South Africa is renowned for having one of the best medical systems in the region. While this is not true in some rural areas, most South African hospitals are excellently run. Having been hit by HIV/AIDS and COVID, they’ve had to learn to deal with medical emergencies on a national level. A large part of this is down to South Africa’s high standard of nursing.

There are a variety of reasons why one might want to work in South Africa. For one, it’s a huge change from most other countries where one might work as a nurse. The country is home to a plethora of different cultures and languages, so there will always be things to learn. The wilderness in South Africa is also some of the most breathtaking in the world.

South Africa is unique in that a significant portion of its workforce is made up of refugees, normally from other African countries. There are often special rules for this population. If you fall under this category, you will have a slightly different registration process, which includes verifying your Refugee status.

If becoming a practicing nurse in South Africa sounds like it’s for you, keep reading. This article will take you through the steps to become a nurse in South Africa.

Steps to Become a Nurse in South Africa

1. Get a Nursing Education

This is crucial to become a nurse in South Africa. It’s possible to work in South Africa with a foreign qualification provided that they’re assessed to be equivalent to local nursing education. You’ll need to send your diploma to the South African Nursing Council (SANC), which is the body responsible for overseeing the nursing industry in the country. Whether or not your degree is deemed sufficient is dependent on a number of factors, but most three- or four-year diplomas should suffice.

It’s not the end of the world if the SANC decides that your degree isn’t the equivalent of a South African one. You might be recommended to take a bridging course, which is shorter in duration than a full degree. These programs equip those with foreign credentials with the skills and knowledge needed to practice in South Africa. A couple of universities that offer bridging courses are the Thuto Bophelo Nursing Academy and the Life College of Learning.

Foreigners can also choose to study for a full bachelor’s or master’s degree in South Africa. Upon starting your studies, your university will need to submit some documents to the SANC. You can find a full list of these on the SANC’s website or by getting in touch with your university directly. There are two types of nursing degrees you can study for in South Africa: general nursing and psychiatric nursing. Your choice of program will impact the types of jobs available to you. Midwifery falls under general nursing.

2. Demonstrate Your English Proficiency

Although South Africa has eleven official languages, you will only need to demonstrate your proficiency in English. Most people in the country can speak it at a decent level, so you’ll probably get by at most hospitals even if it’s the only language you speak. As of now, the only accepted English proficiency is the IELTS, for which the minimum accepted score is 6. You’ll need to obtain an official score report and submit it to the SANC.

English proficiency is essential to become a nurse in South Africa. And while it isn’t a legal requirement, learning another language, especially if you intend to practice in an area where it is commonly spoken, can be an asset. Besides English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, and others are also widely used. Certain hospitals may explicitly or implicitly require you to speak one of these languages.

3. Submit the application and take a SANC Exam

For people with foreign qualifications, you will need to submit a South African Nurse Registration Application for Foreign Qualifications. In this application, you will submit various paperwork to show to the authorities of your nursing qualifications. Once you have passed the paperwork, you will need to take an exam and pass.

The SANC offers several exams depending on the field of nursing you intend to work in. This includes a general nursing exam, a midwifery exam, a pediatric nursing exam, an ophthalmic nurse exam, and more. Both foreign and domestic applicants need to take one of these tests to become registered nurses in South Africa.

The SANC publishes the schedule of these exams online every year. It’s best to be aware of when the exams are taking place well in advance. You’ll need to register directly with the SANC. A full list of requirements can also be found on the SANC’s website.

These exams normally consist of one to three papers. They will cover basic nursing topics, as well as topics specific to your chosen field. Your college education should be good preparation, but if you graduated some time ago or would like to be doubly sure you know enough to pass, reviewers like Exam Edge’s SANC Practice Tests & Test Prep exist to help you.

If you hold a foreign degree, you’ll first need to obtain a certificate from the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) stating that your degree can be accepted in South Africa, as well as a letter of endorsement from the National Department of Health.

4. Register with the SANC

To register and become a nurse in South Africa, you’ll need to submit several documents to the SANC. This includes a filled-out application form, an ID, proof of education, and more. If you already have some sort of work permit or residence permit in South Africa, you’ll need to present this to the SANC, as well. They will give you a limited certificate that will allow you to practice for the duration of the work permit.

Note that all registrations have expiry dates. In order to keep the right to work, you’ll need to renew your license before it expires. Failure to do so will result in its termination, so mark your calendar!


We hope you found this article on the steps to become a nurse in South Africa informative and helpful. To know more information like this, check out the Available Programs for International Students!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

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  1. Melody chabala - Reply

    How do I register with SANC

    • Hyun Lee - Reply

      Hi, check out the step 3 of our article, “3. Submit the application and take a SANC Exam”

  2. Reinhard ohiren - Reply

    I have a Bnsc in nursing from Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma Nigeria. Are there forms I needed to fill up? If there is, what site should I download them from? Thanks

    • Hyun Lee - Reply

      Yes, you need to fill out South African Nurse Registration Application for Foreign Qualifications. Please check “3. Submit the application and take a SANC Exam” section for application procedure as well as the forms.

  3. Sitiwe Janero - Reply

    I only have Zimbabwean police clearance and my nursing assistant certificate. Will it be possible to register?

    • Hyun Lee - Reply

      Hello, I don’t think so with just nursing assistant certificate. Having a Bachelor’s degree in nursing and having a proper nursing qualifications in your own country would be required to become a nurse in South Africa.

  4. Kelebogile Josephine Makepe - Reply

    How long does it take for SANC to process things so one may book for an exam?

    • Hyun Lee - Reply

      I do not know. I think it will be best if you can ask them.

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