Postgraduate Queries

'Can I train as a nurse at the age of 41? What would be the best way of getting into the not-for-profit sector?'
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The Independent Online

You have life skills

I have a degree in sociology and a lot of childcare experience, but at 41, am I too old to go into nursing? Is there some kind of postgraduate/accelerated course I could do?

You're not too old. It's not unusual to find nursing students in their fifties, either going for a second career or just doing something they really want to do (see

Even before the recent Age Discrimination Act, mature entrants were welcome because of their life skills and experience. Having children or having nursed a sick relative can be a great advantage. If you don't mind being managed by younger people, it shouldn't be a problem at all.

There are accelerated postgraduate programmes in all branches of nursing, including children's (which would last two years). Your degree would probably be relevant, but this would be up to the university.

To find out about training, call the NHS helpline on 08456 060 655 or visit Applications are made through NMAS (the Nursing and Midwifery Admissions Service; Accelerated courses are competitive, so you could apply for the standard three- to four-year diploma or degree course. UK diplomas are administered by NMAS, and degrees by the Universities Central Admissions Service (

Some courses may require knowledge of general science and experience of care work or other work with children. So it might be wise to get further experience before training, perhaps as a healthcare assistant or classroom assistant. Your local NHS Trust may have work placements, and universities and larger hospitals have open days where you can talk to tutors, administrators and students, and check out the age of other applicants.

Experience is key

I'm a French girl who graduated in June 2006 with a degree in business and languages (English and Spanish). I have been accepted on a Masters in international business at La Trobe University in Australia. In the future, however, I want to work in the not-for-profit sector. Should I study the MIB in Australia, plus an eight-month course online ( Or should I gain work experience in the UK, plus study a home-learning course linked to the non-profit sector? How do you sustain a career in the not-for-profit sector?

The not-for-profit sector includes everything from charities to housing associations, trade unions and sports clubs. There is no set career path, but voluntary work is key. Experience is essential.

Doing the Masters in international business could be a good idea because the sector needs people with strong business skills.

Most charities, especially those with international links, like to employ staff who have lived in different countries. But not all UK organisations recognise overseas qualifications, so keep this in mind if you want to develop your career in the UK.

You could combine the MIB with a well-established distance-learning course supported by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. But can you manage a Masters and another qualification while gaining experience, too? The online course will be time-consuming, and at the moment it's only open to people living in the UK.

Your second option is to remain in the UK and gain work experience. There are a lot of Masters degrees, available either part-time or via distance learning. Perhaps choose an MBA that covers the not- for-profit sector. You could also take the Working for a Charity's online course in effective voluntary sector management, which would allow you to learn about the sector while gaining valuable work experience.

With thanks to: Cathy Taylor, nursing careers adviser for the Royal College of Nursing, the NHS helpline, Elise Cross from Working for a Charity, and Gill Sharp, Graduate Prospects adviser

Send your queries to Caitlin Davies at