international nursing qualifications, what qualifications do i need to be a nurse in the UK? overseas nursing experience, nursing and midwifery council (NMC), nurse in the UK, IELTS, OETS, become a nurse in the UK

What qualifications do I need to be a nurse in the UK?

By Paul Hayward

Overseas nurses have the opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives. They’re qualified medical experts, working alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals to deliver clinical treatment and compassionate care to patients in a variety of medical environments. However, depending on which country you live in, your qualifications may differ slightly to what’s required in the UK.

Nursing as a career is hugely diverse with many different types of roles on offer, but to become a nurse in the UK, there are certain processes everyone needs to follow in order to practice:

Education and experience

First things first. You will need to have either a diploma or degree in nursing to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Experience is also important; most UK hospitals are looking for a minimum of six months experience from within the last two years. Without this, it’s unlikely you’d be considered for an international nursing role.


The NMC is the professional regulator of nurses and midwives in the UK. If you’re trained inside the UK and EEA, you can apply to be on the NMC register, providing you meet its standards. The NMC will then compare the training in your home country with what is required in the UK. It’s worth noting that registration with the NMC doesn’t provide you the right to work in the UK.

Process for nurses educated outside the EEA

The only route to NMC registration for all nurses who have trained outside the UK and EEA is through a two-part application process:

  • Part one is a computer based multiple-choice exam, available in lots of countries around the world for you to access in your home country.

  • Part two is a practical Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), which will always be held in the UK.

For more information about applying, and the test of competence, visit the NMC website.

English language requirements. If you’re a nurse who trained outside the UK, you must also meet the English language standards set by the NMC, by either:

  • Successfully completing a language test such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) – a universally recognised international test which measures the English language skill of those who want to work here. Or the Occupational English Test (OET) – an international English language test designed specifically for the healthcare sector, and in the UK is an option for doctors, nurses and midwives.

  • Showing that the pre-registration nursing programme you completed was taught and examined in English, and that a minimum of 50% of it involved clinical interaction, using English.

Process for nurses trained in the EEA

For those in this position, you must also meet the standards of the NMC before you’ll be considered for registration. The NMC will then compare the training in your home country with what’s required in the UK. Before you can register, you’ll be required to supply evidence that you have the necessary knowledge of English, with communication being defined as speaking, reading, listening and writing.

For more information on moving to the UK, read our collection of blogs.