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Become a nurse with these qualifications

What qualifications do you need to be a nurse? This guide to nursing qualifications lays out a few options.

Eleanor Foulds
by Eleanor Foulds
Last Updated:
14 Jun 2023

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The most popular route to becoming a nurse is through an undergraduate nursing degree. If you don't meet the entry requirements or your circumstances make studying for a degree difficult, there are other options. The four common nursing qualifications you'll come across are:

  • Undergraduate nursing degree
  • Nursing degree apprenticeship
  • Nursing associate training
  • Postgraduate nursing courses

Find nursing courses.

Undergraduate nursing degree

What types of undergraduate nursing degrees can you study?

There are hundreds of nursing degree courses available in the UK. To narrow down your choices, first, consider what area of Nursing interests you. Different types of nursing degrees include:

  • Adult nursing
  • Children and young people nursing
  • Learning disabilities nursing
  • Mental health nursing
  • Midwifery

Nursing degrees attained in the UK are transferable to many countries – perfect if you have dreams of living and working abroad.

What universities offer nursing degrees?

Over 80 universities across the UK offer nursing degrees. According to the Complete University Guide’s 2024 nursing league tables, the best universities for nursing include:

Others in the overall top five include: the University of Glasgow, The University of Edinburgh, the University of Manchester and the University of Liverpool.

Rankings aren't everything though. Being happy at uni is key, so consider things like the quality of student support, local life and facilities.

How do you apply for a nursing degree?

Once you've decided which nursing degrees you’re interested in, head over to the UCAS website to apply. You can choose to apply for up to five different courses, so have your preferred firm choice, insurance choice and some backup options just in case.

You may need to attend an interview as part of the application process for a nursing course. Make sure you're prepared by doing plenty of research and really think about how your skills and experience make you a great candidate for the course.

Learn how to write a stand-out personal statement.

What are the entry requirements for nursing?

The entry requirements for nursing will vary depending on the course and university. The UCAS points needed for a nursing degree range from 96 points to 144 points, with foundation year degrees being as low as 72 points.

What GCSEs do you need to be a nurse?

Most universities will require you to have at least 2 GCSEs (or other equivalent Level 2 qualifications) with a grade C/4 or higher. Two of these will need to be in English and maths, to prove you have the numeracy and literacy skills needed to be a nurse.

Nursing degree apprenticeship

What does a nursing degree apprenticeship involve?

Nursing degree apprenticeships give you the opportunity to gain the qualifications you need to be a nurse and earn a real wage at the same time. The employer pays for your degree, which is always a bonus.

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

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

Learn more about nursing degree apprenticeships.

Where can you find nursing degree apprenticeships?

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

How do you apply for a nursing degree apprenticeship?

You apply in the same way as you would for a job.

What qualifications do you need to do a nursing degree apprenticeship?

You’ll need at least two A-levels (or equivalent BTEC, International Baccalaureate or Scottish Highers awards), with one being in a science or health-related field, and a minimum of GCSEs in English and maths (or other equivalent Level 2 qualifications), with a grade C/4 or higher.

Nursing associate training

What's a nursing associate?

A nursing associate works alongside nurses, doing pretty much the same things as a nurse: monitoring and supporting patients, and explaining complex information in simple terms.

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 in both English and maths (or other equivalent Level 2 qualifications), with a grade C/4 or higher. You will also need to prove you have the personal capabilities needed to become a nurse.

Postgraduate nursing

Studying a postgraduate course is another possible route into nursing. This is ideal for those who studied a different subject for their undergraduates, but later decide to pursue nursing.

You can choose to study for a master’s (MSc) degree or a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip), both of which take between one and three years to complete. There are so many disciplines to specialise in, from adult nursing and mental health nursing to midwifery and even more specialist disciplines like tropical nursing.

You’ll need to have at least a 2:1 in a health or life science subject (e.g. biology, bioinformatics, pharmacology) and GSCEs in maths and English (or other equivalent Level 2 qualifications) with a grade C/4 or higher.

Other nursing qualifications

Once you've 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, approved education providers and ensure that all registered nurses uphold their Professional Standards Code.

Essential nursing skills

These skills will help you to excel as a nurse.

  • Communication: you need to be able to build good relationships with both patients and other medical professionals, in order to gain their trust and confidence.
  • Organisation: you’ll often have to handle several patients at once, so you need to be organised and have excellent time management.
  • Teamwork: with there being different treatment departments, you need to prove you can work effectively with others to get the job done.
  • Resilience: nurses work long hours, which can be emotionally and physically draining.
  • Compassion: you are dealing with people and their sufferings every day, so it’s important to show that you care.

Why choose nursing?

Being a nurse is highly rewarding. You can take on high levels of responsibility that include providing frontline treatment, improving quality of life and caring for wellbeing. You'll be making a serious difference in people’s lives.

You’ll be in high demand. 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.

If you're sure you've got what it takes to be a nurse and want to go down the university route, Whatuni is where to start your search for the perfect course.

Find nursing courses now.


Discover your perfect nursing course

Entry requirements to Study a nursing degree

Nursing students to receive £5,000 grant

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