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How to become a nurse

How to become a nurse

Nursing is a fulfilling career that gives you the opportunity to make a difference every day. Learn how to become a nurse in our helpful guide, where we’ll cover relevant degrees, entry requirements, alternative routes and more.

What is a nurse?

Nurses work in multidisciplinary teams, providing direct care to patients with a range of health issues. They work across the healthcare system in a variety of settings, including hospital wards, operating theatres, schools, patients' homes, and more. Nurses often specialise in specific areas, such as:

  • Adult nursing: Working with patients over 18 in hospitals or community settings
  • Children's nursing: Working with children and young people up to 19 years old, as well as providing education and support to parents and carers
  • Mental health nursing: Delivering specialised care to people living at home, in small residential units, or in specialist hospital services, as well as providing support to families and carers
  • Learning disability nursing: Providing care and support to people with learning disabilities so they can live independent and fulfilling lives

All nurses working in the UK must be registered with the nursing and midwifery council. To do so, they must successfully complete an approved nursing programme of education, and must meet the council's requirements of good health and character.

How to become a nurse

Let’s look at the various routes you can take to become a nurse. These are:

  • nursing degrees
  • nursing degree apprenticeships
  • nursing associates
  • postgraduate diplomas
  • online degrees

Nursing degrees

Completing a nursing degree is the most common route into nursing. Once qualified, you'll be able to work as a nurse anywhere in the UK or abroad.

Nursing degrees combine study with practical work, and provide lots of experience working with patients in hospital and community settings. Before you begin, you'll need to choose which field you'd like to specialise in. As above, these are:

Some 'dual field' courses allow you to study in two of the fields. 

Entry requirements

Entry requirements vary between universities, but you'll likely need at least five GCSEs (grade 4/C or above), including maths, English and a science, and at least two (but usually three) A-levels, including a science. Some universities will require biology specifically. It's important to check the entry requirements for each university you plan to apply to in advance so you know what you're working towards.

If you don't meet the requirements, some universities offer the option of a foundation year. We offer a range of foundation year courses, including:


For Home students, a nursing degree will cost £9,250 per year. For international students, prices range from around £14,000 to £30,000 per year. View the table below for more information on tuition fees at the University of Wolverhampton.








£9,250 per year




£9,250 per year




£9250 per year




£9,250 per year




£13,450 per year




£14,450 per year




£14,450 per year




£14,950 per year



Learn more about fees and costs.


By studying an undergraduate or postgraduate pre-registration programme, you’re eligible for a Tuition Fee loan of up to £9,250. This will support your studies and help you begin a fulfilling career in nursing. 

Plus, all new and continuing nursing, midwifery, and most allied health professionals students on pre-registration courses will also receive a grant of at least £5,000 per year to fund studies. This is not means-tested and won’t need to be paid back. Learn more about the NHS bursary reform.

Additional funding is available via NHS Business Services Authority. The Learning Support Fund offers additional support that covers:

  • dependants’ allowance of up to £1,000 per student per year
  • additional travel and accommodation expenses
  • an exceptional hardship fund of up to £3,000 per student per academic year

Learn more on our University’s Funding, cost, fee and support pages.

How to apply for a nursing degree

You can make your application for full-time nursing degrees through UCAS. For part-time courses, contact the universities you're interested in and ask about their application procedures.

If you meet entry requirements, universities will usually ask you to attend an interview. You'll need to show that you've done some research around what a career in nursing will be like. Work experience in a healthcare setting will support your application. However, these opportunities can be difficult to find, so alternatives like shadowing a nurse or talking to a nurse about their role will also be beneficial. Read up on the course requirements beforehand so you know how to prepare.

Universities are interested in your values as well as your knowledge and experience, and the interview will likely involve questions that cover key NHS values. Again, be sure to read up on these during your preparation.

Nursing degree apprenticeships

Registered nurse degree apprenticeships (RNDA) provide a more flexible route into nursing, and don't require you to undertake full-time study at university.

On an RNDA, your employer pays your tuition fees whilst you're in paid employment. Once you've secured a position, your employer will allow you to study part-time, where you'll also complete placements in a range of settings. 

An RNDA usually lasts four years, although this may be reduced to two depending on your prior experience and qualifications. 

You'll likely need Level 3 qualifications, plus GCSE maths and English, to get onto an RNDA. If you already have a Level 5 qualification as a nursing associate or nursing practitioner, your apprenticeship may be considered a 'top-up' RNDA or 'conversion' to a registered nurse course. 

Look out for jobs on the NHS vacancies page and government apprenticeship page. 

Nursing associates

Nursing associates work alongside healthcare support workers and registered nurses to deliver care. To begin training as a nursing associate, you'll need GCSEs grade 9 to 4 (A to C) in maths and English, or Functional Skills Level 2 in maths and English. 

Some employers require a Level 3 qualification too, so be sure to check in advance. You'll also need to demonstrate that you can study for a foundation degree level and complete the nursing associate apprenticeship programme.

While nursing associates aren't registered nurses, they can complete further training to become one.

Postgraduate diplomas

If you already have a relevant undergraduate degree, a two-year postgraduate diploma offers another route into nursing. Entry requirements vary between institutions, but an undergraduate degree in a related healthcare subject along with some work experience is normally expected.

We offer a range of postgraduate nursing degrees, including a PGDip in Adult Nursing and a PGDip in Mental Health Nursing for specific specialisms within those areas. However, both require that you are already a qualified nurse on the NMC register, and involve a single year of study.

Online degrees

Since January 2021, some universities have delivered the theoretical content for adult nursing courses online. You can look for online courses on the NHS course finder

What does a nurse do on a typical day?

While specific responsibilities vary depending on the role and specialism, nurses typically:

  • respond to emergencies
  • take a patient's vital signs and measurements
  • ask about symptoms
  • perform physical examinations
  • draw blood samples
  • conduct diagnostic tests
  • administer medication
  • provide emotional support to both patients and families
  • consult with other medical professionals
  • administer wound care
  • tutor student nurses
  • educate patients about their own health
  • handle sensitive information, such as medical records

What skills and qualities make a good nurse?

Good nurses are:

  • Caring and compassionate: You'll be helping people on a daily basis, and a genuine care for patients will help motivate you when the role is most challenging. 
  • Good communicators: You'll rely on clear communication when speaking to both patients and other medical professionals.
  • Empathetic: Nurses who can put themselves in a patient's position will deliver care that makes a difference.
  • Able to work under pressure: You'll often work in pressurised situations and deal with emergencies, so the ability to remain calm is essential.
  • Organised: Good planning and organisation skills will help with pressurised situations.
  • Diligent Tasks like administering medication and keeping records require attention to detail.
  • Resilient: You'll face challenges throughout your career, so your ability to deal with and recover from these is vital.
  • Willing to learn: Healthcare is a dynamic field, so an ability to adapt and grow will support you in your career.
  • Enduing: Nursing is a physically demanding job with long and arduous shifts, so stamina and endurance will help.
  • Good problem-solvers: Nurses have to make decisions related to patient care each day, with even small decisions having a significant impact on a patient's health.

How much do nurses make?

According to Prospects, fully qualified nurses begin on a salary of £28,407 rising to £34,581 on Band 5 of the NHS Agenda for Change pay rates. 

With promotion to Band 6 positions like senior nurse, salaries progress to £35,392 to £42,618. 

For higher paid positions, like nurse consultant and modern matron, salaries range from £50,952 to £57,349.


These figures relate to NHS jobs, although private sector salaries are likely similar.

Career progression opportunities

With experience, you can:

  • progress to becoming a nursing sister, ward manager, or team leader
  • move into a management role like matron or director of nursing
  • specialise in areas like operating theatre work or intensive care
  • train to become a midwife, health visitor, district nurse or practise nurse
  • become an advanced nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist or nurse consultant
  • move into teaching or research
  • become self-employed and work overseas

Why choose the University of Wolverhampton for your nursing degree?

We offer a range of high-quality nursing degrees, all NMC-approved. Our modern facilities and expert course staff guarantee engaging learning, while our range of placement providers ensures you get the best hands-on experience as you prepare to become a nurse.


We have a history of academic excellence. Book an Open Day or contact us to start your journey.


Telephone: 01902 321 000



What qualifications do you need to become a nurse?

To become a nurse in the UK, you’ll need either:

  • an undergraduate nursing degree
  • a nursing degree apprenticeship
  • nursing associate training
  • a postgraduate nursing course, such as a postgraduate diploma

Can I become a nurse without a degree?

While you don't need to attend university full-time to become a nurse, alternate routes still require you to acquire a nursing degree-level qualification (level 6). Degree apprenticeships and nursing associate programmes offer other ways to achieve this qualification.

How long does it take to become a nurse?

Becoming a nurse via an undergraduate degree will take at least three years. If you've already graduated with another degree, an accelerated graduate degree will take two years.

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