Otago Polytechnic

Certificate in Rural Animal Technology

Do you enjoy working on the farm and in a rural veterinary practice environment? Enrol in this programme and gain the necessary skills to become a veterinary nurse and technician working with farm animals such as cows, sheep, horses and pigs.

Graduate with the nursing expertise to care for rural animals and the technical skills needed to independently carry out a number of tasks in the rural veterinary practice. Become skilled at handling a range of rural animal species as well as managing the nursing care of rural animal patients with conditions such as lameness and mastitis. You will be adept at taking diagnostic samples, managing disease and parasite prevention strategies, as well as assisting with reproduction medicine including metri-checking, calving and calf rearing. In addition, you will acquire assertive communication skills, be able to manage client education and be knowledgeable about rural veterinary practice management.

This rural vet nursing programme is designed to build upon the knowledge and competencies gained in the National Certificate in Veterinary Nursing and has been developed in consultation with animal-related industries. Many of our lecturers work part-time in the industry, ensuring you receive up-to-date animal healthcare training and learn via modern methods.

Enjoy access to first-rate block course facilities, a range of rural veterinary equipment, including a well-resourced training laboratory, and farm visits where animal handling takes place. Benefit from the online, flexible delivery, allowing you to fit your study around other commitments and make use of our industry connections.

Please note: From February 2018, this programme name will change to the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology (Level 5) (Rural Animal Technician)*. This is due to a national review of qualifications that is being carried out by NZQA across all New Zealand tertiary institutions.

Skills required
  • A genuine interest in rural animal species
  • Good communication and computer skills
  • The ability to handle stressful emergency situations
  • The ability to work well in a team
  • To be sensible and highly motivated.
Entry requirements
  • National Certificate in Veterinary Nursing, New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology (Veterinary Nursing Assistant) OR equivalent.
  • You must have access to a computer, camera, video and the internet.
  • You must submit a health declaration.
  • You must declare any criminal convictions and give permission for a police check.
Additional documentation

If you have not enrolled in the School of Veterinary Nursing previously, you must supply certified copies of proof of identity, academic records, proof of residency (where appropriate) and evidence of your current tetanus status.

Selection procedure

All applicants are advised within ten working days of receipt of their application whether they have been accepted.

Additional costs
  • Required texts - $200 (approx.)
  • Photocopy and printing costs for personal work and assessments
  • Travel, accommodation and food costs associated with attendance at block courses and work placement
  • Access to a video camera/phone that can record video footage.

If you are not already employed in a suitable veterinary practice or you have not previously studied with us, you may need to purchase the following:

  • Stethoscope - $20
  • Closed-in shoes - $100 (approx.)
  • Shirt - $50
  • Overalls - $80
  • Name badge - $15.
Studying via distance

The School of Veterinary Nursing is a leader among veterinarian schools in the provision of distance education. Thanks to our online vet nursing study resources and flexible learning strategies, traditional challenges unique to distance-based learning are well managed. Assistance is always on hand through our extensive support systems which include:

  • Practical block courses
  • Materials and assignments provided via the internet
  • Internet tutorials
  • Learning Management System - MOODLE
  • Communication through Otago Polytechnic 0800 telephone, fax, email and the internet.
You will study

This programme involves online discussion forums and electronic course material. It includes one year of part-time study comprised of 75 credits organised into five independent rural veterinary nursing courses of 15 credits each. Course one is a pre-requisite for the other four courses. You will be required to complete 150 hours of farm practical experience and 150 hours of work experience in a rural animal veterinary clinic. You will need to organise your own work placements at a veterinary clinic for the 300 total hours of work experience required during this qualification.    

Employment opportunities and further study options

As a rural animal technician, your skills will be in high demand throughout New Zealand. Employment opportunities for vet nurses are diverse and you could consider working as a rural animal technician, head veterinary nurse, practice manager, animal control officer or in a practice overseas, or in areas such as wildlife management, equine vet tech, animal breeding, conservation and education. Alternatively, you could pursue further study and increase your career options with the National Diploma in Veterinary Nursing. This qualification also provides the perfect stepping stone into more advanced training in rural animal procedures such as artificial insemination and TB testing.

Qualification structure


Course Title




Rural Animal Husbandry and Handling Course (includes 75 hours of farm work experience)




Rural Animal Health and Management Course (includes 75 hours of farm work experience)




Diagnostics and Parasitology Course (includes 50 hours of rural veterinary clinic experience)




Rural Animal Veterinary Nursing Course (includes 50 hours of rural veterinary clinic experience)




Rural Animal Veterinary Nurse Technical Skills Course (includes 50 hours of rural veterinary clinic experience)



Your workload

All study is structured but self-directed and, in a typical week you should aim for around 15-20 hours of study, including one day of work experience. There are five assessment due dates throughout the year. Block courses are run twice a year in Dunedin and attendance is not compulsory but is highly recommended. Some of the block course sessions require travel to farms/veterinary clinics at a distance away from the Otago Polytechnic campus.

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, radiation from x-rays, anaesthetic gases, chemicals and drugs, UV radiation, sharp instruments, electricity, fire, gas cylinders and mercury thermometers. You will be required to advise us of your tetanus injection status if you have not been previously enrolled with us, to ensure you are safe to handle any animals in this programme.

Student loans/allowances

Student loans and allowances are for domestic students only. For information about student loans and allowances please visit the Studylink website. It is important to apply for your student loan/allowance at the same time as you apply for this programme, due to the length of time Studylink take to process. Loan/allowance applications can be cancelled at any time if you decide to withdraw your programme application or if it is unsuccessful. 

Recognition of prior learning

If you have extensive animal nursing 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
Social media links

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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