NHS Careers > Explore by career > Nursing



If you want to work in an environment that's interesting, rewarding and challenging, a career in nursing has plenty to offer. Nurses form the largest group of staff in the NHS and are a crucial part of the healthcare team. Nurses work in every sort of health setting from accident and emergency to patients' homes, with people of all ages and backgrounds.

So, if you're caring, compassionate and have a commitment to helping people, you'll find a role that suits you. You'll also need to be able to communicate difficult health issues effectively and courageously.

Education and training

To work as a nurse in the NHS, you must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which means you'll need a degree in nursing. Diploma courses are no longer available. You can use our course finder to find nursing degrees.

It is possible to work your way up from a healthcare assistant and progress to apply for a place on a degree course. However, you will still need to meet the entry requirements. Alternatively, you can apply for a nursing course directly through UCAS. More information is available on training to be a nurse. 

You'll also find lots of information on the Nursing Careers website. The website has comprehensive information about the wide range of career options and pathways as well as the variety of entry routes into nursing. You can also complete our interactive personality quiz to find out which area of nursing you would be suited.

Roles available

Depending on experience and training there are plenty of opportunities for you to rise up the ranks to manage teams, run wards and even reach consultant level, if desired.There are many different roles available in nursing. Just a few are available below.

Adult nurses

Adult nurses work with old and young adults with diverse health conditions, both chronic and acute. They juggle numerous priorities and use caring, counselling, managing, teaching and all aspects of interpersonal skills to improve the quality of patients' lives, sometimes in difficult situations. Work may be based in hospital wards, clinics or, increasingly, community settings and you may do shift work to provide 24-hour care.

Mental health nurses

As many as one in three people has a mental health problem at some point in their life, regardless of their age or background. Conditions range from personality and psychological disorders to neuroses and psychoses. Nurses who choose to specialise in the mental health branch of nursing - a complex and demanding area - work with GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, and others, to help care for patients with mental illnesses.

Children's nurses

Children's nurses deal with a range of situations, including babies born with heart complications, teenagers who have sustained broken limbs, and child protection issues. Health problems can affect a child's development and it's vital to work with the child's family or carers to ensure that he or she does not suffer additionally from the stress of being ill or in hospital.

Learning disability nurses

People with learning disabilities often have a wide range of physical and mental health conditions. Learning disability nurses work in partnership with them and family carers, to provide specialist healthcare. Their main aim is to support the well-being and social inclusion of people with a learning disability by improving or maintaining their physical and mental health; by reducing barriers; and supporting the person to pursue a fulfilling life. For example, teaching someone the skills to find work can be significant in helping them to lead a more independent, healthy life where they can relate to others on equal terms.

District nurses

District nurses visit people of all ages, often in their own homes, GP surgeries or a residential home. Many patients are elderly, others may have disabilities, be recovering after a hospital stay, or have a terminal illness. You may do shift work to provide 24-hour care. This is a rewarding role as you can work one-to-one with patients on an ongoing basis, which enables you to develop a trusting relationship while you improve their quality of life.

Neonatal nurses

Neonatal nurses work with newborn babies who are born sick or prematurely. Often, premature newborns have respiratory problems, which can be life threatening if they are not treated promptly and monitored. Also, ill babies need to be fed in a specialised way in a highly controlled environment that is kept warm. 

Health visitors

Health visitors are registered nurses or midwives who have done further training to work as vital members of the primary healthcare team, covering a specific geographical area. Their aim is to improve the health of families and children in the crucial first few years of life. Working in the community, they prevent illness and promote health and wellbeing.

Practice nurses

Practice nurses work in GP surgeries as part of a primary care team that is likely to include doctors, nurses, dietitians and pharmacists. In smaller practices, they may be the sole nurse, whereas in larger surgeries, you may share duties with practice nurse colleagues.

Prison nurses

Prison nurses are registered nurses based in prison. They are either employed by the prison service or, increasingly, by the NHS. Many prisoners suffer from substance abuse or have a mental health problem, making nursing in this environment challenging. By improving mental and physical health, prison nurses may help to lower re-offending rates, and therefore have a positive impact on prisoners, their families and the wider public.

School nurses

School nurses are usually employed by a the NHS locally or by school themselves. They provide a variety of services such as providing health and sex education within schools, carrying out developmental screening, undertaking health interviews and administering immunisation programmes.

Theatre nurses

Theatre nurses are qualified nurses that have completed additional training to be able to provide specialist care to patients of all ages at the different stages of surgery. Based with a hospital, they work primarily within operating theatres and associated anaesthetic/recovery areas, but may also be involved with certain procedures on wards, clinics or in other specialist areas such as cardiac catheterisation units.

Healthcare assistants

Healthcare assistants (sometimes known as nursing auxiliaries or support workers) are not qualified nurses but work with nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals, helping with care and looking after patients' comfort and well-being.

Flexible working

Once you are part of the NHS, you'll benefit from flexible working arrangements, excellent benefits and a wealth of opportunities to help you fulfil your ambitions and progress up the career ladder. There are few professions that offer so much in terms of job satisfaction and support, while giving you the chance to enhance people's lives during their times of need.

Other opportunities for nurses

There are also opportunities for nurses to work in other areas including:

  • NHS special health authorities such as NHS Blood & Transplant
  • private healthcare providers
  • charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support
  • teaching and assessing roles
  • the armed forces.