student handbook


Working with animals is very physically and mentally demanding. You will need to be reasonably fit, healthy and strong as you may spend long periods on your feet and may have to lift heavy animals.

Personal self care and resilience is also essential – especially when dealing with heartbreaking cases and euthanasia.

Not that we want to scare you away, but before deciding to undertaking a career change and enrol on our courses, you should consider the following. These are often considered essential personal attributes for animal care workers and veterinary nurses. Employers will be looking for your ability to meet these, and they are essential to successfully meet course requirements.

  • Able to stand on your feet for long periods of time (eg several hours)
  • Able to lift up to 20kg
  • Have good written and verbal communication skills to interact with a variety of people from different backgrounds
  • Good numeracy skills
  • Have good observational skills
  • Excellent organisational skills
  • The ability to work well as part of an interdisciplinary team but also work independently
  • The ability to deal with stressful situations
  • Empathy for both animals and humans.

health & safety

Even with all the best safety protocols and equipment in place, you should also be aware that you may be exposed to:

  • infectious pathogens
  • animal waste and other biological products
  • allergens – especially animal based
  • chemicals and medications that can cause harm to your body
  • radiation
  • upset and hostile people
  • aggressive and dangerous animals
  • high pressure and stressful situations
  • shift work and long and unsociable hours, including weekend and on call work
  • situations that may conflict with your own ethics and personal morals
  • euthanasia of ill animals and sometimes healthy ones too.

We will teach you how to work safely and how to minimize any risks from hazards you may encounter in the animal care workplace. Your workplace will also provide you with safety inductions and information. Common sense also helps to ensure you keep yourself and others safe.


We recommend that you be up to date with routinely recommended vaccines for adults, as well as those stipulated in the Australian Immunisations Handbook for animal workers. This includes annual influenza, Q Fever and rabies if you are working with bats or in a country with rabies present. Some employers or work placement facilities may make this mandatory.

If you are enrolled in a program delivered in conjunction with UQ Skills, they may require you to have certain vaccinations, including tetanus and Q Fever prior to undertaking any work placement components of your course. Refer to their course handbook for full details.


Students, who are pregnant or have chronic medical conditions, including severe allergies or immunosuppressed, may be at higher risk from exposure to certain chemicals and hazards present in the animal care workplace. For more information on pregnancy and working with animals, please see this page.

Students who are pregnant or have a chronic medical condition are encouraged to advise us as soon as possible. Since the first trimester can be a period of high susceptibility, notice from students who are pregnant is particularly important. This ensures that suitable arrangements or modifications can be made to minimise the student’s exposure, if necessary. You should also maintain open lines of communications with your supervisors in the workplace and be aware that they may wish to postpose a voluntary clinical placement until after your baby is born. Most workplaces however are familiar with the risks and can accommodate alterations to duties to reduce your exposure. It is not necessary to stop working with animals if you are pregnant unless your medical doctor has advised you to.

While there are clear guidelines on effects of certain chemicals, drugs, micro-organisms and ionizing radiation on pregnancy, it is difficult to determine a “safe limit” in large animal handling. Consideration needs to be given to the unpredictable nature of the animal, types of procedures and the positions involved, which may require heavy physical workloads or effort working in hot conditions. Therefore, students who are pregnant and are required to handle large animals should seek medical guidance from their personal physician in determining work activity limitations.

Students may be at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases in their work / study and are advised to have vaccinations to protect themselves from the potential risks. Some immunisations are not recommended during pregnancy. Students who are planning a pregnancy, or are pregnant should consult their doctor about immunisations they need for work or study.