Nursing is an incredibly rewarding profession, and it is one which can really make a difference. Although it can be difficult in many aspects, a caring role as a nurse will enable you to make a real positive impact on many people’s lives. There are a variety of types of nursing that you may be interested in, and you can follow these interests in your training and career.
If you are interested in becoming a Nurse, we have laid out a step-by step guide of the training that you should complete to do so. This is aimed to help you plan out a path to your dream career and give you an overview of how each qualification is useful to a career in Nursing.
A career in Nursing will require you to have:
- 5 GSCEs at grades at pass grades above. These should include the core subjects of English, Maths and Science.
- 2-3 A-Levels including either 1 or 2 subjects from the list of: A-level Biology, Psychology, Health and Social Care, Chemistry, and Sociology.
- A Nursing degree in 1 of the main areas of Nursing which is approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)
- A registration with the NMC (which has to be regularly renewed)
- 35 Hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
Table of Contents
1. What GCSEs Do You Need to Become a Nurse?
GCSEs are an important stepping stone in your academic career. They will allow you to get into University, both through being part of entry requirements, and also by being the way that Sixth Forms decide whether or not you can study the subjects at A-Level which are relevant to your career plans. A Nursing career will need you to have at least 5 GCSEs at pass grades and above, including Maths, English and Science.
What GCSEs Do You Need to Study Nursing Related A-Levels at Sixth Form?
The A-Levels that are helpful for developing the skills which you need to be a Nurse are described in the section below, but it is important to know what GCSEs will allow you to study these subjects at Sixth Form.
Generally speaking, science-based subjects will be the best for setting you up for a career as a Nurse, so it is important that you work very hard in this subject. However, this does not mean that you need to study Triple Science. Although it may put you in a slightly more comfortable position when you start a science-based subject at Sixth Form, it is far from impossible to do a Science A-Level such as Biology or Chemistry with the foundation knowledge which you gain from Combined Science.
You also need to be successful in the other core subjects (Maths and English). Passes in these subjects are the main requirements for any A-Level course at Sixth Form, and your college life will certainly be a lot more enjoyable if you don’t have to re-take them.
If you would like to study Health and Social Care at Sixth Form, you may also want to consider taking this as a subject at GCSE level, to provide yourself with some prior knowledge which can be built on in the A-Level. However, again this is not essential.
Which GCSEs Will Help You Develop The Skills You Need To Become a Nurse?
There are a variety of different skills which will be useful to any aspiring Nurses. Communication is a key skill, and it is something which you will be able to develop all of the way through school. You can use your English lessons to improve your written communication and understanding, and taking advantage of any opportunity to present information or communicate with your classmates will be really useful to you.
Additionally, if you wanted to be able to communicate with people from across the world, you may want to take a Modern Foreign Language (like French, Spanish or German) at GCSE. These subjects, although they won’t teach you how to speak fluently, will give you some comprehension of the language which you will be able to build on in the future. A second language is useful in most careers, but where you are constantly working with people, this is especially true.
Critical thinking is another skill which you may want to develop, and a humanities subject such as History is great for this. Although, again, this will be in a completely different context to the way that you will use it in Nursing, the ability to evaluate evidence and come to a conclusion will be useful to you in your career, and starting to build the skill at the stage of GCSEs could be very beneficial. An added bonus is that History would also enable you to develop your writing skills!
Additionally, the Science subjects (which you have to pass anyway!) will be potentially useful in developing your skills in attention to detail. Science is a very precise subject, and being able to understand it while carrying out in-class practicals may start to develop your skillset even more.
What GCSEs Do You Need to Study Nursing at University?
In order to study at University, the GCSE requirements for Nursing degrees are usually that you need 5 GCSE passes and above, including in, Maths, Science and English. These are the core subjects, and so it is important that you pass them anyway.
However, despite these seemingly low GCSE requirements for Nursing courses, you should aim to get the best grades you can in all subjects which you study. You will take around 9 GCSEs, and so aiming to pass just 5 of those is not what you should be doing.
Passing all of your GCSE subjects with the strongest grades you can will lead you to the A-Level courses which are related to Nursing, and these are the vital part of any University application. Without the correct subjects, you may struggle more than other people to get on to the course which you would like to study.
It is much easier in the long run to simply succeed as much as you can in your GCSEs, as then you will be in the strongest position moving forward into your career. That being said, if you have already completed your GCSEs, and not got the grades which you wanted, there are ways of getting into Nursing, though they may be a bit longer and more complicated than the main GCSEs to A-Levels to degree route.
What GCSE Grades Do You Need to Pursue a Nursing Career?
Ultimately, the GCSE grades that you need to achieve to become a Nurse are those which will allow you to progress on to the courses for the required and preferred A-Level courses, as well as the minimum of 5 passes including English, Maths and Science.
Once you have gained qualifications past your GCSEs, they become a lot less important in determining your career. The way that they should really be viewed is that they are an essential part of the process to move on to the next step of studying.
As long as you have the GCSEs which enable you to study the A-Levels that Universities require (and the A-Levels that you want to study!), you should be completely fine. Still, make sure that you have done your GCSEs to the best of your ability, as they go on to your University application form, and are also sometimes used to calculate the predicted A-Level grades that also get sent to Universities on your application.
2. What A-Levels Do You Need to Become a Nurse?
If you want to be a Nurse, the most likely path that you will follow is through a Nursing degree. To be able to get on to a Nursing course at University, there are some A-Levels which may be particularly useful for your application. Obviously, requirements vary depending on the University, but generally speaking, the subjects that you may find useful include: A-Level Biology, A-Level Chemistry, A-Level Psychology, A-Level Health and Social Care, and A-Level Sociology. Universities will usually require you to have between 1 and 2 Science A-Levels, and the other choices have little impact on your application.
Required A-Level: Biology
A-Level Biology is a great science subject which is related to Nursing. A knowledge of the body and biological processes is something that will potentially give you a head-start in your understanding of the content covered in a Nursing degree.
However, if Biology is not one of your strong subjects, don’t feel as though you have to take it! 1 or 2 Science A-Levels are usually required by Universities, but this is not to say that it has to be Biology.
That being said, A-Level Biology is incredibly relevant to Nursing, and would therefore help you develop skills needed for a career in Nursing. Having even a basic level of understanding of Biology may improve your decision-making skills in terms of emergencies and patient cases. It may also enable you to communicate more effectively with patients, as a basic understanding of concepts may improve your ability to answer any questions that your patients may have about their treatments.
Required A-Level: Psychology
Although A-Level Psychology may not appear to be a subject which is directly related to Nursing, it is an incredibly useful subject to have an understanding of. Working with people presents many challenges, and this subject may help you understand people in a logical way.
An A-Level in Psychology may also enable you to communicate with and treat your patients in a more effective way. If you can understand what a patient needs, in terms of both physical and mental well-being, you will be able to provide an excellent level of care.
One of the key aspects of nursing is your ability to show compassion to patients and make them as comfortable as possible. This is something that a Psychology A-Level may help you start to develop your skills in.
Remember that nurses often have to deal with patients who are concerned about things like procedures and medication, and so the ability to keep people calm, and understand the range of emotions that a patient may be feeling is instrumental to the career. If you can understand the root of someone’s concerns or emotions, it becomes a lot easier to help them manage these feelings and support them in getting through the procedures that they are worried about.
You may also be able to then identify mental health problems more easily (and this is something which will be especially useful to you if you want to become a Mental Health Nurse!).
Required A-Level: Chemistry
Chemistry is one of the subjects which features in a Nursing degree quite heavily. This means that studying the A-Level can be incredibly beneficial in providing you with a basic understanding of Chemistry concepts.
One of the reasons that Chemistry is related to Nursing is that Nurses are often responsible for medicine administration, and therefore have to have an understanding of how different medicines react with symptoms as well as other medicines. This is vital for patient safety.
Chemistry can also be heavily related to Biology. Many activities which take place in the body involve chemical processes, and an understanding of these make a profession in Medicine such as Nursing much more straightforward. The knowledge from this course will give you a great broad understanding of Chemistry as a subject, and when your knowledge becomes more specialised on the degree programme, it can be applied to your everyday work.
As with A-Level Biology, an understanding of Chemistry will also help you in your communication with patients who have questions about their treatments and medicines. Although you don’t need to know as much detail as perhaps other medical professionals (such as Doctors) do, it is important that your patients feel as though they are in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing, and being able to offer explanations when prompted can be very useful for this.
Helpful A-Level: Health and Social Care
The seemingly most related A-Level to Nursing would be Health and Social care. However, don’t worry if your Sixth Form don’t offer this course, as the other A-Levels listed here are also very useful for prospective Nurses.
An A-Level in Health and Social care will give you insight into the treatment of illnesses in hospitals, communities, and health centres. It will also give you knowledge surrounding the care of vulnerable people in the community.
You will be able to develop knowledge of and skills in caring, as well as knowledge of health and disease, and how to promote good health. This makes the course something that is of direct interest to those wishing to become Nurses.
It is a course which also often directly applicable to the working world. The development of important skills and knowledge of how they should be applied is something which has the potential to be incredibly useful.
Additionally, if your course involves work experience, you will have the opportunity to apply and develop the skills which the course teaches you. This is incredibly handy if you want to get a head start in experience of caring for the members of the community.
Helpful A-Level: Sociology
Sociology is directly related to Nursing because it is the study of society. As a Nurse, you are obviously in direct contact with society all of the time, and so Sociology may be incredibly useful to you.
If you want to understand the communities that your patients come from, and this can make your Nursing care more effective. Even though you would be studying societal groups by taking this A-Level, it may give you a useful insight which you can apply to individuals. You may be able to understand people in a deeper way because you will have some understanding of their circumstances and therefore the attitudes that they are likely to have.
Sociology may also give you the opportunity to develop your problem-solving skills, which will be incredibly useful in your career as a nurse (and in any career really). As with most A-Levels, it is not about learning the skills to solve the specific problems that you may come across in your career, it is about building the foundations of problem-solving skills which can eventually become specialised.
What A-Level Grades Do You Need to Pursue a Nursing Career?
The A-Level grades needed to pursue Nursing vary depending on the University which you would like to study at. These tend to range between requiring BBC to AAB at for different University courses.
Clearly, you should intend to work as hard as possible to get as high grades as you possibly can, so that you are in a comfortable position when you are applying to University. Although some Universities may offer foundation years for those who don’t achieve the grades required, it is ideal not to have to go through this process if you can avoid it.
Keeping your grades as high as possible, and working all the way through your Sixth Form courses will not only give you more Universities to choose from, but also will benefit you in terms of the knowledge that you start University with. If you have worked hard and really learned the content that you need for your exams, then you will already have a genuine understanding of some of the subjects that are important for Nursing students.
3. What Degree Do You Need to Become a Nurse?
If you are interested in becoming a Nurse, the main pathway into nursing is to get an Undergraduate degree in a particular type of nursing. There are different areas of nursing and so it is important that you decide which type you would like to study. Once you have done this, one of the benefits of a nursing degree is that you are qualified to work in your chosen field almost immediately after you have graduated from University.
What University Degree Do You Need to Acquire to Become a Nurse?
If you want to become a Nurse, you must first consider which specialism you would like to train in. These can include:
- Mental Health
- Adult Nursing
- Children Nursing
- Learning Disability Nursing
Once you have decided on the type of Nursing which you would like to pursue, you need to decide where you would like to study. There are a wide range of courses available, and entry requirements do vary. A useful list of degree programmes in the UK can be found here.
As a side note, remember that Nursing and Midwifery are 2 different professions, and therefore require different degree programmes. If you are interested in becoming a Midwife, take a look at this useful article, which explains the qualifications you need to become a Midwife.
If more than one area of Nursing appeals to you, take note that some Universities offer joint courses, such as Nursing (Adult with Mental Health). This means you don’t have to necessarily just stick to one area if that does not appeal to you.
It is really important that, when choosing your degree, you make sure that it has been approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), otherwise there is chance that you will have to complete further training in order to be able to work.
Nursing degrees will usually take 3 years to complete and include a large practical element as well as the academic learning. This is something that makes the degree a great way to learn and develop a wide range of skills and is one of the reasons why it is possible to go straight into work almost immediately after graduating.
Can You Get Extra Financial Support to Study A Nursing Degree?
Nurses are a vital part of society, and so the government does provide some incentives for students to pursue a career in this area in the form of financial aids such as grants. As a student, you need to make sure that you research what is available to you and take advantage of it!
If you want to study to become a Nurse, it is likely that you will be eligible for a grant (which you don’t have to pay back) of between £5,000 – £8,000 a year to support you throughout your course. The exact amount of this grant depends on a variety of factors, but it is certainly something that you should look into. If you would like to find out more about this grant, have a look at the NHS Website, which gives more information.
Are There Other Routes Into Nursing?
If a degree by itself is not for you, something that you may be interested in is a degree apprenticeship. This is where you study at University part-time alongside working in an NHS organisation. This is great for students who would like to gain more hands-on experience throughout their degree, though there is a very practical side to a Nursing degree already.
Clearly, degree apprenticeships take longer than degrees – however usually they only last 4 years (just 1 year longer than a degree!). If you would like to find apprenticeship vacancies, have a look at this useful government website. Theses are not necessarily as widely available as degrees, but you can only find out if you can get one by looking!
You may also want to consider becoming a Nursing Associate. This is something which you don’t need any kind of degree for, though it may be a good starting point for some people who want to go straight into their career. You will also potentially have the ability to progress, and eventually study for a degree (like in a degree apprenticeship) alongside you work. If you would like to find out more about the roles of Nursing Associates, take a look at this helpful website.
4. What Post-University Courses Do You Need to Complete to Become a Nurse?
Once you have completed your University undergraduate degree, you will be able to go straight into working as a Nurse, providing your degree has been approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), and that you are registered with them.
Required: Registration With The Nursing and Midwifery Council
In order to work as a Nurse in the UK or Internationally, you have to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). This is why your degree has to be approved by the NMC, as otherwise you won’t be put on the Nursing register until you have completed further training.
Without registration with the NMC, you cannot practice as a Nurse. All employers will check that you are part of the NMC register before you are employed, and so it is vital if you want to work in Nursing. Details of how to join the NMC Register can be found here.
What Are Your Other Options After You Have Completed Your Midwifery Degree?
Despite the fact that most newly qualified Nursing students go straight into work, there are further training options available. You may be interested in taking a master’s degree after your undergraduate course. This can lead you to interesting specialism subjects and may allow you to move into more advanced roles in the Nursing team.
Some examples of master’s courses which are related to Nursing and Health are listed on this helpful website. However, make sure that you remember that this is absolutely not essential for people who want to become Nurses. Also don’t forget that there are likely to be opportunities for you to complete another degree alongside your working life, so you don’t necessarily have to do a master’s degree immediately after graduating.
5. What On-Going Training Are Nurses Required to Complete?
Once you have become a Nurse, it is important that you are able to provide the best care you can to your patients, and so it is important that you are aware of any developments in research in the field. This is why you will need to complete Continuing Professional Development (CPD). You will also need to stay up to date with renewing your registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in order to be able to work.
Renewal: Registration With the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)
As I said before, to work as a Nurse, you must be registered with the NMC. This is something that requires an annual payment, which you must be organised about. You will get an email about the payment of this in plenty of time, and you must make sure you pay it on time! If not, you will be temporarily un-registered, until your request to re-join the register has been processed (during which time you won’t be able to work).
A revalidation of your place on the register is also needed every 3 years, and detail of this can be found on the Nursing and Midwifery Council Website. Make sure that you are aware of the requirements of this so that you can keep the relevant records up to date.
Training Course: Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
In the 3-year period between each revalidation of your place on the NMC Register, one of the things that you will have to do is complete is 35 Hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). CPD is vital for allowing professionals to remain aware of new information in the field that they work in, and as a Nurse, this is particularly important for you to maintain the high levels of care which you should strive to provide.
CPD can include a range of activities. Some must be guided, and can include seminars, lectures, and workshops. However, you can also do some independent CPD activities, potentially including reading relevant medical articles, and learning other relevant information.
You can also take a very active role in CPD. You may want to run your own course, be a mentor, or teach a subject to your colleges. These are all activities which can count towards CPD. Make sure that you do your own research about what kind of activities you could do to meet the CPD requirements of Nursing.
The crucial thing here is that you use the information and skills that you have developed in your CPD in practice. You need to be able to reflect on how the new ideas have changed the way that you work in a beneficial way.