So you’re thinking about going into nursing?

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Over the last year, more than ever, we have been indebted to the work of the NHS. Thrust into the frontline of our fight against the Coronavirus pandemic, there have been countless inspirational stories of selfless NHS workers going above and beyond the call of duty to help those in their care during these demanding times.

Many people have been so inspired that they want to become part of the team. There has been a record number of applications to study nursing at UK universities this year. By the end of January deadline, the number of people applying for nursing courses was 60,130 – a 32% increase from last year. 10,000 of these people are aged 35 or over and are applying to study nursing for the first time.

This is welcome news as, even before Covid, The Royal College of Nursing warned of a widespread nursing shortage across the NHS. The impact of Covid has made this need even more urgent. Even with the increased applications this year, there are still thousands of vacant nursing jobs waiting to be filled.

The government has committed to adding 50,000 more nurses to the NHS workforce by 2025, and has also recently introduced bursaries to help with the costs of training.

But what does becoming a nurse involve? How much does it all cost? And, given the reaction to the current 1% pay offer to nurses, what kind of pay could you expect if you go into nursing?


How to become a nurse

The typical way to become a nurse is to take a degree in nursing. This is usually a three year full time course, combining teaching sessions with clinical placements. You may be able to join a nursing degree in the second year of a course if you already have a degree in either a health-related subject, psychology, life sciences or social work.

Entry requirements vary between different universities. Most will require A-levels or equivalent, but you could also qualify via an Access to Higher Education or BTEC course. You will also need 5 GCSEs, including English and Maths at Grade C or above.

Even though the January UCAS deadline for September 2021 applications has passed, it may be worth contacting the university you are interested in to find out if they still have course places available. If so, you can submit a late application up to 30th June. Read more about the UCAS application process here..

You may also be able to do a degree-level apprenticeship in nursing if you already work in a hospital or other healthcare setting, and have the support of your employer to do so. The apprenticeship would combine academic study and on-the-job training. 

Either way, you need to decide which of the four main branches of nursing you want to specialise in:

  • Mental health
  • Learning disability
  • Adult
  • Children

Once you are qualified, you need to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in order to legally practise as a Registered Nurse in the UK. 


How much does it cost to train as a nurse?

As with any university course, the main two areas of expense are tuition fees and living expenses. Tuition fees can cost up to £9,250 per year, and living expenses will vary according to your circumstances. 

There is help available with the costs. Nursing students are entitled to student loans for both tuition fees and living expenses. There are also bursaries available of between £5000-8000 for nursing students. Loans need to be repaid, but bursaries do not.

The Royal College of Nursing are calling for funding arrangements to be reviewed for nursing training. They want tuition fees for all future students to be covered by the government, and also a universal cost of living maintenance grant to be introduced.

So it is possible that things may change in future, but for now, nursing students have access to the same student support package as other students. 


Rates of pay in nursing

Nursing pay varies between the public and private sector. 

In the NHS, you could expect a starting salary of around £24,000 as a newly qualified nurse, with enhancements for working nights, weekends and Bank Holidays. You then work your way up the pay scale with annual increments, and will also receive annual government pay rises. You will also be part of a good contributory pension scheme, and have generous employment rights such as sick pay and maternity pay.

The private sector is more varied. The basic rate of pay may be higher, but there may not be enhancements for out of hours work. Also, the pension and employment rights may be more basic.

Either way, it is up to you to do your research and decide which is the best path for you and your individual circumstances. But once you qualify as a nurse, you should soon be able to find a job that suits you: 94% of nursing graduates are employed within six months of graduating.

So, if you are inspired to go into nursing, we hope that the above information helps to point you in the right direction. 

If you are in the process of a career change, and need some additional funding to bridge the gap, then a short term personal loan from Simple Fast Loans may be able to help.

Remember to check back here soon for more lifestyle and financial tips from Simple Fast Loans.