Work Experience

For applications to veterinary medicine degrees, it is a good idea to undertake work experience within a variety of different veterinary settings. However, we understand that this can be a difficult thing to achieve, particularly if you live in an inner-city area. The bottom line is that we are mainly interested in the QUALITY OF YOUR LEARNING during work experience i.e. you could spend weeks and weeks seeing practice in a busy small animal surgery but if you don’t actively observe, listen and ask questions, you might as well have been sitting at home watching TV all Summer instead.

We ALWAYS ask you about your work experience at interview and are constantly surprised by the number of candidates that have managed to come away with little more than a list of the different animals they have seen in during consultations.

In order to get the most out of your work experience you should do some planning beforehand. Think about the practice/vet/person you are going to spend time with. What are the kinds of things you would like/need to know about their daily job to get a good feel for it? Is there anything else they can help you understand about the profession e.g. business matters, public health issues, ethical concerns or personal challenges?

They didn’t like me asking questions during consultations – what should I do?
This is where your social awareness, sensitivity and communication skills really come in! You will need to be highly flexible in your approach if you are to gain the maximum amount of information during work experience. Most professionals should not object to one or two well thought out, relevant questions during each consultation.

However, if this is proving difficult, for whatever reason, you could take notes of your questions as they arise and ask for a short designated Q & A session with the vet/vet nurse/receptionist at the end of the day/week.

I can’t find a placement at a vet practice - what should I do?
It is hard to get good vet work experience so you need to be looking and planning well in advance. The RCVS website ( has a “Find a Vet” tool where you can search for a vet practice near you. Your school or connexions advisor might also be able to provide you with useful contacts. Failing that, ask around your friends, they (or more likely their parents) might know someone who works at a vet practice and may be willing to give you a personal introduction.

When contacting vet practices you should mention your age and intention to apply for vet school.

If you are applying for the Gateway programme, work experience in a vet practice is not compulsory (though, for your sake, we would recommend you try very hard to get it). If you are really struggling with this, you should look around for alternative experience, preferably working with animals e.g. at a pet shop, petting zoo, stables etc.

Part time jobs, sports teams and other non-academic activities are an excellent opportunity to develop what we call “generic skills”. For example, waiters and waitresses will have worked as a team, under pressure and will often have made good use of their people management skills, particularly when dealing with difficult customers.

The important thing is to spend some time thinking about the activities that YOU undertake in addition to your academic work, the generic skills YOU have developed from them and most importantly, some real-life examples of instances when YOU have needed to put these skills into practice. Also see the What am I good at? worksheet for help on how to structure your thoughts about this.

Click here for help in making the most of your work experience