Animal care pathways

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If veterinary science is not for you, what other career paths can animal lovers consider?

The veterinary nursing profession supports veterinarians in clinical settings, and allows training on-the-job alongside academic studies, and you may wish to inquire with the Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia (VNCA) for further information.

If you have good business acumen you may consider working as a Practice Manager for veterinary practices. Administration and support are crucial to the operation of veterinary practices so to allow the veterinarian to focus on their patients.

Other animal-related career pathways that are available may include :

  • Animal welfare inspectors
  • Animal attendants
  • Pet groomers
  • Conservation biologists or ecologists
  • Zookeepers
  • Wildlife volunteers

Each of the above have a different qualification pathway. Some require university-based qualifications, others can be done via TAFE courses, still others are hands-on training.

The Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia (VNCA) are the peak professional body for veterinary nurses. 

Training pathways typically involve both academic and practical components and a detailed pathway is available on the VNCA website. A list of recognised training providers for veterinary nurses is also provided on their website.

As a vet nurse, you can join the VNCA as a member. Joining the VNCA as a veterinary nurse opens up opportunities for further education, access to the veterinary nursing journal AVNJ and enables access to many exclusive member benefits that support your professional pathway.

Currently, only the state of Western Australia requires veterinary nurses to be registered for practice with the Veterinary Practitioners Board of WA. The information is under the Nurses section of the WA Vet Board Website. 

Veterinary technologists or vet techs are a relatively new role in the Australian context, with a three-year bachelor’s degree offered by the University of Queensland and Charles Sturt University.

Some veterinary technicians are employed as support staff in veterinary practices in similar roles as veterinary nurses, while others work in other roles in animal industries including diagnostic labs, zoos, horse studs, cattle feedlots or the poultry industry..  In veterinary practices their  responsibilities vary according to the practice, their role description and what is legally allowed in that state, (in the same way that there are different qualifications for nurses in human medicine that determine what they can and cannot do). Veterinarians are legally the ultimate responsible party for what occurs in the clinic, and therefore there are tasks that can only be performed by veterinarians.

The Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia's website www.vnca.asn.au contains some further information on the subject. The International Veterinary Nurses and Technicians Association (www.ivnta.org) also contains information on how Vet Techs are defined in various countries. These definitions differ from country to country in terms of regulations, the ability and scope to specialise and their career prospects.

The Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA) is the peak industry body for pet food manufacturers. 

You should be able to find guidance on ingredients, nutrition and other food safety and labelling regulations that will affect the viability and compliance of your product to the Australian Standard (AS 5812). 

The PFIAA can also provide resources on the scientific evidence of specific pet food fads and whether they are beneficial in the long run to animals, and any impacts on specific health conditions. There is an online contact form on the website. 

You also need to check the requirements for registering and starting a small business, and the Australian Government has put together some resources to help Australian small businesses get started. 

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