Helping patients and their families, when they need it most.

What is nursing?

No day is ever the same when you are a nurse. As a degree-trained medical expert you’ll play a crucial role in the health and wellbeing of patients. Working as part of a supportive and inspiring multi-disciplinary team alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals you’ll deliver treatment and care for patients in a variety of medical settings.

Nurses are life savers whose work touches lives at times of basic human need when care and compassion are what matter most. Highly trained medical professionals, their skill set is constantly evolving to reflect the role they play in modern healthcare. 

Nursing offers intellectually challenging work including performance of some medical procedures, advancing medical innovation and care to improve the lives of patients, clinical research and education, and developing treatment plans for patients

Nurses act as leaders, carers and clinicians, increasingly taking on senior positions of responsibility to progress patient care in line with the latest medical innovations and advancements.

As a nurse you will enjoy a diverse and rewarding careers that really makes a difference. Many nurses specialise in particular fields, including trauma, orthopaedics, mental health, neonatal, and learning disabilities, to name a few.

And with annual payments of £5,000 to £8,000 for all nursing students on courses at English universities there has never been a better time to study nursing.


Nursing course entry requirements

You'll need to demonstrate a high level of technical ability and the right soft skills for the job. The most important A level is normally biology. Other subjects to help your application include another science (chemistry), or a social science (psychology, sociology).

Many universities will take nursing students who show an aptitude and passion for care, even if they don’t have a relevant academic record. Always check with the universities that you’re applying to, to know what to aim for.

Chances are, you’ll need to attend an interview to get onto a nursing degree, particularly if your offer is conditional. In your interview, you should demonstrate why you have the right character for care: resilience, attention to detail, timekeeping, communication, empathy, and compassion.

Higher Technical Qualifications

Higher Technical Qualifications

Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs) are an alternative to apprenticeships or degrees.

They have been specifically designed with employers to ensure learners get the skills that employers have said they need. They are a quicker and cheaper alternative to a degree and can lead to higher wages early in a career.

See all Nursing Associate HTQs

What you will need to do
  • Apply by the January deadline
  • Attend an interview
  • Submit a personal statement
  • Show work experience
What you won't need to do
  • Submit a portfolio
  • Audition for a place
  • Take an entry test

Why study nursing at university?

Nurses play a crucial role in saving lives, and caring for the wellbeing of patients and their families. So despite it being a job which can require long hours and hard work, nursing provides an incredible level of job satisfaction.

No two days are ever the same. If you thrive on pressure, variety, and being kept on your toes, nursing is a career that will suit you to the core. You’ll learn all about health science, social science, technology, theory, care, support, and everything in between. You can specialise in particular disciplines, but whichever route you choose, you’ll leave university with the ability to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

From a practical point of view, the NHS is the biggest employer in the country, and nursing is also the most popular degree, yet there is still a need for more nurses each year. The opportunity to have your study funded or part funded, along with great employment prospects and good progression, makes nursing an extremely attractive career.

99% of nursing graduates are employed or studying within six months of completing their course, with most earning around £22k in the beginning. This can eventually rise to £70k, for those who go on to become consultants.

Some modules you may study are:

  • Introduction to clinical care
  • Physiology for health
  • Therapeutic approach and practice
  • Epidemiology
  • Complex care
  • Critical care
  • Public health
  • Planning patient care

Almost all graduates will start their careers as entry-level nurses, particularly in the NHS, but there are many routes and specialisms to follow afterwards. These include children’s health, mental health, and community health.

Finance and bursaries

There is now a grant for nursing, midwifery, and some allied health professional students offering between £5,000 and £8,000, and which doesn’t need to be paid back.

All new and continuing degree-level students enrolled on a course in September 2020 will receive at least £5,000 a year. 

Some students will be eligible for an additional £3,000, creating a total grant of £8,000 per year. 

Students will still be able to access funding for tuition and maintenance loans from the Student Loans Company.

Find out more about the new grant here.

Key facts

Am I guaranteed a job after my degree?

A degree in nursing will put you in high demand, but it won’t guarantee you a job. You’ll still need to apply, attend an interview, and impress your potential employer. Your prospects are much greater than many degrees, but don’t take it for granted.

What can you do with a nursing degree?

Whether in the NHS or private, a vocational nursing degree will see most graduates start their careers as a nurse in one of four main areas below.

Many will go on to specialise or progress in to other fields within medicine.

Which fields to study

Adult nurse

Adult nurses are expert members of a medical team. They plan and deliver vital treatment for a wide range of patients with different needs and conditions.

Children's nurse

Children’s nurses work as part of a supportive and inspiring team to provide young patients and their families with the vital care and compassion they need.

Mental health nurse

Mental health nurses build trusting relationships with their patients and provide vital support to people experiencing mental health problems, so they can lead happy and healthy lives.

Learning disability nurse

Learning disability nurses support people with learning disabilities, developing important relationships with their patients and helping them to lead fulfilling lives.

What’s it like to study nursing?

There’s no denying that studying nursing is challenging. You will need to take in lots of information, while developing the resilience for long hours and high pressure situations. You’ll learn a lot of theory in the classroom, then put it into practise and test on clinical placement. You’ll generally split your time 50:50 between the two.

As with many degrees, you will spend your first year studying a number of core modules. In your second and third year, you’ll be able to specialise and branch into specific areas of nursing which interest you the most. The most common fields are adult, child, mental health, and learning disabilities.

On clinical placement, you will observe qualified nurses carrying out their duties, and have the opportunity to learn directly from them. As your course progresses, you will assist nurses, and eventually treat your own patients under supervision. You can expect to be working long hours during your placements, which is good preparation for the shift work you’re likely to enter into once you graduate.

During your degree, you can expect the following:

  • writing reports and essays
  • carrying out research projects
  • lectures and seminars
  • practical demonstrations
  • observing professional nursing
  • supervised practical nursing

You won’t be getting as much free time as some students do, as you’ll be spending upwards of 20 hours in the classroom, in addition to your clinical placement shifts.

Are you considering an accelerated degree? Click here to read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course on a shorter timescale. 

Let's talk about... nursing apprenticeships

Not sure if a traditional degree is for you? Listen to our new podcast to learn more about studying degree apprenticeships in nursing.


If you want to combine work and study while earning a salary, you could consider an apprenticeship. Which apprenticeships are available, and how you apply, depends on where you live.

Find out more about apprenticeships across the UK.

There are over 60 apprenticeships in the health and science sector available in England, with more in development.

Each apprenticeship sets out occupational standards for specific job roles, designed by employers. The standards outline the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required to demonstrate that an apprentice is fully competent in the job role.

Degree apprenticeships (Levels 5 — 7)

Discover more about apprenticeships in medicine, dentistry and nursing

Our guide has all the info you need to know about doing an apprenticeship in this industry. Find out what it's really like from current apprentices and decide if it's the right route for you.

Medicine, dentistry and nursing industry guide

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