Getting Started

It is a good idea to choose a broad range of subjects at GCSE level as this will give you the widest range of opportunities when you leave school. Most jobs that involve working with animals will need you to have some understanding of scientific principles so it is a good idea to choose at least one science subject at GCSE level.

It is worth bearing in mind that for some careers you will need to have studied a science subject before you will be able to apply for training courses. For example if you would like to become a veterinary nurse you will need five GCSEs at Grade C or above that include English Language, Mathematics and a science subject. For more information about training as a veterinary nurse, visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons website.

There are many options available for you that will allow you to carry on studying after your GCSEs.

The qualifications are divided into three main types:


Students meeting at table

You could decide to continue studying in the sixth form or at a Further Education college and take AS and A levels in a number of subjects. These courses are often described as being very theoretical so you should expect to be attending lectures, completing assessments and taking exams. Many people who take A levels then go on to university and study for degrees.


If you would prefer a course that includes more practical work as well as theory you could choose a vocational course. These courses are usually run at further education colleges and the courses are linked to particular specialist areas. If you are interested in specialising in the animal sector you could choose courses from the Edexcel or City and Guilds suite of level 3 Animal Management programmes, such the Extended Diploma. These courses mix theory with practical work and usually involve more course work than A levels but less exams. You could also choose one of the new Diploma courses that will allow you to study in a specialist area whilst also developing more general skills relevant to the workplace. Vocational courses like these will also allow you to go on and study at a higher level at university. VETNET LLN has been set up to help students from vocational courses progress into higher education particularly in veterinary and other animal based subjects.

Work Based

If you would prefer to start working after your GCSEs then you could choose a work based qualification such as a National Vocational Qualification or NVQ. These qualifications allow you to develop skills that are relevant to your job as well as learning important underpinning knowledge. These types of courses often require you to attend college on a day release or block basis for lectures or assessments but most of what you learn will be based in the workplace. Training to become a veterinary nurse is often delivered in this way. If you hold an NVQ qualification at level 3 it is also possible to continue on to higher level study at a university or college.