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How to Become a Registered Nurse
If you’re interested in a career in nursing, there are a number of different routes you can explore to achieve your dream. Depending on your circumstances, there are multiple ways to get your foot in the door and become a registered nurse.
As a career choice, it can be much more accessible than a doctorate. Nursing degree courses have much higher acceptance rates than medical degrees, and can be much less competitive. As a job, working as a nurse is just as integral to the NHS as doctors, and the patient-facing aspect of nursing makes it extremely rewarding.
According to the NHS, nursing is also the UK’s most employable degree, with 94% of students getting a job within six months of graduating. It’s a great choice for school leavers moving onto university, or those who are looking to change their career.
Read our guide to find out how to become a nurse with no qualifications, with advice on the education, training and qualifications required.
How long does it take to become a registered nurse?
Nursing degrees in the UK typically last three years when studying one field. For dual-field degrees, courses are four years long. If students choose to study part-time, it could take longer.
There are also accelerated courses, suitable for students who already have a degree in another field, which last two years. Alternatively, there are nursing degree apprenticeships that take four years to complete.
After graduating or completing training, registered nurses are able to work as locum nurses through agencies, or apply for full-time nursing jobs.
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Traditional route – university degree
The most popular route to become a registered nurse is to apply for a university course through UCAS. There are a number of different areas you can explore when you choose to do a nursing degree. These include adult nursing, paediatric nursing, geriatric nursing, mental health nursing, learning disability nursing, and district nursing.
With your course, you have the option to focus on one field, or take a dual degree to broaden your experience. For students who aren’t sure what type of nursing is most suited to them, dual-field courses can give them a better idea.
While university courses are expensive to fund, most school leavers will be entitled to a student loan. There are also grants available for those who are eligible, such as people on certain benefits, people with disabilities, or parents who need to cover childcare costs.
Compared to apprenticeships (which won’t cost the individual any money in terms of tuition fees), a traditional degree is the more costly route. However, for many young people, the chance of studying at university, living on campus, and meeting other like-minded students is an invaluable experience.
Apprenticeship – how to become a registered nurse with no qualifications
A nursing apprenticeship is ideal for professionals going through a career change, or those who are unable to attend a full-time university course.
The eligibility to become a nursing degree apprentice is extremely inclusive. It is open to people from all backgrounds, as long as they meet the entry requirements of the programme and they are believed to be capable of academic learning.
So how long does it take to become a nurse with an apprenticeship? The duration is typically four years, with flexibility around the apprentice’s work commitments using methods of block learning, distance learning or blended learning. Over the course of the apprenticeship, there will be a mix of university study and placement. Once training is completed, apprentices will have a full Bachelor’s degree and Registered Nurse status.
If you are looking to switch career paths and you’re wondering how to become a nurse without having to pay for university, an apprenticeship is the ideal alternative. Tuition fees are covered by the government, and whilst the pay isn’t high, you will have at least the minimum apprenticeship wage.
Compared to going to university, this is the more cost-effective way of starting your career in nursing, and it will also give you lots of hands-on work experience from the get-go.
Alternative training – become a nursing associate
Although working as a nursing associate isn’t a direct route to becoming a registered nurse, it can provide people with plenty of experience. With further training down the line, it’s also possible to top up your training to become registered.
A nursing associate role sits alongside existing nursing care support workers and fully-qualified nurses, and can be done in both the healthcare or social care sectors. You will be expected to assist with patient care, and there will also be academic learning one or two days a week.
Entry requirements for a Nursing Associate Programme usually include GCSEs (with A to C in Maths and English), or the equivalent Key Skills Level 2. You will also need to demonstrate your ability to study at foundation degree level. If you want to become a nurse, this can be a great way to work your way up.