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10 Career Change Options for Nurses

Updated October 18, 2022 · 4 Min Read

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10 Career Change Options for Nurses
Credit: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc | DigitalVision | Getty Images

Are you a trained nurse interested in a new career path? Nurses can use their existing medical knowledge, communication and interpersonal skills, and experience working with patients in a new career.

Below, we offer 10 of the most common career changes for nurses, based on widely applicable skills that nurses develop in their training and on-the-job experience.

The options presented may require nursing professionals to obtain more education, participate in supervised clinical experiences, or gain additional or work experience in a new area before they apply for entry-level roles.

What Can You Do With a Nursing Degree Besides Nursing?

Professionals with training and experience in nursing can find fulfilling work in a variety of related career paths.

Explore these overviews of the essential details of each potential new career track, including education requirements, applicable skills, and salary information. We consider jobs based in several industries.

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Medical records and health information technicians are mainly responsible for data entry and record keeping for a medical facility. They often input patients' medical histories, test results, and insurance information.

Most medical records technicians find employment in state, local, and private hospitals. Others work in physician offices; professional, scientific, and technical services; administrative support services; and nursing and residential care facilities.

Employers often seek technicians who have earned the registered health information technician certification, which is offered by the American Health Information Management Association.

  • Median Salary (2021): $46,660
  • Education Required: Postsecondary nondegree award, associate degree, or bachelor's degree, depending on the position
  • Job Outlook (2021-2031): +7%

Pharmaceutical Sales

Pharmaceutical sales representatives are often employed by pharmaceutical manufacturers or distributors. Representatives meet with physicians, surgeons, clinicians, etc., and provide them with information regarding their company's products. Because of their understanding of pharmacology and the science of medications, nurses often excel in this role.

This role may require considerable travel, depending on sales territory. While in the field, representatives may conduct research for their employers by gauging physician and patient responses to the product.

Voluntary certification as a certified national pharmaceutical representative from the National Association of Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives can provide an increased earning potential while opening up more employment opportunities.

  • Median Salary (2021): $62,890
  • Education Required: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2021-2031): +4%


Nutritionists educate people on leading a healthy lifestyle through nutritious eating habits. They help their clients develop nutrition plans, evaluate the effectiveness of the plan and make any necessary changes, and create and distribute educational material.

Work settings include hospitals, outpatient care centers, nursing and residential care facilities, and community centers. Nutritionists may focus on a specialization, such as sports, pediatrics, gerontological, and renal, which can impact why they are employed.

The path to becoming a nutritionist varies depending on the state. Some states permit nutritional counseling without certification or licensure. However, several states require certification from a nationally recognized licensing body, such as the Commission on Dietetic Registration, the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists, and the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board.

  • Median Salary (2021): $61,650
  • Education Required: Bachelor's degree or higher
  • Job Outlook (2021-2031): +7%

Health Educator

Health educators develop programs, strategies, and educational material needed to improve both personal and community-based health. Through their work, health educators help people find the appropriate health services, advocate for resources and policies that promote health, and provide training programs for other medical professionals.

The majority of health education specialists work for government agencies at the state and national levels. Others find employment in hospitals, outpatient care centers, individual and family services, and religious organizations.

Earning a certification as a certified health education specialist, which the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. offers, can increase employment opportunities with higher earning potential.

  • Median Salary (2021): $48,860
  • Education Required: Bachelor's degree or higher
  • Job Outlook (2021-2031): +12%

Administrative Services Manager

Administrative services managers manage a facility's medical and health services. Managers often supervise clerical and administrative staff, determine policies that can help the office run smoothly, make sure the workplace remains safe and secure, and ensure the facility follows all health, environmental, and security regulations.

While not all positions are in the health field, employers of administrative service managers work in facilities that offer educational services; professional, scientific, and technical services; local government; and health care and social assistance.

You can get certified through the International Facility Management Association, Institute of Certified Records Manager, or the Association of Records Managers and Administrators.

  • Median Salary (2021): $99,290
  • Education Required: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2021-2031): +7%

Medical and Health Service Managers

Medical and health service managers ensure medical facilities run efficiently and effectively. To do so, managers ensure facilities are compliant with all laws and regulations; hire, train, and supervise staff members; organize all of the recordkeeping; and monitor facility finances.

Medical and health services managers mainly work in hospitals, physician offices, nursing and residential care facilities, government agencies, and outpatient care centers.

All states require nursing home administrators to earn a license from the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards. Other certification options are offered by the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management, the American Health Information Management Association, and the American College of Health Care Administrators.

  • Median Salary (2021): $101,340
  • Education Required: Bachelor's or master's degree, depending on employer preference
  • Job Outlook (2021-2031): +28%

Clinical Social Worker

Clinical social workers help people cope with mental, behavioral, and/or emotional conditions. Their responsibilities include assessing patient needs, determining treatment plans, helping patients who need community resources, responding to mental health emergencies, and providing therapeutic services.

The largest employers of clinical social workers include individual and family services, local and state government, and ambulatory services. While most clinical social workers spend their time in an office setting, they may need to visit patients or specialists elsewhere, such as schools or community centers.

All states require their clinical social workers to be licensed, whereas only some required nonclinical social workers to have a license. Licensure is offered by the Association of Social Work Boards.

  • Median Salary (2021): $50,390
  • Education Required: Master's degree
  • Job Outlook (2021-2031): +9%

Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists help people overcome or learn to function with speech, language, voice, and fluency conditions. Their responsibilities include assessing and diagnosing a person's language issues, creating a plan that details treatment methods and goals, educating patients and their families on how to cope with communication disorders.

The majority of speech-language pathologists work within the education field, while others are employed by healthcare offices that provide physical, occupational, and speech therapy, hospitals, and nursing and residential care facilities.

All states require their speech-language pathologists to be licensed.Speech-language pathologists may also need to obtain the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology, which the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association offers.

  • Median Salary (2021): $79,060
  • Education Required: Master's degree
  • Job Outlook (2021-2031): +21%

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists work with patients who are struggling with medical conditions or injuries that limit their ability to physically move. Responsibilities include diagnosing patients, detailing treatment goals, assessing progress, and changing therapies as needed.

Most physical therapists either work in a physical therapy office or at hospitals. Other locations include home health services and nursing and residential care facilities, while a small percentage are self-employed.

Physical therapists must pass the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy licensing exam. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties also provides therapists with the opportunity to become board-certified specialists in a specialization of their choosing.

  • Median Salary (2021): $95,620
  • Education Required: Doctor of physical therapy
  • Job Outlook (2021-2031): +17%

Medical Scientists

Medical scientists carry out research to prevent and/or treat diseases, and aim to improve the overall health of humans. Their responsibilities include forming hypotheses, designing studies, developing experiences, and conducting clinical trials to learn more about health and medicine.

Because of the vast array of topics available, most medical scientists specialize in a certain area of research, like oncology or neurology.

Medical scientists often work for research facilities that focus on physical, engineering, or life sciences. A large number work within colleges and universities, where they both teach and conduct research. Pharmaceutical companies and some physician offices also employ medical scientists.

  • Median Salary (2021): $95,310
  • Education Required: Ph.D. or medical degree
  • Job Outlook (2021-2031): +17%

Frequently Asked Questions

What job can a nurse change to?

Nurses have a variety of options when looking to change their career, with opportunities in administrative, clinical, and educational work. While nurses may need additional licensing or certification for certain positions, they have other options where they are qualified solely by their nursing background and experience.

What jobs do nurses do when they leave the profession?

After leaving the nursing profession, nurses often still find work in the medical field. Many of the skills learned through schooling and their experiences are transferable to other healthcare professions, such as in the field of administrative services, education, and pharmaceutical sales.

How can I successfully leave nursing?

Before leaving nursing, it is best to have alternative work lined up. Whether the position is just a stepping stone to another profession or a long-term career change, knowing that you still have the opportunity to continue to gain experience while still receiving a paycheck is key.

What are some alternative careers to nursing?

There are a variety of alternative careers available to nurses, but the decision on what to pursue is up to the individual. Nurses may leave one career and immediately step into another one that allows them to continue using their nursing skills (e.g., educator, health manager, etc.). Other options may require additional schooling and training (e.g., clinical social work, medical scientist, etc.). Regardless, most nurses have the skill set and experience to successfully find an alternative career.


  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. 2021. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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