Nurse - Mental Health


Career outlook for nurse - mental health

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would care for people with mental health problems. You’d help them recover from their illness or adapt to their condition. You’d help them get the support they need.

Patients and their families could be struggling with very difficult and distressing emotions and situations. You’d build up a trusting relationship with the person and their family to support their recovery.

You would support people with a range of mental health issues such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress-related illnesses
  • Personality disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug and alcohol addiction

You could work in hospitals or in the community. You might help a variety of patients, or work with a particular group like teenagers. You might work with offenders in a secure unit or special hospital.

You would:

  • Assess each person and their situation
  • Listen to them sympathetically and non-judgementally
  • Support your patient and encourage them to follow treatment plans
  • Encourage them to take part in role play, art, drama and discussion as therapies
  • Provide physical care, if a person is too old or ill to look after themselves
  • Give medication

You could also help a patient deal with social workers, the police, relevant charities, local government and housing officials.

You would work closely with support workers, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and health visitors.

You can see more about this role in the National Health Service on the Mental health nurse page on the NHSScotland Careers website. See the Learning and development section for information about career structure, progression and rates of pay.

Working conditions


You would normally work 37.5 hours a week. This could include evenings, weekends, night shifts and bank holidays, as care could be needed any time. Part-time work or extra hours may also be available. In the community, you would mainly work day shifts. However, some NHS trusts operate an on-call rota system for emergencies, which you may need to be part of.


You could be based at a day hospital, outpatients department, community healthcare centre or specialist unit (for example for drug dependency). If you work with offenders, you could work in a secure unit or special hospital.


You may need a driving licence to work in the community.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Resilience
  • Listening
  • Verbal communication
  • Researching
  • Empathising
  • Social conscience
  • Developing a plan
  • Making decisions
  • Taking responsibility

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Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on


You need a nursing degree or a degree course specialising in mental health nursing (SCQF level 9/10).

To enter a nursing degree (SCQF level 9/10) requires National 4/5 qualifications and a minimum of three Highers at C or equivalent qualifications such as a relevant HNC/HND or Scottish Vocational Qualification in Healthcare Support (SVQ level 2/3). 

It is possible to enter a shortened graduate nursing programme with a relevant degree in another subject.

Useful subjects

  • English (required by many courses) 
  • Maths (required by many courses) 
  • Science subjects, in particular biology or human biology (required by many courses)
  • Care

You will also need

Once qualified you will need to:

  • Register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)
  • Be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme run by Disclosure Scotland
  • Complete a medical examination to ensure you are physically fit

Helpful to have

Qualifications that demonstrate understanding of health and wellbeing such as:

  • Skills for Work Health Sector (SCQF level 6)
  • Health and Social Care (SCQF level 4/5)
  • SQA Wellbeing Award (SCQF level 3-5)