RCVS Specialist status guide

vet on farm

The List of RCVS Specialists aims to promote specialisation within the veterinary profession. It identifies to both the profession and public, veterinarians who are currently active in their recognised field and have attained specialised knowledge and skills whilst undertaking a post-graduate qualification. The List also exists to encourage other veterinarians to refer cases to Specialists, where appropriate (although being a Specialist is not necessarily a pre-requisite to be able to receive referrals).  

The objectives of the RCVS Specialist List include the following:

  • To promote specialisation within the veterinary profession

  • To identify, for the public and the profession, veterinarians who have specialised knowledge and skills; who are active practitioners within a recognised field of specialisation; who maintain specialised competence through continuing professional development

  • To encourage veterinary surgeons to refer cases, as appropriate, to RCVS Specialists

  • To recognise specialised competence in key areas, where there are suitable postgraduate qualifications


To be eligible for RCVS Specialist status an individual must have achieved a postgraduate qualification at least at Diploma level (Level 8 in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications), and must additionally satisfy the RCVS that they make an active contribution to their speciality.

The most common qualifications that Specialists hold are RCVS Diplomas, European College Diplomas, and American College Diplomas. (The final RCVS Diploma examinations will take place in 2019.)  Other qualifications, such as PhDs can also be considered, however eligibility will be considered on a case by case basis.


RCVS recognised specialist status is not easily achieved and is based upon the following criteria:

  • Possession of an RCVS, or RCVS-approved diploma, or other relevant postgraduate qualification
  • Being acknowledged by peers in the area of specialisation
  • Maintaining acceptable continuing professional development (CPD), e.g. through publication, teaching, reviewing, examining, attending and participating in national and international meetings within the specialised field
  • Being available for referral by other veterinary colleagues
  • Being currently active within the specialised field

The requirements to achieve each Diploma will be specific to the respective subject and College, but each will be based around a core training programme delivered by at least one Diploma holder at a specialist practice or teaching hospital.  Each programme would generally take a number of years to complete, and the knowledge and skills would then be tested by examination before the Diploma is awarded. 

Once a Diploma (or other eligible qualification) is achieved, then the holder would be eligible to apply for Specialist status. Specialist status is time-bound, and once admitted to the List, the individual must apply for reaccreditation every five years to demonstrate that they are still working at a Specialist level in their field.  

Applications for RCVS Specialist status are all made online through the RCVS website.  Holders of European College Diplomas can apply to join the RCVS List at any time of the year, submitting proof of their current five year accreditation with the European College, along with two references.  The application window for holders of other qualifications will be open from June – October 2019, with the exact dates to be confirmed.  These applicants will need to provide details of publications and contributions they have made in their area of speciality, along with CPD records totalling at least 250 hours over the previous five years, as well as two references.  All applications are considered by the RCVS Specialist Sub-Committee. 

Please note that the Code of Conduct has been changed, and with effect from April 2016, all Specialists “must be registered with the RCVS and included on the RCVS specialist list if they want to practise and use the title ‘specialist’ in the UK.”

For full information on achieving specialist status, as well as information on how to apply, please see the RCVS website

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