FAQs about careers in nursing

This page has some frequently asked questions about careers in nursing.

What do nurses do in the health sector?

Nurses work as part of a team and provide direct patient care. They work in a variety of settings, including hospital wards, operating theatres, schools, prisons, clinics, doctors' surgeries and patients' homes. 

Find out more about what nurses do in the health sector

What are the different fields of nursing?

When you first train as a nurse, you'll need to study for one of the four fields of nursing - mental healthlearning disabilitieschildren's or adult nursing.

A small number of universities run ‘dual field' nursing degrees, in which you can combine two of the fields during a four-year degree.

Use our course finder to search for degrees in the different fields of nursing.

What qualifications do I need to become a nurse?

Each university sets its own entry requirements to get onto a full-time degree in nursing, but as a general guide you'll need at least five A-C grade GCSEs (including English, maths and a science subject) and at least two (preferably 3) A levels. Many universities require A level biology.

Alternative level-3 qualifications are sometimes accepted by universities (eg approved Access to nursing courses, BTEC National Diplomas or International Baccalaureates), but you must check with each university directly before making an application.

Use our course finder to get a list of universities approved to run degree programmes in nursing.

Can I train as a nurse without going to university? Can I train on-the-job?

If you want to train as a nurse, then you will have to go university. Most courses are full-time, but if you are working in the NHS as a senior healthcare assistant or assistant practitioner, your employer may support you to do the university course on a part-time basis.

Use our course finder to get a list of universities approved to run part-time degree programmes in nursing.

Nursing degree apprenticeships are being developed, with plans to make these available from 2017. These 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 standards laid down by the NMC.

Those completing a nursing associate apprenticeship will be able to count this training towards a registered nursing degree.

Read the announcement about nursing degree apprenticeships

Find out more about training to become a nurse

What is a nursing secondment and how does it work?

A secondment is an opportunity for you to train as a nurse by going to university on a part-time basis, while working for an NHS organisation as a senior healthcare assistant/assistant practitioner.

In other words, your employer may support you to train through this route. You will usually continue to be paid by your employer, but will not be eligible for financial support through an NHS student bursary (which you may receive if you do the university course on a full-time basis).

Use our course finder to get a list of universities approved to run part-time degree programmes in nursing.

Find out more about training to become a nurse.

You may be able to get some accreditation for previous relevant experience and/or study, and if you can do this, you can complete the nursing programme in a shorter time (up to a year less than a standard three-year programme). Use our course finder to identify universities offering accelerated programmes in nursing.

Do all universities offer Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)/ Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) for nursing programmes?

No. You will need to check with each university individually to see what arrangements are in place. You can use our course finder to get a list of universities approved to run nursing programmes.

Can I be a health visitor without being a nurse or midwife first?

No. You will need to train first as a nurse or a midwife. See our page on health visiting for more information.

Am I too old to start training?

There is no upper age limit to start nurse training but you should discuss any concerns that you might have about your suitability for training with the universities offering courses. Use our course finder to get a list.

You might consider attending some university open days or contacting the university's admissions office before making a formal application.

Is there financial help to support while I’m training to be a nurse?

Traditionally, the NHS has provided financial support for eligible students on approved pre-registration programmes in nursing. However, this is changing from August 2017. Visit our financial support pages for the latest information. 

Is there a specific field of nursing I need in order to get in health visiting, practice nursing or midwifery?

If you are a qualified nurse and want to train as a health visitor, general practice nurse or midwife, you will need to do further study at university.

You should check with the universities offering these programmes to find out which field of nursing (if any) is stipulated. You might want to start by contacting the Health Learning and Skills Advice Line on 08000 150 850.

Where can I find more information about a career in nursing?

You can find more information about a career in nursing by visiting our explore roles section.

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