What grades do I need to study nursing?

To work as a nurse you’re going to need a degree in Nursing and although there are many routes to a career in Nursing the most common option is to study for your degree after finishing A Levels.

Nursing is a diverse and rewarding career that you’ll need many skills for. You’ll graduate with a high level of technical competence, strong decision making skills, clinical experience, and the ability to take responsibility for your patients in their time of need.

Nursing courses are highly competitive and you’ll need a good academic record to be successful in securing a place at university.

Once you graduate from your Nursing degree you’ll need to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) before you can practice as a nurse.

So, what grades do you need to study Nursing?


Universities, regardless of the course you wish to study, usually ask that you have 5 or more GCSEs. You’ll normally need to have English and Maths at grade C or above to be accepted onto a university course.

A Levels

You’ll need to check individual entry requirements with every university that you want to apply to but as a general rule you’ll need at least two A Levels to be accepted on to a Nursing course.

Unsurprisingly, most universities want you to have at least one science A Level – usually Biology – and another science A Level is often desirable.

Other useful A Level subjects to take for your future career in Nursing include:

  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Chemistry
  • Health and Social Care
  • Religious Studies/Ethics

Equivalent qualifications

If you didn’t take A Levels, for example if you’re an international or mature student, then check with the universities you’re applying to and ask what equivalent grades you’ll need to be accepted on the course.

Other entry requirements

As Nursing is a vocational course it isn’t just about your academic achievements and universities will have a list of other entry requirements for all potential Nursing students.

Other entry requirements include:

  • Demonstrating your literacy and numeracy skills
  • Completing a health questionnaire and declaring any special needs relating to disability
  • Passing a DBS check – you won’t be automatically barred for having a criminal conviction or caution, your university will assess this on a student by student basis, but you do need to declare it.

Work experience

Due to the vocational nature of a Nursing degree you’ll also need evidence of work experience before applying to be successful.

This could be a work experience placement, internship, volunteering role, part time job, or student project in an area of healthcare.

Environments for work experience don’t just have to be in a hospital. You could also spend time in a pharmacy, doctor’s surgery, residential home, care home, hospice, community clinic, or any other healthcare setting.

Other routes into Nursing

As we mentioned above, there are many routes into Nursing that will lead to you gaining your degree and becoming a registered nurse.

The most common alternative route is to work as a Health Care Assistant (HCA) and then ask your hospital or workplace to support you in meeting the entry requirements for your Nursing degree.

Becoming a nurse

Once you’ve confirmed that you meet all of the entry requirements, or that your predicted A Level grades are high enough to be offered a conditional place, you can start your application.

All nurses specialise in one of the four branches of Nursing during their training. The four branches are:

  • Adult Nursing
  • Children’s Nursing
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Learning Disabilities Nursing

You’ll usually need to decide which area you want to specialise in when you apply for the course. At some universities you may be able to combine two branches and study for a joint degree – for example, Adult and Mental Health Nursing.

Throughout your course you’ll usually spend around 50% of your time in a clinical placement with an emphasis on hands-on learning. For the other 50% of your course you’ll be learning the other essential elements of Nursing such as management skills, the law and ethics, and the politics surrounding Nursing and the healthcare sector.

Career opportunities

Nursing has one of the highest employment rates of all degree courses and you could find yourself working anywhere from a local hospital to providing healthcare in a developing country.

With further study and specialising there are many career development opportunities for Nursing graduates depending on the level of expertise and responsibility you want to have.