Can You Become a Nurse Without Going to University?

Breeze Academy May 8, 2022
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Not all careers require that you attend university, many offer on-the-job training, whilst others prefer experience. But where does nursing stand? Can you become a nurse without a degree? In this article, we discuss the various routes to becoming a nurse in the UK, as well as how you can continue to develop your professional skills once you have qualified. 

So, can you become a nurse without going to university? You can become a nurse without attending a traditional, full-time university, however candidates must complete relevant training to level 6 (degree-level) to become a registered nurse. Alternative routes to becoming a nurse include a degree-level apprenticeship, or the nursing associate programme. 

Read on to learn more about the pathways to becoming a nurse, as well as how you can continue to develop once you have qualified. 

Do You Need a Degree to be a Nurse?

To work as a nurse in the UK, you must hold a degree in nursing, and be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. However, there are other routes into nursing other than a traditional, full-time degree course.

For example, nursing degree apprenticeships are an alternative, more flexible way into nursing, and the nursing associate programme can be a great stepping stone to becoming a registered nurse.

What Qualifications Do You Need to be a Nurse?

Those wishing to become a nurse will need to complete a degree in nursing, whether that is via a traditional full-time degree course, a flexible apprenticeship course, or via the nursing associate programme. 

However, each of these routes will require different entry requirements, as will different institutions. Commonly, though, this will be:

In England, Northern Ireland, and Wales:

  • A minimum of 5 GCSEs at A-C (9-4) including Maths, English, and Science
  • A minimum of 2 A Levels or equivalent (some institutions may ask for Biology or other Science subjects)

In Scotland:

One of the following

  • 3-5 SQA Highers, plus 2 standard grades/National 5’s, including Maths and English
  • A relevant HND/HNC, plus Maths and English at National 5 level
  • Completion of a relevant Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP)

How to Train as a Nurse - Routes into Nursing

We’ve established that you cannot become a nurse in the UK without completing a level 6 degree, but as we’ve already touched upon, there are multiple routes that you can take, of which one may be more suitable for you, your background, and lifestyle. 

Traditional Degree

A traditional, full-time nursing degree is the most common route to becoming a nurse, and will consist of a 50/50 split between academic work and supervised work placements. 

Nursing Degree Apprenticeship

Anyone over the age of 16 can apply for a nursing degree apprenticeship, provided that they meet the entry requirements. Throughout the course, you’ll likely spend 4 days on work placement, and one day per week at a college, university, or another training centre working towards a level 6 degree. 

Nursing Associate Programme

Nursing associates work alongside healthcare support workers and registered nurses as a way of gaining knowledge and experience. This is an approved stepping stone to becoming a registered nurse, where candidates will work for 4 days per week, and work towards a level 5 foundation degree one day per week.

Once candidates have completed their training, they can continue to work as a nursing associate, or they can put their training towards a shortened nursing degree, or nursing degree apprenticeship, should they wish to become a registered nurse. 

Please note that this programme is currently only available in England. 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse?

How long it takes to become a nurse in the UK depends on both the training route that you take, and any individual circumstances which may have an influence on your training. 

Typically, nursing degrees will take 3 years to complete when taken full-time, or 4 years when taken part-time, or as part of an apprenticeship. However, apprenticeships can sometimes take more or less time depending on prior experience, or if you take time off for a permitted reason. 

Nursing associate programmes take two years to complete, but if you wish to become a registered nurse at the end of the programme, you will need to study a level 6 nursing degree for two additional years, or the degree apprenticeship.

Next Steps - How Do Qualified Nurses Develop?

Once qualified, nurses are required to undertake CPD in a 3 year cycle in order to renew their membership of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, of which being a member is essential to be able to practise. 

Nurses must complete 35 hours of CPD, relevant to the scope of their practice within a 3 year CPD cycle. 20 hours of the overall 35 hours must include participatory learning - an activity that involves interaction with one or more healthcare professionals. 

Examples of participatory learning include:

  • Attending a conference
  • Attending a workshop
  • Attending a formal training course
  • Peer-review activities
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Structured professional clinical supervision
  • Group meetings outside of everyday practice norms
  • Participating in clinical audits
  • Acting as an expert witness

Examples of non-participatory learning include:

  • Mandatory training in relation to your role
  • Enquiry-based research
  • Reading and reviewing publications
  • Visits to practises in different environments (relevant to the scope of your practice)

Learn more about the next steps in Nursing and how nurses can progress in our recent blogs; CPD for Nurses, What CPD Do Nurses Need?, and What are the Four Specialisms in Nursing?.

Nursing CPD Courses at Breeze Academy

Workshops and training courses come in all shapes and sizes, and are an opportunity to learn new skills that can be applied to your nursing practice. At Breeze Academy, we offer a number of CPD courses for healthcare professionals, such as acupuncture and dry needling, sports massage therapy, and clinical yoga teacher training, all of which count towards nursing CPD, and further your development as a healthcare professional. 

Learn more about our courses online, or get in touch for more information.

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