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A Guide to Becoming a Vet

Published: Thursday 31st October 2019

With high levels of pet ownership in the UK, vets are in demand, so there are plenty of vet jobs out there for those with the qualifications. But while it is a rewarding career option, especially if you’re passionate about animals, becoming vet means a lot of hard work, training and commitment. 

Adorable cute dog sitting at vet hospital with doctors looking at camera.

Nurturing a career in veterinary services 

The veterinary niche is very broad, and apart from the obvious – working as a vet in a clinic – you could be working in research, public health, the government, the military, zoos, wildlife conservation, or even in sports that involve animals, such as equestrian events. 

To provide veterinary services in the UK, you must be a member of the Royal College of Veterinarian Surgeons (RCVS), which means a five year course at one of seven institutions: Bristol University, Cambridge University (six years), Edinburgh University, Glasgow University, Liverpool University, the London Royal Veterinary College, Surrey University or Nottingham University.  Qualification criteria to be accepted onto a course can vary from one place to another, but, typically, you’ll need good passes at GCSE’s in English, Maths and Science, as well as a minimum AAB at A-level with one or two of those in Chemistry, Physics or Maths. Some universities, such as the University of Nottingham and the Royal Veterinary College offer a six year course for those who don’t meet the requirements with the first-year acting as a primer. 

Student examining animal skeleton in classroom

Apprenticeships available for veterinary care assistants and nurses 

If you want to be a Veterinary Care Assistant or Nurse, the qualifications requirements are less stringent. However, you’ll still need 5 GCSE passes (including English, Maths and a Science subject), or a Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants. The PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals), an organisation set up to help those that can’t afford private care for their animals, offers apprenticeships that take 12-18 months, leading to a Level 2 Diploma in Veterinary Care Assistance. To become an Apprentice Veterinary Nurse, you’ll need to complete two years to qualify with a Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Small Animal Pathway) Government apprenticeships exist in agriculture, environmental and animal care. These typically consist of clinical based training, along with two years of veterinary nurse training practice. 

Vet examining dog and cat

Being a vet means more than just qualifications 

Of course, you’ll need more than qualifications for a career as a vet. The best vets are confident problem solvers, able to think on their feet and not afraid to get their hands dirty. You’ll need excellent interpersonal skills for dealing with pet owners and potentially challenging scenarios, such as when an animal needs to be put down. Be aware too, that vet jobs aren’t nine-to-five job. You may be on call evenings and weekends to deal with emergencies.  

Veterinarians. - Image

Graduates can expect to start on anywhere between £16,000 and £25,000, while newly qualified veterinary surgeons earn on average £31,150 annually. This compares favourably with careers in dentistry, medicine and engineering.  As a vet, no day is the same, and, as a member of the RCVS, you are expected to be continually up skill with at least 35 hours of Continued Professional Development (CPD) each year. That said, this is something most vets are prepared to do as most stay within the same field throughout their career and this helps them to progress. If you’re looking to start a career as a vet, don’t forget to start your job search on Zoek

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