Nursing and Midwifery

There are a variety of training routes for nursing, depending upon your current qualifications and the area of nursing you wish to enter. For graduates with a relevant degree (e.g. Psychology, Sociology, Biological Sciences) there are accelerated two-year postgraduate courses. For graduates with a non-relevant degree, currently the choice is to take a 3 or 4 year degree course.

If you are employed as a health care support worker/assistant, it is possible to train as a registered Adult or Mental Health Nurse while you work, supported by your employer. The Open University offers BSc nursing degrees over 4 years part time.

A degree in midwifery is essential for entry to the profession. The three or four-year degree programme is open to graduates from all degree courses, but life sciences may be preferred. Registered nurses can do a 12-18 month shortened course. There are no accelerated graduate courses in midwifery for graduates in other disciplines.

It is important for both professions that applicants can demonstrate a variety of skills and personal qualities including empathy, flexibility, emotional resilience, good communication skills, organisational ability and teamwork.

Getting relevant work experience

Although pre-entry experience is not essential, any work or volunteering in a caring setting, ideally with the relevant client group, will strengthen your application. It is a good idea to visit hospitals, hospices, clinics or health centres and talk to nurses and midwives directly about their roles.

There are numerous opportunities for volunteering in a health sector environment. Many hospitals have their own volunteering programme. You could gain good experience at charities.

Applying for nursing and midwifery training

Applications for undergraduate degrees in nursing and midwifery in England, Wales, Scotland or the University of Ulster are made through UCAS. Some shortened postgraduate degrees have direct entry via the institution’s website. Check out the Course Finder section of the NHS Careers website for accelerated post graduate nursing degrees.

For post graduate diploma and certain degree courses in Scotland, contact NHS Education for Scotland. In Northern Ireland, Queens University requires direct application to the degree.

Timing of applications vary as some courses start in January. The closing date for applications via UCAS is 15th January.


Nursing and midwifery students on undergraduate and accelerated postgraduate courses from September 2020 receive a bursary, which they do not need to pay back. You are also able to access funding for tuition and maintenance loans from the Student Loans Company even if this is your second degree.

Recruitment picture and career progression

Nursing and midwifery are undergoing considerable changes and the general view is that these health professionals will work in many different environments, not just the NHS. Responsibility levels are increasing for both nurses and midwives.

Nurses form the largest group of staff in the NHS and are a crucial part of the healthcare team. Throughout the UK, the forecast for the nursing job market and career progression are very good. Health visiting, school nursing, first contact nursing, walk-in centres, telephone triage and nurse practitioner roles are significant growth areas. Explore nursing careers.

Government policy is aiming for an expansion of maternity services and more providers entering the market. Explore midwifery careers.

There are extensive opportunities to work abroad although some countries do not recognise all of the branches of nursing, The Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives have detailed advice.