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Entry requirements for nursing


There are currently no national minimum academic entry requirements into nursing courses so each higher education institution (HEI) sets its own criteria. Therefore, you should check with each HEI directly before applying to see if your qualifications meet their entry standard. Find HEIs running courses on our course finder.

However, we have a general guide on what universities are looking for in students on degree courses. The right skills and values are also important to becoming a nurse. It's important to note that the diploma in higher education has been phased out. Nursing is now a graduate-entry profession. 

Degree courses

You will usually need a minimum of five GCSEs at grade C or above (typically including English language or literature and a science subject), plus two A levels or equivalent. However, some universities may ask for three A levels so check with them directly.   

Numeracy and literacy

All applicants will also have to demonstrate evidence of literacy and numeracy. This includes evidence of being able to:

  • read and comprehend English or Welsh
  • communicate clearly and effectively in writing, including using a computer
  • accurately manipulate numbers as applied to volume, weight, and length, (including, addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, use of decimals, fractions, and percentages).

If you have a disability, the above can be met through the use of reasonable adjustments.

Alternatives to GCSEs and A levels

The NHS and education sector encourages applications from people with a wide range of academic and vocational qualifications.

Examples of qualifications that may be accepted for entry for degree programmes include:

  • GNVQ advanced level or NVQ level 3
  • SVQ level 3; GSVQ level 3 (Scotland)
  • EDEXCEL Foundation (BTEC) National 
  • higher national diploma
  • OCR Cambridge Technicals - level 3 Health and Social Care.

Note that some universities may require an A' level as well as one of the above qualifications, so it's essential to check directly with each university about their specific entry requirements.

Applicants who left full-time education some time ago may be required to give evidence of successful recent academic study, such as a QAA accredited access to higher education course or equivalent.

Recognising previous learning in theory and practice.

Previous theoretical and practice learning can be used to meet some of the programme requirements. Previous learning is mapped to the programme standards and requirements using a process known as accreditation of prior (experiential) learning (APEL). Up to one third of a three year programme can be accredited in this way - the actual amount being determined by each individual university.

Examples of previous learning might include relevant degree or other studies, or relevant practice experience in a nursing or related discipline. What constitutes as relevant, will depend upon the higher education institution (HEI) offering the programme, but could for example, be a health-related or biology-based degree.

These type of degrees can be found on our course finder by searching for 'accelerated' programmes.  

Support workers

Staff working in more advanced support roles - such as those at assistant practitioner level, might be able to gain secondment from their employer onto a pre-registration programme. However, you will still need the necessary entry requirements.

Cadet schemes and apprenticeships

Some trusts run cadet schemes, which can lead to entry onto a pre-registration programme in nursing. However, nursing cadet schemes are increasing being replaced by apprenticeships in health and social care.


There is no legal minimum age requirement or upper age limit for entry onto pre-registration nursing programmes.

Criminal convictions

If you take up a place on a pre-registration nursing programme, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) requires you to have a criminal records check.

The Criminal Records Bureau carries out these checks. You must confirm on your application that you agree to a Criminal Records Bureau check, because the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act do not apply. If your programme involves regularly caring for or being in sole charge of children, you are also required to have a Protection of Children Act List check before you begin your clinical placement.

If you have a criminal conviction or a police caution, this will not automatically bar you from working in the NHS, as each conviction is considered in the light of all relevant circumstances.

Other criteria

All HEIs must satisfy themselves that applicants to pre-registration programmes are of good health and good character sufficient for safe and effective practice as a nurse. The NMC has more information.

All HEIs will require satisfactory health clearance for all applicants. If you have a particular problem that you think may affect your ability to work or study, or if you have any questions about health requirements, contact the university which you plan to apply. You can find a full list of universities on our course finder.

You'll also need to be able to demonstrate that you have the skills, values and behaviours required to be a nurse.