Jobs of the Future: Nursing

Nursing is the UK’s most employable degree, with 94% of students getting a job within six months of completing.

The last two decades have seen job markets across the world change drastically, with technological change and economic uncertainty shaping employment opportunities.

Our Jobs of the Future series typically focuses on new and emerging roles and we have featured jobs including forensic computer analyst, user experience designer, and robotics engineer.

We are taking a slightly different approach this time, looking at a long-standing job that’s increasingly in demand. Nurses have been a crucial part of society for hundreds of years. They do essential work caring for sick and vulnerable people.

In recent years, the nursing workforce has been steadily in decline, with a projected supply-demand gap of 140,600 nurses in the NHS in England by 2030/31.

As a result, there is huge demand for nurses across the UK, and plenty of employment opportunities for those who qualify. In fact, nursing is the UK’s most employable degree, with 94% of students getting a job within six months of completing.

What does a nurse do?

Nurses provide care and respite for sick, injured, and vulnerable people and make a difference to people’s lives and wellbeing.

Qualified nurses work as part of multidisciplinary teams providing direct patient care. You work within a variety of settings, from hospital wards and care facilities to patient homes.

Why become a nurse?

A career in nursing is a career with long term prospects and job security. You learn specialist skills and gain practical experience suited to working in many different healthcare environments.

Being a nurse is a hugely rewarding job and enables you to work with people from every walk of life. You spend more time with patients than doctors and other healthcare professionals and work on the frontline administering and evaluating treatment. Nurses play a vital role in society, helping improve patient wellbeing and saving lives.

How to become a nurse

You become a nurse in the UK by studying a degree in nursing. There are four areas of nursing, and you choose to specialise in one for your studies depending on which you find most interesting and what’s best suited to you:

• Adult nursing
• Mental health nursing
• Learning disability nursing
• Children’s nursing

Which field of nursing you want to study is one of the first things you decide. There are some degree courses that allow you to study two fields – called dual field degrees – but most require you to specialise in one area.

What qualifications do you need to be a nurse in the UK?

You need a degree in nursing to work as a nurse in the UK and you must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). You might study a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Nursing course, specialising in one type of nursing, or complete a Master of Science dual award in two types of nursing.

Nursing degrees are 3 or 4 year university courses and students typically spend half the time in university on the academic side of nursing, and half the time learning practical skills and gaining first-hand experience on placements.

What are the entry requirements for nursing in the UK?

The requirements vary depending on the university, but you typically need at least two (usually three) A levels or equivalent qualifications at level 3. GCSEs including English, maths and a science may also be requirements.

Some universities provide courses with a foundation year as an option for students who want to study nursing without the necessary entry qualifications.

What financial support is available to study nursing?

Eligible undergraduate and postgraduate student nurses are entitled to at least £5,000 to help fund their studies. Student nurses can also apply for student loans. Find out more about the annual payments and financial support available.

Can you do an apprenticeship to become a nurse?

You can complete a registered nurse degree apprenticeship (RNDA) as a flexible route to nursing that doesn’t require you to attend and study at university full-time. Most RNDAs take four years, but can be less if your previous learning and experience is recognised.
Training takes place in real life settings, including hospitals, mental health facilities, doctors surgeries, and patient homes.

To start an RNDA you need level 3, and maths and English qualifications. Your apprenticeship might be called a 'top up' RNDA or ‘conversion’ if you have a level 5 qualification as a nursing associate or assistant practitioner.

Vacancies for RNDAs are listed on the NHS Jobs website and the government find an apprenticeship website.

What progression opportunities are there for a nurse?

One of the best things about nursing is the opportunity to work in a variety of healthcare settings, with all kinds of people, across the UK. There are also plenty of opportunities for career progression and development within your role.

In time you may want to progress into a leadership position and become a nursing sister, team leader, or ward manager. Another option is to go into management and become a matron or nursing director.

Some nurses choose to specialise in a specific area such as intensive care, cardiology, geriatrics, theatre, or neonatal, for example. You could visit people’s homes as a health visitor, midwife, or district nurse, or work in GP surgeries as a nurse practitioner.

There is even the option to become self-employed, working as a private nurse, or to go into teaching and research.

Are you looking for careers advice? If you are aged under 19, get free advice on the MyDirections website.

Powered by the Careers Advisers at C+K, MyDirections provides young people with the information they need to make decisions about the future. Alternatively, get in touch with us on 01484 242000 or email

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