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How do I get into nursing?


Applying for a nursing course could change not just your life, but the lives of hundreds of people you could be nursing in the future.

Nursing is an incredibly rewarding career and one that will always be needed.

The profession provides opportunities for individuals to progress and follow different paths. Although most nurses start their careers working in hospital settings, once they have experience they can branch out into roles in the community, research, education and management.

In order to help you decide if this career is for you, have a look at this guide to what to expect when applying and training in nursing. 

How do I apply?

You can apply for nursing courses through the UCAS website.

Getting the grades

The entry requirements will depend on what university you apply for. There aren’t officially any national minimum academic entry requirements. However, you will need at least 5 GCSE’s of grade C or above and 2 A-levels for any nursing course. Many courses will require higher grades but you will need to check with the university itself.

The UCAS application form is similar to an application form for a job. As long as you have the grades the university asks for, the admission tutor will mainly be interested in your personal statement. You have 4000 characters to say why the university should offer you a place. It can be daunting but it is your opportunity to be noticed.

nurse hospital elderly woman patient care

Places on nursing courses are limited, so you need to have a think about what you can offer that’s unique. Try to avoid clichés! Imagine you are an admissions tutor and you’ve already read 20 applications today, what makes yours so different?

Bagging some experience

Although good grades are essential, experience shows that you’re enthusiastic and motivated. Just saying you are eager is brilliant but it looks a lot better if you can show that you are too.

You can gain experience through voluntary employment in a number of areas. Try to pick an area you are interested in, there are so many opportunities to volunteer that you don’t need to limit yourself to something that you don’t enjoy. Generally speaking, if you are doing an activity involving looking after others and using interpersonal skills; the course tutor will want to hear about it. If you know which area of nursing you want to go in to, try to focus your volunteering around this.

Volunteering abroad shows your independence as well as your dedication. There are plenty of opportunities to do this although you are likely to have to pay your own costs.

If you don’t have the time to volunteer you can look at paid employment that also gives you experience relevant to nursing.

Many nursing students started off working in care homes or in hospitals as health care assistants. By working in these settings, particularly if working with registered nurses, you can gain insight in to what the job entails and decide if it is what you want to do.

Help! I have nothing to say on my application!

Admission tutors will understand if you have not had time or opportunity to gain experience. A lot of applications come from people still in school or wanting a complete career change.

The experience you do have may be more relevant than you realise. And you probably do have skills you can transfer to nursing.

If you are doing your A-levels, have a think about what extra-curricula activities you’ve done and how they can relate to nursing. If you’ve been involved in anything where you’ve demonstrated people skills then tell them about it. What subjects do you particularly enjoy? How would your friends describe you?

If you have worked since leaving college then tell them about the parts of your job most relevant to a career working with people. Admission tutors will want to know if you have shown leadership skills, worked well in a team, coped under pressure or simply shown an interest in working with people.

Outside of work or college, what do you do in your spare time? Activities can show your ability to work well in a team.

If you are turned down for a course this does not mean that you are not cut out for nursing. Now is a good time to rethink your options and decide if you do want to start your training.

Volunteering and working in relevant areas not only look good on your application, they will also help you to decide if nursing is for you.

Applying for your course is the first step in to a rewarding and varied career. The day you are accepted on to a nursing course marks the start of a new life, for you and for your future patients.

Best of luck!


Inspired? Find out more about what it’s like to study nursing on Student Nursing Times


Readers' comments (3)

  • not managed to get into university to do nursing even though i do 4 a levels, have voluntery work with children, councelling, youth working, ward support, hospital voluntary work, voluntary work in a developing country. so i have no clue what to do now :(

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  • hi have you thought about doing an access course to nursing? they do them in college or online. a few of my friends have done them and have just gotten into university. i am half way through mine now and looking to apply in October moderation and i also work in a care home so that is gaining me hands on experience. its just a thought though. good luck xx

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  • The only way you won't become a nurse is when you give up. Keep trying and never lose hope! You may be closer to achieving than you think. I am also on the access course, it is a great way of getting into nursing.

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