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Veterinary Nursing

Overview

This page provides information and data on Veterinary Nursing, which is one component of the Animal Care and Management industry.

According to the ABS in 2018 the industry included 11,826 people employed as Veterinarians and 11,458 as Veterinary Nurses, as well as an additional 5,000 support staff. This sector of the industry has grown significantly since 2000, when there were just 13,175 people employed in the sector.

In 2018 the veterinary services industry contributed $2.4 billion to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product, an increase from $1.7 billion in 2015.

Nationally recognised training for Veterinary Nursing is delivered under the ACM – Animal Care and Management Training Package.

Visit the following pages for information on other Animal Services, Agriculture and the Racing industry.

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Employment levels for the Veterinary Services industry sector and Veterinary Nursing occupation grew considerably between 2001 and 2021. Veterinary Services almost doubled from 14,400 in 2001 to 28,400 in 2021. Veterinary Nurses more than doubled from 5,600 in 2001 to 12,600 in 2021. Both are projected to increase by 2025, to 31,500 for Veterinary Services and to 13,600 for Veterinary Nurses.

Veterinary Nurses make up 42% of the Veterinary Services workforce, and employment in the occupation is projected to grow by 1.5% by 2025.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Veterinary Nursing qualifications have steadily declined from around 8,860 in 2016 to 4,480 in 2020. Program completions have been declining each year since the peak of 1,710 in 2018 to 1,340 in 2020. The vast majority of program enrolments were at the certificate IV level (97%). The intended occupation for all training was Veterinary Nurse.

TAFE institutes provided the majority of training (67%), followed by private training providers (29%) and universities (4%).

The majority of subjects were Commonwealth and state funded (61%). Domestic fee for service funded 36% of subjects and international fee for service funded 4%.

Most students were located in New South Wales (29%), Victoria (23%) and Queensland (21%).

Almost a third of all training was delivered in New South Wales (32%), followed by Victoria (22%) and Queensland (21%).

Commencements in Veterinary Nursing apprenticeships and traineeships have declined overall, from the peak of approximately 230 in 2012 to around 110 in 2020. Completions have also declined overall, from the peak in 2013 of around 150 to a low of 55 in 2020. The intended occupation for all apprentices and trainees was Veterinary Nurse. The highest proportion of apprentices and trainees in training was reported by Victoria (21%), followed by South Australia (20%), Tasmania (17%), Queensland (16%), Western Australia (14%) and New South Wales (12%).

For data on other Animal Care and Management qualifications, please visit the Animal Services page.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER's Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the job vacancy data, the top requested skills by employers were communication skills and building effective relationships. The most advertised occupations were Veterinarians and Veterinary Nurses. The top employers were Greencross Vets and National Veterinary Care. The top location for job advertisements was Queensland.

The Animal Care and Management IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast suggests the top generic skills for the Animal Care and Management industry are:

  • Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) (Foundation skills)
  • Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self management (adaptability)
  • Customer service / Marketing
  • Managerial / Leadership
  • Communication / Virtual collaboration / Social intelligence.

In addition to the above generic skills, the following were identified as important skill priorities for the industry:

  • Ethical animal use
  • Animal awareness and behaviour
  • Emotional intelligence of animals
  • Compassion fatigue.

The Animal Care and Management IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast identifies a range of factors which impact upon the Veterinary Services industry and workforce. Some of the key challenges and opportunities for the industry include:

  • Addressing the impacts of depression and burnout within an industry that has already high levels of mental health issues, particularly veterinary medicine which has a suicide rate four times greater than the national average.
  • There is contention between the veterinary sector and others within the Animal Care and Management industry with regards to the skills required for equine dentistry. The Australian Veterinary Association holds the view that dental procedures on horses should only be conducted by registered Veterinarians, while others would like to regulate equine dentistry with trade qualifications.
  • The demand for veterinary services is expected to continue to increase with the availability and advancements in treatments for broken bones and serious illnesses, combined with the growing life expectancy of animals.

The Animal Care and Management IRC's 2020 Skills Forecast highlights the importance of continuing professional development opportunities offered by industry associations and notes that the Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia (VNCA) offers a range of professional development opportunities to members and non-members throughout the year such as short self-paced courses designed to deliver high quality continuing education in a range of topics covering medicine, surgery and emergency medicine.

An article in the Journal of Vocational Education and Training identifies veterinary technology as an emerging higher education field in the veterinary industry, an attempt to offer more highly educated veterinary paraprofessionals and bridge the skills gap between vocational and higher education within the sector. However, as a new and emerging field, graduates face several challenges including career advancement, professional recognition and salaries.

The University of Adelaide offers a Bachelor of Veterinary Technology, with the first intake of students due for graduation in 2022. Veterinary Technicians are mid-tier veterinary support staff, bridging the gap between vocationally trained Veterinary Nurses and Veterinarians. The degree offers broader employment outcomes than veterinary nursing and aligns with the inter-professional teamwork approach used to deliver human healthcare. The South Australian Government discussion paper argues that the registration of Veterinary Technicians and/or Veterinary Nurses under the Veterinary Practice Act 2003 could be considered in the interest of protecting animal health, safety and welfare and the public interest, by ensuring the provision of specified duties by appropriately trained paraprofessionals is regulated. Registration of paraprofessionals according to their vocational or tertiary qualifications would offer legislative protection of their associated titles in South Australia – Veterinary Nurse or Veterinary Technician. This would give clarity and assurance to the public that anyone claiming expertise, by utilisation of these titles, is qualified and regulated. Additionally, registration or approval to perform specified duties would enable these trained paraprofessionals to no longer be restricted by legislated provisions aimed at untrained 'lay people'.

The discussion paper states that Western Australia is the only jurisdiction to currently specify requirements for 'approval' of Veterinary Nurses. This approval enables Veterinary Nurses to carry out prescribed duties and provide certain veterinary services, including:

  • Dressing of wounds and post-surgical care of sick and injured animals
  • Administering scheduled drugs both orally and parenterally under direction of a registered Veterinarian
  • Setting up and supervising intravenous drips and transfusions
  • Dispensing scheduled drugs prescribed by the registered Veterinarian
  • Assisting the registered Veterinarian during surgical procedures
  • Performing minor dental procedures under supervision
  • Supervision, care and nursing of hospitalised animals
  • Performing clinical laboratory procedures under supervision of a registered Veterinarian.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

 

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Animal Care and Management IRC

 

Relevant research

Ensuring a High Standard of Veterinary Practice in South Australia: Discussion Paper – South Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regions

Recruiting the Graduate Voice: Informing Higher Education Initiatives to Underpin an Emerging, Veterinary Paraprofession in Australia – Journal of Vocational Education and Training, Volume 71, Issue 1, 2019 – Patricia Clarke, Joerg Henning, Glen Coleman and Daniel Schull

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Animal Medicines Australia (AMA)

Australasian Association of Equine Dentistry (AAED)

Australasian Veterinary Boards Council Inc (AVBC)

Australian Veterinary Association (AVA)

Equine Dental Association of Australia (EDAA)

Equine Veterinarians Australia Group

International Association of Equine Dentistry (IAED)

Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia (VNCA)

WorldWide Association of Equine Dentistry (WWAED)

 

Regulatory bodies

ACT Veterinary Practitioners Board

Veterinary Board of Tasmania

Veterinary Board of the Northern Territory

Veterinary Practitioners Board of New South Wales

Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board of Victoria

Veterinary Surgeons Board of Queensland

Veterinary Surgeons Board of South Australia

Veterinary Surgeons Board of Western Australia

 

Employee associations

Australian Workers’ Union (AWU)

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU)

Professionals Australia

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2025
    • 697 Veterinary Services.
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • 3613 Veterinary Nurses.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2001 to 2021, May Quarter
    • 697 Veterinary Services.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSCO 4 digit occupations, 2001 to 2021, May Quarter
    • 3613 Veterinary Nurses.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 3 digit industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.
    • 697 Veterinary Services.

 

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • Animal Care and Management Training Package
    • ACM40410 - Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing
    • ACM40412 - Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing
    • ACM40418 - Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing
    • ACM50210 - Diploma of Veterinary Nursing (Surgical)
    • ACM50212 - Diploma of Veterinary Nursing (Surgical)
    • ACM50219 - Diploma of Veterinary Nursing
    • ACM50410 - Diploma of Veterinary Nursing (Emergency and Critical Care)
    • ACM50412 - Diploma of Veterinary Nursing (Emergency and Critical Care)
    • ACM50512 - Diploma of Veterinary Nursing (General Practice)
    • RUV40198 - Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing
    • RUV40298 - Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing (Surgical)
    • RUV40398 - Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing (Dental)
    • RUV40404 - Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing
    • RUV40498 - Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing (Critical Care and Emergency)
    • RUV50204 - Diploma of Veterinary Nursing (Surgical).

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 subject enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 program completions.

 

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

ACM Animal Care and Management Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

 

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2021, Labour Insight Real-time Labour Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2021, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2018 and June 2021 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / Occupations
    • 697 Veterinary Services.
  • Employers
    • 2347 Veterinarians
    • 3613 Veterinary Nurses
    • 5122 Practice Managers
    • 5421 Receptionists
    • 3611 Animal Attendants and Trainers
    • 697 Veterinary Services.
Updated: 14 Dec 2021
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