Your Guide To A Career As A Veterinary Nurse or Assistant

If you love animals and you want a challenging and rewarding career, becoming a veterinary nurse or assistant may be an ideal job for you. In this field, you will put all your skills to work managing a variety of responsibilities while keeping the comfort and well-being of the animals always in mind.

Over 62% of Australians own a pet and in total spend $12.2 billion yearly on their animals. Many people are bringing pets into their homes and lives, and they are willing to spend significant sums of money on them. As a result, there is a higher demand for veterinarians to care for more pets, leading to a rise in positions for assistants and nurses. By 2023, labour forces are predicting that 12,100 veterinary nurses will be working in Australia, making it a growing field perfect for animal lovers.

What are the job requirements for a veterinary nurse?

Veterinary nurses have demanding yet satisfying jobs that involve multiple responsibilities daily. Flexibility and adaptability are critical skills needed to cover the many job requirements for this position. Here are the primary duties associated with being a veterinary assistant:

  • Feed, clean, and exercise animals
  • Perform appropriate restraint on patients
  • Book appointments and handle phone calls
  • Preparing pets for surgery
  • Assist veterinarians during surgery
  • Administer medications and vaccinations
  • Clean and sterilise examination and operating rooms and surgical equipment
  • Restrain animals during exams, operations, and treatments
  • Caring for hospitalised pets
  • Assisting with x-rays
  • Recognising and responding to emergencies
  • Assisting with euthanasia

These are some of the regular duties that a veterinary nurse encounters every day, and these responsibilities make a veterinary career one that never gets boring.

What qualifications are needed?

The path to becoming a veterinary nurse is much simpler and more streamlined than the work you must do to become a veterinarian. Completing course work and earning an initial graduate diploma leads to a national qualification for Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing. Obtaining a job as a veterinary assistant requires you to follow the veterinary professional standards developed by the Australiasian Veterinary Boards Council and legislation of the state or territory in which you work.

Additionally, knowledge of and adherence to national standards established by the Australian Veterinary Association’s Policy Advisory Council are requirements for qualification and continued employment in this field. These local and national policies address various veterinarian policies, including professional practices, animal welfare and ethics, medicines and equipment, and veterinary procedures amongst other concerns in this field. Your classes for an initial diploma and qualification will help you learn about these councils, legalities, and standards so you can stand out as a candidate when applying at a veterinary clinic.

What suitable personality traits should you possess?

Many people love animals, but not everyone is cut out to work with them as a career. There are particular personality traits that successful veterinary nurses need to do the best job possible for pets and pet owners. These are some of the essential characteristics a veterinary assistant should have.

  • Patience. A lot can happen in a veterinary clinic on any given day. Therefore, veterinary nurses need to be inherently patient people to work with animals and clients. Out of their home element, some pets can become fractious, unable to hold still, refusing to take medication, or eliminating on the examining room floor in fear. Vet assistants need to be patient at all times with animals who are uncomfortable, excitable, and afraid.
  • Empathy. Although many pets are at the vet clinic for annual checkups, others are there because they are in pain, unwell, or experiencing an emergency. Often, the pets’ owners are more upset and emotional than their pets. A veterinary nurse needs to have empathy and sympathy both for the pet in question and their worried, anxious owner. Having these qualities will reassure the dog you are trying to restrain on the surgical table and the frightened owner in the waiting room.
  • Attention to detail. Being meticulous both in your care for an animal and accurately recording information involving the pet’s visit, medications, and treatment plans are crucial to the role of a veterinary assistant. Closely observing pets after surgery, sterilizing and cleaning surgical equipment, administering or dispensing medication, and performing laboratory exams are just a few of the many responsibilities involving careful attention to detail. In many cases, an animal’s life depends on this trait in a veterinary nurse.
  • Communication and listening skills. As a veterinary assistant, you are typically the first person a pet owner will see and speak with. You need to talk carefully and directly when answering owners’ questions, especially in pressure-filled circumstances. It is equally as important that you can relay information about the owners’ pet to the lead veterinarian, and that means careful listening skills are necessary.

These are four primary personality traits a veterinary nurse requires, although there are other desirable traits as well like creativity, adaptability, resilience, and respect.

What are the available future career options?

From a position as a veterinary assistant, you can branch out into a variety of other fields related to animal care. Employment options include wildlife parks, zoos, universities, and animal welfare organisations. Some veterinary nurses move into marketing and sales within the veterinary pharmaceutical industry. Other vet assistants start their own pet-related business, boarding facility, or grooming salon.

You may choose to stay in the veterinary practice and work towards a Bachelors’s degree in Veterinary Science from an accredited program, subsequent Master’s degrees, and then complete a Doctorate of Veterinary Science. When you become a veterinarian, you will need to register with the Veterinarian Board in the state and territory you plan to work in after graduation.

Work with animals in a career with a purpose

If you love animals and can envision a career that revolves around them, consider becoming a veterinary nurse or assistant. By enrolling in the International Career Institute’s Pet Care/Veterinary Assistant courses, you can be well on your way to becoming a veterinary nurse and making a difference in the lives of pets and their owners.

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Gladys Mae


Gladys Mae serves as the General Manager and Head of Student Services at the International Career Institute. Gladys holds a degree in Mass Communication - Broadcast Media from the University of San Jose-Recoletos. She joined ICI in 2010 and has over the past 12 years been instrumental in providing leadership and guidance to staff and students alike. Prior to joining ICI Gladys led a multifaceted career with key roles in the banking and business process outsourcing industries.