Background: Worldwide, men are under-represented in the nursing profession. In Scotland less than 10% of pre-registration nursing students are male. Reasons for this imbalance need to be understood. Objectives: To explore the views of male pre-registration nursing students, nursing lecturers and school teachers about this imbalance. Design: Mixed methods study using focus groups and online survey. Settings: Focus groups in four locations across Scotland. Online survey sent to teachers across Scotland. Participants and methods: Eight focus groups with 33 male nursing students; four focus groups with 21 university and college nursing lecturers; 46 school teachers returned the online survey. Results: Although nursing was considered a worthwhile career with job stability and many opportunities, it was also viewed as not being a career for men. Assumptions about the profession and femininity were challenging for men and use of the term ‘male nurse’ was felt to be anomalous. In some circumstances the provision of intimate care to particular patient groups caused difficulty. Positive encouragement from others, a positive role model or knowledge of nursing from significant others could be helpful. However concerns about low earning potential and negative media publicity about the NHS could be a disincentive. Being mature and having resilience were important to cope with being a male nursing student in a mainly female workplace. Some more ‘technical’ specialties were felt to be more attractive to men. Conclusions: Nursing is viewed as a worthwhile career choice for men, but the gendered assumptions about the feminine nature of nursing can be a deterrent.