How to Become a Nurse UK, Nursing Degree Course Training

Nurses work in GP practices, hospitals, schools and many other places.

How to become a nurse UK guidance, nursing degree course training, apprenticeship & study qualifications so you can train, register to practice and work.

Training and qualifying as a nurse is slightly different in England & Wales to Scotland and the qualifications required for course and training entry, although Scottish and English qualifications are accepted in each part of the UK. 

Distinct difference also between NHS Scotland, NHS England & Wales and N Ireland when you become fully qualified and working as a trained nurse.

You work individually and as part of larger medical teams to help people to get well, provide advice and conduct health checks.

There are always job roles in different specialisms for trained nurses and opportunities for career advancement.

Qualified nurses have good career prospects with well defined professional advancement opportunities in the UK to become a nurse practitioner or leader. 

Nurses are care providers, supportive to carers and doctors.

study nursing UK

How to become a nurse UK qualifications

As a bare minimum, you’ll need a postgraduate diploma in nursing or a degree and be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) as a nurse in the UK to become fully qualified to practice.  Reference source (NMC).

You can choose to study for a postgraduate diploma in a specialist area of nursing over 2 years full time for holders of relevant degrees.  See UCAS or conduct a search online for “diploma in nursing”.

Undergraduate degree in nursing is the most popular route into a nurse career, although there are other routes to qualifying stated below.

Becoming a nurse in England, Wales, N Ireland & Scotland are the same qualifying and career routes at present for all UK trained nurses.

4 main nursing degree specialist routes to choose from:

Adult nursing.

Mental health nurse.

Children nurse.

Learning & disabilities nurse.

As a student, you apply for a nursing degree qualification and although you specialise in one area, all nurses must complete general medical training.

Studying for a degree is one of the main steps to becoming a nurse. UK Universities in all 4 home nations has courses and they also arrange the required practical placements in local hospitals or a care home as part of your training.

You do not get to choose your own placements and can find yourself travelling to another town or city for placement experience.

Half your time is spent on practical training at a hospital during your course. Common Foundation Programme forms the first part of training then you choose a specialisation.

For example; The University of Dundee is a large teaching hospital with very good nursing courses. They offer BSC Adult Nursing, BSC Mental Health Nursing and BSC in Child Nursing at undergraduate level.

See Dundee courses here for a lot more information on other courses and nursing in general.  Applications through UCAS online.

You can, of course, apply to any university or other providers as you wish. 

Clinical placements becoming a nurse

nurse training qualifications UK

Practical nursing placements on a nursing degree course will find you being placed with a nursing home, hospital where you gain experience on the ward, theatre, and accident & emergency.

The idea is for you to gain a good range of experience and to build up knowledge and skills to become an effective and trained nurse.

With you’re patience and compassion you will initially work alongside experienced nurse’s who will mentor and guide you, learn how to deal with patients and family members.

Dealing with family members, there is no training for that.  My mother had a massive stroke 7 days after a triple heart bypass and the nurses were great with her at the hospital.

Families take it differently; this is where the compassion, patience and thick skin come into effect. 

Courses to become a nurse

Degree courses toward becoming a qualified nurse are as stated in conjunction with universities and medical organisations. 

Not all universities offer the 4 main specialist areas of a degree course. Should you wish to qualify as a nurse in the UK and specialise in a certain area of nursing choose a university course provider that offers that specialist degree.

You can choose to study and be awarded a qualification in 2 areas of nursing known as ‘dual field’ degrees.

Search on UCAS website or look on

Nursing universities in UK, England & Wales

Towns and cities around the UK host around 119 universities and other providers that offer nursing course and training   See others on UCAS website. Some are:

Canterbury Christ Church University College University of BradfordKeele UniversityUlster University
Liverpool John Moores UniversityLeeds Beckett UniversityCardiff UniversityBangor University
University of South Wales University of West LondonUniversity of BristolUniversity Hull
Manchester Metropolitan UniversityUniversity of SouthamptonSheffield Hallam University University of Chester

Nursing degree Scottish universities

Abertay University:  Mental health degree.  4 years full-time study.

University of Dundee: Adult, child, mental health and oral health science nursing degrees. 3 years full-time study.

The University of Edinburgh: Nursing degree by 4 years full-time study.

Edinburgh Napier University: Nursing, child health, learning disability and mental health degrees. Full time study for 3 years.

University of Glasgow: Nursing degree 4 years full time.

Glasgow Caledonian University: Nursing studies adult, child, duel registration child/learning disability.  Studies over 3 or 4 years full time.

University of the Highland and Islands:  Oral health science. Degree 3 years full time

The Open University: Adult nursing 6 years by flexible study.

Queen Margaret University: 4-year full-time nursing degree.

Robert Gordon University: Adult, Children and young people and mental health nursing degrees. 3 or 4 years full-time study.

The University of Stirling: Adult and mental health options by full-time study over 3 years.

University of the West of Scotland: Adult and mental health nursing over 3 year’s full-time study. 

Higher education diploma in nursing (DipHE)

What is a Diploma of Higher Education equivalent to?

Full-time study and training course over a two year period in nursing. For a good number of university undergraduate degree courses equivalent to the first 2 years.

Students can gain direct entry to the third year of a degree qualification if wanted, although not every university course. 

Qualifications and soft skills are more required for entry on the course that includes science subject (Biology) English and mathematics at or above C grade.

Diploma (DipHE) are awarded 72 credits at level 4 and 168 level 5 credits.  For a 3 year degree you complete a total of 120 credits each year of study.  

Access to higher education diplomas in nursing

One year full time (2/3 days week part time) college course designed as an entry level qualification for a career in nursing.  First step for you thinking about nursing and wish to gain entry for university nurse training. 

19 years old or over when you start the course.

Distance learning is possible, although ask yourself, is it suitable to study nursing.

Less qualifications requirements for entry with 2 GCSE (Scottish Standard Grade) in English & Mathematics at grades A-C on entry or an equivalent qualification.

Colleges also accept student without qualifications, although you may need to study for English & maths at the same time depends on the college and you.

Training and study to become a nurse without qualifications is possible, although you require completing a foundation year, such as an access course with possible study for functional skills at the same time. 

Nursing apprenticeship

Nursing apprenticeship

Nursing degree apprenticeship qualification route is where you study and train to qualify as to become a registered nurse. Course duration of 4 years. Funding is provides by the employer.

First search and secure a trainee position as an apprentice and then you also attend a university on a part time basis.

Vacancies for nursing degree apprenticeships are advertised on the NHS Jobs website and the Government Find an apprenticeship website

How many years to qualify in Scotland, Wales, England?

Postgraduate diploma courses full time 2 years

Degree in nursing takes 3 years full time, 4 years for duel degree.

Open University part-time degrees in nursing take longer, 6 years to completion.  See her for information about courses offered.

How many years to study to become registered nurse? Depends on mode of study, direct entry to a degree or diploma, level of qualification you have.

Standard nursing degree of 3 years training in Wales & England and 4 years in Scotland for a Senior Honours degree. 

Nursing skills and traits required

  • Confidence.
  • Patience.
  • Time keeping.
  • Management skills.
  • Meet set deadlines on time.
  • Stay calm and focused under pressure.
  • Critical Thinker.
  • Must have attention to detail trait.
  • Compassion: empathy and diligence to a high standard.
  • Ethical and personal judgement is good.
  • Excellent communicator, means speak & listen effectively.
  • Team player: Good working with others is important.
  • Others.

 Qualifications to become a nurse Wales, England & Scotland

Each university or college sets their own entry requirement qualifications for nursing courses at each level.

Nursing degree 2/3 A Levels/Advanced Highers or Access to Nursing qualification, also standard grades/ GCSE Maths, English and biology

Access to higher education nursing course minimum 2 GCSE (Scottish Standard Grade) Mathematics & English & Mathematics A-C grades or qualification equivalent. 

Entry requirements to nursing in UK

– GCSE/Standard grade A-C grades in English, Mathematics and other relevant subjects (Biology) are standard entry requirements for university courses for becoming a nurse. 3 A levels BBB for nursing degree universities.

– SQA Higher/ Advance higher BBB grades are general for many courses.  Or other equivalent qualifications accepted by universities in Scotland or other UK courses.  Check each university course requirement.

– HNC in nursing holders gains entry to many university courses at the first year level.

– Universities accept a range of qualifications, with some requiring better grades than others.  Easy to check, as they are clearly listed by universities and college as entry requirements.

Age to study nursing: 19 years old and over is also a requirement for many universities.  Can I train to be a nurse at 50? Yes, although each course provider accepts students on suitability.

– Good health and a medical are usually required.

– Criminal record check for nursing through becoming a member of the PVG Scheme via Disclosure Scotland, paid by the university.

– Health screening check. Occupational health screening check for the medical profession.

– Successful interview.

– Academic references for prospective students applying straight from school or college.

– Resident for 3 years in the UK or Europe prior to applying for the course.  This requirement is for some nursing courses entry requirement, although no all. Overseas students are widely accepted.

Minor criminal conviction does not necessary bare you from a nursing career, depends on the crime.  

Transfer credit

There is a good possibility that you can gain transfer credit for prior learning such as a DipHE qualification with 240 credit points.

The Open University, for instance, has a BA Hon’s in Nursing Practice studied by distance learning.

Other universities and training providers offer course transfer or advanced standing with prior appropriate study. 

Where to apply and nursing courses

To become a nurse in the UK apply through UCAS central applications on-line for both diploma and degree courses.  Find a course and see what is required from each course provider.

Information on applications UCAS

Apprenticeship courses government England & Wales website. Also Scottish apprenticeship courses websites.

Part time course you may be asked to apply direct to the training provider. 

Funding nurse training

nurse training funding

Studying nursing in UK (Wales & England) for free not possible, although at least a £5000 grant a year are available starting on September 2020.  New and existing students are eligible for funding. The grant does not get paid back.

Scottish students can study nursing for free and receive a bursary each year that does not need to be repaid. See below.

Up to £3,000 a year is available depending on the area of nursing chosen and other factors:

This means that some students may be eligible for up to £8,000 of financial support for each year of study.

See here for more financial help for students in Wales & England.

“You will also be able to continue to access funding for tuition and maintenance loans from the Student Loans Company”  Source: UK Government England & Wales.

Scotland funding for student nurses

Scottish students can study nursing for free and receive a bursary each year that does not need to be repaid. You must be studying for at least a Diploma in Higher Education or a degree in Scotland.

Nursing and Midwifery Student Bursary (NMSB) in Scotland. This bursary is not income or means assessed.

See for funding level for Scottish student nurses, who is eligible and how to apply.

Who is eligible: Depending on your domiciled residence Scottish students taking a nursing degree in Scotland will not require to pay university fees.

You need to have been resident in Scotland for the 3 years prior to applying for the course.

European residents check and get guidance from the university you are applying, although you should find you are eligible for most of the same as Scottish students.

University fees are paid at present by the Scottish Government, although EU students do not receive a bursary studying in Scotland as a nurse.

Student loans for UK courses

Residents in Wales & England through Student Finance England.

Scottish resident need to apply through The Students Awards Agency for Scotland.

Student loans for applicants for fees and or maintenance allowance for each year of your course.

Additional funding, further information on becoming a nurse (if any)

NHS Student Grants Unit grants for nursing.


National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare (NLIAH) 

Northern Ireland

The Department of Higher and Further Education Training and Employment

Other information

NHS Careers

National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare

Post qualification

As mentioned before when you successfully complete your nursing degree or postgraduate diploma you gain the status of a qualified and registered UK nurse.

Start looking and applying for nursing jobs before the course ends. Think about where you wish to live or relocate for better career prospects.

There is so many courses you can study towards, firstly become a staff nurse, sister or a nurse practitioner year’s down the line.

Nurses salaries UK

Yes, we as the general public all know it could be more.

Each 4 nations in UK have their own pay awards for nurses: Wales salaries, N Ireland pay, Scotland pay and England salaries.

Looks like you start as a qualified nurse on around £25,000 plus full time and after 3 years £30,316 at least.

See the Royal College of Nursing website for pay and conditions.

See also the Royal college of Nursing website .

This page shows up to date information of how to become a nurse in the UK and will be updated as required.

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