Nursing Careers

Your nursing career starts here! Becoming a nurse is a vocation, and you certainly don't go into it because you want to earn a high salary.

Nursing is a caring career, and there are many paths you can follow. The principal role of a nurse is caring for the needs of patients and their families when they are in a hospital for an operation, recovering from illness or require post op care rather than diagnosing specific illnesses.

What is a Nurse?

A nurse not only work in hospital wards as nurses can work outside of hospitals in patients homes, working in schools (as the school nurse), administering care in GP surgeries or caring for people in old peoples homes or in prisons.

Midwifery is another nursing area where midwives are the first port of call for pregnant women and handle the birth of the child and monitor postnatal issues.

Types of Nursing Roles

The roles that a nurse can undertake are varied. Below are the main streams of career a nurse can take

  • Adult nursing - working mainly in hospital wards caring for the elderly and young adults.
  • Mental health nurses - For all ages of patient working with general practitioners, psychologists and psychiatrists in residential homes, care in the community and patient homes.
  • Child nurses - working with children of all ages including babies, teenagers and child protection you'll work with the patient in hospital and the child's home as well as day care centres.
  • Neonatal nurse - looking after babies after they are born if they are born prematurely or have an illness or are sick so they are monitored and provided the correct care and treatments.
  • Health visitors - Work is mainly in the community and patients' homes who need a health visitor to come to them as they may not be able to visit their GP.
  • Learning disabilities nursing - providing specialist care to those with mental and physical conditions helping them lead as normal life as possible.
  • District nurses - the role of the district nurse probably hasn't changed in generations and their role is to visit people at home in the community for people of all ages. Additional qualifications are required after the degree to complete a specialist practitioner programme.
  • Prison nursing - As a registered nurse you'll work in a local prison covering all types of issues from mental health or abuse.
  • School nurses - working directly with the school to administer help for everyday cuts and bruising but also offer advice as some children have allergic reactions or required daily drugs or injections.

The qualifications you need to become a qualified nurse are listed below.

Nursing Entry Qualifications

Two nurses on a wardNursing courses are available for nurse training. The first step is to complete a pre-registration course, and there are many available throughout the UK. Although there are no minimum qualifications required, usually 5 GCSEs at grade C or above are needed to study a diploma course, and with these set by the United Kingdom Central Council (UKCC). Universities and colleges have their own criteria.

You can take a degree course at university with placements in hospitals and the course is made up of 50% exams with theory and 50% working practice. Like all degrees it lasts for three years with the first year introducing common nursing principles called a Common Foundation Programme. Then you choose with area you wish to specialise in such as disabilities, adult or child care or mental health. Courses to become a midwife follow the same pattern. Learn more about becoming a nurse at the Royal College of Nursing website here.

NHS Bursary

Unlike most students, nurses are not required to pay university tuition fees as these are covered by bursaries from the NHS and are non-repayable. They are paid in monthly instalments and can be up to £3,715 if you are not income assessed. You may also be entitled to child care allowance, parents learning allowance and dependents allowance depending on your circumstances.

Adult Nursing

One of the specialisms to follow is to become an adult nurse. The main role is to care for the patients' welfare whilst recovering from operations and to administer any drugs required. You'll also take blood pressure, temperatures and urine samples. Most adult nurses work in local hospitals although you can work in residential care homes and in schools.

Midwifery Nursing

Midwife of the yearOver 35,000 midwives are working in the UK caring for pregnant woman and offering postnatal care. Midwives also help deliver babies, but their principal role is to offer advice during the pregnancy.

All midwives in the UK are required to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Training to be a midwife is undertaken at approved universities through degree programmes which last for 3 years. The focus is on understanding a pregnant woman's needs and if there may be any complications during the pregnancy and labour. At least 50% of the training is with actual pregnant women, their babies and families so you need to want to work directly with people and have a calm demeanour. Learn more about becoming a midwife at the NMC website here.

Nurses Pay

There is a new nursing pay scale under the "Agenda for Change scheme". At the very bottom of the scale are clinical support workers that start at band 2 (£15,404 plus any weighting - see below) with most newly qualified nurses and midwives starting at band 5. Each year you'll move up to the next scale pay point within the band until you reach the top of the band you are in.

Current Pay Scales

These are the current nursing pay scales in England. Scotland has a similar structure with higher pay levels.


Example Jobs by Pay Band

Here are examples of some of the roles in each of the pay scales.

  • Band 1: Domestic support worker, housekeeping assistant, driver and nursery assistant.
  • Band 2: Domestic team leader, security officer, secretary and healthcare assistant.
  • Band 3: Emergency care assistant, clinical coding officer, support, time and recovery worker, estates officer and occupational therapy assistant.
  • Band 4: Assistant practitioner, audio visual technician, pharmacy technician, dental nurse and theatre support worker.
  • Band 5: Operating department practitioner (ODP), midwife, podiatrist, adult nurse, diagnostic radiographer, practice manager and ICT test analyst).
  • Band 6: School nurse, health visitor, senior paramedic, health records officer, clinical psychology trainee and biomedical scientist.
  • Band 7: Communications manager, estates manager, high intensity therapist, advanced speech and language therapist and theatre team leader (ODP).
  • Band 8a: Consultant prosthetist/ orthotist, dental laboratory manager, project and programme management, modern matron (nursing) and nurse consultant (children's nursing).
  • Band 8b: Strategic management, head of education and training, clinical physiology service manager and head orthoptist.
  • Band 8c: Head of human resources, consultant clinical scientist (molecular genetics/ cytogenetics) and consultant paramedic.
  • Band 8d: Consultant psychologist, estates manager, chief nurse and chief finance manager.
  • Band 9: Podiatric consultant (surgery) head of service, chief finance manager and director of estates and facilities.

There are higher cost area supplements or weighting scales for staff based in or around the London Area.

  • In Inner London, you receive a weight of 20% of basic salary (min £4,200 max £6,469).
  • For Outer London, it's 15% of basic salary (min £3,553 max £4,528).
  • In the fringe areas a 5% supplement of basic salary (min £971 max £1,682).

Full information on nurses pay is contained on the NHS Careers website found here

Developing Your Nursing Career - Senior Positions

Once you have qualified as a nurse you may wish to further your career in many of the senior positions offered. The most senior positions are a modern matron managing a ward or the most senior is a nurse consultant. Other career promotions include nurse specialist, nursing team manager and midwife team manager or higher level. There really are vast opportunities to develop your career in nursing.