Veterinary Apprenticeships: The Ultimate Guide

From cats to crocodiles, lemurs to llamas and dogs to dodos (okay, maybe not dodos…), all animals need to be cared for when they are ill or injured.

Vets and veterinary nurses are the people who provide medical attention for pets and wild animals when they need it most. The question is, how can you become a veterinary nurse? Can you become a qualified vet through an apprenticeship?

Have a read through our guide to find out. 

How can you become a veterinary nurse?

In order to become a veterinary nurse, you need to get a license from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). 

Before you can register with the RCVS, you need to complete a Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing – which you can achieve through one of the apprenticeships that we’ll explore in this guide. 

What career path can veterinary nurses have?

Once you have earned your Level 3 Diploma, you can apply for your official license from the RCVS – then you’ll be a fully qualified veterinary nurse! 

But what further progression can you take after you are qualified?

Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nursing

Further your education and development with a Level 5 Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nursing. This is a professional qualification awarded by the RCVS. You will cover some fascinating modules: the fundamentals of anaesthesia, medical pharmacology, biosecurity, diagnostic techniques for medical disorders and more!

Be aware that only Myerscough College, Harper Adams University and a handful of others offer this specialist diploma. 

Veterinary Gateway

The Veterinary Gateway is a 6-year, full-time course that will reward you with a BVetMed (an honours degree in veterinary medicine). The gateway is designed for students who don’t meet the typical requirements to qualify as a veterinarian (i.e. if you have not studied veterinary medicine at university).

Their locations include Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool. With the BVetMed qualification achieved through the Veterinary Gateway, you’ll be fully qualified to practice as a vet! Yes, a real vet!

Veterinary school

The traditional way to become a fully qualified vet is to go to university and complete a 5-6 year veterinary degree approved by the RCVS. Entry requirements for most veterinary degrees include 5 GCSEs at grades 9-4 and 3 A Levels or equivalent.

Good news – a Level 3 Diploma counts as an A Level! If you do not get accepted into university to study veterinary medicine, try the Veterinary Gateway instead. 

Jobs in veterinary care

Veterinary nurse

As assistants to vets, veterinary nurses handle animals, monitor treatments (e.g. anaesthesia or surgery), provide health checks and maintain hygiene practises. You’ll support the vet while they are administering treatments and diagnosing animals, and you’ll also provide supportive care to the furry and feathered friends.  

Veterinarian/veterinary surgeon

Otherwise known as a vet, veterinarians and veterinary surgeons are like the doctors of the animal world.  They diagnose, treat and operate on animals and can work with pets, livestock, zoo or wild animals. They issue medication, carry out tests (like X-rays), give advice and perform surgery, among other tasks. 

Veterinary physiotherapist

Similarly to their ‘human-focused’ counterparts, veterinary physiotherapists provide rehabilitation for animals with physical pain, injuries or who are recovering from surgery. You may be surprised to hear that the road to animal physiotherapy can be a long one – you will need an animal or health-related degree and can then apply to the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy. 

Animal hydrotherapists

It sounds like a cool job name – and it is a cool job. Hydrotherapy is a type of therapy that helps animals recover from injury, physical conditions or neurological issues using treatments administered in water. Animal hydrotherapists use pools, underwater treadmills and spas (yes, spas!) to provide physiotherapy, mobility and stretching exercises for animals. 

Where to find veterinary nurse apprenticeships


This is a 30-month, Level 3 apprenticeship. You’ll qualify with an RCVS-accredited License to Practise Veterinary Nursing, which is exactly what you need to become a veterinary nurse. 

The College of Animal Welfare

This course is 30-36 months long and is split between 80% on-the-job learning and 20% at college. There are two intakes in September and January each year, with locations across the country. At the end, you’ll get a Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing and will be eligible to apply for registration with the RCVS. 

Reasehealth College

As one of the top colleges for veterinary nursing in the UK, Reasehealth’s Level 3 Veterinary Nursing course lasts for 2-2.5 years. You will earn a Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) in Companion Animals – so it’s important to note that you won’t be accredited by the RCVS. 

Abbeydale Vet Nurse Training

You’ll earn a Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing by studying with Abbeydale. There’s another important thing to note – for this apprenticeship, you’ll also need to already be employed for a minimum of 15 hours per week in an approved veterinary practice. 

Entry requirements

In order to qualify for a veterinary nurse apprenticeship, you need a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 9-4, including English, Maths and at least one Science subject. 

Extra tips

Although your day-to-day activities are all about the animals, you will also need to have good interpersonal skills to excel as a veterinary nurse. This is especially true if you work with pets, because every pet has an owner who you will need to speak to in a sensitive, empathetic and assertive way. We all wish dogs could talk… but sadly they don’t!

Enjoy a rewarding career caring for animals

If you get on as well with animals as you do with people (or even more!) becoming a veterinary nurse could be the perfect path for you. For more info on becoming a veterinary nurse, we found this handy guide by the Vet Schools Council. 

It may be a challenging career, but every moment will be worthwhile when you are caring for appreciative animals.