New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology (Level 5) (Veterinary Nursing Assistant)

This programme will enable you to work alongside veterinarians and veterinary nurses in a clinical environment as a Veterinary Nursing Assistant and will fulfil education requirements for you to become a listed Veterinary Nursing Assistant (LVNA). Industry-based experience is a major part of this programme, with both blended on-campus and distance learning.


There are some exciting changes coming to our Animal Healthcare and Veterinary Nursing programmes in 2023. Updated programme information will be added as soon as possible. To chat about the best options for you or for further information, please email 

About the programme 

Love animals and care about their welfare? Prepare for a career as a Veterinary Nurse.

Become a Veterinary Nursing Assistant educated to the highest professional standards with this practical and theoretical programme.

The animal health industry is vital to the success of New Zealand’s economy and there is always strong demand for qualified Veterinary Nursing Assistants to assist Veterinarians and Veterinary Nurses.

This programme will give you the skills and knowledge required for a successful career in companion animal healthcare. It will enable you to work alongside veterinarians and veterinary nurses in a clinical environment as a veterinary nursing assistant and will fulfil education requirements for you to become a listed veterinary nursing assistant (LVNA).

In addition, it will prepare you for entry into the New Zealand Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Level 6) where you will gain the skills to become a fully qualified Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN).  

Aligned with international standards, it has been developed in consultation with veterinarians, veterinary nurses, the New Zealand Veterinary Nursing Association and our own experienced staff. All of our staff are required to undertake compulsory industry immersion to ensure they can deliver up-to-date, detailed theoretical knowledge of companion animal healthcare and practical skills, including low stress handling techniques.

Studying part-time 

We know that full-time study isn't always possible. You can study this programme part-time over two years online (with compulsory block courses). 

A Veterinary Nursing Assistant works to promote the health, husbandry and welfare of companion animals such as household pets (cats, dogs, birds, rabbits).

A Veterinary Nursing Assistant will support and communicate with Veterinarians and Veterinary Nurses in the care and treatment of companion animals in the veterinary clinic. This may include roles in reception and front of house, hospitalised animal patient care, assisting with diagnostic sampling and radiography, providing proactive and preventative health care to pets, first aid/emergency advice. Veterinary Nursing Assistants will play an important role in preparing animals for surgery and assisting Veterinarians and Veterinary Nurses during and after surgery. 

Links to useful websites


All eight, 15-credit courses must be completed to gain this qualification.

Courses Credits
Introduction to Veterinary Nursing Assistant 15
Companion Animal Husbandry and Welfare 15
Operate Within The Animal Health and Veterinary Services Interface 15
*Routine Diagnostics and Imaging 15
*Essentials of In-patient Care 15
*Routine Surgery and Anaesthesia 15
Veterinary Nursing Assistant Practicum Part 1 15
*Veterinary Nursing Assistant Practicum Part 2 15

* Courses completed during Year 2, part-time distance.

Your work placements 

Both our on campus (full-time) and online learning options (full-time and part-time) require you to undertake industry-based work placements.

All work placements must be organised and managed by you.

Due to the limited number of veterinary clinics in Dunedin, all Dunedin-based students are likely to need to organise some work placement outside of Dunedin, therefore you must be prepared to travel to complete this requirement if necessary. You need to do at least 240 hours of work placement - at least 40 hours in animal-related facilities (such as boarding kennels, catteries or your local SPCA) and a minimum of 200 hours in companion animal veterinary clinics while you study.

When approaching veterinary clinics for your three day observation and when sourcing supervising veterinary clinic work placements, you will be asked for evidence of completion of the Health and Safety Course (access to this course is provided once you have been offered a place in the programme) and also a copy of your current Criminal Convictions History report. This report can be obtained free from:

Health and Safety 

You will be given full training to minimise all programme-specific risks. Examples of risks associated with this programme are:  lifting, animal bites and scratches, zoonotic diseases, computers, radiation from x-rays, anaesthetic gases, chemicals and drugs, UV radiation, sharp instruments, electricity, fire, gas cylinders and mercury thermometers.

We recommend that all students maintain a current up-to-date tetanus injection to handle any animals as part of this programme.

Further study options 

Successful completion of this programme will provide you with the entry requirements for the New Zealand Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Level 6). 

A change for 2023 enrolments

When you apply to study with Otago Polytechnic in 2023, you will be enrolled with Te Pūkenga, the new national network of vocational and applied education in Aotearoa New Zealand. You will learn in the same way, in the same place, and with the same people. The great news is that this enables us to share skills and knowledge across a network of passionate education providers, to better help you succeed. Enrolling in programmes that start in 2023, means that you will graduate with a Te Pūkenga qualification.


While every effort is made to ensure that this sheet is accurate, Otago Polytechnic reserves the right to amend, alter or withdraw any of the contained information. The fees shown in this document are indicative ONLY. Both domestic and international fees are subject to change and are dependent on the development and implementation of Government policies. Please note that additional fees may from time to time be required for external examination, NZQA fees and/or additional material fees.