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How to get a nursing career in the UK – A Complete Guide

How to get a nursing career in the UK

Nurses in the United Kingdom were in shortage for many years due to a variety of factors, such as a shortage of nurses due to the ageing workforce and a rise in nurses leaving the country to pursue opportunities abroad. These include Australia, the United States, and other countries. The UK has thus become an appealing destination for Nigerian nurses seeking a better life.

If you are a Nigerian Nurse or a student nurse and you wish to know how to get a Nursing career in the UK, you can count on this article. In this article, we will discuss all that you need to know about getting a nursing career in the United Kingdom.

What are the entry requirements to pursue a Nursing degree?

Entry requirements for nursing degree courses vary because universities set their own entry criteria. However, you are likely to need at least two A-levels (usually three) plus supporting GCSEs covering English, maths, and a science (usually biology or human biology). Contact the university of your choice to directly to find out whether qualifications equivalent to A-levels or GCSEs are acceptable.

Courses often specify preferred or essential A-level or equivalent subjects, such as one science (for example biology) or social science (for example psychology). Some universities offer courses with a foundation year for those without the necessary entry qualifications.

What are the requirements for Nursing career in UK?

How to get a nursing career in the UK

Overseas Nursing Programme (ONP)

As a nurse, you will be required to complete the Overseas Nursing Programme if you have worked outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and if you have been admitted and satisfy the minimum criteria to be admitted on the NMC register. Given you are acknowledged and meet the minimum criteria to be admitted on the NMC register, as a nurse you will be required to perform the Overseas Nursing Programme, if you have worked outside of the EEA.

Many employers offer the Overseas Nursing Programme and will arrange for your registration to start the course once you produce your NMC decision letter, just after arriving in the UK.

While you finish the Overseas Nursing Programme and acquire your NMC registration, certain employers are able to provide you work as an ATA (Auxiliary Trained Abroad) or a HCA (Healthcare Assistant), given your registration materials are all in order. The Overseas Nursing Programme is not widely obtainable in the UK and hence the NMC advice against travelling to the UK unless you are listed on an ONP Programme. See a list of ONP course providers below.

The programme assesses your ability to practice within the UK healthcare system. It includes 20 days of learning, plus supervised practice if you qualify for it. Your decision letter will confirm what parts you need to complete. If you have had educational and practical experience in your home country that closely matches UK requirements for entry to the Register, you will only have to take the 20 protected learning days.

Stages of Registration

Registration Stage 1

After application, you will need to pay the NMC a registration fee. You will then need to return the initial registration form along with your choice of registration tickets. You will also need to submit copies of the following to the NMC:

•Your registration certificate

•Your passport

•Your birth certificate

Marriage, civil partnership or deed poll certificate (if you don’t use the name on your birth certificate).

You should also send your International English Language Testing System (IELTS) candidate number and test score.

Registration Stage 2

A member of the NMC’s staff will send you an application pack, including all of the required documents, as soon as they receive the documents listed below:

•Application form

•Post-registration experience form

•Two employment references

•Transcript of training form

•Registration authority / licensing body form

Further information on how to complete the forms and provide the information the NMC requires is available in the NMC booklet, called “Registering as a Nurse or Midwife in the United Kingdom.”

How many years does it take to study nursing in the UK?

Nursing degrees usually last for four years, during which time students can expect to cover a variety of different aspects of the profession. Compulsory courses in life sciences are most likely to take place, while places in various community and medical settings will enable students to gain firsthand experience of their profession.

Is it possible to work in the UK as a nurse without experience?

Before recently, overseas Nurses and Midwives seeking to join the NMC UK register had to complete a 12-month mandatory experience requirement after qualifying. But the NMC has now removed this requirement so that new Nurses and Midwives can enter the register immediately after qualifying.

It will require only applicants who are using their registration and practice as proof of their English language proficiency in a country where English is the first language and native tongue to submit an employment reference to be considered for admission.

Since 2014, the National Council of Nurses in the UK has made significant and welcome changes making it possible for nurses of all levels to be registered in the NMC without any experience.  

The applicants are required to prove that they meet the English language requirement. Taking two tests of competence is the next step for overseas nurses to qualify as a registered nurses in the UK.

How much money does nurses earn in the UK?

Nurses can earn on average £25,578 within the UK for fully qualified nurses. A nurse salary can rise to over £28,000 for nurses in Band 5 of NHS Agenda for Change Pay Rates. Nurse salaries can rise further when new responsibilities such as ward sister or team leader are taken on. For those who choose to extend skills with further training, specialism in pediatrics, mental health, intensive care could net a higher salary.

How much does a student nurse earn in the UK?

The average salary for a student nurse in the United Kingdom is £25,273 or £12.96 per hour. Entry-level positions range from £21,998 to £30,000, with most experienced nurses earning £30,000 or more.

What are the benefits of pursuing a nursing career in the UK?

There are lots of benefits attached to pursuing a career in the United Kingdom. Although they are many, here are a few of them.


A huge advantage for nurses is that NHS hospitals are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, an arrangement the NHS realizes is vital to retaining the best workforce and reducing absenteeism. Various shifts are offered such as full and part-time work, flexi-time, job sharing and night shifts followed with days off in between – the choice is yours.

Such flexibility is highly advantageous. First, it will give you a work/life balance so that you do not burn out and can recover. Nursing can be highly demanding and upsetting, so it is important to have time off and enjoy leisure activities, family time, and personal responsibilities.

Competitive Salary

The Nurses’ Agenda for Change sets the Pay Rate for all NHS staff (except for doctors, dentists, and senior managers), taking into account the level of expertise, responsibilities, skills, abilities, and years of experience.

For example, Nurses with less than one year’s experience begin on Band 5 with a salary of £24,907. As they gain experience and become specialists they can move up the pay scale and earn £37,890 as top end Band 6 nurses

If you wish to educate yourself further, obtaining a Master’s degree can see you earning an outstanding £44,503. For Head Nurses, you can get an outstanding £51,668 and for Consultant Nurses, you may earn an outstanding £104,927.

Job Security

COVID-19 has shown us is the significant role nurses play in healthcare and without them hospitals would not be able to function. As a result of better healthcare and advances in medicine, we have seen an increase in people living longer, meaning the need for nurses will increase. Every year new nurses are required to replace those who retire or leave the profession, it is a continuous cycle and as a result, there will always be a job for nurses giving you peace of mind that your job is here to stay.

Career Progression

There are many routes a nurse can take when it comes to career progression, and what’s even better is you can gain first-hand experience before deciding on the path you wish to take.

In fact, there are many specialisations in nursing such as emergency care, anaesthesia, midwifery, neonatology, orthopaedics, fertility to surgery. Nurses may also move into management roles such as advanced practitioners and consultant nurses who can prescribe medicine to patients.

As a nurse everyday will be different and you’ll learn something new and invaluable all the time. There are also opportunities to work on research projects and be involved in new innovations.

List of Top Universities to study Nursing in the UK

  1. University of Edinburgh
  2. University of Liverpool
  3. University of Glasgow
  4. Coventry University
  5. University of Portsmouth
  6. Keele University
  7. Swansea University
  8. University of Manchester
  9. University of Northumbria
  10. University of Birmingham

What country pays nurses the most?

Luxembourg – $60,000 to $125,000

As the highest paid country in the world for nurses, this small country in Western Europe pays its nurses very well. The small size of Luxembourg and its tax haven laws make it difficult for nurses to find jobs. Nurses can wait for years for a job to open. In order to become a nurse in Luxembourg, you must first petition the Ministry of Health. 

(Ministry of Health) for an application pack which costs roughly $150. Nurses are either licensed as adult nurses only or under a general system. This is important depending on the specialty of the nursing position. A visa is required to work in Luxembourg

Ireland – $64,000

NMBI stresses to nurses that they do not move to Ireland until a final decision regarding credentials is made. Nurses who intend to practice in Ireland need to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland. It is also important not to apply for a job position or inquire about a position before obtaining certification from the Board.

The application process requires interested candidates to submit a background check, fingerprinting, and English proficiency examination, regardless of whether they are native English speakers. Some individuals are required to complete an examination but that is ultimately determined by the board. In order to work in Ireland, an employment visa is a requirement.

Australia – $56,000 (USD)

 Australia has become a popular destination for those seeking to work or travel abroad. The national language is English, and there is no language barrier. Numerous international agencies with ties to hospitals in Australia can be found.

Canada – $51,000

With universal healthcare and proximity to the United States, northern Canada offers nurses the opportunity to experience International Nursing while avoiding straying too far away from home. Furthermore, English is the predominant language, making transitioning to life in the country easier.

Italy – $59,594

Italy, like the United Kingdom, has a nursing shortage currently. To work in a country where English is not the primary language, most nursing licensure boards require a language proficiency examination as part of the credentialing process. To become a certified nurse in Italy, nurses must pass the Italian Nurse Examination, a language proficiency test, and be sponsored by an Italian hospital. Once they get the license, they must apply for a work visa from the Italian Embassy.

Conclusion: How to get a nursing career in the UK

The Nursing profession is a very lucrative one, most especially outside the shores of Nigeria. If you are interested to pursue a career overseas, whether, in the UK or other countries, we expect that by now you have all the key information you need.



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