Veterinarians are in a strong position of social influence on animal-related issues. Hence, veterinary schools have an opportunity to raise animal health and welfare standards by improving veterinary students' animal welfare and ethics (AWE) education, including that related to animals used for scientific purposes. A survey of 818 students in the early, mid, and senior stages of their courses at all eight veterinary schools across Australia and New Zealand was undertaken on their first day of practice (or Day One Competences) to explore how veterinary students viewed the importance of their competence in the management of welfare and ethical decision-making relating to animals kept for scientific purposes. From highest to lowest, the rankings they assigned were: Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) Procedures or Requirements; 3Rs (Replacement, Refinement and Reduction); Humane Endpoints; Euthanasia; "What Is a Research Animal?" and Conscientious Objections. Female students rated Conscientious Objections, Humane Endpoints, and Euthanasia significantly higher than male students did across the three stages of study. The score patterns for these three variates showed a trend for the male students to be more likely to score these topics as extremely important as they advanced through the course, but female students' scores tended to decline slightly or stay relatively stable. No gender differences emerged for the three variates: 3Rs (Replacement, Refinement and Reduction); AEC Procedures or Requirements; and "What Is a Research Animal?". This study demonstrates that understandings of the regulatory and normative frameworks are considered most important in animal welfare and ethics competence in veterinary students. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first study to investigate what importance veterinary students place on their competence regarding animals kept for scientific purposes.