What is an access course, and is it right for me?

September 21, 2016

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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You may not know that many people become fantastic nurses and midwives without obtaining traditional qualifications such as A Levels. Thanks to a series of ‘Access to Higher Education’ diplomas, often called access courses, people without the right pre-requisites can still get onto a degree programme and become nurses, lawyers, builders, midwives and more.

If you’re worried that your choice of subjects at 16 means you can’t become a health professional, then you might be mistaken!

What does an access course involve?

There are many reasons why a person may not have the qualifications they need to begin studying for a degree. They may have taken a break from education, they may have left school at 16 to begin employment, or they may have lots of qualifications but in different topics. 

The idea behind access courses is to train people in the basic skills they need to pursue a new or different career path. For aspiring health workers, for example, this means they will be trained in the basic maths, science and communication skills that would allow them to do well on a health degree, and ultimately become a great health professional. An access course is a great way to reach the requirements without spending two years studying for A Levels.

How do they work?

Access courses can be taken full-time over one year, part-time over two years, or flexibly over more than two years. You can attend daytime or evening classes at your local centre, or even study via distance learning. All the courses are validated by the same regulatory body, so however you complete it, you will receive the same standard of education.

There is no upper age limit for access courses either, so whether you are a young person who didn’t take any A Levels or an older person looking to change careers, they are open to you. Once you have completed the course you should be in a strong position to apply for a degree at your chosen university.

What do I need in order to apply?

You don’t need any specific qualifications to apply for an access course, although some colleges may ask for certain GCSEs or invite you to take a written test to see what your existing skill level is. This is to make sure that you will be able to cope with the demands of the course you are applying for.

You will probably also be asked to attend an informal interview or tour of the college you would like to go to.

Access courses for aspiring medics

Here are a few of the common access courses related to health that you could enrol on:

Access to Nursing and Healthcare Professions

Access to Social Work

Access to Nursing and Midwifery Professions

Access to Health Sciences

There are also courses such as counselling, disability studies, childcare, and more. 
To find out more about access courses and do a course search, visit this page.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.