When considering a career as a nurse it is important to understand not only the role but what benefits and salary you could be expecting as you progress up the ladder. To help you navigate through the process we are exploring everything you need to know about the benefits and salary for a nurse in the UK.

Average nursing salary ranges

Most medical professionals in the UK are employed by the National Health Service (NHS), which offers banded salaries for all its employees using the ‘agenda for change’ pay scale. This considers the level of expertise of the role, responsibilities, skills, abilities, and years of experience.

A nurse’s starting salary begins in band five and can increase to band nine with further qualifications and experience in the field. This applies to specialist nurses too, with mental health nurse salaries and paediatric nurse salaries also beginning in band five.

The annual average salary brackets for nursing roles in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are:

  • Band 5 nurse salary: Newly qualified nurses can earn from £25,655 to £31,534

  • Band 6 nurse salary: Nurses with more than five years’ experience or deputy ward managers, health visitors and specialist nurses can earn from £32,306 to £39,027

  • Band 7 nurse salary: Nurses who have undertaken further training and a master’s degree to progress toward ward managers, emergency nurse practitioners or clinical specialists can earn from £40,057 to £45,839

  • Band 8 nurse salary: Modern matrons and chief nurses can earn from £47,125 to £90,837

  • Band 9 nurse salary: Nursing consultants, who are considered an expert in the field and work to educate others can earn from £93,735 to £108,075

Nurses can also qualify for enhanced rates depending on if they work a bank holiday, weekend, or night shift. They also have the opportunity to earn more if they take on extra shifts. Likewise, extra pay is given to those who work in areas where living costs are high, such as London.

Salaries outside of the NHS may vary depending on the organisation and sector.

Nurse salaries in Scotland

NHS salary bands in Scotland are slightly different from those found in other UK nations. The annual average salary brackets for nursing roles in Scotland are:

  • Band 5 nurse salary: £26,104 - £32,915

  • Band 6 nurse salary: £33,072 - £40,736

  • Band 7 nurse salary: £40,872 - £47,846

  • Band 8 nurse salary: £50,965 - £92,424

  • Band 9 nurse salary: £105,635 - £110,468

Annual leave entitlement

As the NHS is an institution that provides care every day, all-year-round, nurses work on a rota basis that consists of 37.5 hours a week, which is usually divided into 12-hour shifts, with three days on and four days off.

Nursing staff that work full-time hours are entitled to receive 27 days annual leave, plus eight bank holidays when they first start with the organisation. After five years within the service, this increases to 29 days, plus eight bank holidays and finally after 10 years working for the NHS nurses are entitled to 33 days and eight bank holidays.

Nurse benefits

As well as salary, the NHS offers its nurses the following benefits:

  • Enrolment on the NHS pension scheme, which follows a final salary programme that pays out on the average career earnings when you retire

  • Access to the NHS discounts platform

  • Childcare facilities within hospitals and support with costs

  • Opportunities to take study leave

  • Access to occupational health and counselling services

Professional development

When pursuing a career in nursing, professional development is key. Nurses must continue learning the latest techniques and be competent in the latest technology to successfully provide quality care to patients. It is also vital to career progression for those that want to climb the ranks.

Additionally, in the UK all nurses must undertake continuing professional development (CPD) every three years to be revalidated as a nurse – and ensure all training is refreshed and up to date as part of a standardised process across the country. Some activities that fall within this particular training are peer reviews, mentoring, in-person or virtual group meetings, conferences, and structured learning.

Career progression

Similar to other medical professions, many people who choose to become a qualified nurse aim to move up into more senior roles within a hospital setting, such as managers, specialists, or matrons. However, nursing can also lead to other medical roles with further training, such as a midwife, health visitor, practice nurse, or even progress into teaching and research opportunities.

To find out more about salaries for roles across a variety of sectors, download our salary guides now.