Most Common Career Changes for Nurses

Most Common Career Changes for Nurses

Whether you’re working as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN), you are part of a career that’s demanding yet very challenging. Despite the many positives of working as a nurse, many nurses find themselves looking for alternative nursing careers.

They may be burnt out from dealing with sickness and death, they may want better pay; or they may just be looking for a change. Some may be still in the nursing field while so may be completely different fields. Below are 15 of the most common career change for nurses along with career and wage information as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Glassdoor, Payscale, and similar reporting agencies.

Career #1: Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) are registered nurses who have advanced their education to become midwives, nurse anesthetists, or nurse practitioners. They provide both primary and specialized healthcare to patients while also coordinating their healthcare needs. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses may work in hospitals or clinics or may work independently.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse?

Before becoming an APRN, the individual must first be a registered nurse, so the skill and knowledge of healthcare and nursing are already there.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Knowledge of how the healthcare works
  • Research skills
  • Knowledge of medical terminology
  • Familiarity with medical laws and policies
  • Compassion and the desire to help patients
  • Knowledge of pharmaceuticals
  • Knowledge of surgical procedures
  • License to practice medicine

In addition to being an RN, an APRN must complete a training program for the specialty they choose. According to BLS, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses earn an average annual wage of $123,780 as of May 2021. This salary is substantially higher than the average wages earned by RNs, which was reported to be around $77,600. The expected job growth of 40 percent from 2021-2031 is also substantially higher than for RNs according to the BLS.

Career #2: Legal Nurse Consultant

Legal nurse consultants are registered nurses who work with attorneys, insurance companies, healthcare companies, and other legal professionals to act as expert witnesses in medical cases like medical malpractice, worker’s compensation, and similar personal injuries suffered on the job.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant?

Nurses have both views of and understanding of what goes on in the healthcare field that many others do not. Their overall knowledge of healthcare and experience with patient care make them ideal candidates to work as legal nurse consultants for medical cases.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Experience with and knowledge of patient policies and procedures
  • Experience reading medical records
  • Experience analyzing patient files and medical records
  • Experience working with patients in the medical field
  • Good research skills
  • Good understanding of medical language and terminology
  • Solid understanding of the legal procedures
  • Understanding of the legal aspect of the medical field

To work as a legal nurse consultant, you must be an RN and must complete a legal nurse consultant training program. Legal nurse consultants earned an average annual salary of $124,721 in 2022 according to Glassdoor. Healthcare occupations such as legal nurse consultants are expected to see a job growth of 13 percent from 2021-2031.

Career #3: Nurse Advocate

Understanding the healthcare industry and knowing as much about your rights as a patient is very important, and this is the role of a nurse advocate. Although nurses provide healthcare to patients, nurse advocates work on the patient’s behalf to ensure the patient receives the highest quality of medical care and ensure their rights are not violated.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be a Nurse Advocate?

Nurses work very closely with patients and typically learn about them and their health conditions and history. They’ve also worked with other medical professionals regarding their patients. Because of this knowledge and familiarity, nurse advocates are able to speak on the patient’s behalf.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Because they act as liaisons between doctors and patients, nurse advocates must have a good rapport between both.
  • Good communication skills
  • Understanding of the patient’s health condition
  • Knowledge of how healthcare works
  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Knowledge of medical terminology
  • Ability to be objective
  • Ability to maintain a professional relationship with patients, their families, and healthcare providers
  • Ability to collaborate well with others

To become a nurse advocate, the individual must be a licensed RN and must complete a nurse advocacy training program. Many nurse advocates obtain certification as a Board-Certified Patient Advocate. According to Glassdoor, nurse advocates earned an average annual wage of $125,812 in 2021 with an expected job growth of six percent between 2021 and 2031.

Career #4: Social Worker

Social workers help patients and clients deal with various issues going on in their lives. They listen to them, counsel them, advise them, and provide them with various resources that can be helpful. Clinical social workers may work with behavioral, mental health, physical, and emotional issues.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be a Social Worker?

Social workers and nurses are very similar in that they both provide services to patients, and the services they provide are often similar. Nurses are familiar with a patient’s needs, prescriptions, and overall health, which comes in handy as social workers.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Good communication skills
  • Cultural knowledge and awareness
  • An interest in helping others
  • Advocacy skills
  • Compassion and empathy

Social workers must have at least a bachelor’s degree, although some may be required to have a master’s degree. The BLS predicts that social workers should see a nine percent job growth during the 2021-2031 decade. Their average annual wage was $50,390 in 2021. Clinical social workers generally earn higher wages.

Career #5: Health Education Specialist

Health education specialists work with individuals and groups of people to promote wellness based on their area, lifestyle, and behavior. They do research, collect data and act as advocates for patients’ needs with both social service organizations and healthcare providers.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be a Health Education Specialist?

A nurse must know a lot about healthcare and promoting wellness to be successful on the job, and health education specialists use the same knowledge to help patients and groups. Nurses have the empathy to listen to others and the experience to advise them accordingly.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Compassion and Empathy
  • Researching skills
  • Understanding of medical and healthcare programs.
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Knowledge of healthcare issues

Health Education Specialists should have at least a bachelor’s degree in health science or a related field. Since RNs generally already have a bachelor’s degree, switching to this career is relatively easy. Health education specialists, according to a BLS report, earn an average yearly wage of $46,590 and are expected to see an employment growth of 12 percent between 2021 and 2031.

Career #6: Administrative Service Manager

Administrative service managers oversee a facility’s health and medical services. Their duties include developing policies to make the office run efficiently and smoothly; supervising the administrative and clerical staff; ensuring the workplace is secure and safe; and making sure the facility follows environmental, health, and security regulations. This position can be found in not just the health field but in various other industries as well.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be an Administrative Service Manager?

Nurses work with patients but may also oversee an entire department in a hospital or medical facility. They are familiar with healthcare laws, patient rights, and the medical industry. If they become an administrative service manager in another industry, they can still use these qualifications.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Good communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to work well with others
  • Leadership experience
  • Critical thinking skills

Administrative service managers typically have a bachelor’s degree in a business field. A nurse pursuing this position in a non-nursing industry may take a few business courses. Administrative service managers see average annual wages of $100,170 as of May 2021. These professionals are expected to experience a seven percent increase in jobs.

Career #7: Healthcare Recruiter

Healthcare recruiters help medical and healthcare facilities find highly qualified people for a variety of healthcare positions. They evaluate the applicant’s abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, and advise them of the best position for them. Healthcare recruiters also help the applicants get through the hiring process.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be a Healthcare Recruiter?

In many cases, nurses have spent years working in the healthcare field and have experience working in various departments with many specialists, including pharmacists, nutritionists, pathologists, radiology technicians, and more. Because of the time spent with these healthcare specialists, the healthcare recruiter can fit the applicant in the appropriate position.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Knowledge of the healthcare field and how it works
  • People skills
  • Experience in providing direct patient care
  • Knowledge of medical terminology
  • Good communication skills
  • Experience working with various healthcare specialists

Healthcare recruiters earned an average yearly wage of about $56,725 and are expected to experience employment growth of 13 percent between 2021-2031. There is no licensure requirement for healthcare recruiters, but many have a bachelor’s degree. Healthcare recruiters are very much in demand.

Career #8: School Nurse

School nurses work in educational settings using their experience and knowledge to help students and teachers with health issues. They do checkups, give immunizations, and speak with the student body regarding health issues.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be a School Nurse?

Licensed nurses have a lot of experience working with people suffering from emotional, physical, and mental issues. They can bring their medical knowledge into the school and help students in a non-medical setting. Their knowledge of nursing and healthcare, in general, prepares them to work as school nurses.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Health evaluations
  • Good listening skills
  • Good communication skills
  • Ability to provide basic health care
  • Ability to create and provide an individualized healthcare plan
  • Knowledge of ways to promote good health
  • Critical thinking skills

Although an individual may be hired as a school nurse with only an associate degree, most have bachelor’s degrees if they are RNs. Most schools require their nurses to have a current nursing license. Nurses overall are expected to experience job growth of six percent by 2031. They earn an average annual wage of $77,600. Depending on the school, the school nurse may earn more or less than that amount.

Career #9: Nurse Manager

Nurse managers play an important role in a healthcare facility because they are the managers in charge of that department or specialty. They oversee the nursing staff, manage the budget, and oversee training and staffing. This is probably one of the most common career changes for nurses.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be a Nurse Manager?

Nurse managers don’t generally become managers until they have several years of nursing experience. They’re not only familiar with the healthcare industry but also with patients. This is an ideal position for a nurse who wants to continue working in healthcare but doesn’t want the clinical side of it.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Dedication to healthcare
  • Clinical experience and expertise
  • Good analytic skills
  • Detail oriented
  • Good communication skills
  • Good understanding of the clinic workload

Nurse managers may be hired with a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is more common for this occupation. The BLS states that nurse managers earned an average yearly wage of $101,340, which is much higher than nurses. Employment growth of 28 percent is predicted for nurse managers between 2021 and 2031.

Career #10: Medical or Healthcare Writer

Healthcare or medical writers are writers who use their expertise and knowledge of healthcare to write high-quality articles, websites, and journals about various health topics, such as healthcare news, patient education, clinical trials, medical devices, and new medications.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be a Medical or Healthcare Writer?

As a nurse, the individual does a lot of writing about patients and healthcare in general. This career allows nurses to combine the knowledge of nursing and healthcare with their ability to write high-quality articles.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Good writing skills
  • Good research skills
  • Background in science and healthcare
  • Good communication skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Excellent time management skills

Healthcare and medical writers are usually required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in a science-based major. They’re expected to see a six percent employment growth during the 2021-2031 decade. Healthcare and medical writers earn an average of $89,039 per year according to Glassdoor.

Career #11: Pharmaceutical Salesperson

A pharmaceutical sales representative works for a drug distributor or manufacturer. They sell the medications to healthcare and medical agencies and also inform and educate their clients about new medicines as well as provide them information on drug reactions and side effects.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep?

A pharmaceutical sales rep must have extensive knowledge of medications, healthcare conditions, and how medications work to help patients. Nurses have this knowledge from working with patients and providing medications.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Background in healthcare and science
  • Great communication skills
  • Understanding of medical conditions and how medication can help
  • Great understanding of different medications
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Experience working with physicians and other medical personnel

A bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum education requirement to become a pharmaceutical sales rep. Pharmaceutical sales reps are very much in demand and are expected to see a four percent increase in jobs by 2031. Their average annual wage in 2021 was $61,600 according to the BLS.

Career #12: Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Medical records and health information technicians are in charge of entering, recording and saving data in a medical setting. This includes test results, medical histories, and insurance information.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be a Medical Records and Health Information Technician?

As a nurse, you’re very family with a patient’s family history, their health conditions, and any other pertinent information about the patient. Your work as a nurse has probably made you familiar with medical data and coding.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Knowledge of data entry
  • Familiarity of certain medical procedures
  • Good communication skills
  • Good keyboarding skills
  • Ability to work well with others

This position is possible with an associate degree. These professionals earned an average yearly wage of $46.660. They are predicted to see a job growth of seven percent by 2031.

Career #13: Nutritionist

Nutritionists spend a great part of their day advising people on healthy eating. They work with individuals as well as groups. They typically work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, or government agencies.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be a Nutritionist?

A nurse is a perfect candidate for this job because they understand a lot about good eating habits and nutrition from all their interactions with patients, many of which lack good eating habits.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Good communication skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Patience
  • Ability to listen to patient needs
  • Knowledge of nutrition and what is best for everyone

Nutritionists are usually required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, dietetics, or food science. As of May 2021, nutritionists earned about $61,650 yearly on average. They can expect a seven percent increase in employment growth.

Career #14: Case Manager

Case managers work with patients and the patient’s families in helping them understand what’s going on and provide them with essential resources to help. Case managers also act as liaisons between the patient and the healthcare providers.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be a Case Manager?

Nurses are very prepared to work as case managers because they have experience helping patients and dealing with both family members and healthcare providers. They also help make the admission and discharge process as easy as possible.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Patient Advocacy
  • Great communication skills
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Empathy, patience, and compassion
  • Knowledge of how healthcare works

Case managers are expected to see a 12 percent job growth by 2031 with annual average wages at about $77,600. This position can be obtained with a bachelor’s or even an associate’s degree.

Career #15: Health Information Technician

With almost everything going digital, health informatics is a growing field that deals with the collecting, storing, and retrieval of medical information and data. Health information technicians use this data to learn more about medical care, solve problems, and decide the best way to improve human health.

How Does Being a Nurse Prepare You to Be a Health Information Technician?

Becoming a health information technician is an ideal choice for a nurse because nurses use health informatics daily, especially with electronic medical records. The use of this information helps to improve patient care through technology.

Nursing Skills You Will Need in this Career

  • Knowledge of patient care
  • Knowledge of in-hospital clinical workflow
  • Use of electronic medical records
  • Utilization of evidence-based healthcare policies
  • Knowledge of health monitoring systems

An associate degree is a minimum degree for this degree. These professions earned an average wage of $55,560 per year as of May 2021. They can also expect a job growth of 17 percent between 2021 and 2031.