Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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Veterinarians and Veterinary Nurses

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Job prospects for veterinarians are generally very good, particularly in the rural sector. There is high demand for veterinarians in mixed animal practices. Entry requirements to study to become a veterinarian are high and there is a cap on student intakes. This reflects the breadth and depth of the study and the opportunities to work in a range of roles over the course of a veterinary career.

Job opportunities are available for qualified veterinary nurses. However, experience is often preferred and candidates may need to be prepared to move regions to gain employment.

How to become a veterinarian or veterinary nurse

What they do

Veterinarians are the stewards of animal health and welfare. They provide advice and treatment that prevents illness and injury as well as advice and treatment on treating sick and injured animals. This is across all species, from pets to farm animals, to animals in zoos. Other roles for veterinarians include ensuring that standards are maintained in the import and export of animals and animal products, and in research testing and teaching. Many veterinarians also work in industry (providing essential medicines to maintain healthy animals).

Their tasks include:

  • treating animals medically and surgically, and administering and prescribing drugs, analgesics, and general and local anaesthetics
  • determining the presence and nature of abnormal conditions by physical examination, laboratory testing and through diagnostic imaging techniques including radiography and ultrasound
  • performing surgery, dressing wounds and setting broken bones
  • rendering obstetric services to animals
  • participating in programs designed to prevent the occurrence and spread of animal diseases
  • inoculating animals against, and testing for, infectious diseases and notifying authorities of outbreaks of infectious animal diseases
  • performing autopsies to determine cause of death
  • advising clients on health, nutrition and feeding, hygiene, breeding and care of animals
  • may provide professional services to commercial firms producing biological and pharmaceutical products
  • may specialise in the treatment of a particular animal group or in a particular specialty area such as cardiology, chiropractic, dermatology or critical care.

Veterinary nurses assist veterinarians in their work. This may include some or all of these:

  • holding animals to allow examination and treatment by Veterinarians
  • cleaning and sterilising examination tables and equipment
  • preparing instruments and handing them to the Veterinarian
  • assisting Veterinarians to administer anaesthetics and oxygen during operations
  • placing animals in cages for recovery from operations and monitoring their condition
  • giving medications to animals
  • maintaining stock control and records
  • providing animal care advice, and preparing, delivering, and reviewing animal care education programs
  • may perform diagnostic laboratory tests
  • may act as receptionist, accept payments and undertake clerical work.

Qualifications needed

To become a veterinarian, you need to complete a five-year Bachelor of Veterinary Science. Entry requirements are strict – about 300 students apply for selection into the professional phase of the degree each year, but only 100 places are available for domestic students and 24 for international students.

The following subjects are recommended:

  • 14-20 credits of NCEA Level 3 chemistry, biology and physics
  • At least one mathematics subject to NCEA Level 3 (calculus, statistics or modelling)
  • NCEA Level 2 English to meet the university admission requirements.

See Massey University website for further details: 

Entry to the veterinary nursing profession requires the two-year New Zealand Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Level 6). The New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology (Level 5) with the veterinary nursing strand is available to those aspiring to become veterinary nurse assistants.

Cost of study

Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc)New Zealand Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Level 6)
$60,000 over five years $6,700 over one year


Average costs in 2018 for a domestic student. Costs vary between institutions. First time students may be eligible for fees-free tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to Some polytechnics may have a zero-fees scheme. Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services: 

Where to study

Massey University in Palmerston North is the only university in New Zealand offering veterinary science degrees.

Training in veterinary nursing is provided throughout New Zealand. Further details of where to study veterinary nursing are available on the New Zealand Veterinary Nursing Association (NZVNA) website.

Massey University, Bachelor of Veterinary Science: 


To practise as a veterinarian in New Zealand you must be registered with the Veterinary Council of New Zealand, and have an annual practising certificate.

Information and applications for registration and practising certificates are available on the Council website.

Veterinary nurses meeting the eligibility criteria are able to enter their names on the voluntary register of veterinary nurses maintained by the NZVNA.

New Zealand Veterinary Nursing Association, registration: 
Veterinary Council of New Zealand:

Completed qualifications

The number of students completing a qualification in Veterinary Assisting has increased slightly in recent years, but the number of students completing the Veterinary Science degree remains around 100. The number of graduates is limited by the number of places in the veterinary programme at Massey University.

Qualification completions chart


Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


In 2019, the average income for veterinarians and veterinary nurses was estimated to be around $98,600. Veterinarians earn more than veterinary nurses. Depending on experience, responsibilities and location, veterinarians can earn between $45,000 and $150,000 per year. According to NZVNA, veterinary nurses start out on the minimum wage or little more, while experienced veterinary nurses can expect to earn around $45,000 a year.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Veterinarians and veterinary nurses’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
2,775 3,465 4,130 4,590
  3.2% 3.0% 1.8%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the broader category “Natural and Physical Science Professionals”.

The number of vets and vet nurses in employment increased from 2006 to 2013. This increase is projected to continue out to 2028. This means there will be continuing demand for graduate veterinarians and veterinary nurses.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Veterinarians appear on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list, indicating the government is actively encouraging skilled workers in this occupation to work in New Zealand.

Veterinary nurses are not on Immigration New Zealand’s skill shortage lists. A full list is available on the Immigration New Zealand website.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Veterinarian and veterinary nursing vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites. Veterinarian vacancies are also to be found in the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) publication ‘VetScript’. Veterinary nursing vacancies are also found on the NZNVA website.

Trade Me Jobs: 

Career path

Most veterinarians in New Zealand are involved in caring for pets or livestock (and activities and services). Many also work as animal scientists or work in export industries ensuring animal welfare. Veterinarians can become business owners, professional advisors to industry, senior veterinarians or managers of large group-veterinary practices.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level veterinarians or veterinary nurses.

  • Animal Care Attendant
  • Animal Nurse
  • Rural Animal Technician
  • Vet
  • Vet Nurse
  • Zookeeper

Other information


More information on veterinarians and veterinary nurses is available on the Careers New Zealand website and through the "Just the Job" videos.

Careers New (Veterinarian)
Careers New Zealand: (Veterinary Nurse)
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Veterinarian 
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Vet Nurse


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of veterinarian and veterinary nurse has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for the purpose of this report:

2347 – Veterinarians
3613 – Veterinary Nurses