Nursing School Requirements

What Subjects do you Need to Become a Nurse?

You will need three A levels, or (rarely) two A levels with exceptional grades. Most universities do not require specific subjects at A Level. Biology is often pinpointed as being of core importance to Nursing, and is certainly amongst the most relevant A Levels one can take. Whilst not requiring specific subjects, certain universities like King’s College London highlight preferred subjects; it goes without saying your application will appear much stronger if you offer these. Any science subject will be considered preferred. Manchester requires at least one science from the following subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, Sociology, Health and Social Care, and Applied Science. Glasgow requires two A-Levels from Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Mathematics.

Other universities will accept any A Levels, normally with the exception of General Studies and Critical Thinking.
You will be required to have both GCSE Mathematics and English at a grade B/C or 5/4 depending on the university. Science may also be required. Certain universities may make more specific demands at GCSE, such as Glasgow which requires Chemistry at grade B.
A table providing an overview of the general requirements for A Level or BTEC is below. 

​What Prerequisites are Needed for Nursing?

Alongside the right grades in the right subjects, you will be expected to have a range of work experience. Universities look for transferable skills, so bear this in mind when thinking about what kinds of work experience to go for, especially if you are struggling with some of the more traditional, ‘directly medical’ options.
If you are under the age of 18, it can be hard to get work experience in hospitals or care settings, but all NHS trusts have different policies and ease of access. Therefore, enquire fully with as many parts of the local healthcare system as possible.

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Work Experience Options

  • Volunteer at your local hospital
  • Shadow a nurse
  • Paid work at your local hospital (in a shop or similar)
  • Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance, Revitalise
  • Homeless shelters
  • Nursing workshops and seminars
  • Children’s charities
  • Foster agencies
  • Mind, Time to Change, SANE
  • Supported living centres
  • Mencap
  • Learning Disability centres

Think about the branch of nursing that you are applying to study and tailor your work experience to suit it. If you wish to study Children’s Nursing, then volunteering with local youth clubs, your local Children’s Ward, and a charity like Barnardo’s, would give you a good range of valuable experience.
Working in care homes is a popular option, and can be one of the more straightforward routes to relevant experience. Working in shops, restaurants or pubs can be relevant too; think about the times that you have had to deal with difficult customers, explain things, help people or comfort them. Any people-facing role can be relevant in its own way. 

How to Become a Nurse in the UK

Nursing education programs are run at approved healthcare institutions (known as AEIs by the Nursing and Midwifery Council). They typically take three years, although may be shortened through certain entry routes that take into account previous learning. Half of a program will take place in clinical practice, and half will take place at university. Students must be taught to ‘understand, promote and facilitate safe and effective patient care.’ Some people choose to take nursing degree apprenticeships rather than a standard degree course. In this situation, your employer (the NHS) will lead your learning. Apprenticeships run from Intermediate Level (equivalent to GCSEs) through to the Degree Apprenticeships that will let you become a qualified nurse. You would expect to spend a minimum of four years on your apprenticeship in order to qualify as a nurse.
You may also now work as a Nursing Associate – a role that sits alongside nursing care support workers and registered nurses. If you work in this role and complete further training, you may be able to qualify as a nurse.
After completing your degree or apprenticeship, you will be able to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and take up your first job as a nurse. You must choose the nursing degree that suits the field you wish to work in – e.g. Mental Health Nursing if you wish to work in mental health. 

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