Advice on beginning your nursing career
Experienced nurses find fulfilling careers in positions of responsibility, often running nurse-led clinics, or taking leadership roles at executive level. It is possible to develop your career in clinical, research, education and management roles.
A typical day in nursing is busy and diverse; nurses don't just work in hospitals. There are opportunities to work in GP surgeries, clinics, nursing and residential homes, occupational health services, voluntary organisations, the pharmaceutical industry, or in the military.
To work as a nurse, you need a degree in nursing and you must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). You’ll need to choose which of the four nursing specialisms (adult, children, mental health, or learning disability) you’d like to study. Nursing requires a high level of technical competence and clinical decision-making skills. To develop these, you'll spend half of your nursing degree on supervised placements in local hospital and community settings.
Visit the NHS Careers website to find a university offering nursing degrees in England or in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There are also courses run by the Open University. You can visit each university’s website to learn more about the content of a particular course. You might want to go along to an open day to get more information on the course and talk to lecturers and current students. Once you have decided on your course and university, you can apply for a place through UCAS. If you are employed in the health sector, your employer may support you to study part-time for a nursing degree.
The RCN is a trade union and professional body, so we aren’t directly involved in the training of new nurses. You’ll find all the information you need on nursing as a career, and a course finder on the NHS Careers website.
Each university sets its own requirements, so make sure you check with them before applying. This is usually around five GCSEs plus two A-levels or equivalent. You will also have to:
If you’re already working as a health care assistant, speak to your employer as they may support you to meet the entrance requirements through an apprentice scheme.
From 1 August 2017 new students in England on most nursing, midwifery and allied health professional pre-registration courses will have access to the standard student support package of tuition fee loans and support for living costs, rather than getting an NHS bursary.
The Department of Health have published information on NHS bursary reform on their website.
The Funding Clinic provides more information on the new system and the funding available.
These three nurses show just how varied, complex and skilled nursing is today.
Nursing staff work in diverse settings - in hospitals, communities, the workplace and the classroom - and use their expertise to adapt their skills to offer the best care and support to their patients.
Watch this film to take a look at what modern nursing is like today.