How many years to study nursing in South Africa

To qualify as a nurse, you can do one of the following:

  • a four-year bachelor degree in nursing (BCur– Bachelor of Nursing Science, Education & Administration)
  • a three-year diploma
  • a one-year higher certificate in auxiliary nursing 
  • one-year postgraduate advanced diploma in nursing and midwifery on top of your degree or diploma.

After you get your qualification, you have to register with the South African Nursing Council (SANC). 

You can choose to complete your qualification at a public tertiary institution or at a private nursing college. These private colleges, such as Mediclinic, Netcare Education or Life College, offer the same diplomas or degrees as the universities and universities of technology.

Bachelor Degree in Nursing Science (BCur)

The bachelor’s degree in nursing is generally a four-year-long course that is offered by most public universities in South Africa: UCT, Wits, Stellies (only postgrad), UP, UWC, NWU, UKZN, UNISA, etc. The degree consists of both a compulsory practical clinical training component and a theoretical component. Once you have completed a BCur (or equivalent), you are able to register as a professional nurse and midwife with the SANC.

Entry Requirements

It is recommended that you take Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Life Sciences, but this is not compulsory at all institutions. You will need a National Senior Certificate (NSC) or equivalent qualification at exit level 4, with:

  • English (50-59%)
  • First additional or home language (50-59%)
  • Life Sciences (50-59%)
  • Maths Literacy (50-59%)
  • Life Orientation (50-59%)

What does the course look like? 

The BCur usually prepares students to work in four specific fields:

  • general nursing (working in hospitals and medical practices)
  • community nursing
  • psychiatric nursing
  • midwifery (caring for mothers and babies)

Your course will have a practical component. You will learn how to do the kind of practical work you will need to be able to do when you become a nurse. In the theoretical component, you will learn the theory of what it is to be a nurse and you will study medical, biological and natural sciences, psychological and social sciences, and pharmacology so that you have the knowledge you need to be a competent and successful healthcare professional.

Diploma in Nursing 

These courses are often offered by universities of technology like DUT, TUT, VUT and CPUT. This course is only three years long and also consists of practical and theoretical work. After you have completed this qualification you are able to work as a registered staff nurse or enrolled nurse.

Entry Requirements

You will need a National Senior Certificate (NSC) or equivalent qualification at exit level 3 or 4, depending on the institution, to qualify to study this course. However, it is not as important that you have taken mathematics and/or physical sciences as it is for the BCur. You will also need:

  • English (50-59%)
  • First additional or home language (50-59%)
  • Four other subjects (50-59%)
  • Life Orientation (50-59%)

What does the course look like?

During this course, you will cover similar work to what you would cover in the BCur degree. You will go less in-depth with the work as the course is shorter. You will learn how to provide nursing care, apply your knowledge in the nursing practice, diagnose and treat minor illnesses and provide reproductive health care.

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Higher Certificate in Auxillary Nursing

This is a one-year qualification that is aimed to equip you with the skills that you will need to provide basic nursing care to individuals while working under the supervision of a nurse who holds a national diploma or degree. After completing your higher certificate you will be able to register as an enrolled nursing auxiliary.

Entry Requirements

You will need a National Senior Certificate (NSC) or equivalent qualification at exit level 3 or 4, depending on the institution, to qualify to study this course, however, it is not as important that you have taken mathematics, physical sciences or life sciences as it is for the BCur. You will also need:

  • English (50-59%)
  • First additional or home language (50-59%)
  • Four other subjects (50-59%)
  • Life Orientation (50-59%)

What does the course look like?

This course will teach you how to apply your knowledge of the theory, the practice of basic nursing and how to assess, plan, implement and evaluate basic nursing care for individuals and groups.

This course is designed to strengthen and deepen your knowledge in nursing and midwifery. During this course, you will specialize as a nurse or midwife (or accoucheur). This course is also only one year long and can only be completed after you have received a diploma or degree in nursing. Unlike the other courses, this course is mostly theoretical. This qualification will also be helpful if you wish to pursue a career in nursing management. This is the postgraduate course for an individual who has a diploma in nursing, will have to complete in order to work as a nursing sister in South African Hospitals.

Postgraduate Advanced Diploma in Nursing 

Entry Requirements

In order to enroll in a course like this you have to have completed:

  • Bachelor in Nursing Sciences (or equivalent) or a degree and comprehensive diploma
  • Diplomas in nursing and midwifery
  • Advanced diploma in midwifery, staff nurse and advanced diploma

You also have to have some experience to apply to this course – excluding your community service year. You have to have two years of experience as a Professional Nurse and/or Midwife (including at least one year in the field of specialty within the last five years).

What does the course look like?

This course is designed to teach you how to work like a nurse who is clinically focused, well-informed, competent and innovative. At the end of this course, you will have specialized as a nurse or midwife/accoucheur and you will be able to give well-informed scientific care to your patients.

After your Qualification

After you qualify and register with the SANC, you can choose to work in any number of places, but if you want to study further, you can study a master’s degree or advanced diploma in nursing and you can register as an advanced practice nurse. There are two main categories of advanced practice nurses:

  • Clinical nurse specialists: People who have in-depth and specialized qualifications who work closely and collaboratively with other medical practitioners.
  • Advanced nurse practitioner: A person who works in primary care — health assessment and the diagnosis and treatment of ailments. In South Africa, advanced nurse practitioners are often referred to as primary health care nurses and they can work as midwives, psychiatric and paediatric nurses outside of the hospital environment.
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