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New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Level 3) (Companion Animals)


Online with a minimum of 40 hours compulsory work placement

Six months full-time; One year part-time

Learn via online facilitated teaching sessions, discussion forums, online course resources and activities (written, audio and video)

February: distance full-time or part-time
June: distance full-time
  • Location
    Study breaks
  • Distance
    8 February 2021
    5 July 2021 - 23 July 2021
    19 April 2021 - 30 April 2021
    4 October 2021 - 15 October 2021
  • Distance
    28 June 2021
    13 September 2021 - 24 September 2021
  • Distance
    8 February 2022
    4 July 2022 - 22 July 2022
    18 April 2022 - 29 April 2022
    3 October 2022 - 14 October 2022
  • Distance
    31 January 2022
    18 April 2022 - 29 April 2022
  • Distance
    4 July 2022
    26 September 2022 - 7 October 2022

Start here for a fulfilling career working with animals.

This programme is your first step if you want to enter an animal-related profession such as animal control and training, kennel and cattery management, SPCA work, pet grooming, wildlife management or education. It is also a pathway for learners who do not have the entry criteria to gain entry for veterinary nursing assistant and veterinary nurse training.

Veterinary and animal-related industries focus on promoting the health, husbandry and welfare of animals, and practitioners work in a variety of different places such as companion animal veterinary clinics, farms, zoos, kennels, catteries, pet-shops, SPCA/animal shelters and for regional councils. The animal health industry is vital to the success of New Zealand's economy and there is a constant demand for graduates with animal-related experience.

During this programme, you will learn about companion animals (cats, dogs, rabbits and birds), their health, welfare and husbandry (how to care for companion animals), anatomy, physiology and low stress handling techniques. This qualification will enable you to then enter the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology (Level 5) (Veterinary Nursing Assistant) if you do not currently have the necessary entry requirements.

The online delivery will ensure that you can fit your study around other commitments and learn from a location that suits you, whilst knowing that assistance is always on hand through our extensive support systems.

Information about work placements

You must complete a minimum of 40 hours of work placement time as part of this programme. You will be required to organise access to animal-related facilities such as boarding kennels, catteries or regional SPCA’s (not veterinary clinics) once you have completed the first course. All work placements will ask to see a copy of your Criminal Convictions History report. This can be obtained free from

Entry requirements 
  • There are no academic entry requirements but we prefer that you have: 
    • NCEA Level 1 science/biology OR equivalent
    • computer skills equivalent to NCEA Level 1
    • an understanding of the animal-related and veterinary industry
    • observed in a veterinary clinic or animal facility
    • a commitment to animal welfare.
  • You must have access to a computer, camera, video and the internet.
  • You must complete the enrolment pack including the health and tetanus declaration
  • You must take a copy of your current Criminal Convictions History to all animal related facilities when sourcing compulsory animal related facility work placements. 
Additional documentation

Upon application you must supply certified copies of proof of identity, academic records, proof of residency (where appropriate).

Upon enrolment (once you have received an Offer of Place), you must complete the Enrolment Pack Declaration including health and tetanus status, and apply for a declaration of criminal convictions history. This can be obtained free from

Selection procedure

All applicants are advised within ten working days of receipt of their application whether they have been accepted.  All enrolments will be contingent on Criminal Convictions History.

Youth Guarantee Scheme information

To be eligible for Youth Guarantee funding, you must:

  • Be a domestic student between 16-19 years old
  • OR be 15 years of age at the time when you commence the programme AND have an early leaving exemption from your school
  • Not already hold a Level 3 qualification in any subject 
  • Have been thinking about leaving school and getting a job OR prefer to be working towards a career rather than staying at school OR have left school and are not sure how to enter higher education or employment
  • Want to learn practical skills
  • Be more motivated in a non-school setting and be prepared to enrol in a full-time programme.

Fees and allowances

The Youth Guarantee Scheme will cover tuition fees, material and equipment costs of your programme of study. 18-19 year olds enrolled in fees-free Youth Guarantee qualifications will now be able to access the course-related costs part of the student loan and student allowances if they meet the eligibility criteria. Those under 18 years old will not be able to access any part of the student loans. Funding for travel is available, conditions apply. Please visit the Studylink website for full details. We strongly recommend that you read this carefully prior to applying for this programme.  

The process

  • There is not a separate Youth Guarantee application form. Please apply for this programme by using our standard Otago Polytechnic application form. To apply online, or to download a paper version, click the apply button at the top right hand corner of this page.
  • If you meet the criteria for Youth Guarantee funding you will be offered the funding if it is available. We will ask you to let us know within two weeks if you do not wish to take up the funding.  
  • If there is no Youth Guarantee funding available, we will send you a letter advising you of this. Along with this letter, you will receive an invoice, terms and conditions, a Studylink brochure and an equipment list advising what you will need to purchase before starting your programme. 
Additional costs
  • Compulsory shirt - $40 (approx.)
  • Compulsory name badge - $15 (pin-back) or $18.50 (magnetic)
  • Photocopy and printing costs for personal work and assessments
  • Travel, accommodation (if required) and food costs associated with attendance at animal facility work placements
  • Health and Safety require closed-in shoes
  • You will also need access to a digital camera and a video camera/phone that can record video footage.
Further study options

This qualification leads directly into the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology (Level 5) (Veterinary Nursing Assistant) for those that do not have the academic entry requirements. To complete the Level 5 qualification, you will need to study a further one year full-time (on campus or via distance learning) or two years part-time via distance learning.

Programme-specific risks

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, chemicals, sharp instruments, electricity, fire, and mercury thermometers. We recommend that your tetanus injection status is up-to-date to attend work-placements and handle any animals in this programme.

Studying via distance

Our programmes were developed in consultation with animal-related industries. All of our staff are required to undertake compulsory industry immersion to ensure they can deliver up-to-date and appropriate animal healthcare training and low stress handling techniques.

Work placements

You will be required to organise and undertake a minimum of 40 hours of work placement time in animal-related facilities (not veterinary clinics) while you study. This could be the SPCA, boarding kennels or catteries. These work-placements must be sourced and managed by you.

Studying via distance

The School of Veterinary Nursing is a leader in the provision of distance education. Due to our extensive knowledge and training, and the availability of excellent online resources, traditional challenges unique to distance-based learning are no longer issues.

Assistance is always on hand through our extensive support systems which include:

  • Materials (written, audio and video) and assessments provided online Internet tutorials
  • Learning Management System – MOODLE
  • Student Hub
  • Communication through Otago Polytechnic 0800 telephone, email and the internet
  • IT support for IT concerns or issues available at Otago Polytechnic 0800 POLYIT
  • One-on-one tutor support both face-to-face and online.
Your workload

All study is highly-structured, guided and self-directed and you will need to have good time management skills. As a part-time student, you should typically aim for around 15 hours of study per week.  A full-time student should typically aim for around 30-40 hours of study per week including work experience. You will be required to engage with the online resources and activities, and complete assessments and work placements.

Qualification structure

All courses must be completed to gain this qualification.

Course name Level Credits
Introduction to Animal Care 3 10
Assist in maintaining the Animal Facility 3 15
Animal Husbandry 3 15
Applied animal behaviour, husbandry, handling and welfare 3 15
Assist with the maintenance of animal health 3 15
Student loans

Student loans are available. For information and to check your eligibility, visit the Studylink website.

Recognition of prior learning

If you have extensive knowledge and skills due to practical experience in this area, enquire about our recognition of prior learning process at Capable NZ. You may have already gained credits towards this qualification.

Links to useful websites

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.

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