the time required to qualify as a Veterinary Apprentice Assistant.Any help given would be great.
Stacey - 27-Jun-16 @ 5:13 PM
Hi, I have 11 gcses 1 being a grade c and the rest b-a*.I have as and a2 levels and have just completed a year in university but want to change to veterinary nursing.I have 2 years experience in an animal sanctuary and 4 in a stables. I have gained a place on a level 3 veterinary nursing course but I am really struggling to find a placement in the north east area. I am Newcastle-upon-Tyne based but will travel up to 1.5 hours away. Is there a certain time that veterinary practice hire students and how should I go about asking as I have sent out cvs and visited practices but have heard nothing
A hogg - 22-Jun-16 @ 5:25 AM
Pat - Your Question:
I am 20 and would like to really be a vet's assistant. I am polish so I do not have any GCSEs or experience. I don't know how I should start my route with veterinary in here and how much time that's going to take. I would be grateful for any help from your side. Thanks in advance

Our Response:
You'll normally need some GCSEs or equivalent qualifications to get onto an advanced apprenticeship or college course, please see link here. However, there are other similar jobs too which do not need qualifications, such as an animal care worker, see link here. I hope this helps.
ExploreAdultLearning - 14-Jun-16 @ 12:35 PM
I am 20 and would like to really be a vet's assistant. I am polish so I do not have any GCSEs or experience. I don't know how i should start my route with veterinary in here and how much time that's going to take. I would be grateful for any help from your side. Thanks in advance
Pat - 13-Jun-16 @ 3:50 PM
Hello I'm currently doing my VNA course 2 &3 I get a diploma Atfer wards however I haven't had practical and have no GCSEs does this effect me being able to work as a veterinary nursing assistant ? If so what do I need to do once I've past my diplomas ?
Holz - 14-May-16 @ 3:03 PM
Dai - Your Question:
Hi, I need some help, I am 23 and currently taking a small animal care level 2 course. I do not have any GCSE'S as I was home tutored, I desperately want to become a vetinary nurse however with no GCSE'S I am wondering if this is possible and if so what route do I go down after I have completed my small animal care course in October? Thank you for reading hope I can get some answers.

Our Response:
The Access to Higher Education Diploma is a qualification which prepares people without traditional qualifications for study at university, which may help you, please see link here.
ExploreAdultLearning - 12-Apr-16 @ 1:38 PM
Hi, I need some help, I am 23 and currently taking a small animal care level 2 course. I do not have any GCSE'S as I was home tutored, I desperately want to become a vetinary nurse however with no GCSE'S I am wondering if this is possible and if so what route do I go down after I have completed my small animal care course in October? Thank you for reading hope I can get some answers.
Dai - 11-Apr-16 @ 5:49 PM
@Suzanne @Tricia - The only alternative I can think of,in what is a very competitive career choice, is to take an apprenticeship route such as via the PDSA link here . There is more information on the National Careers website here which may be of help and offer some alternative suggestions.
ExploreAdultLearning - 3-Jul-15 @ 10:53 AM
I'm in my mid-thirties and in exactly the same position as Suzanne. I desperately want to get into veterinary nursing but can't find any help with funding. It's so frustrating, I don't want to have to continue in my present career, when this is in my heart......Very depressing.....Is there no help with funding available at all anywhere?
Tricia - 3-Jul-15 @ 2:34 AM
Hi, I'm 34 and desperately want to retrain to become a vet nurse but it seems virtually impossible. Do do the level 3 diploma you have to be employed at a practice for a minimum of 35 hours per week. How do you get this employment? I am already qualified to degree level but not in a relevant subject and I don't have an experience of working in a vets. I'm also told that students my age don't get any funding, the degree course costs £8000 per year and I wouldn't qualify for the 24+ Advanced Learning Loan because thecourse has to be level 3 or 4 and I am fairly sure the Foundation degree is classed as level 5. What am I supposed to do? Please help.
Suzanne Hilton - 25-Jun-15 @ 10:27 PM
@DK - it is nice to see that you know what you want to do and are willing to start early in gaining your experience. I suggest that you firstly do some volunteering with animals as it is unlikely you will get paid to work part-time in a surgery, having not yet left school. You might want to try the Do It site via the link here. I hope this helps.
ExploreAdultLearning - 20-May-15 @ 12:32 PM
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