Nursing Careers: How to become a nurse
A nurse checking blood pressure


Our online Access to Higher Education Diploma in Health Science Professions for Nursing will give you the qualifications you need to start a BSc (Hons) degree in nursing at university. Once you have achieved your degree you can register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). There are four nursing specialist areas to choose from to study: adult, children, mental health, or learning disability. To gain the required level of practical skills and technical competence, your 3 year degree programme will be spent between academic work and clinical practice. This involves undertaking supervised placements within the health sector including NHS hospitals, private clinics and community settings.


What are the university entry requirements for a nursing degree?

To apply to universities for nursing, you should have, or be working towards achieving a relevant Access to HE Diploma in Health Science this is often called an Access to Nursing Course. Alternatively, you can apply with 3 A Levels with at least one in a science area. Universities can advise on their particular entry requirements and they also publish these on the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) web site. We offer an online Access to Higher Education Diploma suitable for Nursing, details of the units can be found on the Access to Nursing course page under the 'units' section.

With the A Level route, you may also be expected to have a minimum of 5 GCSEs. With the Access to Nursing route, you are normally only required to have 2 GCSE English and Maths at Grade C or above.  Access to HE Diplomas are normally aimed at adults 18+ returning to education or wishing to change to a new career. There are no upper age limits. The Diploma qualification is viewed as being equivalent to 3 A Levels. Access to Nursing courses can be studied from home with Academy Online Learning via online distance learning or at a local college. Some universities accept Functional Skills Level 2 English and Mathematics if you don't have the GCSE. You can study Functional Skills online with us and sit online exam at home with the exams supervised through our videoconferencing system.

There are other factors to consider whilst studying your level 3 qualification. For example, you should try to gain some work experience within a care setting. This will give you first-hand experience and enable you to find out about working within the healthcare sector and whether it really is for you. Experience also demonstrates to university admission tutors that you have a clear understanding and are committed. For more information about voluntary work or job opportunities contact your local NHS Trust or visit the NHS jobs website.


Most universities have a September start date for undergraduate students. However, some do offer a January start, this includes courses such as Adult Nursing, Midwifery and Child Nursing. View here to see the universities that have a January intake.



Why should I do an online Access to Nursing Diploma course? 

There are many advantages to studying for your Access to Higher Education Diploma online instead of going to college. The Access to HE diploma is exactly the same qualification you would get if you studied Access to Nursing at a college, but with the online diploma you don't have to attend lessons at inconvenient times, you can plan your studies around your work and family commitments. With Academy Online Learning's course you still get the learning materials and support from tutors you would get at college, but with the convenience of studying from home. You can book tutorials with your tutor at convenient times and speak to them on the telephone for quick questions and use our videoconferencing system for more in-depth tutorials.


How do I choose which nursing specialism to study?

You may have a personal interest or have gained work/voluntary experience in one of the four specialist nursing specialisms, or on completion of your degree you may decide to follow a different nursing career after spending time in a particular setting. Once qualified there are also opportunities to branch out into other nursing careers within a particular area such as neo-natal nursing, district nursing or theatre nursing.


Children's Nursing covers a wide range of ages starting with baby care through to adolescence. Therefore, you could work in diverse areas and will be trained to understand and respond to the specific needs of children which differ from adults.  Progression within this field includes becoming a health visitor, providing nursing support in health visiting, school nursing or paediatric care, intensive care practitioner, child safeguarding and cancer care. By studying to become a children's nurse you will have a wide range of opportunities open to you in various settings. You can continue in academia with teaching, management or research. As mentioned before, nurses are in demand but children's nurses are in particularly high demand so you will have a strong career path ahead of you.


Adult's Nursing is caring for and supporting those over 18 in a variety of settings which includes hospitals, care homes and working in the community. Progression includes cancer care, women's health, accident and emergency, critical care and GP practice nursing.


Learning Disability Nursing specialises in supporting people with learning disabilities in making a move toward more independent living to improve their life experiences. This can include working with those in supported accommodation, in hospitals or secured units where a higher level of support is required. There is also the opportunity to progress in areas such as the management of epilepsy or supporting those with sensory impairment.


Find out more: Access to Nursing


Mental Health Nursing requires excellent communication skills from all those involved in the care and support of those living with mental health issues. You will be trained in how to develop plans and delivery of support for those living within the community residential centres, hospitals, at home. Mental health nurses plan and deliver care for people living at home, in small residential units or in specialist hospital services. Nurses working in this field need enhanced communication skills to support families and carers. They work with other health care professionals to ensure patients with mental illness get the specialised care they need.  They may develop expertise in areas such as rehabilitation, child and adolescent mental health, substance misuse or working in secure settings. We now have a specialised Access to Mental Health Nursing Course.

As a society we are discussing more openly about mental health and awareness of the issues surrounding it. Over recent years there has been an increase in applicants that want to pursue a career in mental health nursing. Employability is very high with graduates going on to work in the NHS, in private practice, social services, the armed forces, prison services, or specialist areas including pharmaceutical companies. Others find roles in overseas in partnership with government or local foundation trusts.

Find out more: Access to Mental Health Nursing


What are the pay and working condition like?

  • As a guide, once you are a qualified nurse the salary currently starts at £24,907 rising to £30,615 (Band 5).
  • With experience and more responsibilities, such as senior nurse, that will rise to £31,365 to £37,890 (Band 6)
  • Additionally, for 2023–2024, there will be a permanent 5% wage increase across all pay tiers

On top of this, you can earn more through overtime and other payments. As your nursing career progresses into senior management positions such as director of nursing, you can earn over £95,000 per year. 

Extra allowances can be earned for additional responsibilities, overtime, length of service, and geographical location. Nurses can often earn up to 20% more if working in an area where living costs are higher, for example in London. You can also choose to work full or part-time. If you have the education and qualification to be a nurse you will have a job for life. Nursing graduates are qualified to work not just in hospitals but GP practices, mental health units or community health centres.


What annual leave are nurses entitled to?

Within the NHS, this is quite generous, the basic annual leave is 27 days, which on average exceeds the amount of paid holidays in private sector companies. On top of this, you’ll get 8 general and public holidays.


How is the course funded?

Nursing is a pre-registration course which enables you to apply for the standard student support package in the form of a student loan. Scholarships, bursaries or grants may also be available for example, through the university or your place of work. Nurses can now receive £5-8K when studying an undergraduate degree, find out more here.


If you would like to complete an online Access to Nursing course to obtain the qualifications for entry onto a nursing degree course at university, please choose your payment options below or contact us for more information.



Payment Options

The cost of the Access to Higher Education Diploma (Health Professions) is £1236, and can be paid in monthly instalments from £103 per month over 12 months with 0% interest. Or discounted price at £1186 (£50 saving) when paid in full upfront.

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