Veterinary Nurse Career Profile

Do you want to work as a veterinary nurse?

READ: This page helps you to read about the career and the info you need to decide on whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.

RESEARCH: ​Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.

PREPARE: If you want to plan and prepare for your career, then join the OZT Community! Members have access to tools while chatting with other students and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!


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1 June 2024

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What is a Veterinary Nurse?

A Veterinary Nurse works hand-in-hand with the Veterinarian and does everything except clinical consultations and surgery, subject to the Laws of specific countries. Veterinary nursing is the supportive care of animals receiving treatment within a veterinary practice.

Animal Health 1

The basic difference between a Veterinary Assistant, Veterinary Nurse and Veterinary Technician

  • Assistants don’t need formal qualifications, but you will definitely require at least 2 years of studies to become a nurse or technician.
  • Nurses and Technicians are allowed to assist with basic medical procedures, assistants are not.

See also:

Career Categories

The Veterinary Nurse career can be found within the following OZT career categories:

  • Health
  • Farming & Livestock Management
  • Marine Conservation
  • Wildlife Conservation
  • Zoos, Aquariums, Museams and Theme Parks

Study duration?

You can become a registered Veterinary Nurse on average after 2 years.

Colour of scrubs?

Most veterinary nurses wear dark green scrubs

What does a Veterinary Nurse do?

Groups of animals a Veterinary Nurse works with

Cats List Icon
Dogs List Icon OZT
Critters List Icon OZT
Farm Animals Icon OZT
Farm Animals
Mammals List Icon OZT
Birds List Icon OZT
Fish List Icon OZT
Reptiles List Icon OZT
Amphibians List Icon OZT

A veterinary assistant can work with a diverse range of animals across various settings. The specific types of animals they encounter will depend on the type of veterinary practice or facility they are employed at. Here are the different kinds of animals a veterinary assistant may work with:

Companion Animals (Pets)

  • Dogs: Commonly found in general veterinary practices; tasks may include assisting with vaccinations, surgeries, and routine check-ups.
  • Cats: Another staple of veterinary clinics, requiring assistance with similar procedures as dogs, along with specialized handling due to their different temperaments.
  • Small Mammals: Includes rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and ferrets; care often involves routine health checks, dental care, and surgeries.

Exotic Pets

  • Birds: From small parakeets to larger parrots; tasks can include wing clipping, beak trimming, and health assessments.
  • Reptiles: Such as snakes, lizards, and turtles; care involves handling, feeding, and assisting with medical procedures specific to reptiles.
  • Amphibians: Frogs, toads, and salamanders; involves providing specialized care and maintaining proper environmental conditions.

Large Animals (Livestock)

  • Cattle: Commonly found in rural veterinary practices; tasks may include assisting with calving, vaccinations, and treating illnesses.
  • Horses: Equine practices often require assistants to help with dental work, hoof care, surgeries, and emergency care.
  • Sheep and Goats: Involve tasks like shearing assistance, lambing or kidding, and routine health care.

Wildlife and Zoo Animals

  • Zoo Animals: Includes a wide range of species such as big cats, primates, elephants, and reptiles; requires specialized knowledge and handling techniques.
  • Wildlife: Can involve work at wildlife rehabilitation centers, treating injured or orphaned wild animals, including birds of prey, small mammals, and reptiles.

Aquatic Animals

  • Fish: Found in specialized aquatic veterinary practices or research facilities; care involves monitoring water quality, treating diseases, and assisting with surgeries.
  • Marine Mammals: Includes dolphins, seals, and sea otters, typically in marine parks or research institutions; tasks involve assisting with health assessments and medical treatments.

Laboratory Animals

  • Rats and Mice: Commonly used in research settings; care includes handling, feeding, and assisting with research procedures.
  • Other Lab Animals: Can include rabbits, guinea pigs, and sometimes larger animals like dogs or primates, depending on the research.

Farm Animals

  • Pigs: Common in rural veterinary practices, requiring assistance with health management, breeding, and surgeries.
  • Poultry: Includes chickens, turkeys, and ducks; tasks involve vaccinations, health monitoring, and treating diseases.

What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?

With who does a Veterinary Nurse work?

Besides working with all of the animals, Veterinary Nurses will need to interact with other people while doing their daily tasks. The people might include fellow staff members or the public.

Fellow staff might include:

  • Supervisors/Managers
  • Operational staff, such as Human Resources, Finance and Maintenance
  • Veterinary staff
  • Lab Technicians

What does a Veterinary Nurse focus on?

​They assist the Veterinarian when treating sick animals, with the routine check-ups and also talk with the owners of pets about the general care of their pets.

What are the daily tasks of a Veterinary Nurse?

  • Treating minor injuries, wounds
  • Doing x-rays
  • Helping with giving anesthetics (the things given to an animal to help it sleep while the Vet is operating on it)
  • Cleaning and disinfecting the kennels
  • Sterilizing the laboratory, theater and surgical equipment
  • Helping pets by feeding them, grooming them, giving them exercise and even brushing their teeth
  • Help with office work, like booking appointments, checking in animals, keeping files on each pet and making sure that there is enough medicine in stock.

Working conditions of a Veterinary Nurse?

Where does a Veterinary Nurse work?

Environment –

Veterinary nurses work mostly indoors, in clinics, vet practices or animal hospitals. They may also work for wildlife or zoo veterinarians and assist while outdoors.

Places of Employment –

They work together with veterinary surgeons in various places, including veterinary clinics, zoos, animal parks, aquariums and in the wild.

What is the average annual salary of a Veterinary Nurse?

On average the income per year is around US$32,000. This will differ from country to country.

Country Specific:

South Africa:
Annual salary of R175,665
Annual salary of AU$43,000
Annual salary of £17,972

Can a Veterinary Nurse be promoted?

Advancement in the field typically depends on work experience. First-year nurses often fit essential training commitments around their daily work demands.

The levels of each promotion might differ from organization to organization, but generally are the following:

Intern -> Junior Nurse -> Senior Nurse -> Manager

What kind of difficulties can a Veterinary Nurse face?

Being a Veterinary Nurse, you experience similar difficult moments than Veterinarians, and it’s good to know these things before you truly make a decision to pursue this career:

  • Most veterinarians are on call around the clock since emergencies can occur at any time. Schedules may include evenings, weekends, and holidays.
  • Dealing with sick animals and their distraught owners can be very stressful.
  • Vets may in certain circumstances need to put an animal to sleep, called euthanasia.
  • Sick or frightened animals may bite, kick, or otherwise injure those who are treating them.

Future growth and Possibilities

The career market for veterinary services is growing well at around % annually. The need for veterinary nurses to assist in rural areas and with wildlife is growing.

Availability of Jobs


Which Skills are required by a Veterinary Nurse?

The skills required for a career as a veterinary nurse can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem Solving
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationship
Life Skills

Career Skills

  • Animal handling
  • Animal care techniques
  • Basic customer service skills
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Good computer literacy
Career Skills

Which Subjects must I have at School to help prepare for this career?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

What will I need to Study to become a Veterinary Nurse?

Minimum Requirements

The minimum requirement to be a veterinary nurse is a College Diploma, but most nurses do go on to study for a Bachelor’s Degree to secure the best positions.

Study Focus

Major –

Study towards veterinary nursing, biology, zoology or veterinary technology.

Short Courses –

Subjects that deal with animal care, basic animal health and first aid, or even animal behaviour.

Study Duration

The duration of College and Bachelor’s Degrees can be up to 3 or 4 years. Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.

FREE Career Path Plan

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A preparation path is like a road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

1. Attend Career Guidance Sessions

Attend school career fairs and meetings with guidance counsellors to discuss interests in veterinary nursing. Participate in online webinars and workshops focused on veterinary medicine and nursing careers. Attend talks by guest speakers from the veterinary field arranged by your school or local organisations.

2. Research All Possible Careers

Use resources like veterinary association websites and career portals to learn about veterinary nursing. Arrange to shadow veterinary nurses at local clinics to observe their daily routines. Conduct interviews with professionals in the field to gain insights into their careers and experiences.

3. Explore Educational Paths

Look up veterinary nursing programmes at community colleges, universities, and technical schools. Contact schools to learn about programme specifics, prerequisites, and application processes. Attend open houses and campus tours to explore facilities and speak with current students and faculty.

4. Align High School Subjects with the Educational Path

Take courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy if available. Enrol in AP Biology and AP Chemistry to strengthen your science background. Join science clubs and participate in science fairs or competitions with projects related to veterinary science.

5. Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent

Ensure you meet all high school graduation requirements. Seek help in subjects where you need improvement to maintain good grades. Consider GED programmes if traditional high school is not an option.

6. Learn About Animals That You Will Work With

Volunteer at animal shelters, veterinary clinics, or farms to gain hands-on experience with different animals. Take responsibility for the care of pets and learn daily care routines and responsibilities. Read books and articles about various animal species and their care needs.

7. Align Post-School Path with Career Goals

Develop a detailed career plan with short-term and long-term goals. Investigate job openings for veterinary nurses and entry-level positions. Apply to accredited veterinary nursing programmes if you are pursuing further education. Create a business plan if you are considering starting an animal care business.

8. Gain Experience Through Volunteering, Internships, Mentorships, etc.

Volunteer at veterinary clinics, animal shelters, or wildlife rehabilitation centres. Seek internships or externships at veterinary practices to gain practical experience. Find a mentor in the veterinary field to provide guidance and support. Join student chapters of veterinary associations to network and learn.

9. Pursue Extracurricular Activities

Join clubs like 4-H or FFA to engage in animal-related activities. Participate in community service projects focused on animal welfare. Initiate or join school projects that promote animal care and awareness. Enter science fairs or competitions with projects related to veterinary nursing.

10. Join Professional Associations

Join associations like the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) or other relevant professional bodies. Attend conferences and workshops to network and learn. Participate in online forums and groups for veterinary professionals. Utilise continuing education resources offered by associations.

11. Gain specialised Skills

Enrol in workshops and courses to develop specialised skills. Obtain certifications in areas like animal first aid, anaesthesia, and radiology. Apply new skills through volunteer work, internships, or clinical placements. Use online tutorials and resources to enhance your skill set.

12. Network with Professionals

Attend industry events, meetups, and seminars. Connect with professionals on LinkedIn and other platforms. Conduct informational interviews with veterinary professionals. Practice effective networking techniques, such as elevator pitches and follow-up communications.

13. Enter the Job Market, Finish Tertiary Studies, or Launch a Business

Apply for veterinary nurse positions with well-prepared resumes and cover letters. Prepare for and attend job interviews. Enrol in and complete any further education or certification programmes. If starting a business, finalise your business plan, secure funding, and begin operations.

14. Stay Updated and Pursue Continuing Education

Subscribe to and read veterinary journals and publications. Regularly attend courses and workshops to update skills. Participate in industry conferences and seminars. Renew and pursue additional certifications as needed. Stay active in professional associations and utilise their resources for ongoing education.

By following this detailed career preparation path, high school students can systematically prepare themselves for a career as a veterinary nurse, gaining the necessary education, skills, and experience to succeed in the field.

Possible Combined Career Paths

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternatives (there are a lot more):

Stepping Stone Career

Being a veterinary nurse can also be used as a stepping stone career. A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (sometimes due to things like high fees etc).

You can begin as an intern nurse after the necessary college diploma and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.

Some of the possible paths:

Training and apprenticeship

Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal careers, most of the skills you will need as a veterinary nurse will be acquired through practice. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.

In some cases entry level positions require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.

Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a veterinarian.

Join the Veterinary Nurses Group in the OZT Community to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average level of education of all the people who enter the career

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

Certain animal careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.

Certification will be required in certain countries, and will be done through the national veterinary associations.

Learn more about requirements by joining the OZT Community.

Professional Associations

Where can I study further?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards nursing and care.

How do I start to prepare for this Career?

If you do decide on following this career, then OZT can assist you in figuring out a path to prepare, as well as help you to gain further knowledge about the career and the animals you will be working with. We do this by offering you FREE career development tools. There are almost a dozen free tools, but these are the three primary ones:


Use the career path plan above on this profile as an example to follow, or to work out your own path.

COST; Free

ACCESS: Open to visitors and Members 


Access easy-to-use short courses to make your career preparation easier! The basic information in each course is free, but the rewards can only be unlocked as an OZT member!

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ACCESS: Open to visitors and Members 


Get a supercharged study guide that fits into the career path plan! Now that's really upping your preparation game! Join us for free to gain access!

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ACCESS: Members Only

But, if you are still uncertain about choosing this specific career, and even where to start, then have a look at our special series of WHAT NEXT courses (link below). They take you through all of the questions you might have on how to choose the right career, what to do while at and after school, and even how to start your own business.


Join the OZT community and career chat Group

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a veterinary nurse.

Members of the Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being a Veterinary Nurse, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.

If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu, and search for something different.

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