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Welcome to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' website for animal owners

Veterinary qualifications

You may find that veterinary surgeons or veterinary nurses have a bewildering array of letters after their names. What do they all mean? Here’s a quick guide…


Veterinary surgeons

Member or Fellow of the RCVS: MRCVS/FRCVS

In order to practise veterinary medicine in the UK, all vets must be registered with the RCVS.

They will either have the initials MRCVS (for Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) or FRCVS (for Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) after their name. These initials show that the vet has met the criteria required for RCVS membership. Fellows have in addition a high level of expertise in a specific area (see below).

An honorary associate of the RCVS – HonAssocRCVS – is not a veterinary surgeon.

An honorary fellow of the RCVS – HonFRCVS – is a veterinary surgeon who has been recognised by the College on the grounds of their special eminence in, and the services they have rendered to, the cause of veterinary science.


Postgraduate qualifications

Some vets have other qualifications which they list after their names. Many of these are awarded by us, although veterinary surgeons can also hold qualifications which are awarded by other organisations in the UK or overseas.

The list of qualifications approved for inclusion in the RCVS Register of Members, including the full list of RCVS certificates and diplomas and their acronyms, can be downloaded from the 'Related documents' box.


RCVS Certificates (eg CertSAM, CertVA, CertCHP, CertAVP)

A certificate is the first level of postgraduate qualification awarded by the RCVS. A certificate holder:

  • has had at least two years’ experience working in the subject area
  • is a competent clinician who has expertise in the subject proven by examination

Certificate examinations used to be available in over 30 different subject areas, such as Pig Medicine, Zoological Medicine or Diagnostic Imaging. More recently, the certificate system has been streamlined into a single, modular award, the Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice (CertAVP).


RCVS Diplomas (eg DEO, DSAM, DVA)

A diploma indicates that the holder has:

  • A high level of expertise in the specialist area
  • Passed an examination to prove their expertise
  • Normally had at least five years’ experience working in an area

The latest lists of RCVS Certificate holders and RCVS Diploma holders are available for download from the 'Related documents' box.


Fellowship of the RCVS: FRCVS 

A holder of the Diploma of Fellowship of the RCVS has demonstrated a significant original contribution in their subject and offered advances in knowledge in their chosen subject area. A fellowship is usually awarded following submission and examination of a thesis, or for outstanding contributions to advancing knowledge.

A member does not have to hold either a certificate or a diploma to embark on a fellowship qualification.


RCVS Advanced Practitioners

Veterinary surgeons who hold either an RCVS Certificate or CertAVP or other qualification at the equivalent level can apply to join the List of RCVS Advanced Practitioners (see 'Related documents' box).

The purpose of the list of Advanced Practitioners is to provide a clear indication to the profession and the public of those veterinary surgeons who have been accredited at postgraduate certificate level (Masters level 7) by the RCVS, by virtue of having demonstrated knowledge and experience in a particular area of veterinary practice beyond their initial primary veterinary degree. Inclusion on the list demonstrates that the individual holds an appropriate qualification and that they have stayed up to date in their field of practice since achieving their certificate-level qualification.


RCVS Specialists

Veterinary surgeons who hold either a fellowship or diploma or other qualification at the equivalent level can apply to join the List of RCVS Specialists (see 'Related documents').

RCVS Specialists must renew their specialist status every five years. This provides an assurance that anyone included on the list is fully up to date in their specialist area and continues to contribute to the development of their subject or discipline. RCVS Specialists have to:

  • Hold a high level qualification, such as the RCVS Diploma, or other high level postgraduate qualification
  • Keep up to date and contribute to the advancement of their specialism
  • Be available for referrals from other veterinary surgeons


Veterinary nurses

Registered veterinary nurse: RVN

For veterinary nurses to enter the RCVS Register of Veterinary Nurses, they need to hold a recognised veterinary nursing qualification.

RCVS Awards is responsible for accrediting awarding bodies who deliver practice-based qualifications to train veterinary nurses. The RCVS also accredits a range of university qualifications which also lead to registration.

Registered veterinary nurses (RVNs) are listed VNs who additionally agree to be accountable for their professional practice, by following the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses, keeping their skills and knowledge up to date and participating in our complaints process. 

Only RCVS-registered veterinary nurses may undertake medical treatments or certain types of minor surgery, under the direction of a veterinary surgeon.


Post-qualification: DipAVN

Once a registered veterinary nurse has worked in clinical practice for two years, they may take the Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nursing. The Diploma is an advanced qualification that further develops clinical nursing skills.

This used to be available in two types – medical (DipAVN(Medical)) and surgical (DipAVN(Surgical)). More recently, the qualification has been streamlined into a single, modular Diploma (DipAVN).

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