Skip to content
  • Subscribe to our scrubs Newsletter & Save 10% on Your First Order.

  • Free Shipping On Scrubs Orders $100+

  • Free Embroidery on Scrub Tops

Most Common Career Changes for Nurses

Most Common Career Changes for Nurses

Are you a registered nurse who wants a career change that reflects your nursing background? You may be surprised at the range of careers available through your medical training and caregiving skills. Unsurprisingly, the most popular career changes for nurses are within the healthcare sector.

In this blog, we will highlight career paths attracting nurses across Australia. First, let’s look at why nurses who have spent years training and gaining hands-on experience might be considering a change of direction.

Why Do Nurses Change Careers?

Overwork, burnout, physical exhaustion and stress are the main reasons nurses change careers. The Australian Primary Health Care Nurse’s Association (APNA) surveyed approximately 4,000 members and found:

  • Three-quarters (74.2%) felt exhausted at work  
  • Three-quarters (74.5%) felt stressed at work   
  • Nearly three quarters (72.1%) felt burnt out at work  
  • Two-thirds (66.4%) said they had an excessive workload
  • Two-thirds (66.3%) said they worked overtime

One in four nurses consider leaving primary health care

If you are considering a career transition, you are not alone. Perhaps the COVID pandemic has left you feeling you have done enough time on the wards or your back is saying ‘no’ to turning another patient.

How to Choose the Right Career Transition Path for Nurses

Start by considering your greatest pain point in your current situation.

  1. The irregular shift pattern: Nurses with young families or caring responsibilities constantly juggle competing priorities. Perhaps you dream of having a whole week off at Christmas! Finding a job with regular daytime working hours will be your priority.
  2. Long hours: According to the most recent figures from the Department of Health and Aged Care, nurses and midwives work an average of 34.6 hours per week; however, for many nurses, 12-hour shifts and overtime are a fact of life. Employment where 38 hours is the norm will give you a better work-life balance.
  3. Stress: Caring for patients in pain and witnessing traumatic situations takes an emotional toll. A career removed from the coalface of suffering will help you recover from compassion fatigue, emotional exhaustion or disillusionment.

Once you know where your priorities lie, you can begin researching careers. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.

Most Common Career Changes for Nurses in the Healthcare Sector

As a nurse or midwife, you have a bank of transferable nursing and interpersonal skills to draw on. Many nurses transitioning into other professions find a natural home within healthcare settings. They can various types of nursing specialities use their nursing skills, develop their knowledge of other aspects of the job and work ‘normal’ hours - it’s a win-win.

Katie Kelly transitioned from working as an RN in the Emergency Department of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne to becoming a Clinical Nurse Consultant in Neurodevelopment and Disability.

She found that nurses in Australia enjoyed much better conditions than in her native Ireland, particularly around nurse-patient ratios, but: “It was the unsocial hours, the night duty, the weekend shifts that make it hard to plan” that tempted her to switch roles. “I wanted a new challenge as well and more responsibility.”

Katie was well-qualified for her new role, with a degree in Intellectual Disability Nursing and a postgrad in Children’s Nursing. During COVID, she did a master’s degree in Complex Care and Palliative Care in Children, which she completed while nursing full-time in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi.

482 Visa Problem

Her greatest challenge in transitioning - and one that has affected many other migrant nurses - was her visa. “I came to Australia on a sponsored visa and thought it was with the hospital as a whole but it was tied to critical care, until I got my permanent residency.”

She is now settling into her nurse consultant role. After almost 10 years of shift work, her greatest challenge has been adjusting to a more flexible schedule. “It’s a very different type of nursing. Physically the role is less demanding but in other aspects, it is more challenging.

“It’s an advisory role, dealing with families and children with multiple complex needs and disabilities - intellectual and or physical. Families might ring you with concerns and you need to be able to triage them quickly and appropriately in order to provide safe care and advice. There’s a huge educational aspect to the role as well.”

Katie works alongside several paediatric consultants and one other clinical nurse consultant. She may be assisting at clinics, seeing patients post clinics for education, or attending ward rounds with the Developmental Medicine team. Overall, she’s relishing her new role.“It’s very different but extremely well supported.”

“Night Shifts Left Me Exhausted”

Cheryl Kalman was in her 40s when she decided to move from working as an RN in a surgical ward at Sydney Adventist Hospital in Wahroonga NSW. “I was working a lot of night shifts which left me exhausted, and I would spend my days off napping or sleeping for long periods.”

Between working and studying at university, she felt her family and social life were suffering. “I didn’t see my husband during my working shifts and I felt isolated.”

She began researching alternative careers, asking former RNs about their experiences and “gathering data on what to do and what to steer clear of”.

When a position in Radiology and Nuclear Medicine came up, she had her résumé ready. “I was asked to come for an interview and I was offered the role on the spot.

“That was three years ago and as stressful as it is moving to a new area, I have loved it.  My colleagues were so welcoming and taught me a whole new range of skills.

“I have since completed my Graduate Certificate in Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology Nursing, which earned me a promotion and a substantial increase in my hourly rate.

“I now work day shift and sometimes the hours are long, but every night I get to sleep in my own bed and I don’t need to catch up from lost sleep anymore. I have a social life and I get to see my husband and dog much more.”

Top 3 Career Moves in Nursing

Here are the top three choices for nurses transitioning within healthcare:

1. Nurse Educator

Teaching and mentoring the next generation of nurses, nurse educators are usually based in colleges and universities. Depending on the setting, the work can include developing and reviewing the training curricula, teaching nursing students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, supervising placements, evaluating students’ clinical skills, running continued education programmes or working in academic research. Nurses can also opt to create their own teaching materials and publish them on Alison online.

Qualification and Skills Required

A Master of Nursing or a Master’s in Nursing Education and at least five years of nursing experience are desirable. The minimum qualifications are a Bachelor of Nursing degree and a current nursing registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). Strong communication and interpersonal skills are necessary, as well as a knowledge of best practices.


The national average salary is estimated at AU$101K, according to Glassdoor. reports that the starting rate is approximately AU$64K rising to an average of AU$115K with 20 years in the role.   

Job Outlook

The demand for nurse educators is expected to rise with the influx of new nurses into the country’s public and private healthcare systems. The government’s Labour Market Insights report predicts a 16.5% future growth rate.

2. Nurse Manager

Nursing may be a vocation but administration is key to services running smoothly. Middle management positions such as nurse manager, clinical coordinator, or department director allow nurses with leadership skills to step up the career ladder.

Nurse managers are responsible for supervising nursing staff, coordinating patient care, managing resources, and ensuring the smooth functioning of their department. They report to nurse administrators or executives and ensure that policies and procedures are implemented in their unit.

Qualification and Skills Required

You must be a registered nurse with the NMBA and have a Bachelor’s degree in nursing.

The role encompasses both clinical expertise and managerial abilities. Essential skills include clinical competence, leadership, communication, problem-solving and decision-making, team building, conflict resolution and time management.


The average salary is AU$122K with a starting income of AU$80K and rising to AU$150K, depending on location, experience, responsibilities and bonuses.

Job Outlook      

The Australian Government predicts 23% future growth for nurse managers, taking the total to 22,600 by 2026.

3. Nurse Administrator

Nurse administrators have a strategic role, overseeing the department or organisation-wide delivery of high-quality patient care. They manage resources and promote a positive work environment for nursing staff. The role involves staff recruitment, managing budgets, promoting quality improvement initiatives, ensuring compliance with regulations, facilitating ongoing staff training and much more. 

Qualification and Skills Required

They must be a registered nurse with the NMBA and hold an advanced qualification such as Master of Nursing Administration (MNA) or Master of Health Administration (MHA), Master of Nursing (MN) with a focus on leadership or healthcare management, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing Leadership or Healthcare Administration. Nurse administrators undergo continuous professional development to stay abreast of advances.

Leadership and management skills are required. They should be able to communicate effectively, delegate tasks, resolve conflicts, and motivate staff to achieve organisational goals.


Entry-level salaries are estimated at AU$100K. Remuneration varies with location, qualifications, responsibilities and bonuses.

Job Outlook

Positive, given the demand for skilled healthcare leaders, the expansion of the healthcare sector, and the growing focus on quality improvement and patient-centred care.        

4. Nurse Entrepreneurs

For nurses with an entrepreneurial spirit, starting a business offers an exciting path. Many use their clinical expertise to launch ventures in health-adjacent sectors. They might go into health coaching, consulting, home care, staffing, clinical practices or medical products/innovations.

Qualification and Skills Required

In addition to a nursing qualification and experience, entrepreneurial skills like creativity, strategic thinking, financial management, sales, and marketing abilities are essential. Many business owners pursue additional training, such as a certificate in entrepreneurship or small business management.


Income potential depends on the success of the business venture. Nurses transitioning to entrepreneurship may make less than their nursing salary while the business is being established.

Job Outlook

Entrepreneurship inherently carries more risk but also more potential for high earnings than being an employee. The outlook depends on factors like the demand for the product/service, competition, economic conditions, and the nurse's business acumen.

Most Common Career Changes for Nurses Beyond the Healthcare Sector

1. Health And Wellness Coaching

Nurses can transition into wellness coaching roles that promote healthy lifestyle practices through one-on-one coaching and education programmes. These enable you to use your medical training to empower others.

Qualification and Skills Required

Most employers want coaches to have an accredited certification in health coaching from organisations like the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC). Coaches also benefit from having motivational interviewing and behaviour change facilitation skills.  


According to PayScale, the average health coach salary is around AU$60,000 per year.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for wellness coaches is promising due to increasing healthcare costs and demand for preventative care and lifestyle management programmes.

2. Medical Writing and Journalism  

The specialised medical knowledge of nurses is an invaluable asset for roles in medical writing, editing, journalism, or communications. Medical facilities and organisations need people who can explain complicated information in easily understandable language.

Qualification and Skills Required

Most employers want a degree in nursing along with strong research, writing, and editing abilities. Experience or training in medical writing, journalism, or technical communications is highly desired.


Wages can range from around AU$60,000 for entry-level roles to over AU$100,000 for experienced medical writers, according to PayScale.

Job Outlook

Employment prospects are favourable as healthcare companies, publishers, websites, and others need medical experts to produce content.

3. Consulting And Advisory

Nurses can leverage their expertise to work as healthcare consultants, advising organisations on clinical practices, operations, policy, and more.  

Qualification and Skills Required

Consultants typically need an advanced nursing degree, like a Master’s in nursing, along with specialised experience in their consulting niche. Business, communication, and problem-solving skills are essential.


Nursing consultant pay can range from AU$80,000 to over AU$150,000 per year based on PayScale data.

Job Outlook   

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 14% growth for management analysts/consultants driven by demand for advisory services to improve efficiencies and control costs.

An Aesthetically Pleasing Alternative

Cliodhna Hegarty is carving out a new career in aesthetic nursing. Cliodhna [pronounced Cleeona] always had an interest in the aesthetics field. “I was inspired by my mother who owns a successful clinic in Ireland. It’s incredible to see the confidence boost that comes from just a few ‘tweakments’, and that’s exactly why I am passionate about this job!”

She works in a doctor’s clinic in Melbourne alongside another nurse, a doctor and a dermal therapist. “On days when I’m not in the clinic, I work in urgent care keeping up my nursing skills.”

Cliodhna had already taken some foundation courses in aesthetics when the opportunity arose. “I started off shadowing the nurse and she trained me up before I started to treat my own patients.

“I attend training courses and conferences regularly and have just finished a Postgraduate Diploma in Aesthetic Medicine. I like to keep myself up to date with new techniques and products in the industry, it is ever-evolving.”

Her advice to other nurses considering a similar career? “Get a course under your belt, do some research into the industry, find a mentor that can help you progress as a practitioner and learn how to manage potential complications. If you are passionate about the industry you will succeed!”

Important Strategies for a Successful Career Change

While rewarding, transitioning careers can be challenging. Key strategies include:

  • Gaining relevant skills through courses, certifications or entry-level roles
  • Building a professional network in the new field
  • Having sufficient financial reserves for the transition period
  • Taking time for self-reflection to ensure the new path aligns with your goals and values

Challenges and Opportunities in Transitioning Careers for Nurses

Common challenges include financial adjustments, gaining new skills, establishing credibility in a different field, and finding the right career fit. However, nurses are well-positioned with transferable strengths like:

  • Strong work ethic and discipline
  • Experience working in high-stress environments
  • Exceptional communication and people skills
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving abilities

Embracing a growth mindset and being proactive about overcoming obstacles can unlock new opportunities for nurses seeking a new direction.

Further Learning Resources for Nurses Transitioning Careers

1. Online Courses and Certifications

Platforms like Alison offer free online courses and affordable certifications to help nurses build new skills for alternative careers. Options range from nurse leadership to entrepreneurship to journalism, administration skills, life coaching and more.

2. Professional Development Organisations  

Many nursing membership associations provide resources for ongoing training, networking and career development. Examples include:

  • Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA)
  • Australian College of Nursing
  • Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation

3. Continuing Education Platforms

Nurses can access a variety of skills training through nursing continuing education providers like: 

Leveraging these types of resources can smooth the transition and better position nurses for long-term career satisfaction in their next professional chapter. Alison’s free resources include a comprehensive career guide, a resumé builder and a workplace personality test to help nurses identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Your cart is empty