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Institute of Technology or Polytechnic

Unitec Institute of Technology
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New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology (Veterinary Nursing Assistant)

This course is available

Online, On-Campus

Level of Study



1 year

Next start date

Expected Apr 2024


Unitec Institute of Technology


Learn the fundamentals of veterinary nursing with lots of opportunities to put theory into practice at our sister clinic Vet Care Grey Lynn, as well as your choice of external clinics across New Zealand.

The New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology (Veterinary Nursing Assistant) is a hands-on programme that teaches the practical skills, knowledge, and attributes needed to help assist with the care of animals in a clinical environment.

Through tutorials, group work, practical sessions, and demonstrations, you will learn to assist veterinarians and veterinary nurses and contribute to providing a high standard of care for animal patients. You will be able to put your skills into practice in Unitec’s veterinary simulation clinic as well as during placements at veterinary clinics.

As well as building practical skills, you will get a firm grounding in the principles that underpin the health, husbandry, welfare, and behaviour of animals. You will also learn the communication and business aspects needed to work effectively in animal industries. This combination will give you the ethical values and cultural understanding that you need to be an effective member of a professional veterinary team.


  • Learn from lecturers who are experienced veterinarians and veterinary nurses, and who work closely with the veterinary industry
  • Gain hands-on experience at Unitec’s sister vet clinic, Vet Care Grey Lynn, as well as your choice of external clinics across Aotearoa
  • Develop a solid understanding of best practice in a professional clinical environment
  • Benefit from a blended learning approach that includes group work, online tutorials, practical sessions, and one-to-one supervision

Work experience

As part of this programme, you'll be required to complete a minimum of 200 hours of practical experience at an external clinic.

Distance Learning

To study from a distance, you need to be self-motivated, committed and have excellent time management skills. You need to attend all block courses, exams, practical assessments, work experience, as well as complete your self-directed study (research, reading, revision) and assessment writing.

You'll also need to have consistent access to a computer with a reliable internet connection and appropriate office software i.e. Microsoft Office, which we'll provide once you‘re enrolled.

Students also need to take part in four compulsory five-day block courses throughout the year at our Mt. Albert campus.

Where to next?

If you successfully complete the programme, you can apply to enrol in the New Zealand Diploma in Veterinary Nursing. You’ll need to successfully complete the diploma programme to be able to graduate as a qualified veterinary nurse and become registered with the New Zealand Veterinary Nursing Association.

You could also continue your studies with our Bachelor of Veterinary Nursing.

Please note: International students who graduate will NOT be eligible for a post-study work visa upon completion of this programme. However, if you continue your studies into either the New Zealand Diploma in Veterinary Nursing or the Bachelor of Veterinary Nursing, you will be eligible upon successful completion.


  • Veterinary nurse assistant (NZ or overseas veterinary clinics)
  • Animal shelter/rescue centre employee
  • Kennel/cattery employee
  • Pet product industry representative
  • Laboratory animal assistant
  • Own business options such as pet minding, product retail, etc

Entry criteria

Academic requirements

Part of your first-year practical experience is a minimum of 200 hours in an external clinic placement. It is recommended that you find this placement before the beginning of the programme.

For this programme, you will need the following:

60 credits at NCEA Level 2 including 12 credits in English;
12 credits at NCEA Level 1 in one science subject;
12 credits at NCEA Level 1 in Mathematics;

Provide a brief overview (less than 1 page) detailing the following. This requirement replaces the standard work experience requirement in 2021: What you consider the role of a veterinary nursing assistant to be; Why you wish to study this programme; Any animal-related experience you have had.

Sign a consent form allowing a Ministry of Justice convictions database search by Unitec Institute of Technology;

Complete a medical declaration form.

English Language Requirements: IELTS test: Academic score of 5.5 with no band score lower than 5. TOEFL Internet-based test (iBT): Score of 46 (with a writing score of 14); PTE (Academic) score of 42 with no band score lower than 36; Cambridge English Qualifications: B2 First or B2 First for schools with a score of 162. No less than 154 in each skill. OET: Minimum of Grade C or 200 in all sub-tests. NZCEL - Level 4 (General) or (Employment). Language Cert - B2 Communicator International ESOL Written (LRW) HIGH PASS with no less than 25/50 in each skill and Spoken (S) PASS.

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