This page provides an overview of the things to consider if you are thinking about applying to train as a nurse, what you can expect during training and your next steps after qualifying.
Nurses usually train in one of the following four fields of nursing:
A small number of universities run ‘dual field’ degrees, where you can study two of the above fields.
Applying to become a nurse
The first step to becoming a nurse is to take a course approved by the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC). You can search for NMC-approved courses (including dual field degree courses) using our course finder.
Applications for full-time nursing courses are made through UCAS. For part-time courses, contact individual universities to find out their application procedures. Which? University has some good tips on writing personal statements.
Nursing degree apprenticeships are being developed (see below).
Entry requirements for nursing degree courses vary because each university sets its own entry criteria, but you are likely to need at least two (usually three) A-levels or equivalent qualifications at level 3, plus supporting GCSEs including English, maths and a science (usually biology or human biology). Contact universities directly to find out whether qualifications equivalent to A-levels or GCSEs are acceptable.
Entry is competitive. Courses often specify preferred or essential A-level or equivalent subjects, such as one science (eg biology) or social science (eg psychology). Some universities offer courses with a foundation year for those without the necessary entry qualifications.
If you already have a degree in a relevant subject, you can often get recognition for this (a process called Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning - APEL), enabling you to do the course in two rather than three years. Our coursefinder lists these 'accelerated' courses for for graduates.
Nursing degree apprenticeships
Nursing degree apprenticeships are currently under development, with plans to make these available from 2017. They will offer flexible routes to becoming a nurse that won't require full-time study at university - although nursing degree apprentices will still need to undertake academic study at degree level and meet the standards laid down by the NMC.
You will need to secure a position as a nursing degree apprentice and your employer will then release you to study at university on a part-time basis. You will train in a range of practice placement settings.
Most nursing degree apprenticeships will take 4 years. If you already have prior learning and experience, you may get some recognition of this through Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) and so the nursing degree apprenticeship may take you less than 4 years to complete..
Entry requirements for nursing degree apprenticeships have yet to be confirmed. Those completing a nursing associate apprenticeship will be able to count this training towards the degree-level apprenticeship, and so reduce the length of the apprenticeship. .
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Universities will normally expect you to attend an interview. You'll also need to demonstrate that you have found out about nursing as a career and understand what the work involves. This is possible through relevant experience. Experience in any healthcare setting is useful but if you can work alongside registered nurses, so much the better. Work experience placements can be difficult to find, so alternatives would be to shadow a nurse or talk to a nurse about their role. Find out exactly what is required for your chosen courses and get organised as soon as possible. Reading our information on roles in nursing and watching our films will also help.
The UCAS website allows you to search for courses and view entry requirements. More detailed information about specific courses can be found in university prospectuses and on their websites.
There are other routes to becoming qualified as a nurse, such as studying part time whilst working in a clinical support role, through a nursing degree apprenticeship (as mentioned above) or by taking an accelerated programme after graduating in another subject.
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If you’re applying for a university programme leading to a role providing NHS healthcare, you’ll be asked to show how you think the NHS values would apply in your everyday work.
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Approved nursing degree courses last for three or four years full time (if taking a dual-field degree), or longer if taken on a part-time basis. Accelerated courses for graduates take two years. Courses involve spending half your time studying at university and half gaining practical, supervised experience in a range of healthcare settings.
Approved courses must meet the NMC’s standards of education and training but programmes vary in their content, the way they are structured, and how they are taught and assessed. The facilities available and amount of support and supervision may also differ from course to course. Find out more by looking at university websites and prospectuses, attending university open days and contacting admissions staff.
Support at university
See our information about the support available while on your course.
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Job vacancies for registered nurses are advertised on the NHS Jobs website and elsewhere. General information on looking for work can be found in the Career planning section and under Looking for a job.
As mentioned above, as a nurse there are opportunities to work in a wide range of settings and you can progress from one grade or band to another. You’ll need some experience in a more generalist role, but you can specialise in an area that interests you, such as intensive care nursing, health visiting or occupational health nursing. Moving into a clinical specialism can involve studying for further qualifications.
To maintain your registration to practise with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, you’ll need to go through the process of revalidation. The process is straightforward and will help you as a nurse or midwife to demonstrate that you practise safely and effectively. You will have to revalidate every three years to renew your registration. Revalidation includes taking part in continuing professional development (CPD). Find out more about revalidation on the NMC microsite