What are the subjects needed to become a Nurse in South Africa?

To become a nurse in South Africa, high school students should focus on the following essential subjects:

  1. Life Sciences (to understand human biology and health)
  2. Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy (important for dosage calculations and data interpretation)
  3. Physical Sciences (recommended for a deeper understanding of chemistry and physics related to medical treatments)
  4. English (vital for communication with patients and understanding medical literature)

These subjects provide a solid foundation for nursing studies and are important for meeting the prerequisites of nursing programs in higher education institutions.

On this page, we explore what High School subjects marks/ results are needed or required to study Nursing in South African Universities and Colleges. We also look at what APS Score is required for Nursing Degree and Diploma courses. You should know that every learning institution, internationally or locally, will have its own set of requirements for Nursing studies.

High School Subject Requirements for Nursing

Compulsory Subjects

Typically, the basic admission requirement for most nursing programmes is a National Senior Certificate (Matric), obtained at the end of Grade 12. Key subjects usually include:

  • Mathematics: Usually Core Maths is preferred over Maths Literacy.
  • Life Sciences: Known commonly as Biology, it’s often essential for nursing programmes.
  • Physical Sciences: Not always mandatory, but helpful in understanding some nursing concepts.

Optional Subjects

Some universities may require or recommend additional subjects such as:

  1. English: Necessary for communication and academic reading.
  2. Geography: Useful for community health courses.
  3. Computer Applications: Beneficial for modern healthcare settings.
  4. Languages: Helpful in South Africa’s diverse linguistic landscape.
  5. Additional Sciences: Subjects like Chemistry can be advantageous.


Most South African universities require the following for entry into a Bachelor of Nursing programme:

  1. A Matric certificate with a Bachelor’s pass.
  2. Minimum APS (Admission Point Score) that varies by institution.
  3. Specific subject requirements, generally Level 4 (50-59%) or higher in Mathematics, Life Sciences, and sometimes Physical Sciences.


For colleges offering nursing diplomas, the requirements may be slightly more lenient. However, the basic framework remains similar:

  1. Matric certificate, generally with a Diploma pass.
  2. Required subjects often include Maths or Maths Literacy and Life Sciences.
  3. Some colleges may also require an entrance exam or an aptitude test.
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Private Institutions

Private institutions often have their set of requirements, which might differ significantly. Some may offer foundational courses for students who don’t meet the standard criteria. Be sure to check each institution’s specific prerequisites.

Special Considerations

Non-traditional Entry

For those who do not meet the traditional entry requirements, there are alternative routes such as higher certificates in related fields, foundational courses, and bridging programmes.

International Students

If you’re an international student, particularly from countries like Zimbabwe, the requirements may include additional steps like visa and study permit processes, along with educational credential evaluations.

Subject Equivalencies

Certain vocational subjects may also be considered equivalent to traditional academic subjects. However, each institution’s admissions office will need to verify this.

Understanding the APS Score for Nursing Programmes in South Africa

What is the APS Score?

The Admission Point Score (APS) is a system used by South African universities to assess the eligibility of students applying for tertiary education. This scoring model takes into account the grades you’ve received in your Matric or equivalent exams, converting them into a cumulative point score. This score is then used by universities and colleges to determine if you meet the minimum entry requirements for your chosen course of study, including nursing.

Calculating the APS Score

The APS system varies slightly among different institutions, but the core concept remains the same: your Matric subject marks are allocated points based on a given scale. For example, an achievement of 70-79% in Mathematics may earn you 6 APS points, while a 90-100% might grant you 8 points. These points are summed up for all your subjects to produce a total APS score.

APS Score for Nursing Programmes

In nursing programmes, most universities require a specific APS score in addition to certain subject requirements. This score can range from 24 to 30 points, depending on the institution and the complexity of the nursing course. Often, these programmes are highly competitive, and meeting the minimum APS requirement does not guarantee admission. Priority is usually given to students with higher APS scores.

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Why the APS Score is Important

The APS system provides a straightforward method for universities to sift through a large number of applicants. For prospective nursing students, understanding the APS requirements for each institution can be a helpful first step in planning your academic future. If you don’t initially meet the required APS for your desired nursing programme, some universities offer ‘extended’ degree programmes that allow for entry with a slightly lower APS score.

By understanding the intricacies of the APS score in relation to nursing programmes, you are better equipped to plan your educational journey in the healthcare sector. Make sure to check each university’s specific APS requirements and use this as a guide to gauge your eligibility for admission.

Question and Answers

Can I study nursing with Grade 11?


Generally, most accredited nursing programmes in South Africa require a National Senior Certificate (Matric) as the minimum admission requirement. However, some private institutions or vocational schools may offer auxiliary or foundational nursing courses that admit students with Grade 11 qualifications. These foundational courses could serve as a stepping stone to more advanced nursing qualifications once you obtain your Matric certificate.

Can I study nursing with a Higher Certificate?


Yes, you can study nursing with a Higher Certificate in a relevant field, such as Health Sciences or Community Health Care. These higher certificates can sometimes offer direct entry into diploma courses or even degree programmes in nursing. However, additional requirements, like practical experience or specific subject prerequisites, may still apply depending on the institution.

Where can I study nursing without Matric in South Africa?


Studying nursing without Matric is challenging but not entirely impossible. Some vocational training centres and private institutions may offer foundational or auxiliary nursing courses that don’t require Matric for admission. Completing such courses could prepare you for higher-level nursing education once you earn your Matric or an equivalent qualification.

Can I study nursing with Level 2 in Life Sciences?


The chances of gaining direct admission into a nursing programme with a Level 2 in Life Sciences are quite low. Most accredited nursing programmes in South Africa require a minimum of Level 4 in Life Sciences. However, you may still consider foundational or auxiliary courses as a starting point, with the aim of improving your qualifications later on.

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Can I study nursing without Biology in South Africa?


While Biology or Life Sciences is often a prerequisite for most nursing programmes, some institutions might offer foundational courses that don’t require Biology. Nevertheless, you will most likely need to complete Biology or Life Sciences courses as part of the nursing curriculum eventually.

Can I study nursing with Level 3 in Life Sciences?


A Level 3 in Life Sciences is generally considered low for direct entry into most nursing degree or diploma programmes. However, you might still qualify for auxiliary or foundational nursing courses, which could later facilitate your entry into more advanced nursing programmes once you improve your academic standing.

Which universities accept Maths Literacy for nursing in South Africa?


Most universities in South Africa require Core Maths for nursing programmes. However, some institutions might accept Maths Literacy, often in combination with other strong subject performances and a compelling motivation letter. It’s essential to consult specific universities’ admissions offices for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Can you do nursing with Maths Literacy and History?


While Maths Literacy and History might not meet the traditional admission criteria for a nursing programme, some institutions might consider exceptional cases. You may also look into foundational or auxiliary nursing courses that have more lenient admission requirements as a starting point for your nursing career.

Remember that nursing is a field that combines both scientific knowledge and practical skills, so fulfilling the academic requirements is often just the first step in your educational journey.

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