Progressing in your career as a nurse in the UK doesn’t have to be a puzzle. If you are new to nursing you may well start at Band 4 but there is no reason why you can’t progress to Band 6 and beyond. 

Nursing career progression.

According to a diagram by the NHS, your career within nursing could take a route similar to this:

  1. nurse cadet
  2. healthcare assistant (nursing)
  3. senior healthcare assistant
  4. community care assistant
  5. staff nurse
  6. senior staff nurse
  7. advanced neuroscience nurse practitioner
  8. lead advanced neuroscience nurse practitioner
  9. director of nursing

But this is just an example of a career path within nursing and there are many other potential paths you may take to climb the career ladder or you may well decide that you have reached a certain level and are happy to remain there. 

A real life case study from the NHS.

Clare Barton entered the field with a degree in adult nursing and enjoyed the challenges of her first role within the adult neurosurgery department.

While in her first role she helped to set up a nurse-led clinic that resulted in the data they collected being published in a medical journal. She then went from promotion to promotion from neuroscience nurse practitioner to leading a team of 14.

There is no shortage of other routes you can take to achieve new heights in your career if that is your aim. It is important to do your research and ensure you pick the right path for you.

Senior roles available in nursing.

You may choose to specialise in one area like Clare did or you may prefer to explore other senior roles available. With experience, you could become a team leader or a ward manager and eventually aim for a matron position or director of nursing if you wished. 

You may choose to opt for further study such as a masters degree to help you become an advanced nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist and potentially a nurse consultant too. If you wanted a complete change of scenario, you may even choose to work overseas!

Take full advantage of nursing training opportunities available

If you get offered training opportunities during your annual appraisal then it is well worth considering if you want to reach the next step in your nursing career.

A regular review and evaluation of your skills set and knowledge of the field you are in will help you to stay competitive as a nursing candidate. 

Network your way up

As recommended by the Royal College of Nursing too, networking is vital if you are looking to open doors and move on to a more senior position.

Attend job fairs, industry conferences and seek out local groups and local RCN meetings. Make sure you are on LinkedIn and in the relevant nursing groups and reach out to other nursing professionals or employers. 

Rachel Munton, executive director of nursing and allied health professionals at Nottingham Healthcare NHS Trust, is an advocate for networking and said: “If I’ve known someone and worked with them effectively, I’ve kept them on my contact list” (source: independent.co.uk).

Being visible will help you be front of mind when a new position does open up and a recommendation from within the organisation you want to join will help improve your chances of being shortlisted. 


Also ensure that you keep in touch with your placement mentor (if you have one) as this can often help with a smooth transition into an NHS role post-qualification.

Shadowing other nursing professionals

Be proactive and look for shadowing opportunities within your organisation. Maybe the role you want to move on to exists right in front of you and all you need is an insight to reinforce your decision and to understand what you’ll need to learn or improve to get to that stage.

Your manager should see the benefits of you doing this if you explain that this will help enhance your knowledge in your current role.

Volunteer your time.

The healthcare sector may be under high pressure at the moment due to service demands but that could mean it is the perfect time for you to volunteer your time in a department or role you are looking to get into as they will welcome the extra help with open arms.

Volunteering can help you bridge knowledge gaps and help you gain experience that will come in handy in the future.

Be prepare. 

Understand the different roles available and talk to those already in that position to get an idea of what it takes to get there.

Then discuss development opportunities with your manager to see if there is anything they would suggest to help you be considered for relevant progression opportunities.

Ideas may include further training, shadowing, getting involved in larger projects or taking on more responsibility.

If you want to better understand what positions are available near you and what salaries you can expect at that level, get in touch with one of our dedicated nursing team. Alternatively, click here to view all our current nursing vacancies if you’re ready for a new role.