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How do I qualify for state pension?

Find out when you'll qualify for the state pension and how many years you'll need to have worked to get a full state pension.

In this article
Will I get the state pension? What is the state pension age? How does National Insurance affect my state pension?
Who qualifies for the state pension? What is the additional state pension?

Will I get the state pension?

People who reach state pension age after April 2016 need to have made at least 10 years of National Insurance contributions to qualify for the state pension.

To get the full amount (£185.15 in 2022-23), you need 35 years of National Insurance contributions. 


What is the state pension age?

With life expectancy getting longer, the government is having to pay the state pension for longer, and to more people.

To accommodate the cost of this, the state pension age is gradually increasing. 

It increased to 66 in October 2020 and will rise again to 67 between 2026 and 2028.

Note - In July 2017, the government announced its intention to increase the state pension age from 67 to 68 between 2037 and 2039, which is seven years earlier than previously planned.

This means that those born between April 1970 and April 1978 can expect their state pension age to be 68 and not 67 (as the calculator results will show), but this hasn’t yet been approved by parliament, so the full amended timetable isn’t available.

To find out when you will qualify for the state pension, you can use our state pension age calculator.

All you need to input is your date of birth and whether you’re a man or woman.



Note that the calculator does not currently reflect the increase in state pension age occurring in 2037. We will update the tool when the government publishes more information. 

How does National Insurance affect my state pension?

The amount of state pension you will receive depends on how many years you've paid National Insurance contributions. 

To claim the full state pension you need 35 years (it increased from 30 years in April 2016).

If you’ve made fewer than 35 years' contributions and at least 10 years' worth, you’ll still get a state pension – it will just be adjusted to reflect the number of qualifying years you have.

If you have any gaps in your National Insurance record, you can pay voluntary contributions to build up your entitlement to the state pension.

Go further: National Insurance rates - find out how much National Insurance you'll pay

Who qualifies for the state pension?

If you're working

When you’re working you pay National Insurance and get a qualifying year if:

  • you’re employed and earning over £9,880 a year (rising to £12,570 in July 2022) from one employer
  • you’re self-employed and paying National Insurance contributions

If you’re earning less than £9,880 a year but more than £6,396, you won't pay National Insurance but will still get a qualifying year. 

If you're not working

If you're not working, or have had a period of unemployment, you can still qualify for the state pension. 

This is through National Insurance credits, which fill in any gaps in your National Insurance record. You'll receive credits if:

  • you've been out of work because of illness, unemployment or maternity leave
  • you're a parent of children under age 12 for whom you're claiming child benefit
  • you're a carer for someone sick or disabled, or a foster carer, or received Carer's Allowance.

You'll also receive National Insurance credits if you are in work, but don't earn enough to pay it. 

What is the additional state pension?

The additional state pension, also known as the state earnings-related pension scheme (Serps) or state second pension (S2P) allowed employees to top up their state pension. 

It disappeared in 2016 with the introduction of the new flat-rate state pension. 

This means you can no longer build up additional state pension, but the state pension you get will reflect any additional state pension you've accrued in the past.

Find out more in our guide to the State second pension and Serps.