BSc in Veterinary Nursing

Course Points
Course Duration
3 Years
Course Level
Level 7
Course Places
30 Places
Course Start Date
September 2018

Course Summary

This three-year, Level 7 degree programme will provide the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to work as a professional Veterinary Nurse in Irish and European veterinary practices. Graduates will have knowledge of and skills in animal biology, veterinary nursing, laboratory analysis, office management and customer care. All relevant practical competencies will be covered in relation to dogs, cats, horses, farm animals and exotic species.


This three-year, Level 7 degree course in vet nursing provides students with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to work as a professional Veterinary Nurse in Irish and European veterinary practices. Graduates will have knowledge of and skills in animal biology, veterinary nursing, laboratory analysis, office management and customer care.

This course is fully 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 recognised by 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 are required to complete a work placement in veterinary practice in each year of the course. 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.

You will also be required to spend a residential week in the Spring of first year at Teagasc Ballyhaise Agricultural College, Cavan. The cost of this week must be paid by the student (details of fees will be provided by DkIT to first year students).


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

Please find information on fees and funding here:

Six Grades at O6 or H7 in Leaving Certificate

INCLUDING A minimum H5 Grade in Biology or Agriculture

AND Mathematics Grade F2, O6 or H7

AND English Grade O6 or H7

OR Irish Grade O6 or H7

Dr Arjan van Rossum (Head of Department of Applied Sciences)
Phone: +353 429370200 Ext 2620

Doireann Dowling (Lecturer in Veterinary Nursing)
Phone: +353 429370200 Ext 2509

Karen Dunne (Lecturer in Veterinary Nursing, Department of Applied Sciences)
Phone: +353 429370200 Ext 2841

DkIT B.Sc. in Veterinary Nursing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. 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).

  1. 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.

  1. 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 from

  1. Why is there a requirement for higher level biology or agricultural science 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 their modules and random selection is applied by the CAO to allocate the available places.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 (

  1. What if I live in Northern Ireland?

Applicants from Northern Ireland are welcome to apply and should contact the Admissions office for information (email

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Do you have open days?

Yes, the DkIT open day for potential applicants takes place each Autumn. Details are available on the DkIT website beforehand. Schools and QQI colleges are also informed.

  1. 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.

  1. Which 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.

  1. 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, microbiology & biochemistry and animal husbandry.

Second year: clinical pathology, medical nursing, animal welfare & husbandry, pharmacology, exotics, parasitology & office management & teamwork.

Third year: surgical nursing, equine nursing, applied microbiology and clinical reproduction, clinical nutrition, anaesthesia, pharmacy, law & ethics and team working.

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 (

Last updated July 18th 2017.

Course ID DK784
Level 7
Duration 3 Years
Points 388
Places 30
School School of Health & Science
Department Applied Sciences
Awarding Body Dundalk Institute of Technology
Starting Date September 2018
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