how to become a veterinary nurse

Are you passionate about animals, and love to help them if they are in distress? You probably have a menagerie of animals at home which you couldn’t resist rescuing. Perhaps, nursing them back to health, or giving them a good home when they didn’t have one. Does this sound like you? If so, then why not direct your passion into a rewarding career as a veterinary nurse? Nurses give practical support to the vet working alongside him in the practice. Veterinary nurses play an important role in the surgery caring for the animals people bring in. You will help in a range of different situations some of which can be distressing. After all, people love their pets and no-one likes to see an animal suffering. 

Can you step up and use your knowledge to help animals in need? Do you have a passion for all living creatures and value their lives? Then, why not focus your passion into a rewarding career? Find out here what you need to do to take the first step towards a new passion focused work-life. 

Step one: Choose a course

To find opportunities as a veterinary nurse you will need training and qualifications. This is because of the specialised knowledge you need to carry out your duties. Moreover, consider investing in your future and taking a course in veterinary nursing. Courses will teach you practical and technical knowledge. Then, you need to build on this with work experience.

Step two: Build up some work experience

You can find work experience by looking for an entry-level job in local veterinary practices. Or you may find volunteering opportunities. Doing this will give you some hands-on experience working with animals. Which is an excellent opportunity to learn aspects of the work you won’t learn on your course.

Step three: Register for membership with the Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia 

To work as a veterinary nurse in Australia you are not required to have a membership with the Veterinary Nurses Council. However, membership will give you access to useful networking opportunities. As well as access to valuable resources to support you in your career. To become a member you must show them your formal qualifications, and your work experience.

Step four: Apply for your first job at a Veterinary Nurse

After you have got step one to three under your belt, well done you! You are ready to apply for your first job as a qualified veterinary nurse. As you look for opportunities and make applications don’t forget to tailor your resume and cover letter each time. Furthermore, make sure you highlight your qualifications, experience, and membership with the Nurses Council.

Step five: Consider a specialisation

Veterinary nurses have a number of transferable skills which can lead to opportunities in new exciting fields. In order to specialise, you may need to pursue further training first. Here are three possible career progressions to consider.

Animal Trainer

As an animal trainer, you can refocus your passion for animals in a different direction. In this case, you work training and handling different animals. This could mean you work teaching dog classes correcting behaviour. Or you might find yourself training guide dogs. The specialisation takes you a step away from your work helping with health needs. Towards interacting with animals and helping with behavioural needs.


If your passion lies with helping animals when they are sick or injured, then a good career progression would be to become a veterinarian. You need to build up your work experience with extra study accreditation, then you can qualify for the promotion. In this role, you take on extra responsibilities and use your expert knowledge to treat animals in need. Once you are a qualified vet more exciting career progression opportunities open up.


This specialisation requires you to pursue some further qualifications before you can progress. Or you need to find a way to build up some relevant experience before looking for a position as a zookeeper. However, many of the skills you have as a veterinary nurse are transferable. The work at a zoo is very fulfilling and you work with an exciting range of species.

What do veterinary nurses do?

In your day to day responsibilities at the practice, you will help with a variety of tasks. Some practical and some administrative. You will be responsible to administer medicine to animal patients at the surgery, usually under supervision. Then, you will keep medical records up-to-date and do other administrative duties like maintaining stock. In addition, you will keep track of the medical equipment making sure to sterilise when needed so everything is ready for the next use. You will help out with consultations if needed. The work you do involves regular communication with the people who bring their animals to the surgery. As well as working with and handling the animals admitted for treatment.


  • Assisting the vet with various tasks
  • Maintaining the equipment and supplies inventory
  • Sterilising medical equipment
  • Administering medicine under supervision
  • Carrying out receptionist and other administrative duties

Skills for Success

First and foremost, you should have a sincere passion for animals, and strong desire to help them when in need. Your work with the animals will need a gentle hand and understanding of animal behaviour. On the other hand, you will also work with the owners of the animals you are helping. Feelings can run high as people see their beloved pets in difficulty. You should have a calm understanding attitude. Over the day you carry out a wide variety of tasks. You need to manage them effectively so you get everything done. Lastly, you need some basic administration skills, as you will take responsibility for stock levels and some of the record keeping.

Skills and attributes

  • A love for animals
  • Intuitive understanding of animals and their needs
  • Good communicator
  • Able to  multitask
  • Keep calm in stressful or highly emotional situations
  • Administrative skills

What is veterinary nurse pay in Australia?

In Australia, veterinary nurses earn a median wage of $40,600 per year. This varies according to a number of factors and is intended as a reference only, from Payscale 05/’18.

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