Want to be a Vet?
Training to be a veterinary surgeon
The veterinary profession
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is the governing body of the veterinary profession in the United Kingdom. If you want to practise as a veterinary surgeon in the UK, you must be registered as a member of RCVS. Under the provisions of the Veterinary Surgeons Act of 1966, with certain minor exceptions, only a registered veterinary surgeon is permitted to diagnose and treat the injuries and ailments of animals.
To train to be a veterinary surgeon you will need to go to university and take a veterinary degree. The UK veterinary schools offering veterinary degrees approved by the RCVS are Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and London (the Royal Veterinary College), Surrey and Nottingham. The degree courses are five years in length (six years at Cambridge). There are also a number of overseas degrees that are approved by RCVS: in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Graduates from North American veterinary schools accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association can also apply to become members of RCVS. Holders of many European degrees are also eligible to register with RCVS if they are also EU citizens. For a list of approved European degrees, please refer to the RCVS website. Information on European veterinary schools can also be found on the EAEVE (European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education) website.
Work in the veterinary profession is highly rewarding, but also very demanding. Every veterinary surgeon has an obligation to deal with emergencies in any species at any time. The RCVS advises anyone contemplating a career in veterinary practice to remember that it can be a 24-hour service, 365 days a year.
At White Cross Vets, we believe veterinary surgeons work best when they are adequately rested and have a good work-life balance. For this reason, we operate a 40-hour per week system with no out-of-hours shifts a generous holiday allowance and a package of benefits. Our out-of-hours work is covered by a trusted partner.
University entry requirements
University entrance requirements vary between the different veterinary schools. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons gives the following general advice, but you must check the requirements very carefully in the individual university prospectuses. Prospectuses can be obtained free of charge directly from the universities, or can be viewed on their websites.
Applying to university
All applications for places on veterinary degree courses at UK universities must be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). For further information, contact the Secretary of UCAS, Fulton House, Jessop Avenue, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 3SH, or visit the UCAS website.
Applicants should be aware that owing to the requirements of the course, veterinary students are generally unable to use their holidays to earn money. General information on financial support for students is available from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills website.
Applicants who already hold a degree should make enquiries about financing their studies before entering into any commitment. Veterinary degrees are some of the most expensive courses to fund.
There are no recognised sources of grants for UK students taking a second undergraduate degree in veterinary science or any other subject and, unfortunately, the RCVS does not have any funds which it can offer to undergraduate veterinary students. Students may, however, still be able to apply for a student loan towards their maintenance costs.
There is a wide range of books about life as a veterinary surgeon. Please contact your local bookshop or library for more information. You may also wish to look at the links page on the RCVS website. The following references are recommended by the RCVS:
Donald, V and Shepherd, A . 8th Ed. (1997), Careers Working with Animals. Kogan Page DfES, Higher Education Student Support, available from DfES Publications Centre, PO Box 6927, London E3 3NZ.
UCAS. University and College Entrance: The Official Guide (published annually). View also the UCAS website.
- British Veterinary Association website
- British Small Animal Veterinary Association website
- DEFRA guidance on animal health
- Society of Practicing Veterinary Surgeons website
- Association of Veterinary Students website
- European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education website
- American Veterinary Medical Association website
You can read in more detail what studying a veterinary degree involves in the QAA’s Benchmark Statement for Veterinary Degrees, which is available on the careers page of the RCVS website.
For information about other animal related courses and careers, visit VETNETLLN.ac.uk – the National Lifelong Learning Network for Veterinary and Allied Professionals.
UK veterinary schools
Veterinary Admissions Clerk
University of Bristol, Senate House
Bristol, BS8 1TH
Tel: 0117 928 9000
The Department Secretary
Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine
University of Cambridge, Madingley Road
Cambridge, CB2 0ES
Tel: 01223 337600
The Cambridge Intercollegiate Applications Office
Kellet Lodge, Tennis Court Road
Cambridge, CB2 1QJ
Tel: 01223 333308
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre
Edinburgh, EH25 9RG
Tel: 0131 651 7305
University of Glasgow Veterinary School
464 Bearsden Road, Bearsden Road
Glasgow, G61 1QH
Tel: 0141 330 5700
The Admissions Sub-Dean
Faculty of Veterinary Science
University of Liverpool
Liverpool, L69 7ZJ
Tel: 0151 794 2000
The Head of Registry
The Royal Veterinary College
Royal College Street
London, NW1 0TU
Tel: 020 7468 5000
Visit the RVC careers website
The School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
The University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington Campus
Leicestershire, LE12 5RD
Tel: 0115 951 6417
Surrey – Subject to RCVS approval
School of Veterinary Medicine
Duke of Kent Building
University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7TE
Tel: 01483 689165
Veterinary surgeon careers and training information courtesy of the RCVS.
Veterinary surgeon jobs at White Cross Vets
We’re always on the look out for outstanding and caring vets. If you would like to become part of the White Cross Vets family, please get in touch.
Other veterinary jobs
Interested in training for Vet Nurse jobs? Visit our Advice on becoming a Veterinary Nurse page.