BSc in Veterinary Nursing

Course Points
Course Duration
3 Years
Course Level
Level 7
Course Places
30 Places

Four great reasons to consider this course

  • Small class group sizes ensure as much “hands on” practical skills training as possible.
  • Each first year student is mentored by a third year student to help them successfully transition to college and the veterinary nursing profession.
  • Feedback from veterinary employers consistently identifies DkIT veterinary nursing graduates as highly employable and “workplace ready”.
  • Dedicated and enthusiastic teaching staff with expertise across both companion and production animal care.

Course Summary

This three-year, Level 7 degree course in veterinary nursing equips students with the professional knowledge and practical skills needed to work as a registered veterinary nurse (RVN) in Irish and European veterinary practices.


Graduates will acquire knowledge of and skills of a wide range of topics. These include, but are not limited to, anatomy and physiology of domestic animals, fluid therapy, medical and surgical nursing care, laboratory testing, veterinary diagnostics and therapeutics, office management and client communication.

This course is accredited by the Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI), enabling graduates to register with them and practice veterinary nursing in Ireland. It is also accredited by ACOVENE (Accreditation Committee for Veterinary Nurse Education) which means that the qualification is recognised in all EU member states. In addition, the course is currently recognised by the Veterinary Nursing Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), thereby allowing graduates to practice veterinary nursing in the UK and Northern Ireland.

All relevant practical competencies will be covered in relation to dogs, cats, horses, farm animals and exotic species. Students spend a residential week in Teagasc Ballyhaise, Cavan, in the spring of first year to gain practical experience with farm animals. Horse handling classes take place at a local equestrian centre before Christmas in 2nd year.

Please see 'Other Information' section below for Frequently Asked Questions about this course.

Year 1

Semester 1

  • Anatomy and Physiology 1
  • Cellular Biology (including biochemistry)
  • Introduction to Veterinary Nursing
  • Mathematics and Computer Applications (year-long module)
  • Work Placement 1 (4 weeks before Christmas)

Semester 2

  • Anatomy and Physiology 2
  • Microbiology
  • Animal Husbandry (including 1 residential week of farm experience at Ballyhaise, typically in early March)
  • Client Care and Relationship Marketing
  • Mathematics and Computer Applications (year-long)
  • Work Placement 1 (4 weeks after January exam session)

Year 2

Semester 1

  • Clinical Pathology
  • Small Animal Medical Nursing
  • Veterinary Nursing for Exotic Species
  • Parasitology
  • Office Practice and Team-working (horse handling classes take place for the last week of this semester).

Semester 2

  • Applied Writing and Research Skills
  • Pharmacology / Large Animal Medical Nursing
  • Animal Welfare & Husbandry
  • Work Placement 2 (8 weeks over March-April)

Year 3

Semester 1

  • Anaesthesia and Analgesia
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Pharmacy, Law and Ethics
  • Surgical Nursing 1
  • Personal Effectiveness & Team Support (including 1st year mentoring) 

Semester 2

  • Animal Reproduction
  • Surgical Nursing 2
  • Small Animal Clinical Nutrition
  • Equine Nursing
  • Veterinary Nursing OSCE (final practical skills assessment, held in late May/early June)
  • Veterinary Nursing Internship (12 weeks over the summer)


* All module titles are subject to change and are for indicative purposes only.

Veterinary Nursing is a very ‘hands on’ career, which is why this course involves a lot of practical work, as well as lectures and tutorials. Practical classes cover a wide range of topics: basic anatomy and dissection of body tissues, blood and urine testing, parasite identification, animal restraint and handling, fluid therapy, drug calculations, surgical assistance, anaesthesia, bandaging and wound care, and the taking of x-rays are all included for example.

Assessments are a mixture of written exams and course work, such as practical exams, group assignments, quizzes, poster presentations and online assignments.

The course is intensive in nature, due to both the wide range of skills needed by a veterinary nurse and the time spent on work placements.

Graduates from this course will mainly find employment in large animal, companion animal, equine and mixed veterinary clinics and hospitals. Opportunities also exist in animal welfare facilities, veterinary product businesses and the wider animal care industries.

Some examples of the diverse range of roles beyond veterinary practice occupied by graduates of this course include pet insurance, clinical nutrition, farm advisory services, horse racing regulation, Bord Bia auditor and Local Authority animal welfare officer.

A new one year add-on level 8 programme is now available: BSc (Hons) in Advanced Veterinary Nursing

Please find information on fees and funding here:

Leaving Certificate Entry Requirements:

Six Grades at O6 or H7 in Leaving Certificate

→ INCLUDING a minimum H5 Grade in Biology or Agricultural Science
→ AND Mathematics Grade F2, O6 or H7
→ AND English Grade O6 or H7 OR Irish Grade O6 or H7

Northern Ireland/UK Entry Requirements:

Applicants must meet the matriculation requirement of 5 different subjects which must include:

→ Mathematics at GCSE (Grade A* - C or better)
→ Minimum Grade C in A Level Biology or Agricultural Science
→ English (or Irish) at GCSE (Grade A* - C or better)
→ One subject at:

    • 'A Level’ (Grade A* - E or better)
    • OR Applied A-Level (Grade A* - E)
    • OR BTEC National Level 3 (National Award, Subsidiary Diploma, Extended Certificate, 90-Credit Diploma, Foundation Diploma, Diploma or Extended Diploma) (Pass, Merit or Distinction).
    • OR OCR Cambridge Technical Level 3 (Introductory Diploma, Extended Certificate, Subsidiary Diploma, Foundation Diploma, 90-Credit Diploma, Diploma or Extended Diploma) (Pass, Merit or Distinction).

→ The remaining subjects must be different from those listed above and may be drawn from recognised subjects at:

    • GCSE (Grade A* - C)
    • AND/OR 'AS Level’ (Grades A - E)
    • AND/OR ‘A-level’ (Grades A* - E)
    • AND/OR Applied ‘A-level’ (Grade A* - E)
    • AND/OR BTEC National Level 3 (National Award, Subsidiary Diploma, Extended Certificate, 90-Credit Diploma, Foundation Diploma, Diploma or Extended Diploma*) (Pass, Merit or Distinction).
    • AND/OR OCR Cambridge Technical Level 3 (Introductory Diploma, Extended Certificate, Subsidiary Diploma, Foundation Diploma, 90-Credit Diploma, Diploma or Extended Diploma*) (Pass, Merit or Distinction).

Additional Information:

There are 30 places on the course. 20 Leaving Certificate, 4 QQI Animal Care Level 5 and 6 mature applications. All applications should be made via the CAO by February 1st annually.

Please note, all Veterinary Nursing students are subject to the DkIT Fitness to Practice Policy and Procedures.


Students are required to complete a work placement in a registered veterinary clinic or hospital (as listed in the Veterinary Council of Ireland Premises Accreditation Scheme) in each year of the course.

The work placement lasts for eight 

weeks in 1st year (4 weeks either side of the Christmas break and semester 1 examination session), 8 weeks in the springtime in 2nd year and a 12-week internship over the summer at the end of 3rd year. Two weeks of the third year internship may be an elective in a premises or industry of the student’s choosing e.g. a veterinary laboratory, physiotherapy service or animal charity.

The course lecturers and work placement office will assist in organising this, but students are responsible for making transport and accommodation arrangements etc. where necessary.

This course is best suited to students who:

  • Have a love for animals is obvious, but this course is also suitable for students who enjoy working with people – all animals have an owner or carer that you need to communicate with, and optimal nursing care is delivered by a veterinary team.
  • Have an interest in science, as the aim of nursing care is to restore the animal’s body systems to normal.
  • Have good writing and maths skills - Veterinary nurses need these skills to be able to provide and record safe and effective patient care.

The course covers all the common veterinary species, but the more practical animal handling experience you have, the easier you will find it. Veterinary nursing is a job that requires you to spend a lot of time on your feet and animal handling can be strenuous – being reasonably fit and physically active will help you with this aspect of the job.


Dr Breda Brennan (Head of Department for Agriculture, Food and Animal Health)
Phone: +353-0429370200

Karen Dunne (Lecturer in Veterinary Nursing, Department of Applied Sciences)
Phone: +353 429370200

Doireann Dowling (Lecturer in Veterinary Nursing)
Phone: +353 429370200

Veterinary Nursing FAQ's


How many places are on the course?

30 in total: 20 Leaving Certificate students, six mature students and four for applicants with a QQI (formerly FETAC) Level 5 Animal Care course (course code 5M2768).

How do I apply?

All applicants (Leaving Certificate, mature and QQI) must apply to the CAO by 1st February, for entry the following September.

What are the minimum entry criteria for Leaving Certificate students?

You must have six grades at O6 (40-50%) or H7 (30-40%), including Mathematics and English or Irish. You must also have at least one H5 (50-60%) or better, or 200 points.

For veterinary nursing entry you must also have a H5 (50-60%) in Higher Level ‘Biology’ or ‘Agricultural Science’. This corresponds to a Higher Level C3 in the Leaving Certificate prior to 2017. Once the minimum entry requirements have been achieved, selection is based on CAO points.

What CAO points are required for entry to the programme?

The CAO points required depend on the demand for places and so they vary each year. It is impossible to determine in advance what the final CAO points will be but as a rough guide they are typically in the range of 380-430 points.

You can check previous points requirements on the CAO website ( or in the DkIT handbook, available at

Why is there a requirement for higher level biology or agriculturalscience for Leaving Certificate applicants?

This is due to the high scientific content on the programme, particularly in the first year. The coursework is intensive as students also spend extensive periods on work placement.

What are the criteria for mature applicants?

You must be over 23 years of age by 1st January in the year you are applying. You must apply to the CAO and submit all requested documentation to them. Applications are assessed by DkIT and shortlisted candidates may be invited for interview.

There are no specific academic requirements for mature applicants but a number of criteria are used for selection; including academic background, relevant work experience and familiarity with the course and the profession. Evidence of the ability to successfully complete a course is beneficial.

Relevant animal experience and exposure to the veterinary practice work place are key requirements that are taken into account when assessing applications. Prospective candidates are strongly advised to demonstrate that they have spent a significant period of time in a veterinary practice, ideally with registered veterinary nurses, in order to obtain an insight into the realities of the career. Supporting documents e.g. references must be included with the application. Unsubstantiated claims will not be taken into consideration.

Due to the popularity of the course, the demand for mature applicant places is extremely high. This results in stiff competition for places, as unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate all applicants.

How should a veterinary practice reference for a mature applicant be submitted?

All veterinary practice experience should be verified by the inclusion of a written reference letter in the original application. References should be dated and signed by a registered veterinary nurse or veterinary practitioner, and ideally either printed on headed paper and/or bear a practice stamp.

A written reference should include information about the time/dates of experience and a summary of the applicant’s performance in the workplace. Please note that screenshots or cropped/low resolution photographs of documents may not be verifiable. Due to the high number of applications it is not possible for referees to be contacted via telephone – please include the written references in the application submitted to the CAO.

Are online training courses helpful for mature applicants?

Short online courses may include some useful/relevant theoretical content e.g. first aid, animal behaviour etc. Due to the lack of practical experience and/or opportunity to handle animals in an online course, their usefulness may be limited. We do not recommend that applicants complete online courses which charge significant fees, as the benefit is likely to be minimal. Completing a QQI Level 5 Animal Care course is likely to be a much better use of time and resources, as it will include practical training opportunities and can also count as an alternative entry route (see below).

What are the criteria for QQI applicants?

You must be a graduate of the Level 5 ‘Animal Care’ programme (5M2768) and achieve a minimum of a distinction in the modules ‘Biology’ and ‘Animal Anatomy and Physiology’.

Due to the high demand for places currently, the successful QQI applicants have achieved distinctions in all eight of their modules and random selection is applied by the CAO to allocate the available places.

Can I apply for a place on the course with a QQI Level 6 in Animal Care?

While a Level 6 award may offer further opportunity for practical training and experience, DkIT do not use these awards as a QQI entry route. This is to avoid placing extra restrictions on the pool of potential QQI applicants.

Can I apply to enter second year with a QQI level 6 animal care qualification?

Due to the very specific veterinary nursing content of all the modules, the only QQI application route is the Level 5 Animal Care for entry into first year of the veterinary nursing course.

Where can I find more information about applying for a place?

Contact the CAO or the DkIT Admissions office (email Further information is also available on the DkIT website ( and the college’s social media channels. 

What if I live in Northern Ireland?

Applicants from Northern Ireland and the UK are welcome to apply. Please see this link for additional information: or contact the DkIT Admissions Office (email

Can residents of Northern Ireland complete their work placement there?

This is possible for some of your placement but restrictions are applied by the UK veterinary regulator – the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). It is probable that residents of Northern Ireland will have to complete a significant proportion of their placement in the Republic of Ireland.

Can I work in the UK?

Irish veterinary nursing qualifications are recognised by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), who are the governing body for the UK veterinary profession. Graduates of the DkIT veterinary nursing course can register with the RCVS in order to work as a veterinary nurse in the UK. 

Is it a full-time programme?

Yes, very much so. You must be available from 9.00am – 5.00pm Monday to Friday for classes and you will also have assignments to complete as well as study commitments. There are also extended periods of work placement for which you must be available on a fulltime basis. 

Why are there science subjects in the course?

Veterinary nurses are responsible for the administration, monitoring and recording of much of the medicines, anaesthetics and treatments administered to the patients under their care. They must understand how these will affect the animal’s cells and organs in order to monitor their effectiveness and detect any deterioration in the patient’s condition immediately. A thorough grounding in the medical and life sciences is therefore an essential component of optimal nursing care.

Do you have open days?

Yes, the DkIT campus open day for potential applicants takes place each Autumn. Details are available on the DkIT website beforehand. Schools and QQI colleges are also informed. Online digital open days are also held throughout the year. See for more information.  

Is the course available on a part-time basis?

At the moment the course is only available on a full-time or access basis (this is due to the high number of practical classes involved). Access means that you can do a small number of modules at a time and spread the course over a longer period.  However, you would be doing these modules with the full-time students and would need to be available at the scheduled times.

What animal species does the course cover?

The course focuses on the domestic animals you are likely to encounter in Irish veterinary practices. The emphasis is on dogs, cats, horses and farm animals.  However rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, reptiles and other exotics are also covered. The Veterinary Council of Ireland requires graduates to be competent in the care of a range of species, not just one or two.

What subjects will I study?

    • First year: anatomy & physiology, maths & computing applications, introduction to veterinary nursing (including veterinary health & safety and manual handling), client care, cellular biology & biochemistry, veterinary microbiology and animal husbandry.
    • Second year: clinical pathology, small and large medical nursing, animal welfare & husbandry, pharmacology, exotics, parasitology & office management & teamwork.
    • Third year: surgical nursing, equine nursing, clinical reproduction, clinical nutrition, anaesthesia & analgesia, pharmacy, law & ethics and team working.

I love working with animals but I don’t enjoy studying; is this the course for me?

Possibly not – veterinary nurses have a very responsible and skilful job that requires a high degree of specialist knowledge.

Are there work placements in the course?

Yes, one in each year (8 weeks each in 1st and 2nd year and 12 weeks in the summer of 3rd year). The Institute Work Placement Office will help and advise students when obtaining a placement practice but the responsibility to source the placement ultimately lies with the student. Placement practices must be registered as a veterinary clinic or hospital under the VCI Premises Accreditation Scheme (PAS), see for more details. 

Click here or visit to see a video of one of our students talking about her work placement experiences. 

I have never worked in a veterinary practice before, will this matter?

The course is designed to give students a complete introduction to the veterinary workplace. However it is strongly recommended that every student who is considering veterinary nursing as a career spends at least 6-8 weeks in one or more practices, alongside registered veterinary nurses, before they apply. This will give you a valuable insight into the profession and help you decide if it really is the career for you.

What does a typical veterinary nursing job entail?

Everyone who works in a veterinary practice will tell you that there is no such thing as a “typical” day! However the role of the veterinary nurse is challenging and varied.

The job involves a wide range of skills: including (but not limited to) caring for hospitalised animals, assisting with surgery and anaesthesia, taking and developing
x-rays, wound management and bandaging, collecting and processing blood samples and other diagnostic tests, advising clients, cleaning and disinfection of premises and equipment, reception duties and working as part of a highly skilled veterinary team in the assessment and treatment of patients.

As well as caring for animals, a veterinary practice must also be a viable business. Throughout the course there is a strong emphasis on excellent customer service, interpersonal skills and team work. Successful veterinary nurses must enjoy working with colleagues and clients, as well as the challenge of caring for animals.

What other careers can veterinary nursing graduates enter?

Veterinary nurses also work as sales representatives for animal nutrition and healthcare companies, in the charitable sector, animal insurance, veterinary supply companies, as animal therapists, practice managers, and a wide variety of other jobs in the pet or animal care sector.

What’s the difference between level 7 and 8 courses?

A level 7 course is a three year ordinary level degree. A level 8 course is a four year honours level degree. The B.Sc. in Veterinary Nursing at DkIT is a level 7 course. We are in the process of developing a level eight add-on course and hope to make this available to students in the future.

Can I go on to study veterinary medicine from this course?

This course does not have any links to veterinary medicine. If you are interested in becoming a vet you should contact the faculty of veterinary medicine at UCD, or alternate providers overseas.

Can I enter the four year veterinary medicine graduate degree if I achieve a level eight degree in veterinary nursing?

The veterinary medicine graduate entry programme is very intensive and candidates need to be extremely proficient in the basic sciences e.g. chemistry, anatomy, physiology and biochemistry. Veterinary nursing degrees are practical in nature and do not focus on the pure sciences. Therefore they are unlikely to meet entry criteria for what is a highly competitive entry route into veterinary medicine. If you wish to become a vet we do not recommend that you study veterinary nursing as an alternative.

I have never worked with farm animals or horses before, will this matter?

The broader your animal handling experience, the easier you will find this aspect of the course. However you will have farm animal practical classes at Ballyhaise Agricultural College. This is a residential week’s experience in March of first year. Students will have the opportunity to get hands on experience with farm animals. Accommodation costs are in the region of €60 for the week. Further details will be provided during first year induction week. Lambing in particular is an aspect of this week that students find highly enjoyable and educational.

Second year students spend a week having practical horse care classes at a local equestrian centre in early December. Students will be brought by bus to and from the centre from the DkIT campus daily.

You will also be required to gain some experience in a large animal veterinary practice during your work placements. We recommend that students schedule this for the 2nd year placement as it takes place in the Spring, when large animal work is at its peak and there is plenty of opportunity to get involved.

I have never worked with animals, other than my own pets at home. Will this matter?

We strongly recommend that everyone who applies for this course spends some time experiencing the realities of working with animals. It is often very different (and a lot harder!) than people expect. If you like it, it is really rewarding: but you must be prepared to work extremely hard: both physically and mentally.

I have spent time volunteering with animal welfare organisations, will this help?

This type of work may give you valuable animal handling experience. However, the reality is that veterinary practices are businesses, not voluntary welfare organisations or charities. Therefore they have a different ethos.

We recommend that you gain some veterinary practice experience, so that you can experience this for yourself and decide if it is a difference you are comfortable with.

I have a learning difficulty, disability or ongoing medical condition. How might this affect my training?

DkIT has a disability and student quality office to assist students in achieving their potential during their studies. Examples of supports include extra time in final examinations or the use of a laptop, reader or scribe. Each case is different so students need to meet with the disability and student support office staff to arrange a personalised support programme.

Please bear in mind that these supports will not be available during work placement and registered veterinary nursing students must be able to independently fulfill their workplace and patient care duties.

It is also important to note that in order to register with the Veterinary Council of Ireland as a veterinary nurse you must independently achieve the competencies needed to provide safe and effective animal care. For example, it may be appropriate for a student to have a reader or scribe in a formal written examination but these may not be used in a practical assessment, such as when completing patient records or calculating drug dosages.

Does the veterinary nursing course include much wildlife care?

No – the primary focus is on domestic animals, as these constitute the vast majority of patients treated by Irish veterinary practices. If you wish to specialise in wildlife care or rescue this may not be the course for you.

I have a learning difficulty, disability or ongoing medical condition. How might this affect my training?

DkIT have a disability and student quality office to assist students in achieving their potential during their studies. Examples of supports include extra time in final examinations or the use of a laptop, reader or scribe. Each case is different so students need to meet with the disability and student support office staff to arrange a personalised support programme.

Please bear in mind that these supports will not be available during work placement and registered veterinary nursing students must be able to independently complete their workplace and patient care duties.

It is also important to note that in order to register with the Veterinary Council of Ireland as a veterinary nurse you must independently achieve the competencies needed to provide safe and effective animal care. For example, it may be appropriate for a student to have a reader or scribe in a formal written examination but these may not be used in a practical assessment, such as when completing patient records or calculating drug dosages.

I have an allergy to animal hair, will this affect me?

We do not recommend that you study veterinary nursing if you have a severe allergy, as both the course work and placement requires working in confined spaces with multiple dogs and cats, as well as horses.

Do I need any vaccinations?

We strongly recommend that all applicants check with their GP to ensure that they are adequately protected against tetanus.

Who is responsible for the regulation of the Irish veterinary nursing profession?

This is the role of the Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI). They accredit the veterinary nursing education providers in Ireland and maintain the register of veterinary nurses. See

Is the DkIT programme accredited?

Yes, DkIT have received full accreditation from the Veterinary Council of Ireland.  Our graduates can register with the VCI and work as veterinary nurses.

I have received an offer for a veterinary nursing place. What should I do to prepare?

Experience in veterinary practice and with animal handling across a range of species will always be of value. Other things that would be helpful include getting physically fit. You don’t have to be an elite athlete but nursing is a physically demanding job (especially with small animals as they require a lot of bending and lifting). Suggestions include yoga, Zumba, pilates, dance classes, running (Parkrun is a great start), horse riding, cycling or swimming. Pick something you enjoy! 

The other recommendation is to attend as many events involving animals as possible. Suggestions include (but are not limited to): agricultural shows, horse racing, greyhound racing, horse shows, cattle marts, pet shows, the Irish National Stud, the National Ploughing Championships, Teagasc open days, PetExpo, the Dublin Horse Show, Irish Wildlife trust training events, volunteering, pet farms, trekking etc. Being informed about animal events and industries will give you real-life experience to build your college learning on.

What other colleges offer veterinary nursing courses?

There are currently five Irish courses that have been accredited by the VCI and whose graduates can work as veterinary nurses. They are offered by UCD (4 year level 8), Athlone, Dundalk and Letterkenny Institutes of Technology (all 3 year level 7) and St. John’s College, Cork (2 year level 6). For further information on these courses please contact the relevant college.

Where else can I find information about the Irish veterinary nursing profession?

You can also contact the Veterinary Council of Ireland ( and the Irish Veterinary Nursing Association (

The Veterinary Nursing Profession

Veterinary nursing became a recognized and regulated profession under the 2005 Veterinary Practice Act. Veterinary nurses and veterinary practitioners in Ireland are regulated by the Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI). Holders of a veterinary nursing qualification must register with the VCI before they can work as a veterinary nurse in Ireland. The VCI also produces the Codes of Conduct for veterinary professionals and regulates veterinary education, practices and workplaces to protect both human and animal health and welfare.  

The VCI specifies the knowledge and skills that a veterinary nurse must acquire during their training to allow them to register and practice as a veterinary nurse. The BSc in Veterinary Nursing programme at DkIT is fully accredited by the VCI, as well as the European Accreditation Committee for Veterinary Nurse Education (ACOVENE). 

Further details are available from these links:

Veterinary Council of Ireland

VCI Code of Professional Conduct – Veterinary Nurses

VCI Role and Scope of Practice of the Veterinary Nurse

VCI Veterinary Nursing Education Benchmarks and Competencies

European Accreditation Committee for Veterinary Nurse Education

ACOVENE Dossier of European Competencies for the Veterinary Nurse

Updated February 10th 2021

Course ID DK784
Course Type Undergraduate
Study Mode Full-Time
Level 7
Duration 3 Years
School School of Health & Science
Department Agriculture, Food and Animal Health
Awarding Body Dundalk Institute of Technology
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