Although the 1919 Nursing Registration Act standardised training for students wanting to enter the profession as a state registered nurse, it didn’t become a degree-entry profession until nursing degrees were first offered in 2009.

For healthcare professionals who want to take a different step in their career pathway, nursing degree apprenticeships are an ideal choice, leading to 96% of graduates entering employment within 15 months of graduation.

However, you’re bound to have questions. Is a nursing degree apprenticeship right for you, and what exactly does it involve?

What is a nursing degree apprenticeship?

Unlike a conventional degree course, a nursing degree apprenticeship will fit around your work commitments, enabling you to earn as you qualify, and opening up nursing to potential candidates who would have been excluded for financial reasons in the past.

This is a level 6 degree apprenticeship, and on completion you will achieve full Registered Nurse status, with a Bachelors degree.

You should expect to complete the apprenticeship in four years, although the pathway is a flexible one, based around work and combining conventional university study with on-the-job workplace learning.

This develops the skills you will need ‘at the coalface’, and enables you to put your theoretical learning into practice straight away. The study element can incorporate distance, blended and block learning. At the end of the study period, you will have completed an undergraduate degree in nursing.

The most appealing element to most candidates is that tuition fees will be completely covered, and you will be considered an employee and paid at least the current minimum apprenticeship wage for the duration of your degree.

This opens up nursing to healthcare professionals who want to retrain, but who would find the financial burden of a student loan difficult to justify.

Who should apply?

Nursing degree apprenticeships are intended for existing healthcare support workers who are interested in a nursing pathway. However, if you don’t already have supporting experiences or qualifications, completing a Level 3 nursing associate apprenticeship will put you in a position to cope with the demands of a full nursing degree apprenticeship.

The skills you will pick up will support your step into a nursing position, and may also shorten the length of time you will need to complete your nursing degree apprenticeship.

If you’re still not sure whether it’s the right pathway for you, you might find it useful to do some further research, such as through the Royal College of Nursing, and the NMC (NHS, Nursing and Midwifery Council). This should give you more of an idea of whether the degree apprenticeship offers what you are looking for.

What are the entry requirements?

Nursing apprenticeships are open to all. However, most nursing apprenticeships will carry minimum entry requirements, which will vary between institutions.

Therefore, we recommend you check with the universities you wish to apply to, and make sure you can meet their requirements before you start filling out your application.

If you have any questions, or are unsure you meet their requirements, contact the university directly via email or phone, and their admissions team will be able to help you.

Which universities offer nursing apprenticeships?

A variety of universities all over the UK offer nursing degree apprenticeships, with centres in:

If none of these options are convenient for you geographically because of family commitments, The Open University also offers a nursing degree apprenticeship pathway, which should enable you to juggle family, work and study effectively.

How do I apply for a nursing degree apprenticeship?

Your current healthcare employer should be able to help you in sourcing the opportunities available, but you might also wish to do your own research by looking on NHS Jobs, and also on Find an Apprenticeship.

You will also need to provide evidence of your current employment and qualifications. Your employment – for degree-level entry – should be in a healthcare setting, and again, for degree-level entry you should have existing Level 3 qualifications, or alternatively at least two A Levels, with at least one being in a science or health-related subject.

For degree-level study, you will also need GCSE or equivalent qualifications in Maths and English, with at least a grade C/level 4 pass mark. As you will be working with potentially vulnerable adults or children, you will also require a clear DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check.

Like any other degree course, you will have to present a personal statement demonstrating your suitability for the course.

Highlight previous experience, such as volunteering in healthcare settings different than the one you work in already, such as care homes, or even on a hospital placement. In addition, don’t forget that very few skills aren’t transferable; demonstrating communication skills, leadership qualities, or even significant levels of multitasking all demonstrate your fitness to be a nurse!

What are the benefits of becoming a nursing apprentice?

There are several reasons why you might consider a nursing apprenticeship as part of your career route:

1. You can put your learning into practice along the way

While you earn as you learn, you will also have the opportunity to apply your skills in a healthcare setting, which will prepare you for when you apply for a job once you've completed your studies.

This will give you a distinct advantage over traditional graduates, who won't have had this chance.

2. Enjoy more flexibility than with a typical degree

Normally, nursing apprentices will spend at least two days a week carrying out practical learning, one day a week on protected study time and two days a week undertaking duties within their employment setting.

This offers a more enriched experience that both apprentices and patients will gain from. As mentioned earlier, if you're looking for an even more flexible arrangement, The Open University have the additional benefit of a national network of nursing experts, offered through their online learning platform.

3. A simple application process

If you're thinking about applying to The Open University, for example, there are no additional entry requirements to those required by the NMC. Other universities often have an online registration portal where you can fill out and submit your application.

Whichever nursing apprenticeship or university you're interested in applying to, read up on the course and what it entails to make sure it's right for you. Remember than open days are a great way of finding out more about individual universities and what they have to offer.

So, to sum up, if you’re looking for a route where you can put your studies into practice as you learn, with the flexibility to earn and stay close to home then a nursing apprentice degree could be the right choice for you.

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