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Careers in nursing

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Published: 7 March 2019

According to the latest Destination of Leavers from Higher Education 2016/17 (DLHE) survey, nursing is the UK’s most employable type of degree with 95% of students getting a job within six months of finishing their course (based on full-time, first degree leavers). In this article, we explore career paths you can pursue as a nurse, nursing salaries, and how we may be able to help you find paid work experience before you study.


How to become a nurse

To become a Registered Nurse, you must successfully complete a degree-level nursing programme approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Entry routes to becoming a Registered Nurse are flexible. You could directly apply to university, apply for a nursing degree apprenticeship or train as a nursing associate, before going on to become a Registered Nurse later.

There are a range of nursing fields you could work in. The University of Sunderland offers the following specialist nursing courses:

Our undergraduate nursing courses are in the top five in the UK according to The Guardian University league tables 2018. The specialist courses above have an intake on 29 April 2019, so it's not too late to apply and start your journey to becoming a Registered Nurse.

Paid work experience

If you choose to study BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing Practice with us, and would prefer to work with City Hospitals Sunderland and South Tyneside NHS Trusts, by choosing the April intake, you could be eligible for paid work experience within the Trusts. They will offer a period of paid work experience as a Health Care Support Worker and will provide you with Care Certificate training and experience in a hospital setting, which will prove valuable when you start your degree with us. They will also provide some paid employment in the interim period before you receive your student loan in April.

A degree in nursing is ideal if you have a genuine interest in a caring profession and improving the lives of patients. The integration of theory and practice is at the centre of our nursing courses. Learning is underpinned by evidence-based practice, promoting high-quality, compassionate and patient-centred health care provision. You will be supported in relating nursing theory to clinical practice, demonstrating your competence in clinical nursing.

I've always wanted to do nursing but I've never thought it was the right time to do it, and it just came about at that time and it was now or never type thing... if I don't do it now, I'll never do it and I didn't want to be in that career forever so I took the leap. I got to know people who were applying for the nursing degree, we kind of all went to interviews together... so that made it more for me as well, just to have friends, people you know starting the same time."

Leah Carr
BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing Practice

Adult Nursing

During your placements, you will be expected to undertake shift-work in which you will be assigned a Clinical Mentor who will directly supervise you as well as acting as a means of support and guidance. A Clinical Link Tutor from the University will also support you during your practice placements.

Adult nurses make up the largest part of the NHS workforce with over 176,000 working in just acute settings. In the future, more adult nursing jobs will be based in the community rather than hospitals, as more care is delivered outside of acute settings, including hospital wards, outpatient units or specialist departments, the community or nursing homes and the prison service.

Adult nurses are a key part of the multidisciplinary teams that look after patients. You will be at the centre of teams that can include physiotherapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, radiographers and healthcare assistants. You'll also work closely with patients' families and carers.

Learning Disability Nursing

Learning disability nursing is a specialised and rewarding career, supporting individuals, their families and carers in meeting their health and wellbeing needs. Learning disabilities can affect an individual across the whole of their life course, from paediatrics to elderly care.

Learning disability nurses will enjoy an enriched and challenging career, working with multi-professional groups in areas where the client is in need such as:

  • client's homes
  • schools
  • community-based teams
  • specialist hospital care
  • liaison teams
  • crisis and intervention teams
  • forensic services including prisons
  • specialist autism services in the community
  • hospital settings

Mental Health Nursing

One in four people will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lives. Mental health nurses are the largest professional group providing care in a variety of settings. Mental health nurses work in a range of complex and rewarding roles such as crisis teams, street triage, community mental health teams, psychological therapies and specialist treatment teams.


Upon qualifying, nurses start on NHS Band 5 (£22,128) and have the opportunity for career progression to more advanced roles such as an Approved Clinician which can attract Band 8 salaries (£47,092–£56,665) according to the NHS Agenda for Change Pay Rates. At the top of the scale are staff in Band 9, with a salary of up to £102,506. Team managers and department heads are often placed in this exclusive band.

Read more about nursing at the University of Sunderland and find the right nursing course for you.

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