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


Online with a minimum of 40 hours compulsory work placement

20 weeks full-time; One year part-time

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

February: online full-time or part-time
June: online 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


There are some exciting changes coming to our Animal Healthcare and Veterinary Nursing programmes in 2023. Updated programme information will be added as soon as possible.

To chat about the best options for you or for further information, please email 

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. 

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.

By successfully completing this programme, you'll then be able to enter our New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology (Level 5) (Veterinary Nursing Assistant).

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.

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 The Ministry of Justice

Selection process

Once we receive your application, we'll let you know within ten working whether you have been accepted. All enrolments will be contingent on Criminal Convictions History. 

You will study

You'll need to complete all of these courses during this programme.

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
Studying online 

We're a leader in the provision of online education. You'll learn via online facilitated teaching sessions and discussion forums, as well as having access to online course resources and activities (written, audio and video). 

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

  • One-on-one tutor support 
  • IT support. 
Your work placements

You’ll need to complete a minimum of 40 hours of work placement time during this programme. These work placements must be sourced and managed by you.

You’ll need 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

Please note: Whilst you don't need to provide us with evidence of your Covid-19 vaccination status to study this programme, please be aware that some placement providers may ask you for this.

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.

Health and safety

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.

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 online learning) or two years part-time via online learning.

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. 
Student loans and allowances

For information about student loans and allowances please visit the Studylink website. It's 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 from your programme application or if it is unsuccessful. 


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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