What education do I need to become a vet?

Updated: 9 May 2022

How to become a vet or vet nurse

Are you thinking of choosing a career in veterinary medicine? If so, you will have to make careful choices about your education early on to ensure you have the right qualifications to become a vet.

To be a vet you need to be good at science and your education will be focused on this. You also need to like animals and people, as you will often work directly with owners of pets to care for their animals.

What GCSEs & A Levels should I study?

To become a vet, you need to go to university and take a veterinary science or medicine degree. The course normally takes 5 years. To be considered for a place at vet school, you will need to have a strong science background. It’s important that you enjoy and are good at subjects such as biology, chemistry and physics. Typically, you will be expected to achieve grades 9-6 in these subjects at GCSE.

When it comes to taking A Levels, all veterinary schools will require you to choose biology and to achieve an A/A* grade in this subject. Typically, most veterinary schools will favour additional science subjects such as chemistry and physics, or subjects such as mathematics. Some universities may accept a third A level in a non-science subject.

"It’s important that you enjoy and are good at subjects such as biology, chemistry and physics"

If you are a student in Scotland and are undertaking Scottish Highers qualifications, you will be expected to undertake chemistry and generally two subjects from biology, physics or mathematics. Typically, veterinary schools will be expecting you to achieve AAABB grades.

If you are undertaking Scottish Advanced Highers, then you should proceed to the Sixth Year and choose subjects in chemistry and biology or physics.

You will find more details on the entrance requirements for each university that offers a veterinary degree here

Widening access to vet school

The profession is keen to widen participation. Vet school is accessible to those from a variety of different backgrounds who might not satisfy the usual entrance requirements. Each of the UK vet schools runs programmes to encourage applicants who do not have the support and educational background that would naturally lead them to apply for vet school.

Read an overview of widening participation here.

Getting work experience before applying to university

Work experience is a great way to increase your experience with animals and your confidence talking to people. Doing some work experience at a small animal veterinary practice, finding out what is really involved in looking after farm animals, or being a zookeeper for a day can give you a good idea of what sort of vet you might like to be. It’s certainly worth looking into.

You can read more about work experience here and there are many online work experience options available too. 

What can I do with my veterinary degree?

Working with animals can be smelly, unpredictable and dirty, but is also very rewarding. However, vets also have lots of other roles too – some of them include teaching, research, working in the government, checking that meat is safe to eat and developing new animal treatments.

"There are so many opportunities for you to explore"

There are so many opportunities for you to explore. You may even choose to study further. Many vets take courses after their first degree to specialise further or to increase their knowledge.

And don’t go thinking that once your studies are over, your education days are behind you. Vets are required to continually take part in lectures, reading, presentations and conferences to stay up to date with what is going on in the veterinary world.

Where can I get further information?

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is the governing body of the veterinary profession in the UK. Their website has a lot of very helpful information which can give you more details about the veterinary profession and applying to university.

We’ve also got loads of other resources under our ‘Secondary school’ section that we think you’ll find very useful.

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