Routes into nursing – what are your options?


Nursing is a challenging but hugely rewarding profession, and whether you’re planning to work for the NHS or a private healthcare, you’re guaranteed a career that’s always filled with variation, opportunities and new people. Depending on your background and prior experience, there are several different routes into a nursing role – this article will help you decide which is best for you.

To become a nurse in the NHS, you need to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council: this also means that you will need a degree in nursing. Nursing degrees come in four branches: adult, children, learning disability and mental health. Naturally it’s best to study a degree that best fits what you want to do: for instance, study a degree in mental health nursing if you want to work in psychiatric care units and in the community, while a BSc in adult nursing opens up a diverse range of career options in a variety of workplaces.

To find out more about what a particular degree entails, take a look at the course page of an institution like Middlesex University. Take the time to look at every module and see if what you’ll be learning lines up with what you want to do in your career. It’s also a good idea to study the entry requirements in detail. Degree programmes are typically split into 50 per cent theory and 50 per cent practice, so you will spend some of your time at lectures and seminars and the rest at a work placement.

If you are a mature student and left education some time ago, it’s likely you will need an NVQ or Access to Nursing certificate before you can get onto a degree – these usually take a year of full-time study, although it might be possible to study part-time over a longer period. Alternatively, if you have already worked as a healthcare assistant, you may be able to get a place on a nursing degree course as long as you meet the entry requirements, rather than applying through UCAS. The minimum requirements usually include a minimum of five GCSEs at grade C or above, as well as proficiency in literacy and numeracy.

Once you have completed your nursing degree and are registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, you can begin applying for nursing posts – you might have already found some opportunities during your work placement. As the healthcare industry is constantly changing, you may benefit from returning to study from time to time to improve your skills – this will also open up a wider range of career options for you.

Finally, if you are having difficulty getting the experience you need to start a nursing degree, why not consider volunteering? The NHS Jobs site advertises some of the voluntary roles available in the public sector, and your local NHS organisation will be able to tell you about more. Volunteering is not only a good first step towards a nursing qualification; it will also help you to decide if it’s the right career for you.