Are you looking for a new nursing job? Or just curious about the career options available to you? We summarise:

  • how to get started in nursing
  • different types of nursing
  • qualifications and education in nursing
  • further training 
  • job roles and salaries

Whatever happens in the world, the world will always need nurses. And if doctors are the rock stars of the medical profession, then nurses are the crew that holds it all together. Without the courage, tenacity and brilliance of nurses, doctors simply wouldn’t be able to do their jobs.

Becoming a nurse is an immensely rewarding role, not least because you have the chance to make a tangible difference in people’s lives. It’s also one that’s hugely diverse, which means you can pick a career path that really suits you. 

So how do you choose a career path in nursing?

Getting started in nursing.

You’ll need a nursing degree or course approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Degrees normally take three years (four with a dual subject) and normally involve 50% classroom-based learning and 50% practical placement learning. Once qualified you’ll need to register with the NMC before you can apply for jobs.

The government will be launching nursing degree apprenticeships later this year which will allow you to study at degree level alongside your existing role, normally in a healthcare setting. Up to 1000 degree apprenticeships are likely to be available initially.

Once qualified though, nurses normally specialise in one of four areas: adult nursing, child nursing, mental health or learning disabilities nursing. Within those there are further specialisms such as: 


Dermatology nurses specialise in treating skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. You’ll provide treatment and sometimes diagnosis for patients with a variety of different skin disorders. Some dermatology nurses focus on early detection of skin cancer. You’ll work with patients to obtain histories, advise on treatments and help improve conditions. You’ll also work with patients and families on follow up care and treatments.

You can undertake further study specialising in dermatology as part of your continuous professional development.


As a haematology nurse, you’ll work in a clinical setting looking after patients with blood disorders or diseases such as sickle cell, leukaemia or haemophilia. You’ll be responsible for taking blood samples, carrying out transfusions, taking blood tests, performing examinations and taking medical notes. In addition, you’ll reassure patients and explain medical procedures to them.

Haematology is often closely associated with oncology and you’ll need to take further modules specialising in this area.

Intensive care

Working as an intensive care nurse you’ll be dealing with seriously ill patients requiring a high level of care. There’s no specific course required to become an intensive care nurse but you may have completed a placement in an intensive care unit. Once you have experience as an ICU nurse you can become a senior nurse or undertake further training in advanced trauma.

Long term care

Many illnesses or injuries are dealt with quickly but some patients with chronic conditions, such as those with AIDS or Alzheimer’s, will require long term care. There are no specific qualifications in this growing field but you will see the same patients daily, building relationships and sometimes friendships. Because patients will pass away under your care you have to be able to emotionally deal with death.

There are no specific requirements to become a long-term care nurse but you could focus your professional development on this area or on geriatric medicine.

Qualifications and education in nursing.

Each individual nursing course will have its own entry requirements but there are basic skills and qualifications you’ll need to hold regardless of where you apply to study. Basic numeracy and literacy skills are essential for nursing jobs as contact with the general public and basic mathematic calculations are integral parts of the job. 

Entry requirements for those studying for a diploma will be lower than those seeking entry onto a degree level course. 5 GCSE passed at grade C or above are required in English and a science subject (biology preferably) for both courses but those looking for entry onto a degree course will also need to hold at least 2 A Level qualifications.

Again, those with A Levels in related subjects such as biology will be in a stronger position than those without these qualifications.

Practical experience and further training.

Alongside academic aptitude, candidates must also demonstrate a wide range of personal skills when applying for nurse jobs. Communication is naturally important but good organisation, the ability to operate both independently and as part as a wider team, and problem solving are all desirable traits too.

Following completion of an appropriate nursing course, applicants will need to register with the NMC before they can begin practising. Further training is often provided on the job and this will ensure that nurses have the practical skills needed to begin their career.

This is also an inherent part of degree and diploma courses undertaken at university. All nursing programmes provide a combination of academic education with hands-on experience so that successful candidates are in the best possible position to perform well when working in the industry.

It is vital that you make the most of these opportunities and undertaking additional voluntary work experience can prove highly beneficial. Even working part-time within the medical industry in an associated role can help demonstrate your commitment to the career.

Career opportunities and future job roles.

Nursing roles come in many forms and in any of the specialisms mentioned you can progress your career moving from a general nurse to nurse specialist, matron and nurse consultant. You could also move into hospital or care home management.

Nursing positions are split into different bands all of which have different salaries. Details of these are provided below and are based on NHS figures from April 2017. It is worth noting that private nurses will be subject to different rates of pay than those working within the NHS.

Band 2: clinical support worker

Responsibilities: assist healthcare professionals with diagnosis and treatment for patients.

Salary: £15,000-£18,000

Band 3: clinical support worker (higher level)

Responsibilities: same as above whilst providing alternative entry to NHS careers.

Salary: £16,000-£19,000

Band 4: nurse associate practitioner

Responsibilities: aid with management and care of patients and complete preparatory work for treatments.

Salary: £19,000-£22,000

Band 5: nurse

Responsibilities: perform basic procedures relevant to environment and discipline of nursing.

Salary: £22,000-£28,000

Band 6: nurse specialist

Responsibilities: perform more advanced procedures relevant to environment and discipline of nursing.

Salary: £26,000-£35,000

Band 7: nurse (advanced)

Responsibilities: perform most advanced procedures; responsible for administering medication.

Salary: £31,000-£41,000

Band 8a: matron

Responsibilities: manage patient caseload and responsible for ensuring high level of care is delivered to all patients.

Salary: £40,000-£48,000

Band 8c: nurse consultant

Responsibilities: direct patient contact fulfils 50% of the role with other responsibilities covering

research and evaluation of nursing practices. Advisory based tasks are also covered by the role.
Salary: £56,000+


NHS Nursing price bands:

NHS actual wages for above: