Applying to vet school as a grad – part 2

Part 1 of my catchily named “grad vet applicant info dump”, covering how being a grad applicating impacts your choice of university, can be found here. This is part 2 looking at how you can hope to meet the demanding entry requirements whilst you work, study or are otherwise kept busy in ways that teenagers aren’t.

Entry requirements & work experience

It’s a good idea to download the Admissions Policy for each vet school. I printed them off and highlighted the relevant bits because I’m sad like that. They key points to pick out are…

  • Do they expect you to meet their A-level requirements as well as having your degree? This came up last time around as part of choosing where to apply but it’s possibly something you could discuss with the admissions tutors, for example if you have a first in your degree or other awesomeness to point out to them.
  • If you don’t have the A-levels they’re asking for, is your degree the right type of subject (generally biosciences) for them to consider you?
  • Is there a cut-off date for returning to university? The only time I saw this in an admissions policy was Liverpool, who wanted you to have graduated in the last 5 years.
  • They all want at least a 2.1 result.

Besides grades the other thing you need is work experience. The universities all ask for different amounts and ratios of animal husbandry/vet practice, ask you to submit evidence of it in totally different ways and use it to judge your application based off their own unique criteria. There’s chapter and verse written elsewhere about how to get good work experience for your application. For grads, the key question is how on earth you’ll fit it around your existing studies or job.

As grads have less holiday per year than school students my first question was whether there was a cut-off date – did I have to cram all my placements into a certain amount of time or would they let me include things I did before my first degree in the total?  I wrote to the universities and got a variety of answers back. I’ve also copied in their guidance on how they evaluate your work experience:

  Work experience requirement: Comprised of… Completed within the last…
Bristol 8 weeks 4 weeks husbandry

4 weeks practice

Their website advises 3 years

but an admissions tutor told me this was now “at any time”.

“Top marks are given if candidates have spent more than 4 weeks (i.e. more than 20 days) in more than 1 veterinary practice and more than 4 weeks in a good spread of animal establishments (e.g. dairy, beef, poultry, pig, sheep farms, kennels, cattery, rescue centre, wildlife park, zoo, abattoir, laboratory). We do understand that it may be difficult to get placements in some establishments (e.g. due to bio security concerns) or that placements may be for a short period such as an afternoon (e.g. at abattoirs and zoos). We understand that you may have work experience placements booked for after you have submitted your UCAS form; you must have completed a minimum of one week in each category (vet and animal establishments) then we will allow 1 week of booked placement in each category that will be completed by the end of the Easter vacation of the year of application.”
Cambridge Not stated N/A N/A
“Work experience is not a requirement for applicants but some experience is useful to understand the profession and what is required of its members. “ “Unlike other veterinary schools, we do not stipulate that you should have completed specified amounts of particular types of animal care/veterinary experience – merely that you should have done enough to be able to discuss and analyse your experiences at interview and have a realistic idea of what a veterinary/scientific career entails. Perhaps a total of two or more weeks ‘seeing practice’ with vets is sufficient. This limited requirement is very important as far as fair access to the course is concerned: not everyone has the time, money, contacts or parental availability to see remote hill sheep farming practice, but most people can arrange a few weeks with a local vet. Quality is more important than quantity – and by quality we mean the ability discuss the scientific and professional aspects of what you have seen.”
Liverpool 10 weeks 6 weeks husbandry

4 weeks veterinary

3 years “preferable”
Minimum 6 weeks animal husbandry and 4 weeks veterinary practice in at least 2 practices, preferable one small and one large animal. Circumstances such as full time employment will be considered.
Nottingham 6 weeks Not stated


2 years
No additional credit for 6+ weeks of work experience.
RVC 4 weeks 2 weeks husbandry

2 weeks practice

18 months
“A total of two weeks of work experience (paid or voluntary) in one or more veterinary practices; A total of two weeks in a variety of different animal environments (outside of your home environment)”
Surrey 4 weeks To include 1 week in practice unknown
“Applicants are expected to have gained at least four weeks of animal related work experience to include a week in a general veterinary practice. Experience could include farm, stable yard, kennels, rescue centre, research laboratory or abattoir work. A broad range of experience is an advantage. Applicants must have completed the minimum requirement before they apply and should clearly state how they have met the requirement in their UCAS application”


In the end I included some really old placements on my application but I also picked up enough recent experience to get offers by:

  • Taking time off work. I used annual leave for about 4 weeks of placement and it took up up a lot of my holiday allowance! This was mostly spent seeing practice where only attending on weekends or evenings would have limited what I got to observe. I could have spread this out over multiple years I suppose but I sort of wanted to power through it.
  • Working a few hours in the evenings. The vet schools state x many weeks but they don’t have to be consecutive hours/days. I added up my hours at the stables after work and suddenly had a 4 week placement to include. Watch out though because some universities cap how many weeks they will count from each establishment, so read their paperwork again.
  • Working weekends. Like my stable placement I got two weeks in a rescue centre by working one day every second weekend over several months.

I think the big challenge while you do all this is not burning out, especially if your full-time job/studies/family care take up a lot of energy too. I tried to volunteer every Sunday at one point on top of work and my evening placements and it was too much. Although some of my “placements” were actually stress-relieving (especially the stables which is less of a placement, more of a hobby) even if you are socialising kittens or walking dogs it can be physically tiring work and emotionally tiring to meet lots of people and remain polite and professional.

The vet schools are looking for your ability to manage the variety of demands on your time, remain resilient to stress and maintain a work/life balance – and beyond the application process it’s obvious they’re all skills you will need in the future. So look after yourself, plan ahead and work out how to fit in the hours you need within the timeframe your university is looking for.

Again I hope this has been useful, check back soon for a post on how the hell you’re meant to afford your mad plan to go back to uni! Thanks for reading – Caitlin.


Applying to vet school as a grad – part 1

Applying to vet school is difficult when you’re 17 and trying to get three As and ten weeks of work experience. I don’t know if it’s easier or harder once you’re 21+ and working full time or finishing degree #1, but it’s definitely different in lots of ways. The university websites plus literally thousands of online resources outline exactly what’s expected from the school leavers; working out graduate applications takes a slightly more digging. Given the time and effort I put into researching this over the last two years I thought it was worth putting what I’d gathered in one place in the hope that it’s useful to the next round of hopeful grads. Good luck!

I hadn’t realised quite how much stuff I’d accumulated about going back to uni. I’d made spreadsheets and filled a ring binder, for god’s sake. So I’ve split this down into several posts, the first of which covers…

Which vet schools should you apply for?

The UK has seven vet schools and UCAS allows you to apply to four. You can also apply abroad (Slovakia seems a popular choice) but I don’t cover that here (except for Ireland) as it wasn’t an option for me and I didn’t research it enough to pass on anything useful.

For almost everyone cost will narrow the field straight away. The English universities charge standard undergraduate fees (currently £9,000/year, rising to £9,250 and who knows how much more) for second-time students. However, the Scottish and Irish vet schools charge much more. Even though Dublin and Edinburgh offer 4-year graduate programmes, the course costs still add up to more than 5 years in England.

In case you were still considering:

  Annual fee for grad-entry vets: Total over full length of course:
Glasgow £26,250 £131,250
Edinburgh £29,000 £116,000
Dublin £16,719* £66,876

*Converted from Euro on 08/01/17. When I first researched this it came out about £2,000 less so even if you feel you can afford it in first year, you have to worry about exchange rates and of course becoming a non-EU student!

The remaining vet schools to choose from are Liverpool, Bristol, Royal Veterinary College, Cambridge, Nottingham and Surrey. Out of these Cambridge is the anomaly as you may have to pay additional college fees of several thousand pounds per year. You’d need to discuss these with the college you apply to as they vary and/or don’t apply at every college.

A second important factor is the length of the course. At the short end, RVC offer an accelerated (four year) graduate entry programme. You’ll qualify a year sooner but based on my estimates slightly worse off than if you spend five years elsewhere due to the higher cost of living in and around London. The first year is spent with entirely other graduates, which might make it easier to settle in and socialise than joining a class of mostly 18 year old. On the other hand the Cambridge vet course last six years with an intercalated year in another department. You may be able to discuss skipping the extra year with your college but it’s still a factor to bear in mind.

A few other points:

  • Cambridge also require you to sit the BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test), which the other universities do not.
  • Surrey is such a new vet school that it’s not yet accredited by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (accreditation means graduates are vets, not just highly skilled biologists). However it’s fully expected to gain this in 2019 once their first year of graduates finish the course.
  • Some universities expect you to meet their A-level requirements as well as the 2.1 degree qualification so it’s worth checking whether this narrows down your options at all.

With the graduate- and vet-specific factors out of the way, it now comes down to all the things you considered the first time you were comparing unis… campus vs. city, the area, the facilities, proximity to home etc. There seem to be lots of posts online about which is the “best” or “worst” vet school, or “best for horses/cows/dogs/rabbits”, but I’m yet to see a consensus on the answer. Every open day I went to the students told me their uni was the best so you’ll have to decide for yourself!

The next part of my grad application info dump will be up next weekend and focus on work experience and meeting entry requirements whilst working or studying. Thanks for reading and I hope this is useful to someone!

Interview nerves!

So, the scary crazy exciting news is that I have an interview for Nottingham on Wednesday next week. I had two days off work to use up this month so I booked one of them and the interview is 10am so I have enough time to drive up there first thing.

At first I was so, so excited and happy to have an interview, especially for my top choice university. Since then some weird nightmares including “forgetting” you aren’t meant to leave interviews halfway through and rejection letters have kicked in! I’ve tried to re-cap my placement notes and things I’ve read over the past year, but at this point (as I have to keep reminding myself) it’s not about what I can cram. It’s what I’ve been living and breathing this last year and more generally the theme of animal biology which has run through my whole life!

Nottingham write on their website that the interviews have three 20-minute sessions, including a formal interview, practical and group task. None of those sound too scary. I’ve tried to prepare answers to a few obvious interview questions and I’m going to download my competency notes from work tomorrow in case they come in handy, having had a successful interview using them earlier this year. For the practical I’ll just try to be enthusiastic (shouldn’t be difficult) and think things through logically. As for the group task, they gave us a little taster at the open day – I’m going to try and start useful discussion of our task without dominating, make useful suggestions, encourage others and include everyone like we look for when recruiting apprentices at work. I can’t tell if that experience has been useful or not: yes, I appreciate how a group task works, but I can get carried away picturing their wash-up discussion afterwards!

Then there are the other dilemmas like what to wear, but I think they can wait until the night before. Good luck to everyone else with their interviews, I hope they go well and you end up where you want to be! Xxx


Nottingham Open Day – and…

The first part of this post can only be to say one thing: I just sent off my application to Nottingham, RVC, Liverpool and Bristol Universities! I was (am) so nervous just to do it, I read and re-read my personal statement so many times and then had to make a bunch of last minute changes to fit the 3,999 characters onto those 47 permitted lines. But eventually UCAS accepted it, I made Tom double-check all my details, paid my money and pressed the red button. Aaaaaargh!

On an equally exciting note, we spent yesterday at the open day for the Nottingham vet school. I am a little bit in love with this one. The facilities were modern and expansive and their teachings methods sound really varied. They also integrate more practical work and clinical skills into the early years of the course compared to the other schools. Although I have every intention of applying myself to anatomy and physiology textbooks, it would certainly help to be getting regular insight into why I need to know it from the very start.

Unlike the open days I attended five years ago and the more recent Bristol and RVC visits, Nottingham didn’t offer a free-form day where you went to two talks and could optionally go to the farm or have a campus tour. Instead we were given our itinery and taken though a busy afternoon of educational activities. After a talk about the school we went straight into ultrasounding the hearts of four very tolerant dogs. Our group had a brown lab with a tendency to lie down but we all managed to get some images of atria and valves from between the ribs via an “acoustic window” near the right elbow.

(I didn’t take many photos during the day as I wanted to get stuck in to the activities and chat to the existing vet students and other applicants. It seemed a waste of time to stop for pictures even if they’d have improved the blog post! But Tom did take some later on.)

From there we went to a whirlwind obstetrics class where we delivered toy lambs and diagnosed pregnancy on “breeding betsy”, a model cow rectum/uterus. Here I had a chance to talk to some other potential vets and it was really interesting to hear their views on the universities I haven’t applied to, such as Surrey and Cambridge. Before long though we were off on a tour of the campus, a quiz, a mock emergency situation and a sutreing lesson!


I so enjoyed this open day, but best of all was the visit to the huge university dairy. It featured an incredibly high-tech indoor system: robotic milking, automated slurry scrapers, individual feeding programmes, cow mattresses and my favourite – cow wash brushes. Tom had to elbow me to point out a cow using one. Although I appreciated the advantages of the robot milker I got very frustrated watching it try to find a cow’s teats with the lasers and was tempted to try and lend a hand. We couldn’t take photos in the dairy or I would be bombarding you with them now (you know – how I do with sheep photos).

For me, Nottingham has two other advantages besides the amazing facilities and course. First is its proximity to beautiful Derbyshire where I grew up and am always going home to. Second, the entire veterinary course is based on one rural campus in Sutton Bonnington. Tom and I keep talking about buying a house when we move to wherever I end up studying, so to be on one campus for the whole course in what seemed to be a lovely area would make that much easier.

This weekend cemented Nottingham as one of my choices and saw the start of my application process. I also dropped in on one of the vets I’ll be shadowing in farm practice next month to make sure the arrangements would all work out. It’s been busy and nerve-racking but hopefully very worth it! Thanks for reading and good luck if you’re applying too at the moment 🙂


Career prospects

When I tell people that I’m planning to return to university alongside a lot of even-fresher-faced-than me, tuition-loan-receiving 18 year olds, they often ask if it’s going to be worth it. I’ve mentioned before that one family friend said all the vets she knew were unhappy. On placement, I’ve received warnings that it’s an exhausting job and that a lot of people can’t hack it. It’s hard not to be daunted by this, even if for every vet who lists the negatives there’s another telling me what a privileged, rewarding role it is.

I don’t want to go into heaps of personal detail – in brief I know that whatever I do in life, I will push myself and work my hardest and that I absolutely need a challenge – so instead, I’ve decided to look at the more tangible career prospects for vets.

Early career vets

The good news is that a vet degree gives you a great change of getting hired. Most universities offer statistics on number of graduates employed within 6 months of graduating and these numbers are shown below. Of the remaining 2-10% of students, some will still be seeking employment but others will have gone on into research or further education.

University at which veterinary medicine was studied

Proportion of graduates employed within 6 months

Average starting salary

University of Nottingham



University of Bristol



University of Cambridge



Royal Veterinary College



University of Liverpool



University of Edinburgh



Unviersity of Glasgow



All stats taken from university websites or if not listed on university webpage.

According to, the average starting salary for vets is £31,150; the data provided by UniStats and the institutions themselves comes out a little lower at £25,773. Many new graduates start out on internships or graduate programmes which offer structured training. These can be in both small local practices or large businesses with a chain of practices up and down the country. Alternatively, some vet roles are simply advertised as “suitable for new graduates”.

For example, Eastcott veterinary clinic and hospital are currently looking for 5 interns to go on rotations (source) whilst this recruiter in Warwickshire is offering £28-32,000 per annun to a 2016 graduate.

Career prospects img1.jpg

Career prospects img2.jpg

Two large chains of vet practices offering graduate programmes are Vets4Pets & Companion Care Vets and CVS Group Plc.. CVS pay their new graduates £30,000 p.a. as well as covering BVA, BSAVA, TCVS and VDS fees; Vets4Pets & Companion Care Vets don’t list a salary. The PDSA also have a graduate scheme if you’re looking to work for a charitable organisation.

Average salaries

Somewhat conflicting with the starting salaries above, the online salary monitor Pay Scale list the average salary for any veterinarian at £30,387. Prospects suggest £41,148 for small animal practice and £44,142 in large animal practice, whilst the 2010 RCVS Survey of the Veterinary Profession lists £48, 951 before out of hours, benefits or overtime payments. To make a very rough and ready measure out of these varied numbers, their average is £41,157.

I tried to do some research using job adverts but most simply say the salary will be “competitive” or even “excellent”. Vet Record Jobs allows you to filter by salary band which I used to put together the following graph for salaries of vets working in clinical practice.

Career prospects img3.jpg

NB: the divisions aren’t equal, but the bar widths are. Can’t help it – don’t complain!

Tthe non-specialist job vacancy website shows the following salary banding. Although it’s harder to filter results on Indeed to make sure we are only looking at full time roles for practicing vets, I didn’t want to leave it out and give an overly rose-tinted view of my future income! I assume these numbers are cumulative, which would give  the following graph:

Career prospects img5.jpg

Senior staff

Prospects suggest that senior vets with over 20 years of experience “can earn up to £69,021” whilst the RCVS survey found that 8% of respondents earned over £100,000 per annun.

Outside of veterinary practice

Of course, not all vets work in practice: 5% of RCVS survey respondents worked outside of this sphere, although nearly half of these were still in animal-oriented organisations. Opportunities including working for government bodies, the army, in the food production industry, in research or in teaching. Most of these people had worked in clinical practice previously, on average for 12.6 years, and their mean average salary was £51,000.

Work-life balance

Many veterinary job adverts list how often you will be on call, such as 1 in 3 or 1 in 6 days per week, 1 in 5 weekends, 1 in 3 Saturday mornings or similar. Some practices now use a separate emergency services provider and state “no out of hours”; my reaction to this is that it’s an individual choice how much disruption to your home life, family and hobbies you’re willing to take on. I imagine at different points in your working life different OOH arrangements would suit.

In many practices working long hours over and above the number listed as “full time” seem to be the norm, although this is certainly not unique to the veterinary profession and from what I’ve seen occurs in lots of roles in private businesses. That’s not to dismiss the long hours of intense work vets do, just to point out that for lots of hard-working people, not being a vet does not equal an easy ride. Compared to other similarly-qualified private sector professions such as law vets do have a low hourly rate, but they do well in comparison to the public sector and other roles that my friends have gone into on the grounds of “I’ve got a passion for it” such as teaching and conservation. To use the example of teachers, commonly they work over 50 hours per week teaching, marking, preparing lessons, planning activities, running after-school clubs and communicating with parents, all of which can also take up much of the holidays. The salary for a teacher in English or Welsh state school is typically between £22,000 and £33,000.


Obviously, I’m not going to vet school because I see it as a fab money making idea. I’m going because I see an opportunity for a challenging career combining academic expertise and hands-on work with both people and animals. It’s a tough career and a lot of work – but so are lots of other jobs, in which case I might as well do something I enjoy. And having considered the numbers, a veterinary education doesn’t look like a terrible investment either. Please comment below if you want to share your view or if you think the numbers I’ve found aren’t a good representation of real life!



Vet Jobs

Vet Times Jobs

Vet Record

RCVS Survey of the Veterinary Profession 2010


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Royal Veterinary College Open Day

Today the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) held their annual open day at the Hereford campus. As well as being one of the world’s best vet schools they also offer a 4-year accelerated graduate programme, so I was keen to find out more and have a look around. I really enjoyed the visit and RVC will definitely be on my UCAS application in the autumn!


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