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Being a nurse is a highly rewarding career. Working with other health professionals, you’ll be doing a vital work, including administering drugs, taking blood samples, treating wounds, and offering support and advice to people in need. The range of nursing roles in the community is hugely varied – you can read more on the QNI’s website here.

It’s a tough job though, with long hours and lots of pressure – so if you’ve decided that this is the career you want, good on you! You’ll be in high demand too; nursing is the most employable degree in the UK, with a massive 94% of graduates finding a job within six months of leaving university.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Nurse?

If you do decide that nursing is for you, there are three main routes you can take, as well as Postgrad courses:

  1. Undergraduate Nursing Degree
  2. Nursing Degree Apprenticeship
  3. Nursing Associate Training
  4. Postgraduate (PGDip or Master’s) Nursing courses

Here’s an in-depth look at the routes you can take to get the qualifications you will need to be a nurse…


  1. Undergraduate Nursing Degree

What Types of Nursing Degree Can You Study?

There are hundreds of nursing degree courses available in the UK. So, picking the right one for you could be tough.

To help you narrow down your choices, you should first consider what area of nursing you want to go into. These are the different types of nursing and midwifery specialism:

  • Adult Nursing
  • Children’s Nursing
  • Learning Disabilities Nursing
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Midwifery

Thinking about what type of nurse you want to be will help you define what nursing degree you should study.

FACT: Nursing degrees attained in the UK are transferrable in many countries – perfect if you have dreams of living abroad at some point in the future!

What Universities Offer Nursing Degrees?

Currently over 80 universities across the UK offer Nursing degrees. But which uni is the best? The Complete University Guide has the answer! It ranks the best universities for nursing in the UK, looking at factors such as Entry Standards, Graduate Prospects and Research Quality.

Rankings aren’t everything though. You should also make sure you’ll be happy at uni, so consider things like what student support is like and what the social and local life is like too.

How do you Apply for a Nursing Degree?

After you have found the perfect nursing degree for you on Whatuni, you will need to head over to the UCAS website to make you application. Remember you can choose to apply for five different courses – so you can have your preferred ‘firm’ choice and some back-up options just in case.

In the majority of cases, you will need to attend an interview at your chosen university(ies). This is your chance to show universities that you have what it takes to become a nurse. Make sure you are prepared: do plenty of research in to the course and really think about how your skills and experience make you great for it.

What A-Levels Do You Need to Study Nursing at University?

Exact entry requirements will vary from uni to uni, with some being stricter than others.  Here’s how it stacks up:

Type Lowest Grades/Points required Highest Grades/Points Required Average Grades/Points Required
UCAS Points 96 141 112
International Baccalaureate 28

In many cases, it isn’t essential to have studied a science course (biology or chemistry) at A-Level or BTEC, though it is desirable. General Studies is not usually accepted by universities.

If you don’t have the required qualifications, don’t worry as some universities offer foundation years to get students up to speed.

What GCSEs Do You Need to Study Nursing at University?

Most universities will require you to have at least a GCSE A*- C (9-4) in English and Maths.  This is to prove you have the numeracy and literacy skills need to be a nurse.


  1. Nursing Degree Apprenticeship

What Does a Nursing Degree Apprenticeship Involve?

Degree apprenticeships are popular as they give you the opportunity to gain the qualifications you need to be a nurse and earn a real wage at the same time. And, as the employer pays for your training, this can be a very attractive option.

It will feel like a normal full-time job however and you’ll be required to spend at least one day per week attending classes at a local university.

Nursing degree apprenticeships tend to take longer to complete – you can expect it to take four years to become qualified instead of the normal three. However, if you already have a Nursing Associate qualification this may reduce the time your degree apprenticeship takes.

Where Can You Find Nursing Degree Apprenticeships?

You can find the latest opportunities on the NHS Jobs website.

How to Apply for a Nursing Degree Apprenticeship

You apply for apprenticeships in the same way you’d apply for a job.  In terms of qualifications, you’ll need at least two A-Levels (or equivalent BTEC, International Baccalaureate or Scottish Highers awards) and a minimum of five GCSEs grade A*- C (9-4).


  1. Nursing Associate Training

What is a Nursing Associate?

A nursing associate works alongside nurses, doing pretty much the same things as a nurse: monitoring patients (blood pressure, temperature etc.), supporting patients and explaining complex information to them.

A Nursing Associate qualification is a Level 5 qualification (the same level as an HND), one level lower than a degree/degree apprenticeship. It can be used as a step up to getting a degree.

Where Can You Find Nursing Associate Jobs?

You can find the latest Nursing Associate opportunities on the NHS Jobs website.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Nursing Associate?

You need to have GCSEs grade A*-C (9-4) in English and Maths at the very least (or other equivalent Level 2 qualifications). You will also need to prove you have the personal capabilities needed to become a nurse.


  1. Postgraduate Routes into Nursing

 What Postgraduate Courses Can You Take to Become a Nurse?

 If you study your undergraduate degree in another subject but decide at a later point that you’d like to become a nurse, then another possible route into nursing would be to do a postgraduate course.

You can choose to study a Master’s (MA) degree or a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip), both of which take between one and three years to complete, in a number of disciplines, from Adult Nursing and Mental Health Nursing to Midwifery and even more specialist disciplines like Tropical Nursing.

Typically, you’ll need to have at least a 2:1 in a health or life science subject (e.g. biology, bioinformatics, pharmacology) and GSCE in Maths and English.


Other Qualifications You Need to be a Nurse

Once you have completed your nursing degree, degree apprenticeship, or nursing associate training course you don’t need any other qualifications to be a nurse. However, you will need to join the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) register.

The NMC is the UK’s nursing industry regulator – they set the standards of education, approve education providers and ensure that all registered nurses uphold their Professional Standards Code.

Soft Skills’ You Need to Become A Nurse

It’s not just official qualifications you need to be a nurse. There are plenty of ‘soft skills’ you need to excel in this profession too.

Communications: You need to be able to build good relationships with a wide variety of patients in order to gain their trust and confidence. There are many cases – for example when you are explaining complex diagnoses to them – when clear, effective communication is vital.

Organisation: Being a nurse is a busy job – especially if you work in accident and emergency. You’ll often have to handle several patients at once, so you need to be organised and have excellent time-planning skills.

Teamwork: There are often multiple departments involved in the treatment of just one patient – you need to prove you can work effectively with others to get the job done.

Patience and a caring attitude: Pretty obvious, but if you don’t like people, you shouldn’t be a nurse! Often nurses work long hours, including on days like Christmas day – are you prepared to dedicate your life to this job?


Final Thoughts

Being a nurse is a highly rewarding career, providing frontline treatment to people, as well as supporting families and carers.

You’ll be in high demand too; nursing is one of the most employable degrees in the UK, with a massive 94% of graduates finding a job within six months of leaving university. The Government have pledged to boost the NHS nursing workforce by 50,000 – so there should be plenty of opportunities available after you graduate.

If you’re sure you’ve got what it takes to be a nurse and want to go down the university route, start you search for your perfect course here…

To view the original article and to search for nursing courses head on over to

Routes into nursing 2020

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