What Qualifications Do I Need To Be A Nurse? (Plus Salary)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 September 2021

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.

Nurses are medical professionals who oversee a variety of functions and have certain responsibilities, such as patient care. There are several paths you can take to become a nurse. Knowing the steps to take to become a nurse can help you decide if this is the best career for you. In this article, we discuss what a nurse is, what their main responsibilities are and what qualifications you need to become one.

What qualifications do I need to be a nurse?

When wanting to know, 'what qualifications do I need to be a nurse?', consider the steps below to help you as you pursue this career:

Earn a nursing degree

A nursing degree is a popular choice for many prospective nurses and they offer you more than theoretical knowledge, making it incredibly rewarding. This is because there is a practical component to nursing degrees, giving you the chance to gain hands-on experience with patients. These placements usually take place in a hospital or community setting.

If you choose to earn a degree in another relevant field, you can get recognition for this through the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) certification. Before applying for a nursing degree, decide which field of nursing you would like to study. Some degree schemes allow you to study two fields, typically known as dual field degrees. Your options may include:

  • Children's nursing

  • Adult nursing

  • Learning disability nursing

  • Mental health nursing

The entry requirements for nursing degrees vary according to which university you apply to, so be sure to check before submitting your application. You typically need to achieve at least two A-levels or level 3 equivalent qualifications in related subjects, such as biology, psychology or chemistry. Only some universities accept qualifications that are equivalent to A-levels, so contact them to find out this information. If you don't achieve the necessary grade requirements, you can do a foundation degree at some universities to achieve the necessary base knowledge.

Look for registered nurse degree apprenticeships (RNDA)

An RNDA is a more flexible route for aspiring nurses since you don't need to partake in full-time university study. First, you need to secure a position on this apprenticeship scheme. Your employer then releases you to study at university on a part-time basis. The rest of the time, you get hands-on training via placements. These can take place in GP surgeries, clinics, mental health facilities, residential homes or occupational health services.

These apprenticeships take four years to complete, but you can cut this short if you have APEL accreditation. This recognises any previous learning or experience. You would usually earn this experience in a relevant level 5 qualification. This reduces your apprenticeship to two years. To qualify for an RNDA, you need a level 3 qualification in maths and English.

Become a nursing associate

Nursing associates work alongside healthcare support workers and registered nurses to provide patient care and support in health and social climates. A nursing associate role allows you to train to become a registered nurse and is suitable for you if you want to avoid the financial implications of a degree. You can find these positions across a variety of healthcare settings, which means there are several opportunities. Expect a degree of flexibility when applying for them. You can practise in primary, community, acute or social care settings as a nursing associate.

Related: What's the Difference Between a Doctor and a Nurse?

What is a nurse?

A nurse is a caregiver who assists with a patient's physical needs. As a nurse, you treat existing health conditions and prevent illness by observing and monitoring patients. Nurses record a patient's progress and other information which determines their treatment. Beyond this administrative care, nurses take a holistic approach with their patients. This means that they oversee the developmental and psychosocial needs of a patient.

Related: How To Become a Nurse

What are the main responsibilities of a nurse?

The primary responsibilities may involve working alongside doctors, therapists and social workers to assist them with patient care. Since some nurses work 24-hour shifts, expect a diverse and challenging working day. Some of your general responsibilities may include:

  • Supervising junior staff members and tutor-student nurses

  • Organising workloads

  • Counselling patients

  • Writing medical documents

  • Providing emotional support to patients and their families

  • Caring for patients pre and post-operation

  • Performing physical examinations and health histories

  • Providing health promotion to patients

  • Coordinating care with other medical professionals

  • Checking patient samples, temperatures, pulses and blood pressure

  • Administering medication and intravenous infusions

  • Monitoring patient progress

  • Assessing and plan nurse care requirements

Related: Midwife vs. Nurse: Key Differences Between the Two Careers

Nurse salaries

The average annual salary for nurses is £31,071. This varies according to whether you choose to work on a part- or full-time basis. Your location also affects your average annual salary in a nursing role. For example, if you live in London, expect to earn approximately £36,514 per year as a nurse. This is because these cities require more healthcare professionals than others, so nurses are in high demand.

What skills do I need to be a nurse?

Nursing qualifications teach you how to apply theoretical understanding to practical medical work. They equip you with fundamental information regarding client confidentiality and the practices that come with it, such as data recording and safeguarding procedures. There are several skills that a nursing qualification focuses on developing, including:

  • Decision-making skills**:** These skills allow you to analyse events and make decisions based on sound logic and accurate information. Good decision-making means that nurses cope well in a fast-paced environment where they're expected to make quick decisions.

  • Technical skills: Technology plays an important role in nursing, allowing you to spend more time with your patients and log information correctly. Nurses need technical skills to retrieve patient information, provide research-based solutions, and prevent input efforts.

  • Collaborative skills: A nurse often collaborates with patients, families and other healthcare providers to encourage care and facilitate the overall treatment process. This means that you communicate with everyone effectively and answer any questions your patients may have.

Options for funding your nursing degree

Students who undertake health professional pre-registration courses in the UK can access a support package to help with their living costs and contribute to their tuition fee loans. Apply for this funding as an undergraduate or postgraduate nursing student means you don't need to pay it back. You can apply for this funding through the government website.

4 nursing career options

Once you've qualified as a nurse, you can work anywhere in the UK or internationally. There are several career paths to choose from as a nurse, so it's important that you select the one you are most passionate about. Here are four primary nursing jobs to consider:

1. Adult nurse

Adult nurses take care of adult patients who are suffering from a wide variety of illnesses or medical conditions. You do this by supporting their treatment regime, helping them through post-operation recovery, and overseeing their well-being needs. In this role, you need to gain trust from your patients and implement plans that allow patients to progress and remain comfortable while under your supervision.

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

2. Children's nurse

A children's nurse assesses and plans the primary care needs of young medical patients. You monitor and administer operations and ensure that children feel at ease under your care. Children's nurses typically consider the medical, social and cultural needs of a child and their family circumstances. It's also important to learn to read non-verbal cues since some children are shy or too young to speak.

3. Learning disability nurse

Learning disability nurses ensure that adults and children with learning difficulties receive the correct medical treatment. You help them maintain their mental and physical health and support them through daily activities. The main responsibility of a learning disability nurse is to ensure that these individuals can live as independently as possible by teaching them practical living skills. You might also write care plans and liaise with relatives to improve living standards.

4. Mental health nurse

Mental health nurses primarily focus on the psychological health of their patients. This means that you talk to patients and assess their problems. A mental health nurse works alongside patients to discuss solutions and provide care plans. Try building positive relationships with your patients to foster trust and to interpret their needs accurately. Expect to spend a lot of time communicating with psychiatrists, psychologists and other healthcare professionals to decide the best course of treatment.

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

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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