How to become a nurse

Did you know nursing is the UK’s most employable type of degree, with 94% of students getting a job within six months of finishing their course?

If you're eligible you can also receive at least £5,000 in financial support every year of your degree. 

Most people qualify by studying a degree in nursing. Nursing degrees aren’t all about having your nose in a book. There is lots of practical hands on experience with patients in hospital and community settings.

The first thing to decide is which field of nursing you want to study in, so use the links below to find more about them. In all of these fields you’ll have the opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of people each and every day. The four fields of nursing are:

There are some degree courses that allow you to study in two of the fields. These are known as ‘dual field’ degrees. Once you have qualified you’ll be able to work as a nurse anywhere in the UK and even internationally.

Entry requirements

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.

Courses often specify preferred or essential A-level or equivalent subjects, such as one science (for example biology) or social science (for example psychology). Some universities offer courses with a foundation year for those without the necessary entry qualifications.

Where to study nursing

Many universities offer degrees in nursing. You can find a list of courses by using our Course Finder.

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 a postgraduate course in two rather than three years. You can also find these courses using our Course Finder.

Financial support while at university

At least £5,000 will be available from September 2020 to help eligible undergraduate and postgraduate student nurses fund their studies. Best of all, it won’t need to be repaid. Find out more about with these annual payments and the other financial support available. 

How to apply

Applications for full-time nursing courses are made through UCAS. For part-time courses, contact individual universities to find out their application procedures. UCAS has some good tips on writing personal statements.

Online degrees

From January 2021, some universities are offering adult nursing courses where the theoretical content is mainly delivered online, making it easier to fit studies around home life. You can search for the courses, sometimes called 'blended' courses on our course finder

Other ways to become a nurse

Nursing degree apprenticeships

The standards for nursing degree apprenticeships have been approved and there is a growing number of NHS organisations advertising vacancies. Nursing degree apprenticeships offer flexible routes to becoming a nurse that don't require full-time study at university, although nursing degree apprentices will still need to undertake academic study at degree level.

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 four years. If you already have prior learning and experience, you may get some recognition of this through APEL and so the nursing degree apprenticeship may take you less than four years to complete.

You’ll typically need a level 3 qualification to start a nursing degree apprenticeship. If you have a level 5 qualification as a nursing associate or assistant practitioner it'll reduce the length of the apprenticeship, usually to two years. This route is often referred to as a 'top up' registered nurse degree (RNDA) apprenticeship.

Vacancies for nursing degree apprenticeships are advertised on the NHS Jobs website and the Government Find an apprenticeship website

Nursing associate

The role of nursing associate sits alongside existing nursing care support workers and fully-qualified registered nurses in both health and social care. 

It opens up a career in nursing to people from all backgrounds and offers the opportunity to progress to training to become a registered nurse. Trainee roles are often available in a variety of health and care settings. This means that nursing associates have wider opportunities and more flexibility to move between acute, social and community and primary care.

A nursing associate is not a registered nurse, but with further training, it can be possible to 'top up' your training to become one. 

Read more about the nursing associate role

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