Career opportunities with a nursing degree

Nursing is a vocational degree and will lead to a rewarding, fulfilling career that is well worth the hard work you’ll need to put in to be successful.

Generally in your first year as a Nursing student you’ll be given a broad education around the principles and basic skills you’ll need as a nurse. After that you’ll specialise in one of the four branches of Nursing for the rest of your degree.

No matter which branch you choose to study there will be a strong emphasis on hands-on learning throughout your course and universities usually ensure their students spend around 50% of their time in practical study rather than in a classroom.

During your time in the classroom you’ll study other areas associated with being a qualified nurse including:

  • Management skills
  • The law and ethics of Nursing
  • The politics of Nursing
  • The history of healthcare
  • Academic issues surround healthcare

The four branches of Nursing are:

Adult Nursing

If you choose to specialise in Adult Nursing you’ll be working with patients over the age of 18. This could be in a hospital environment or within a community. Once you’re qualified you can specialise further in areas such as women’s health, cancer care, critical care, school nursing, or health visiting.

Children’s Nursing

Children’s nurses work with patients up to the age of 25 years old in a number of environments from dedicated children’s wards to adolescent units. You’ll be trained to deal with the particular needs that ill children have as well as the support and education of their parents, guardians, and other relatives.

Learning Disability Nursing

Nurses that are qualified to work with patients that have learning disabilities help their patients to live fulfilling and independent lives. This could involve working in residential homes, in the patient’s own home, or in a hospital or secure unit for offenders with learning disabilities.  Once qualified you could specialise further for example to work with epileptic patients or those with sensory impairments.

Mental Health Nursing

As with all the branches of Nursing this specialism is incredibly demanding, but also highly rewarding. Mental health nurses usually work within the community, in the patient’s own home, or at specialist mental health hospitals or units. This specialism requires enhanced communication skills and you may wish to develop you expertise in areas such as substance misuse, rehabilitation, or adolescent mental health.

Can I combine the branches?

At some universities you may be given the option to study for a combined degree and choose two of the branches of Nursing to specialise in. For example, you could choose to combine Adult and Mental Health Nursing or Children’s and Learning Disability Nursing.

I’ve changed my mind about which branch I want to study, what can I do?

If you haven’t yet started studying then contact your university and ask them what the procedure is to change specialism. You should also take this course of action if you’re currently studying Nursing and you want to change branch.

It is also possible to change specialism after you graduate. You should go to the Royal College of Nursing website to find out more about changing your specialism after graduation.

What are my career options once I’ve graduated?

No matter which branch of Nursing you choose to become qualified in there are almost an endless list of career options for Nursing graduates.

Some of these roles may require further study, such as a Masters degree, and other roles may not seem obvious but the skills you gain during your degree would make you a highly desirable candidate.

Here are just some of the career opportunities with a Nursing degree:

  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse
  • School Nurse
  • Intensive Care Nurse
  • Cruise Ship Nurse
  • Holiday Camp Nurse
  • Hospital Staff Nurse
  • Insurance Company Nurse
  • Prison Nurse
  • District/Community Nurse
  • Occupational Health Nurse
  • Army/Armed Forces Nurse
  • Hospice Nurse
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Health Visitor

Roles that might not seem directly linked to you degree, but are very viable career options include:

  • Medical journalist
  • Counsellor
  • Further Education lecturer
  • Social worker
  • Research Nurse – this could specialise further for example into Bioterrorism or vaccines
  • Genetics Nurse
  • Legal Nurse Consultant
  • Disease Prevention Nurse

Regardless of which area of Nursing you choose to go into you’ll certainly never be short of a job. Nursing graduates have one of the highest employment rates of all and with a shortage of nurses worldwide you could find yourself working in any number of countries during your career.