10 Career Change Options for Nurses
| Timon Kaple
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 an exciting 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 relevant 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. In this section, we provide brief overviews of the essential details of each potential new career track, including education requirements, applicable skills, and salary information. We consider jobs located in several industries, such as health and nutrition, social work, public health, education, research, and counseling.
These professionals typically need a postsecondary certification or an associate degree to find entry-level jobs in the field. Professionals who apply for these jobs may need to acquire a certification for consideration, such as the Registered Health Information Technician or Certified Tumor Registrar.
Those with nursing training in these roles put to use their knowledge of medical terminology, health data requirements, and hospital and clinic coding and classification systems. These professionals also need strong communication and interpersonal skills commonly found among nurses who work directly with patients in a hospital or clinical setting. Alternative job titles for this role include medical information clerks.
Professional pharmaceutical sales representatives communicate directly with doctors and other healthcare specialists who prescribe medications to introduce new pharmaceutical products to the market. Sales representatives with nursing experience understand the necessary medical terminology and communication standards for hospital and clinical settings.
These professionals typically possess a working knowledge of pharmacology, common side effects, and relevant histories of the pharmaceutical products they sell. Educational requirements for these roles vary based on the products and employers. Many roles in this area require applicants to hold at least a bachelor's degree.
Nutrition is also a popular field for nurses who change careers. These professionals often work directly with clients, similar to many nurses with their patients. They provide health assessments, nutritional counseling, and personalized meal plans. Nurses are often familiar with the work environment for nutritionists, as about 30% of these professionals work in hospital settings.
Nutritionists often need at least a bachelor's degree and some supervised training or an internship to qualify for entry-level positions. Most states also require nutritionists and dieticians to hold licensure. In these cases, it is a violation of state law to practice dietetics without the proper licensure.
Also known as community health workers, health educator positions often suit the needs of trained medical professionals looking for non-bedside nursing jobs. Health educators usually teach individuals and communities how to live healthy lifestyles. Professionals in these roles typically possess at least an associate or bachelor's degree for entry-level positions.
Some employers may require job applicants to possess the certified health education specialist credential, depending on the role. The majority of these professionals work in positions associated with the government, individual and family services, or hospitals.
Some popular alternatives to nursing jobs include administrative services roles. Managers in these positions are organized leaders who can delegate responsibilities, understand workflow and business operations, and supervise personnel. Professionals with training in nursing often find work as administrative services managers in healthcare and social assistance facilities or educational services.
Administrative service managers' responsibilities vary and relate to their areas of expertise and industry. Entry-level careers in this field typically require a bachelor's degree and related work experience.
Alternative careers for nurses also include roles as medical and health service managers. Sometimes referred to as healthcare executives or healthcare administrators, nurses use their knowledge of healthcare services, health laws and regulations, patient fees and billing, and medical budgeting to carry out these supervisory roles.
Approximately 33% of these professionals work in hospitals and clinics. Most medical and health service managers need at least a bachelor's degree, although degree and experience requirements may vary among facilities.
Clinical social work often serves as an excellent alternative career for nurses. Social workers interact with patients and clients directly. These professionals usually diagnose and treat mental illnesses, emotional problems, and behavioral issues. In this capacity, nurses can put their medical knowledge to use in clinical social work settings. Clinical social workers need a master's degree, two years of experience in a supervised setting, and state licensure to practice.
Nurses often enjoy working as speech-language pathologists because of the close interaction with clients. They diagnose and treat children and adults suffering from various speech production issues, such as those caused by brain injuries, stroke, hearing loss, and autism. Professionals in this field typically need a master's degree for entry-level careers. Applicants for the appropriate master's programs may come from outside fields, such as nursing. Most states also require licensure to practice, although requirements vary among locations.
One of the most common career changes for nurses is a move into physical therapy. These professionals develop ways to help ill or injured people improve physical mobility and manage their pain levels. Nurses do well in this profession, especially since physical therapists often work in clinics, hospitals, and private offices. Physical therapists usually need a doctor of physical therapy degree to practice in addition to the appropriate licensure. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a bright outlook for careers in this area, with an expected 22% growth from 2018-28.
Alternative nursing jobs away from the bedside also include medical scientists. These professionals often possess a medical degree or a Ph.D. in biology or related hard science field. Nurses in this alternative career track engage in a variety of investigative and research-focused practices, including the study of diseases, drug potency and manufacturing, and new medical devices. Medical scientists typically work in research and development facilities, college and universities, or hospitals and clinics.
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