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Adult nurse

  • Hours

    37.5 per week

  • Starting salary

    £21,909 + per year

If you enjoy caring for people and you're looking for a varied job, this could be an ideal career for you. Adult nurses care for people over 18 who are ill, injured, or have physical disabilities.

To work as an adult nurse, you need to complete an approved course. For this you will need proof of English and maths skills, good health and a good character.

Once you have started a nurse training programme, you will divide your time between university and supervised work in local hospitals and the community. You will also need Disclosure and Barring Service clearance.

A good adult nurse has patience and understanding. They have the ability to remain calm under pressure. They are also compassionate and sensitive.


Work activities

Adult nurses check patients' progress and decide with doctors what care to give. They may also advise and support patients and their relatives.

As an adult nurse, the practical care you give could include:

  • checking temperatures
  • measuring blood pressure and breathing rates
  • helping doctors with physical examinations
  • giving drugs and injections
  • cleaning and dressing wounds
  • giving blood transfusions
  • using high technology (high-tech) medical equipment

You could specialise in an area such as accident and emergency, cardiac rehabilitation, outpatients, neonatal nursing, and operating theatre work.

As well as hospitals, you could also work in the community, health centres, clinics or prisons.

Working hours and conditions

You would usually work 37.5 hours a week, which can include evenings, weekends, night shifts and bank holidays. Many hospitals offer flexible hours or part-time work. Extra hours may also be available.

You could work in a variety of locations including hospital wards, hospices, schools and private hospitals, and in the community visiting patients at home.


Nurses can earn between £21,909 and £28,462 a year. Experienced nurses working as advanced practitioners, clinical specialists or nurse team managers can earn from £26,302 to just over £41,000. Nurse consultants can earn upwards of £40,000 a year.

Extra allowances may be paid to those living in or around London.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Entry requirements

To qualify as an adult nurse you will need to study for a degree in adult nursing leading to registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

To do a degree, you will normally need:

  • at least five GCSEs (A-C), including English, maths and a science
  • two or three A levels, including at least one science or health-related subject
  • good references

You will also need to pass occupational health checks and background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). See the DBS website for more information.

Contact course providers for exact entry requirements, as other qualifications may also be accepted, such as an Access to Higher Education or Level 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care. If you already have a health-related degree, you may be able to join a nursing degree on the second year of a course at the course provider's discretion.

You can find course providers on UCAS. The NMC website also includes application advice.

When applying for a course, it may be helpful if you have some relevant paid or voluntary experience. You can check the Do-it website and also contact the voluntary services coordinator at your local NHS Trust for information about volunteering opportunities.

Alternative entry routes

You could prepare for entry to a nursing degree by doing an apprenticeship in healthcare. Schemes vary between NHS Trusts, but will normally include clinical placements and working towards a qualification like the Level 3 Diploma in Clinical Healthcare Support.

To find out more visit GOV.UK and contact your local NHS Trust.

If you are an experienced healthcare assistant or clinical support worker with a level 3 qualification and you have the support of your employer, you may be able to complete a part-time nursing degree by applying for a secondment. Check with your employer for details about secondments.


You may be eligible for NHS funding to do a nursing degree, which would include course fees and a bursary to help with living expenses. Funding options for training are currently under review, so check with NHS Student Bursaries for full details.

Nurses trained outside the UK

If you're a qualified nurse from outside the UK you may need to take further NMC-approved assessments or training before you can register. Visit the NMC for details.

Training and development

Once you have started a nurse training programme, you will divide your time between university study and supervised work placements in hospitals and in the community. Most courses are full-time and take three years to complete.

An adult nursing degree will cover many areas, including:

  • foundations and theory of nursing practice
  • developing observation, communication and teamworking skills
  • personal and public health awareness and promotion
  • anatomy and physiology
  • medicine management
  • acute and palliative care
  • infection control
  • professional standards and code of practice

Throughout your course, you will have the opportunity to develop your knowledge and skills by working in a variety of settings from nursing homes to accident and emergency departments.

Your progress through the course would be measured through a combination of coursework, assessment, exams and project work.

With further study (for example to masters degree level) you may be able to apply for advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) and clinical nurse specialist (CNS) posts. Experience in these roles can lead to a nurse consultant job. Nurse consultants work directly and independently with patients, carry out research and deliver training.

Professional registration

As a qualified nurse you must renew your professional registration with the NMC every three years. To renew, you need to have worked a minimum of 450 hours and completed at least 35 hours of professional development training during the three-year period. Check with the NMC for details.

If you are already a registered nurse and want to move into a different branch of nursing, you may be able to apply for a shortened 18-month training programme.

Return to practice

If you are a former registered nurse wanting to return to the profession, you can take a return to practice course to bring your skills and knowledge up to date. See the NMC website and contact your local NHS Trust for more details.

Skills, interests and qualities

To become an adult nurse you need to have:

  • strong communication and listening skills
  • a genuine desire to help people
  • a non-judgemental attitude to care
  • a clear understanding of confidentiality
  • good teamwork skills and the ability to work on your own initiative
  • physical and mental stamina
  • a mature, compassionate and sensitive manner
  • good practical skills
  • patience and empathy
  • the ability to inspire confidence and trust
  • the ability to remain calm under pressure
  • good organisational and time management skills
  • a flexible approach to work

More information

Health Careers (Opens new window)
Tel: 0345 60 60 655​​

Nursing and Midwifery Council (Opens new window)
Tel: 020 7333 9333

Health Learning and Skills Advice Line
Tel: 08000 150 850

Skills for Health (Opens new window)
Tel: 0117 922 1155



You will find most jobs in the NHS. You could also work at private hospitals and nursing homes, schools and colleges, HM Forces, the prison service and in industry.

With experience you could progress to sister, ward manager or team leader with responsibility for running a ward or a team of nurses in the community. You could go on to other management roles, such as a matron or director of nursing.

Other options include going on to train as a midwife, neonatal nurse, health visitor, district or practice nurse. You could also find opportunities for self-employment or overseas work.

You may find the following useful for vacancies and general reading:

Job market information

This section gives you an overview of the job area that this profile belongs to. You can use it to work out your next career move. It can help if you’re looking for a job now or want to do some further training.

The 'Market statistics' charts are based on figures from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The list of job vacancies under 'Apply for jobs' is from the Universal Jobmatch database. The vacancies are not from the National Careers Service.

Median income: Healthcare
Avg Inc
UK Sector
27017 33884
Gender: Healthcare
Female Male
76 24
Working pattern: Healthcare
Part-time Full-time Self-employed
31 54 15
Gaps in sector due to skills shortages: Healthcare
This sector All vacancies
33 23
Employment forecast: Healthcare
Forecast Employment Figures
Year Predicted nos. employed
2014 1178000
2015 1197000
2016 1202000
2017 1219000
2018 1251000
2019 1272000
2020 1291000

Jobs available on Universal Jobmatch

DateJob TitleCompany NameLocation
24/09/2016Staff Nurse - Glasgow Job Fair October 2016 - AdultNHS JobsAddenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge
23/09/2016Staff Nurse - Glasgow Job Fair October 2016 - AdultJobs in the NHSCambridge
24/09/2016Registered Nurse (Adult)Bupa Care ServicesLeeds
24/09/2016Registered Nurse - AdultAdzuna
23/09/2016Primary Care Nurse (RN Adult)Adzuna

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