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How hard is a nursing degree? Tips and what to expect

Interested in a nursing degree but not sure how difficult it will be? Find out what to expect and discover some top tips for nursing degrees.

Two nurses at work

Whilst rewarding, it’s no secret that healthcare qualifications can be challenging. So there’s no escaping the fact that a nursing degree will take a lot of dedication. After all, it’s one of the most competitive and most popular degrees you can do. 

In this article, we’ll look at what it takes to complete a nursing degree, exploring what skills you must have and which topics are covered so that you are fully prepared for the journey ahead. 

Is a nursing degree difficult?

If you’re thinking about taking on a nursing degree, then perhaps you’ve wondered if it’s going to be difficult. The short and most truthful answer is, yes. It’s going to be difficult. No degree is a walk in the park, and nursing degrees are certainly no exception to that rule. 

Nursing degrees are demanding, they prepare you for the daily real-world responsibilities you’ll be taking on. The good news is that if you have a passion for healthcare and the dedication to learn, there’s no reason why you can’t ace a nursing degree. 

Working as a nurse can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, as well as be a life-long career with plenty of opportunities to grow and upskill. They are also popular degrees and can be very competitive — so it’s good to research and find out how to stand out from the crowd.

Maybe you’ll have experience as a healthcare assistant and have a working understanding of how hospitals work. Or perhaps you’ve volunteered with St John Ambulance and know a thing or two about high-pressure environments. 

If you haven’t got these things in your arsenal, don’t sweat it. You can still be accepted onto a nursing degree by meeting the minimum entry requirements. 

If you haven’t quite managed to get that far, then there are alternatives to explore too, like a level 3 access course. Whatever your skill level, there’s always a way into nursing.

Online Degree

MSc Nursing

  • 1-2 years
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

How hard is a nursing bachelor’s degree?

There’s no denying that a nursing degree is going to put you through your paces academically. However, you’ll need more than an academic mind to take on a bachelor’s in nursing. While it’s true that nursing degrees require you to sit exams and complete assignments and placements to an exacting standard. In addition to this, you’ll need to have (or develop) the skills necessary to meet the demands of your workload. 

You will have to learn how to be an excellent communicator and be adept at time management. Nursing degrees regularly push you outside your comfort zone and take up a lot of your personal time. You will have to balance clinical hours with your academia, while also making time for your extracurricular activities (ie. having as much fun as possible in between everything!)

But don’t let the hard work put you off. Although difficult, nursing degrees truly prepare you for the real world. So, though they might push you and test your resilience at times, you’ll emerge with exactly the right toolkit you need to save lives every single day. 

How hard is a nursing master’s degree?

A master’s degree in nursing is considered much more difficult than a bachelor’s. This is because it builds on your existing knowledge, advances your clinical and academic skills and requires you to put them into practice. 

Another reason why a nursing master’s degree is particularly difficult is because it often asks you to specialise. This might mean looking into a particular area of nursing that interests you, or you might be asked to complete a master’s degree as part of your continued professional development.

Some of the things a master’s degree covers include; advanced health assessment, which teaches you to identify important risk factors or dangerous conditions early; pathophysiology, where you study the abnormal changes in the body caused by diseases and syndromes; and pharmacology, where you learn about medicine.

But the hard work doesn’t end there. 

In much the same way as a nursing bachelor’s degree requires you to balance multiple responsibilities, so too does a master’s. Especially if you’re doing this alongside your job. Although, some employers can support you and even fund your master’s degree.

A master’s degree in nursing can help you further your career or land you in a higher salary bracket. However, they do take time, with most (but not all) being two years in length. 

They’re a challenging commitment, but if you’re ambitious and have enough support, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be part of your career progression. 

How hard is an online nursing degree?

If you were hoping this might be the easy route, we’re sorry to say that there’s no such thing. Nursing degrees are hard work no matter how you choose to complete them. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any perks to be found. In fact, there are a fair few pros.  

On the whole, online nursing degrees can be more flexible, so if you have extra dependents or caring responsibilities this path can help you find more balance. This often means you can take your time and complete the qualification at your own pace.

Learning from home also means your work-life balance might not be as difficult to manage. You may even save a bob or two, as you won’t be travelling to a university for seminars and lectures. 

Another benefit to studying online is that if you’re already working in healthcare, then you can do your online nursing degree through your employer. 

One thing to bear in mind with an online nursing degree is that it doesn’t mean that you won’t need to do any clinical work. On the contrary, placements are just as much a part of distance learning as in-person, as they prepare you for the job that awaits you at the end. 

You also won’t be in a ‘school’ environment, so there won’t be much contact time. But, as long as you’re happy to skip out on the ‘university experience’ then there’s not much to be missed. Especially if you’re disciplined and can put up with the screen time. 

What skills do you need for a nursing degree?

We’ve covered quite a lot already. From time management skills to being a proficient interpersonal communicator. But we’d be lying if we said that’s all it took. Aside from the academic requirements you’ll need for a nursing degree, you’ll need to know a thing or two about the following. 

Stress Management

One thing that always goes hand-in-hand with any healthcare profession is stress. And because it’s inescapable, you need to have good stress management skills so that you don’t become overwhelmed, or worse, poorly. 

Stress management can help you develop techniques that mean you can take the rough with the smooth. 


While nursing requires you to care for others, you also need to look after yourself. After all, you can’t give from an empty cup. 

Practising self-care can support your mental and physical health, so having a self-care strategy is a must. 

What topics do you cover in a nursing degree?

There are many things a nursing degree teaches you, from caring for adults, children, learning disability and mental health care. However, these are the specific topics you could learn more about:

  • Physiology
  • Epidemiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Critical care/complex care
  • Health ethics
  • Public health
  • Nursing research
Online Degree

MSc Advanced Nursing

  • 2-6 years
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

Tips for success in your nursing degree

Here are some helpful tips that can make life a little easier while you study toward your bachelor’s or master’s. 

Look after yourself

Eating and sleeping well are crucial for you to maintain a sense of wellness. Granted, with your work schedule this may be hard to do, so do the best you can. Tempting though it might be, try not to burn the candle at both ends and prioritise your rest and recovery.

Gather your support network

Listen, no man is an island and no nurse made it through their degree alone. This could mean creating study groups or having a wider network of people you can rely on. Friends, family, colleagues — enlist the family pet. Nursing is really tough, so having people you can turn to when you need emotional support is paramount. 

Choose the pathway that’s right for you

Don’t add additional pressure if you don’t have to. Find the education route that works for you and your learning style. Whether that be online learning with the support of your job, or the university-led bachelor’s/master’s. Only you know what’s going to work best.

It’s not about memorising

A nursing degree isn’t just about being able to reel off facts or research statistics, though this is undoubtedly impressive. It’s about showing a level of comprehension, about understanding how all the information you learn can be put into practice every single day.  

Always ask questions

Nobody knows everything about everything. Even the most qualified and experienced nurses are still learning. So, if you’re not sure, raise your hand. Ask the question, even if the answer might be obvious. Nursing leaves little to no room for error and it’s always better to ask than assume you know it all.

Get organised

Never underestimate the power of a planner. Seriously. Your schedule is about to get busy, with many responsibilities and deadlines pulling you in different directions. Whichever way you prefer to organise your time, be that on paper or digitally, make a note of it all so that you never miss a beat.

The learning never ends

Even when you walk away with your degree in hand, the journey doesn’t end there. Whether you choose to take on a master’s degree in nursing or decide to take on CPD modules to deepen your knowledge, there’s always more to know. 

Remember why you started

When things get difficult, come back to why you decided to do a nursing degree. Creating an anchor point can help you stay focussed when morale is low. A nursing degree can come with a host of highs and lows, so remembering your why is a must.

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