Lines now open
- Click here to Speak to a course adviser now
or call us on 01202 006 464

How Hard is it to Find a Job as a Registered Nurse?

18th June 21

The National Health Service is facing a nurse staffing crisis of staggering proportions. With the increasing demand on the health service and the rate nurses are leaving the profession, there will be a 190,000 shortfall by 2027. For anyone considering a career in nursing, this presents an opportunity.

However, while 95% of all registered nurses gain employment within the first 6 months of graduating, a career is by no means a given. Not least because to be a nurse takes a quality beyond a desire to help others – although this is a good start. Nurses are committed to the care of others much in the same way that doctors are.

This takes dedication, study, and hard work.

To become a nurse – at its most fundamental requires you to successfully enrol onto a nursing degree. 60,000 people apply to 89 universities across the UK each year. Other those just over 37,000 get accepted. Of those around 20,000 go on to graduate.

So, while there is a high demand – over 40,000 vacancies at the time of writing – to become a registered nurse is so much more than finding a job.

How hard is it to find a job as a registered nurse?


To become a registered nurse, you would need to complete an approved nursing degree. Despite the high demand for nursing jobs, requirements are high and realistically you need to be aiming for a first or a 2:1 to get the nursing role of your choice.

To obtain a nursing degree, you would also need the relevant qualifications to be accepted into university.

Although not every university has the same entry requirements. Commonly, you would need to have GCSE Maths and English at grade 4 (grade C) or above. As well as a minimum of 3 A Levels or an equivalent qualification. So, it is a good idea to double-check the entry requirements of your desired institution.

If you do not hold the relevant qualifications, an Access to Higher Education Diploma is a popular equivalent. Instead of having to study two or three A Levels, you only need one course to meet your entry requirements. Dependent on your final grade this qualification could provide you with between 48 and 144 UCAS Points.

Within the UK there are four main specialisms of nursing. Adult nursing, child nursing, special education needs nursing and mental health nursing. You will be required to choose a specialism as early as choosing your degree. It would be worth reading up on your career options in nursing to ensure you choose the right degree.

To support your university application, it would be worth gaining some relevant work experience. This doesn’t have to be in nursing but a related field like care work.

Work Experience

Getting some related work experience in a clinical environment is strongly recommended if you want to work in the healthcare sector. As well as increasing your knowledge of the industry, work experience allows gives you hands-on examples to support your application.

Volunteering, internships, part-time jobs, and student projects can all help to improve key skills which universities will be looking for in applicants. Initiative and a demonstrable desire to help others is essential.

You can gain experience by finding work as a care worker, healthcare assistant or by volunteering in a hospital. Or with any other work experience that involves caring for others. Visiting hospitals and talking directly to nurses about the role is also helpful.

How hard is it to find a job as a registered nurse?

Career Options

The variety of roles in nursing means you have plenty of career opportunities that improve your employment prospects. However, make sure that any high-demand areas of nursing are fields you would be comfortable working in.

Although once qualified you can retrain, you need to assume you’ll be in your initial role for a while.

Having the option long term though is very appealing. As are the progression routes and specialisms you can go into.

Within the nursing field, there is a large list of jobs that directly relate to your degree. These include:

  • Adult nurse
  • Children’s nurse
  • Health play specialist
  • Health visitor
  • High-intensity therapist
  • Learning disability nurse
  • Mental health nurse
  • Paramedic
  • Physician Associate

However, there are also other roles where your degree could be useful if you feel you need a change later in your career. These include:

  • Counsellor
  • Further education teacher
  • Genetic counsellor
  • Health service manager
  • Higher education lecturer
  • Medicinal chemist
  • Play therapist
  • Police officer
  • Social worker

With the array of related jobs, it’s rare for nurses to be out of work. Especially as 95% of nursing graduates gain employment in the first 6 months. However, location is a big aspect of finding a job as a registered nurse. It may come down to the fact that you have found a role that piques your interest, just not in your local area. But this is not to say that a post won’t become available. An alternative is to start working in a hospital further afield then transfer as a role becomes available.

How hard is it to find a job as a registered nurse?

Typical Employers of Registered Nurses

Whilst most nurses in the UK work within the NHS, there are many employers of graduate nursing professionals.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • The NHS
  • Private sector clinics and hospitals
  • Private sector healthcare providers contracted to provide services to NHS patients
  • Voluntary organisations
  • Local authorities (for work in nursing and residential homes)
  • Private-sector nursing and residential homes
  • Schools and further and higher education institutions
  • Prisons
  • The armed forces
  • Private sector organisations, such as leisure companies

How hard is it to find a job as a registered nurse?

Improve your Employment Prospects

There are so many ways to further your career. As well as being a requirement to be a registered nurse, a degree in nursing gives you a range of professional and technical skills. Including the ability to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team. You would also develop the ability to assess, analyse, monitor, and evaluate the care you deliver.

However, there are other skills you will need to stand out from the crowd. There are many personal qualities sought by employers in a range of sectors.

If necessary, you could look at furthering your skills in these areas. Possessing these qualities will improve your chances of finding a job as a registered nurse. These skills include:

  • Flexibility
  • Adaptability
  • Empathy
  • Organisation and time management
  • Leadership
  • Determination and tenacity
  • The ability to conduct research
  • Problem-solving and decision-making skills

The other way you would be able to improve your employment prospects is by further study.

There is a huge variety of post-registration courses available. Graduate nurses can take master’s degrees in subjects like advanced clinical practice and medical decision making. As well as other specialist subjects. You can also train to become an advanced nurse practitioner.

Healthcare is constantly developing. Practising nurses need to keep up with technology, current issues, and the changing needs of the population through ongoing training.

How hard is it to find a job as a registered nurse?

Study Nursing Online

An Access to Higher Education Diploma (Nursing) is an alternative way to meet nursing degree entry requirements. What’s more, it can be studied entirely online. Allowing you to qualify without having to sacrifice your already established schedule.

This Access to HE Diploma (Nursing) lays down the foundation for your career in nursing, it covers a range of topics. Including the responsibilities of a registered nurse, approaches to health, the history of the NHS and human disease.

All of the learning material is available to you as soon as you enrol. Unlike physical institutes where you would need to wait for the term to begin.

learndirect is the UK’s leading online learning provider. Offering a wide range of online courses, including GCSEs, A-levels and Access to Higher Education Diplomas.

Take the jump into your new career by enrolling on our Access to HE Diploma (Nursing). Find out more by clicking below.


Sign up to our Newsletter

Call us