I want to be a vet
These days, veterinary surgery is one of the most popular career choices for young people. This section will provide you with all the basic information you will need regarding admission to university, work experience you will need to obtain, reading lists and contact details for the UK veterinary schools.
A digital brochure under the theme 'Veterinary Science... for all walks of life', is available to download from our publication library, which includes case studies of vets working in a range of roles.
For details on how to become a veterinary surgeon, please click on the relevant links below:
The veterinary profession
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is the governing body of the profession in the United Kingdom.
Under the provisions of the Veterinary Surgeons Act of 1966, with certain minor exceptions, only a registered veterinary surgeon is permitted to diagnose and treat the injuries and ailments of animals.
To train to be a veterinary surgeon you will need to go to university and take a veterinary degree.
The universities in the UK offering veterinary degrees approved by the RCVS are Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London (the Royal Veterinary College), Nottingham and Surrey.
Harper and Keele Veterinary School has also recently opened, and the University of Central Lancashire will also be taking veterinary students from September 2023. These schools' veterinary degrees are not currently approved, however, the schools and the RCVS are working closely together to ensure that the new degree meets RCVS requirements and that graduates will be eligible for registration.
The degree courses are five years in length (six years at some schools).
There are also a number of overseas degrees which are approved by RCVS: in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Graduates from North American veterinary schools accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association can also apply to become members of the RCVS.
Graduates from European EAEVE-approved or accredited veterinary schools may apply to register with the RCVS, providing the school was approved or accredited at the time the degree was gained.
Information on European veterinary schools can also be found on the EAEVE (European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education) website.
Work in the veterinary profession is highly rewarding, but also very demanding. Every veterinary surgeon has an obligation to deal with emergencies in any species at any time.
Anyone contemplating a career in veterinary practice should remember that it is a 24-hour service, 365 days a year.
The veterinary profession, though numerically small (there are over 20,000 RCVS members in total), has varied and important duties to safeguard the health and welfare of animals and public health.
There are career opportunities in a number of areas including:
The veterinary surgeon is responsible for the prevention of disease and for the medical and surgical treatment of animals including household pets, zoo animals, farm animals and horses. Opportunities exist in practices that specialise in small animals, food producing animals, equine work or in mixed practices dealing with both small and large animals. Many veterinary surgeons working in practice choose to further their knowledge by studying for additional qualifications, such as the Certificates and Diplomas offered by the RCVS, and it is a requirement of RCVS that all veterinary surgeons keep their skills and knowledge up to date throughout their careers.
Veterinary teaching and research
Veterinary researchers play a vital role in advancing our understanding of diseases. Research in veterinary sciences enhances the health, welfare and usefulness of both food producing and companion animals. It safeguards the public from diseases spread from animals in food and by other means. By comparative investigations, it helps us understand and manage human disease, for example in cancer, genetics, reproduction and infections.
Research is undertaken at the university veterinary schools and at research institutes, departments financed by Government, in laboratories and by private enterprise. Many careers in research span the interface between human and veterinary medicine. If you would like to read more about veterinary research, please take a look at the research section on our website for veterinary professionals.
Many opportunities exist within the public sector. Veterinary surgeons are involved in protecting public health in government departments and agencies such as the State Veterinary Service, the Food Standards Agency, the Meat Hygiene Service, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) employs vets to monitor animal health and to prevent the spread of diseases.
Other opportunities exist in commerce and industry such as in pharmaceutical companies, in international and overseas organisations and consultancies and charities such as the RSPCA and PDSA. The veterinarian's broad scientific training is also of value in areas such as wildlife and environmental conservation.
University entrance requirements
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons can only give general advice on university entrance requirements as there may be some slight variations between the different veterinary schools. You must check the requirements very carefully in the individual university prospectuses. Prospectuses can be obtained free of charge direct from the universities, or can be viewed on their websites. See University Veterinary Schools - Contacts. You can also see an overview of the qualifications accepted for entry in our detailed entrance requirements in the 'Related documents' box, which has been compiled by the seven veterinary schools.
In general terms, the entry requirements of the university veterinary schools are as follows:
Biology must usually be offered at A level. The requirement for other subjects varies a little from university to university, but either one or two subjects from Chemistry, Physics or Mathematics should be offered. Some universities may accept a third A level in a non-science subject, but it must be an academically sound subject. The minimum grades generally expected are two A's and a B, though some schools will require three grade A's.
Some universities accept AS levels, but precise requirements can vary. Sometimes, 2 AS levels will be accepted in lieu of 1 A level, except in Chemistry where a full A level is usually required.
Chemistry must be offered and generally two subjects from Biology, Physics or Mathematics. The grades generally expected are AAABB.
Scottish Advanced Highers
Applicants are normally advised to proceed to the Sixth Year and include Chemistry and Biology or Physics in their subjects.
You must meet the general entrance requirements of the university. Most universities require you to have at least a grade C pass in English Language, Mathematics and Science, and many will expect A grades at GCSE. Where A level Biology or Physics is not offered, you must have a good pass in that subject at GCSE level.
In England, numerical GCSE grades are starting to replace letter GCSE grades. Universities will align the two grading schemes and set out their requirements for letter and numerical grades. For example, Bristol and the RVC state that their current requirement for grade A will be 7 under the new scheme and B grade and grade 6 are equivalent.
Some universities will consider applicants with relevant vocational qualifications, such as the BTEC Diploma in Animal Science, with distinction grades.
If you have not managed to get the correct grades or have not chosen the correct subjects, there are still options available for getting into a veterinary degree course. Some of the schools offer a 6 year course which is aimed at those students who do not have the required scientific qualifications. This extra year will focus on the types of subjects that most students will study at A level, and this will prepare the student for the 5 year degree. If you do not have the expected subjects/grades you are advised to speak to the admissions departments at the relevant universities.
All of the university veterinary schools require applicants to show evidence of their interest and commitment by having gained experience of working in a veterinary practice and working with and handling animals including livestock. However, practical experience is not a substitute for academic qualifications.
Applying to university
All applications for places on veterinary degree courses at UK universities must be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications must be received by UCAS by 15 October in the year before admission. For further information visit the UCAS website.
Students with disabilities
The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 requires veterinary surgeons to be able to give at least basic and emergency treatment to all common domestic species.
The RCVS sets and monitors standards of veterinary degree courses in the UK, but it is the veterinary schools that are responsible for selecting the students they admit to their courses.
If you are considering applying for a place at veterinary school and you have a disability that you think might affect what you are able to do, you are strongly encouraged to discuss this with the veterinary schools to which you intend to apply, so that they can discuss your particular requirements with you.
Mature students and graduates
To gain admission to a veterinary degree course mature students without a degree should hold good GCSE and 'A' level examination passes in subjects including chemistry, biology and physics/mathematics, or be able to produce evidence of knowledge to this standard in comparable examinations.
Graduate applicants would normally be expected to hold at least an upper second class honours degree in a related subject. With a relevant science degree, you may be able to complete the veterinary degree in 4 years, rather than 5 – consult the prospectuses of each of the veterinary schools to see what options may be available to you. Graduate entrants do not qualify for UK student loans to cover the tuition fees, although student loans to cover maintenance costs may be available.
Graduates and mature students may need to discuss their own particular qualifications and experience with the veterinary schools' admissions tutors.
Financing veterinary studies
Applicants should be aware that owing to the requirements of the course, veterinary students are generally unable to use their vacations to earn money. General information on financial support for students is available from the Directgov website. There is also a student loan calculator on this website to help work out your average monthly repayments.
Applicants who already hold a degree should make enquiries about financing their studies before entering into any commitment. Veterinary degrees are some of the most expensive courses to fund. There are no recognised sources of grants for UK students taking a second 'first degree' in veterinary science or any other subject and, unfortunately, the RCVS does not have any funds which it can offer to undergraduate veterinary students.
There is information regarding the changes to student fees in 2012 on the Money Saving Expert website.
If you want to find out more about what is involved in training to be a veterinary surgeon, you may be interested to follow the links below to find out more information about some of the organisations involved in veterinary science.
In 2014, the RCVS published the Fitness to Practise guide for UK veterinary schools and veterinary students. The second part of the guide sets out the broad principles of fitness to practise that students should follow and which veterinary schools should expect and uphold.
The statement describes what a typical veterinary degree should cover. There are sections on the historical developments of the subject, careers and the skills and knowledge included within veterinary science degree courses.
Donald, V and Shepherd, A . 8th Ed. (1997), Careers Working with Animals. Kogan Page
Bob, Lehner: Quicklook at Vets
Queen, CS: The Nerdy Vet's Vet School Success, available from http://www.vetschoolsuccess.com
UCAS, University and College Entrance: The Official Guide (published annually). View the UCAS website.
You may find the following websites of use.
- American Veterinary Medical Association
- Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency
- Association of Veterinary Students
- Blue Cross
- British Small Animal Veterinary Association
- British Veterinary Association
- Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
- Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland (DARDNI)
- European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education (EAEVE)
- Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE)
- Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations
- Food Standards Agency
- Government Veterinary Surgeons
- Meat Hygiene Service (MHS)
- Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA)
- Royal Army Veterinary Corps
- Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)
- Scottish Agricultural Colleges (SAC)
- Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA)
- Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons
- Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD)
- Walks of Life - an online edition of the Walks of Life brochure and videos
- World Animal Protection
To find out in more detail what is involved in studying a veterinary degree read the QAA's Benchmark Statement for Veterinary Degrees, which is available on the careers page of the RCVS website.
For information about other animal related courses and careers:
VETNET LLN is a national network funded by the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE). Their main aim is to improve and extend the range of opportunities available for vocational learners and to encourage them to progress into animal and veterinary related higher education.
Here you will also find the Courses in Animal and Veterinary Education (CAVE) website which helps students find courses, careers and case studies related to studying or working with animals.
UK veterinary school contacts
Veterinary Admissions Clerk
University of Bristol, Senate House
Bristol, BS8 1TH
Tel: 0117 928 9000
The Department Secretary
Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine
University of Cambridge, Madingley Road
Cambridge, CB2 0ES
Tel: 01223 337600
The Cambridge Intercollegiate Applications Office
Kellet Lodge, Tennis Court Road
Cambridge, CB2 1QJ
Tel: 01223 333308
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)
Tel: 01772 892444
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre
Edinburgh, EH25 9RG
Tel: 0131 651 7305
University of Glasgow Veterinary School
464 Bearsden Road, Bearsden Road
Glasgow, G61 1QH
Tel: 0141 330 5700
Harper and Keele Veterinary School
Harper Adams University
Tel: 01952 815 000
The Admissions Sub-Dean
Faculty of Veterinary Science
University of Liverpool
Liverpool, L69 7ZJ
Tel: 0151 794 2000
The Head of Registry
The Royal Veterinary College
Royal College Street
London, NW1 0TU
Tel: 020 7468 5000
Visit the RVC careers website
The School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
The University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington Campus
Leicestershire, LE12 5RD
Tel: 0115 951 6417
School of Veterinary Medicine
Duke of Kent Building
University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7TE
Tel: 01483 689165