Top 9 nursing careers

Top 9 nursing careers
SEEK content teamupdated on 13 February, 2024

Did you know that around 16,000 people graduate with nursing degrees in Australia each year? That might sound like a lot, but it’s not enough to meet demand. If you love to help people and want a job that will see your skills in high demand for the foreseeable future, a nursing career might be for you. 

Career pathways as a nurse give you plenty of options. You can be a registered nurse, clinical nurse specialist, midwife or mental-health professional. Using your soft skills and qualifications, you can choose to work in hospitals, doctor’s clinics, care facilities, emergency rooms or with children in paediatrics.

Nursing careers are not without their challenges. The hours can be long, roles can be physically demanding and patient care brings with it a high level of responsibility. You need to have strong interpersonal skills to be able to work with patients, doctors and other healthcare professionals, and you need to be both empathetic and resilient

In this article, we explore nursing careers in Australia, looking at career opportunities in nursing and some of the different nursing career paths accessible to graduates. 

Registered nurse [$85k]

A registered nurse (or RN) is a degree-qualified nurse who is registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). They are a level above enrolled nurses (EN), who are diploma certified, and can provide a higher level of care. For example, an EN is not qualified to administer medications or IVs, while an RN is.

To become a registered nurse, you must complete a bachelor of nursing or nursing science, with the option of a master’s degree. Once you’ve registered with the NMBA you can start looking for your first nursing job. As an RN, you have a wide range of jobs accessible to you – in hospitals, schools or universities, psychiatric wards, private clinics and more. ATAR scores to enter a four-year degree in nursing range from 50 to 92, depending on the university. 

Nurse practitioner [$143k]

Another option for a nursing career in Australia is nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners are high-level RNs, registered with the NMBA to provide advanced levels of patient care. They’re qualified to diagnose medical issues and write referrals and prescriptions. They can provide similar patient care to GPs, though within a more limited scope. They can work as primary healthcare providers in fields like reproductive health and paediatrics.

Nurse practitioners must have a graduate degree in their nursing specialty and have accrued 5,000 hours of experience as an RN, before eligible for endorsement from the NMBA.

Clinical nurse specialist [$105k]

Registered nurses can also go on to become clinical nurse specialists (CNS). This senior nursing role involves providing a high level of patient care in a specialty area of medicine, say neurology or psychiatry – the specific area is up to you. They have in-depth knowledge and skills relevant to their specialisation, and are responsible for monitoring patients and responding to any changes with the appropriate care.  

To pursue this kind of nursing career in Australia, you’ll first need to become an RN with an undergraduate degree, then complete a relevant postgraduate program, like a certificate in clinical nursing.

Nurse midwife [$85k]

Another of the many nursing career paths open to Australian graduates is the role of the nurse midwife. In Australia, nursing and midwifery are considered separate professions, so if you want to be a midwife, you have to complete a bachelor degree in midwifery or do a dual nursing and midwifery degree. 

Midwives provide support throughout all stages of childbirth, from preconception to postnatal care. Importantly, they support the mother through labour and childbirth, monitoring for any complications. Afterwards, they teach parents how to bathe, feed and care for their newborn. They can also perform health screenings for babies. 

Midwifery career pathways for registered nurses need to get a midwifery qualification, which can take from 12 months to two years. 

Paediatric nurse [$91k]

If you want to work with children, your career opportunities in nursing could lead you to paediatrics. Nurses in paediatric care can work in NICU (neonatal intensive care), in the ER, in paediatric clinics, oncology, lactation and more. Paediatric nurses are RNs who decide to work in paediatric care – they have a nursing degree and on-the-job training and experience. While there is no formal qualification required to work as an RN with children, there are graduate certificates you can do. 

Experienced paediatric RNs can become certified by the Paediatric Nurse Certification Board after meeting certain eligibility conditions. 

Geriatric nurse [$93k]

Geriatrics is the care of elders – geriatrics nurses are also called aged-care nurses. They provide medical care and support to patients over 65, either in a hospital, an aged-care facility, a clinic, a hospice or in the patient’s home. Duties in geriatric nursing include administering medicine, wound care, monitoring vital signs and helping with daily hygiene. 

Nurses can also specialise in gerontology, which is more holistic care for the elderly that includes physical, mental and social support. RNs don’t need any additional qualifications to work in geriatrics, but can get postgraduate qualifications in gerontology.  

Mental health nurse [$93k]

RNs can also choose a nursing career path in mental health. A mental health nurse, or psychiatric nurse, provides support to patients in mental health units in hospitals, in psychiatric hospitals and even in patients’ homes. Mental health clinicians can also support emergency departments, providing treatment to patients needing urgent psychiatric care. RNs working in a mental health unit have varied tasks that include monitoring and evaluating patients, administering medicine, providing counselling and visiting people at home.

Nursing graduates and RNs can pursue a mental health nursing career in Australia without any additional qualifications. Enrolled nurses can work in psychiatric nursing after completing an advanced diploma in nursing. 

Community health nurse [$95]

Another of the many potential jobs with a nursing degree is community health nurse. These nurses work at schools and in government agencies, bringing healthcare services to people that may not have easy access to medical care. 

Community health nurses often work in disadvantaged communities, providing healthcare outside of a hospital setting. The local community may rely on them for wide range of care, including postnatal care and baby checks, palliative care, preventive care, aged care and more. The pathway to becoming a community health nurse begins with a nursing degree, followed by on-the-job training and experience and potentially graduate studies in community or social services. 

Critical care nurse [$90k]

Critical care nurses work across a range of intensive care units, nursing people with life-threatening injuries and illnesses. They’re responsible for closely monitoring vital signs, administering medication, ventilator care, IVs and much more. They need to work closely with doctors, therapists, specialists and other nurses to support the treatment and recovery of their patients.    

RNs can pursue a nursing career in Australia as a critical care nurse with a four-year degree. There are no necessary qualifications to begin working in acute care, but you can get a graduate certificate in critical care nursing while working, if you have the requisite experience. 

If you’re interested in becoming a nurse, there are many different nursing careers to choose from once you’ve completed a diploma or degree. A four-year nursing degree will open up the widest range of nursing opportunities, with the option for nursing specialisations after several years of experience as an RN. If you’re motivated to care for others, nursing offers a secure career path with high earning capacity that will be in demand in Australi and around the world for years to come. 

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