Entry requirements for nursing in the NHS
To work as a nurse in the NHS, you must hold a degree or diploma in nursing (a ‘pre-registration’ programme), which allows you to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). You can start your career at various levels, and be assured of practical and possibly financial support as you progress.
There are no national minimum entry requirements as each higher education institution (HEI) set its own criteria. However, these are generally around 5 GCSEs or equivalent at grade C or above in English language or literature and a science subject for a diploma programme and 5 GCSEs plus 2 A-levels or equivalent for a degree programme. All applicants must be able to demonstrate evidence of literacy, numeracy and good character.
The NHS and education sector encourages applications from people with a wide range of academic and vocational qualifications. It is essential that applicants check with each HEI directly before applying to see if their qualifications meet their required entry standard.
Work placements and volunteering
For those with no experience of working in the health service, or whose careers have been based in non-nursing environments, it is a good idea to spend some time making sure that it is the right career for you. Securing a work placement or volunteering for your local trust, voluntary organisation or St John Ambulance can be beneficial. As well as showing universities that you are committed, this will give you opportunities to see what working life as a nurse may be like and talk to people in the profession. As openings for work placements and voluntary roles vary around the country, it’s best to speak to your local NHS or voluntary organisations to see what’s available.
Assistants and healthcare assistants
As a clinical support worker, also known as healthcare assistant, you’ll provide vital assistance to healthcare professionals for diagnosing, treating and caring for patients. These are all responsible and rewarding roles with a direct impact on patients’ lives. They also offer an ideal entry route to many NHS careers for people with commitment and enthusiasm rather than academic qualifications. Those who have worked in the NHS and have the academic ability to cope with the demands of a professional nursing course will find that their experience is an advantage when they apply for a place on a nursing degree or diploma, which will normally be part-time and last for five or six years.
Cadet schemes and apprenticeships
Cadet schemes and apprenticeships are run by some NHS trusts in certain areas of the country and offer the opportunity to earn, learn and achieve nationally recognised qualifications at the same time. Cadets and apprentices are normally exposed to several areas of healthcare. The experience enables them to work towards an NVQ but will not count towards professional nurse training. Instead, a cadet scheme or apprenticeship aims to get an individual to the appropriate level so that he or she can apply to start a part-time nursing degree or diploma (which usually lasts five or six years) at the end of the cadetship or apprenticeship.
For further details about degree and diploma programmes visit the training pages.
How to apply
Universities and Colleges and Admissions Service (UCAS) (external link)