arrow_up-blue blog branches consultations events facebook-icon facebook-icon2 factsheet forum-icon forum hands key link location lock mail measure menu_plus news pdf pdf2 phone policies publications related search share subjectguide twitter-icon word youtube-icon

Career paths for HCAs

Applies in England only at present

Following developments, there are now a number of exciting new opportunities available to health care assistants and health care support workers who are looking to progress and develop their careers.

This page provides some key facts and information about three of the different pathways that have been rolled out.


Nursing Associate - key  facts

  • 2 year long programme leading to a foundation degree 
  • Can work as band 4 once qualified
  • Learning 'on the job' alongside academic studies
  • Paid at band 3 level whilst training
  • To be regulated by the NMC

Nursing Associate 

Set as a level 5 apprenticeship, this new support role that will sit alongside existing healthcare support workers and fully-qualified registered nurses to deliver hands-on care for patients. Approximately 2,000 people are now in training following two recruitment waves with providers across England.

The latest plans revealed that a further 5,000 nursing associates will be trained in 2018, with an additional 7,500 being trained in 2019. 
 
A new shortened nurse degree apprenticeship route will also be introduced for qualified Nursing Associates who wish to work towards full NMC registered nurse status.

if you are currently employed as a healthcare assistant, speak to your employer and seek their advice on the options available to you. If you're not currently employed, you may want to contact your local NHS trust for further information.

Useful resources:

HEE website

Nursing Associate Curriculum Framework

Health Secretary announces nursing workforce reforms (Gov.uk website)


Nursing Apprenticeship - key facts

  • 4 year programme leading to a degree and nursing registration
  • Can work at band 5 level once qualified 
  • Learning on the job alongside academic studies
  • Pay whilst training - to be decided
  • Small first intake September 2017, with more to follow in early 2018

Nursing Apprenticeship

The nursing degree apprenticeship will enable people to train "on the job," to become a graduate registered nurse through an apprentice route, meaning they will will be paid whilst training.

Apprentices will be released by their employer to study part-time in a higher education institution and will train in a range of practice placement settings. They will learn at Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) approved education providers and will be expected to achieve the same standards as other student nurses.

The apprenticeships will be available from September 2017.

Useful resources:

Department of Health: Nursing degree apprenticeship factsheet

Assistant Practitioner 

  • 18 - 24 month programme leading to a foundation degree
  • Can work at band 4 level once qualified 
  • Learning on the job alongside academic studies 
  • Paid at a band 3 whilst training
  • Not regulated
  • To apply, search NHS jobs for trainee vacancies, or speak to your employer

Assistant Practitioners

Assistant Practitioners, (sometimes also called Associate Practitioners) are a growing part of the healthcare workforce. They take on more responsibilities than health care assistants, under the supervision of registered colleagues in a range of different settings.

One of the most popular ways to become an AP is to complete a foundation degree (or equivalent) in health care, which involves a combination of study and supervised practice. Interested candidates should speak to their employer, or check the NHS jobs website for trainee assistant practitioner / trainee associate practitioner vacancies. In most cases they would be paid at band 3 level whilst training with the opportunity to work at band 4 level once qualified and once recruited into a role.

APs may be able to use their foundation degree as APL (Accreditation for Prior Learning) and apply for a shortened undergraduate degree programme such as a nursing degree. Individual universities will be able to provide more information.

Useful resources:

Health careers - AP overview 

NHS employers - Assistant Practitioners