how to start a nursing career, what skills do i need to be a nurse, do i need a degree to work as a nurse, can i qualify as a nurse via an apprenticeship, will i get paid to train as a nurse, what types of nursing roles are available, how do i register as a nurse, start a nursing career

How to start a career in nursing

By Daniel Allard

​Playing a vital role, nurses can expect a rewarding career. We explore the different routes into the profession and the variety of roles available. You may benefit from our blog on switching to nursing if you have relevant experience.

What skills do I need to be a nurse?

The following skills will be expected from nursing practitioners:

  • Empathy

  • Flexibility

  • Good communication (particularly listening)

  • Multi-tasking

  • Observant

  • Patience

  • Team player

Do I need a degree to work as a nurse in the UK?

Yes, you will need a nursing degree. Before starting your training, you will need to choose your preferred specialism; adult, children, mental health or learning disability. Each has its own clinical decision-making skills and technical expertise. Nursing degrees are vocational – you can expect to spend half of your time on placements in clinical settings, working directly with patients.

Nursing is a hugely popular choice for higher education because more than 90% of nurses are employed within six months of graduation.

Can I qualify as a nurse via an apprenticeship?

Nursing apprenticeships were launched in 2017 as an alternative route into the profession. They were designed to make nursing careers accessible as your employer will fund them. They offer structured training and are nationally recognised, approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). There are two types of apprenticeship available;

  • Nursing Associate (Level 5)

  • Nursing Degree (Level 6)

The NHS Jobs website is the best place to look for apprenticeship opportunities.

Will I get paid to train as a nurse?

To recognise the impact that nurses have and the vital role that they play within the NHS, nursing students can benefit from financial support of between £5-£8k a year.

What types of nursing roles are available?

Nursing as a profession is incredibly varied. You could work in hospitals, community settings, private healthcare settings, schools or even within the prison service. You may choose to provide support to those with learning disabilities or specialise in mental health care. Each type of nursing job role has its dedicated specialisms. For example, if you work in a hospital you may work on busy wards, or you could work as a theatre or neonatal nurse. At Sanctuary, we recruit for a wide range of nursing jobs across many different settings throughout the UK.

Find out more about choosing between perm, locum and bank nursing roles.

How do I register as a nurse?

To work as a nurse in the UK you must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The NMC is responsible for ensuring that standards are upheld throughout the profession. It is also worth checking a number of different things before choosing which nursing recruitment agency to work with.

How much can I expect to earn as a nurse?

Pay scales are rewarded through the banding system – the higher your band, the more you can expect to get paid.

Newly qualified nurses will start at the bottom of band 5 and their starting salary will be approximately £24k per year. At very senior levels (bands 7 to 8c), salaries can range from £37k to £73k.

We have written a selection of pieces around starting and navigating your nursing career.