How long does it take to become a nurse? (Including process)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Nursing is a popular career path for people who want to provide support, care and medical services. With many different kinds of nursing qualifications and pathways, nursing offers the opportunity to work with both children and adults regarding their physical and mental health. To qualify as a nurse, an individual typically completes extensive training at the degree level with the option for further training to expand their expertise. In this article, we answer the question ‘How long does it take to become a nurse?', describe the steps to becoming one and explain extra training to consider for a nursing career.

How long does it take to become a nurse?

If you're wondering ‘How long does it take to become a nurse?' the answer is that it can vary depending on how you study. A nursing degree usually takes between three and four years to complete, while a part-time degree may take five or six years. If you have previous experience in a relevant profession or a graduate degree in a scientific field, you may be able to apply for an Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) to complete your degree in approximately two years.

If you received qualifications as a nurse abroad and have at least one year of nursing experience, you may register directly with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). If your registration and training are up to date, the timeframe may depend on how long it takes to complete the required tests. When pursuing roles in the country you live in, a work visa may be necessary. The process may include completing a test to prove your English language skills, taking an NMC multiple-choice, computer-based test and sitting for an objective structured clinical examination to assess your clinical skills.

Related: 17 types of nurses (with job descriptions and salary info)

What qualifications does a nurse typically acquire?

Nurses complete a degree at an approved educational institution that the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) authorises. On application, you typically have a choice between adult, child, mental health or learning disability nursing. The degree you choose may affect which areas of nursing you can work in once you qualify, so it's important to consider which suits you best. Before you apply for a nursing degree, you may also complete GCSEs or A-levels to prove your competency in science, basic literacy and numeracy.

How to become a nurse

If you plan to become a nurse, knowing the most practical path to reach your goal may reduce the time you spend training. For example, choosing a degree that aligns with your future career aspirations can help you complete your training faster. The steps you can take to become a qualified nurse include:

1. Decide on the area of nursing you'd like to study

Nursing has four separate pathways. While the fundamentals of nursing are the same in each role, there are specific modules and skills to learn, depending on the degree. For example, you may learn different skills when completing a degree in child nursing than you would in mental health nursing. The following are the four categories you can choose to study:

  • adult nursing

  • child nursing

  • learning disability nursing

  • mental health nursing

2. Apply for a nursing degree or apprenticeship

Once you've decided on the area of nursing, you may wish to receive an apprenticeship nursing degree or complete alternative training. Many universities offer nursing degrees on a full- and part-time basis. If you prefer to learn practically, a registered nurse degree apprenticeship (RNDA) is a four-year training course where you work in practice placements in GP practices, hospitals and mental health facilities.

3. Complete your placements

During your degree, you typically work as a student nurse in placements at local clinics, hospitals and other medical settings. These placements typically run a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to verify criminal history before you can work directly with patients. RNDA students may have longer, more in-depth placements than student nurses, as university time isn't a requirement to complete the training.

4. Register with the NMC

After completing your degree, you can register with the NMC as a qualified nurse. Registration with the NMC is necessary for all nurses, whether you choose to work in public or in private practices and clinics. The specialism you chose at the degree level provides the necessary qualification to work in a specific area of nursing, such as a mental health nurse.

5. Apply for jobs as a qualified nurse

Once you've registered, you can apply for jobs as a qualified nurse. The public sector is a viable route as it provides opportunities to work in hospitals, clinics, birthing centres and people's homes, depending on the role's specifications. You may also find a nursing role in the private sector, such as in a private hospital, doctor's surgery or cosmetic surgery clinic.

Related: How To Write a Nurse CV (Plus Template and Example)

6. Continue with further training

Following your nursing degree, you may choose to train for different nursing roles. For example, you could complete a master's degree in nursing for the opportunity to apply for senior nursing roles. You may also attend specialist training while in employment, such as attending a Management of Actual or Potential Aggression (MAPA) training if you're working with people with learning disabilities.

Related: How to become a nurse practitioner

What other training can you complete to be a nurse?

Once you've completed your degree and registration for nursing, you can begin applying for nursing jobs within your particular specialism. If you're considering a different role in nursing, you may choose to go back into education to qualify for that specific job. Examples of additional training you could complete as a nurse include the following:

Nurse practitioner training

To become a nurse practitioner, you can complete a two-year master's degree in nursing. This additional qualification allows you to work in nurse practitioner positions in GP surgeries, clinics and similar environments. Often, a nurse practitioner offers GP surgery appointments to patients who have health concerns but don't specifically require an appointment with a doctor.

Postgraduate nursing training

Postgraduate nursing training can provide the opportunity to advance to more senior positions. For example, a two-year master's degree in advanced clinical practice can offer nurses the ability to complete more procedures in their day-to-day work. This training may provide the opportunity to work in more senior roles and supervise other nurses in hospitals and larger clinics.

Health visitor training

Health visitor training is a specific two-year master's qualification that nurses complete to provide specialist community public health nursing services across a particular area. They typically support families by providing guidance and checking on their children's health during their first few months of life. Health visitors have the knowledge and skills to complete full health reviews and may work with high-risk or vulnerable people in the community.

Read more: How to become a health visitor

Midwifery training

A two-year master's degree in midwifery can be a valuable option for nurses who didn't complete midwifery training at a degree level and would like the opportunity to work with mothers and babies. Midwifery training teaches specific knowledge and skills regarding antenatal care, labour support and postnatal support. Midwives may work in hospitals, birthing centres or patients' homes.

Read more: How to become a midwife: steps and FAQs

Is nursing training complete after graduation?

After graduating, you remain registered and fully qualified for as long as you remain in practice. Many clinics and hospitals offer additional training and support to increase your knowledge and ensure you're up to date with the latest practices. Over time, you may also retrain or extend your training to attain senior management roles.

What is the quickest way to graduate as a nurse?

The quickest pathway is an APEL, as it allows you to complete training over two years instead of three. As degree-level education is necessary to work as a nurse, two years is typically the minimum amount of time to qualify. Registering with the NMC as soon as possible following graduation can also help to shorten the length of time between training and finding a nursing position.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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