This research into the career guidance experiences of nurses during their training was undertaken as an exploratory study upon which a series of larger studies will subsequently be based. Additionally, it contributed to a national cohort study of the careers of newly qualified registered general nurses. One hundred and twelve nurses were involved in the development and testing of questions for a postal questionnaire to be used in the cohort study of careers. Some problems encountered when investigating career guidance by questionnaire are described, in the light of which a revised research design is proposed and the career guidance experiences of 31 nurses presented. Twenty-one aspects of guidance were investigated, covering information and advice about applying for first post, post-basic courses and longer-term plans.