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What can you do with a nursing degree?

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Nursing is the UK’s most employable type of degree with 94% of students getting a job within six months of completing their course. Although a demanding career, nursing is extremely rewarding where no two days are the same, giving you the opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives.

If you have a genuine desire to help people with a range of healthcare needs and the ability to work well under pressure, becoming a nurse could be a great career for you to consider. Read on to find out more about what you can do with a nursing degree.

Four student nurses practising in the mock ward

How to get into nursing

The most common way of becoming a nurse is to complete a relevant degree approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Entry routes to becoming a registered nurse are flexible, and you have the option to apply directly for a university course, undertake a nursing degree apprenticeship, or train as a nursing associate first.

We offer a wide range of Nursing and Midwifery degrees at Sunderland, and our undergraduate courses provide the qualification you need to register with the NMC when you graduate. If you’re undecided about which area you'd like to study, take a look at our article to see which course could be right for you.

What kind of nursing jobs are available?

There are several types of nursing you can specialise in, which you may want to take into consideration when choosing which course to study. Many of our graduates end up working within the NHS, but there are plenty of other options available to you when it comes to careers in nursing. Here, we’re exploring the main areas you could specialise in, as well as some of the alternative nursing jobs you could pursue with your degree.

1. Adult nursing

Adult nurses make up the largest part of the NHS workforce and as more care is delivered outside of acute settings, more adult nursing jobs will be based in the community rather than in hospitals. Playing a key role within a multidisciplinary team of health professionals, becoming an adult nurse means you’ll be looking after patients of all ages that could be suffering from either long- or short-term health problems.

Your daily tasks working as an adult nurse could include taking blood pressure and temperatures; administering medication and injections; treating wounds; and monitoring the progress of your patients and updating their records. All of this requires the ability to work well with a wide range of different people and remain calm in stressful situations.

Find out more and apply for the BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing Practice course.

2. Children's nursing

Alternatively, you may decide you’d prefer to pursue a career in children’s nursing, which involves working with children who have specific health needs across the whole age range, from newborns to teenagers. You could be delivering care in settings such as hospitals, children’s centres, GP practices, or the family home.

Becoming a nurse for children and young people will require similar skills and involve some of the same duties as an adult nurse, but you’ll also need to be able to use your initiative when monitoring a child’s behaviour to determine what treatment they require and whether it’s working. Often children won’t be able to express exactly how they’re feeling, so excellent verbal skills and knowledge of both medicine and psychology are key.

Find out more and apply for the BSc (Hons) Children’s and Young People’s Nursing Practice course.

3. Mental health nursing

One in four people will experience mental illness at some point in their lives, which means that the need for qualified mental health nurses is increasing. If you decide to study mental health nursing and work towards a career in this field, you’d be offering both emotional and physical support to those patients struggling with their mental health and aiding them towards their recovery.

Becoming a mental health nurse heavily relies on building strong relationships and gaining trust with both your patients and their families and/or carers. You’ll need to be able to fully understand a patient’s individual needs by assessing them and advising on the appropriate treatment, whether that be medication or therapy, and supporting them to receive that treatment. It’s also important for mental health nurses to be able to identify those who may be at risk of harming themselves or others.

Find out more and apply for the BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing Practice course.

"It's so inspiring to see how our graduating students have developed as healthcare professionals. Many of our graduates have progressed into some fantastic careers across a range of NHS Trusts and private organisations in many different settings. We have had students become band 6 senior nurses within a few years of qualifying and we have one previous student who is now working as a university lecturer, which is fantastic to see. There are so many opportunities for our graduating nurses and midwives and I look forward to seeing how all their careers develop."

Sue Brent
Head of School of Nursing and Health Sciences

4. Learning disability nursing

Another popular career path for nursing graduates is to go into the practice of learning disability nursing. If you choose this type of nursing job, you’d be supporting those patients with learning disabilities to help them live their lives more independently, offering them advice in a way that’s easy for them to understand and making sure they’re involved in every aspect of their treatment.

As a learning disability nurse, you’ll need some knowledge of psychology, as well as the ability to use your own initiative, deepen your understanding of patients’ reactions, and be willing to teach and motivate people.

5. Nursing associate

A great career option if you’ve chosen to complete a foundation degree or apprenticeship rather than a full honours degree, is to become a nursing associate. This is a relatively new role where you’ll have the chance to work across all the above fields of nursing, using the role as a steppingstone to become a registered nurse.

Nursing associates still need to have all the essential skills of a nurse, such as a desire to help people, the ability to be sensitive to people’s needs, patience in a range of situations, and excellent communication. Day-to-day tasks will also be very similar to that of a nurse and will include recording data like blood pressure, taking blood samples, administering treatments, and supporting patients and their families.

Read more about the FdSc Registered Nursing Associate we offer.

6. Alternative nursing jobs

What you can do with a nursing degree is by no means limited to the above options, and there are plenty of alternative jobs available in the UK. For example, you could become a neonatal nurse who cares for premature babies, a general practice nurse working in a GP surgery, or a district nurse offering support to patients in care homes. Other alternative career options with a nursing degree include becoming a school nurse, a military nurse, working for a voluntary organisation, or nursing in prisons.

Even if you hold a degree in nursing and decide going into a related career isn’t for you, there are still many job roles out there where the skills you’ve learned on your course will be useful. These could include a social worker, counsellor, university lecturer, or police officer – although in some cases you may need an additional qualification. Many employers accept applications from graduates with any degree subject, so you won’t be restricted to a career specifically in nursing.

Career progression in nursing

If you graduate and end up getting a nursing job in the NHS, there is clear career progression in place where you can work your way up a salary band as you gain more experience. Newly qualified nurses will usually enter at band 5, where the salary currently starts at £28,407 and increases to £34,581 which is the top of the band.

You may decide that you want to develop your skills and progress through each band into a leadership or management role or become an advanced nurse practitioner or consultant. This can sometimes be more easily achieved with an additional postgraduate nursing qualification. Alternatively, you might choose to specialise in another field of nursing or retrain in a different area.


Does becoming a nurse sound like an exciting career? Find out more by exploring our Nursing and Midwifery subject area and applying to study for a nursing degree with the University of Sunderland.

Published: 21 September 2023