For many prospective student nurses, the choice between a diploma or a degree qualification can be a tricky one. As well as concerns about how qualifications will affect career prospects once you’re qualified, financial reasons and entry requirements may also play a big part in decision making.
It’s worth bearing in mind that on 3 September 2008, the Nursing and Midwifery Council confirmed in principle that the minimum academic award for pre-registration nursing programmes will be a degree.
Degree-only programmes are due to be in place by September 2011, and anybody entering nurse training after this date will have to undertake a degree. However, student nurses already on a diploma course do not have to convert to a degree course, and registered nurses only have to ‘top-up’ from diploma to degree if they want to do so.
So how do registered nurses ‘top-up’ from diploma to degree?
At the outset, it’s always worth checking whether universities offer the option of studying at Diploma of Higher Education level for years one and two, before converting to BSc lvel in year three. This can mean benefiting from diploma-level bursary support for the first two years, before reverting to degree level bursary support in the last year.
Once you’re qualified and registered, you can gain a degree qualification, such as BSc nursing studies. You can make up the additional credits by studying a mixture of continuing professional development (CPD) modules. Some university Schools of Nursing describe CPD programmes as being part of their ‘post-qualifying framework’ or ‘Learning Beyond Registration’ prospectus.
Contact university CPD units to discuss a pathway that’s relevant to you, your practice and your career aspirations. Many courses are offered on a part-time basis, allowing students to study while they’re working, too!
A small number of universities offer BSc nursing studies via distance learning. The Open University (OU) offers two programmes that enable registered, practising nurses to obtain an honours degree; either BSc Nursing Practice and BSc nursing studies. You would need to obtain credit transfer from your nursing diploma qualification for levels 1 and 2 of the OU degree programmes.
Many registered nurses will study to degree level as they develop in their career, whether it be following one of the specialist community nursing pathways, eg health visiting, district nursing and school nursing, or enhancing their knowledge and practice with a BSc in professional practice.
When planning the progress of your career, it’s worth keeping an eye on job vacancy requirements to see what levels of qualifications employers prefer. If, on balance, for the kind of job roles you’re interested in, you think you’ll need a degree, perhaps it’s time to contact Schools of Nursing for course particulars so you can engineer the route to your ideal job.
Run by the Careers Advice Service and sponsored by NHS Careers and Skills for Health, the Health Learning and Skills Advice Line provides information to support people working in healthcare. The friendly, trained career coaches can also give you constructive feedback on your CV and help assess your skills.
For a free, confidential discussion about your career, call freephone 08000 150 850 from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week.