Wanting to become a vet?
What does a veterinary surgeon do?
Veterinary surgeons in general practice carry out a wide range of tasks from promoting and maintaining the health of animals through to diagnosing and treating sick and injured animals.
Other tasks include:
- Operating on sick or injured animals
- Neuter animals to prevent them from breeding
- Give vaccinations
- Advise owners on the care of their animal
- Carry out diagnostic tests such as radiographs and ultrasound scans
- Put old, ill or injured animals to sleep
The veterinary profession
The governing body for the veterinary profession in the UK is the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), and all practising veterinary surgeons here must be registered as a member. This is enforced under the provisions of the Veterinary Surgeons Act of 1966, and there are only certain, minor exceptions.
You will need to study for a veterinary degree at an RCVS approved university in order to train as a veterinary surgeon. Approved universities in the UK include Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London (the Royal Veterinary College), Surrey, Nottingham, Harper & Keele, Aberystwyth and UoCL. Courses last five years, although you will study for six if you go to Cambridge. There are also overseas degrees approved by RCVS in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Graduates from schools accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association and EU citizens with European degrees can also register with the RCVS. More information can be found on the RCVS website and the 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 Pennard 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.
Applying to university
While the RCVS offers general advice on general entry requirements to studying at UK veterinary schools, each university will set its own requirements, which can be viewed on their websites, or by sending for a prospectus.
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.
Veterinary courses are intensive, and therefore it is generally not possible for students to support their finances by working simultaneously or during holidays. Financial support is available for
students, although there are no recognised sources of grants for UK students undertaking their second undergraduate degree. General information on financial support for students is available from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills website.
You can contact your local bookshop or library for books offering advice on veterinary studies, while this links page on the RCVS website may also prove useful.
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.
List of UK veterinary schools
Veterinary Admissions Clerk
University of Bristol,
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
Harper and Keele Veterinary School
Harper Adams University
Tel: 01952 815 000
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
The School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
The University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington Campus
Leicestershire, LE12 5RD
Tel: 0115 951 6417
School of Veterinary Medicine
Duke of Kent Building
University of Surrey
Surrey, GU2 7TE
Tel: 01483 689 165
Veterinary surgeon careers and training information courtesy of the RCVS.
Veterinary surgeon jobs at Pennard Vets
We’re always on the look out for outstanding and caring vets. If you would like to become part of our team of employee owners, please get in touch.
Our team benefit from personality profiling which helps to channel their efforts so they get the most satisfaction from their role.
Other veterinary jobs
Interested in training for vet nurse jobs? Visit our advice on becoming a veterinary nurse page.