Top 10 Careers in Nursing: With Skills and Qualifications

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Careers in nursing involve devoting yourself to the care of others. Nurses perform consistent patient care by checking their vitals, assisting with physical examinations and collaborating with doctors and consultants. The role requires a high level of skill, alongside specific qualifications and certifications. In this article, we define what a career in nursing is, list the necessary skills and qualifications and explore various nursing job titles.

What are careers in nursing?

There are a variety of careers in nursing you may pursue if you're interested in health care. There are two primary categories for nurses, including becoming an enrolled nurse (EN) or a registered nurse (RN). The first career primarily concerns the practical elements of nursing, such as measuring a patient's blood pressure, helping them to bathe and assisting with first aid. Registered nurses adopt a more senior role and demonstrate ward management by monitoring junior nurses, completing administrative tasks and assessing employees.

Both careers focus on providing consistent care to nurture patients back to health. Registered nurses require specific licences to display their competency, whereas an enrolled nurse does not.

Related: Enrolled Nurse vs. Registered Nurse (With Definitions)

Work environments for a career in nursing

Careers in nursing can take place in various settings, depending on their job title. Here are typical work environments for nurses:

  • Public and private hospitals: Nurses can work on specialised wards such as the cardiovascular, dermatology or intensive care units. They also operate in emergency rooms.

  • Educational institutions: Nurses may work in public and private schools, colleges and universities to provide immediate on-site care.

  • Doctor's offices: They may work in smaller medical practices to carry out routine tests and administer vaccinations.

  • Nursing homes: Nurses often provide on-site care and monitor elderly residents.

  • Pharmacies: Nursing professionals might distribute and approve prescribed pharmaceuticals and examine local patients. They may also provide health advice.

  • Ambulances: These professionals can provide immediate health care in emergencies.

10 nursing careers

There are several roles you can take throughout your nursing career. Many nurses choose to specialise in a particular area of health care which may require a strong knowledge of a specific treatment, age group or condition. Here are 10 careers in nursing:

1. Registered nurse (RN)

National average salary: $76,280 per year

Primary duties: A registered nurse spends much of their career providing quality patient care, which may involve monitoring, diagnosing and administering the correct medication to patients. Some registered nurses might also participate in surgical procedures. Registered nurses are licensed professionals with a deep understanding of the medical system. These professionals may also manage wards.

2. Enrolled nurse (EN)

National average salary: $65,326 per year

Primary duties: Enrolled nurses typically provide physical care to patients by directly administering medication and taking temperatures or blood pressure. They also offer emotional support to patients and their immediate families. These professionals generally report to an RN.

3. Nurse midwife

National average salary: $82,224 per year

Primary duties: A midwife is an RN specifically trained to deliver babies. These professionals also offer constant support to pregnant women throughout each trimester, during labour and in after-care. A midwife can decide which medical drugs to provide during birth. They may also participate in caesarian procedures.

4. Clinical nurse

National average salary: $98,283 per year

Primary duties: Clinical nurses are highly skilled professionals that specialise in various areas of health care. These can include paediatrics, emergency care, oncology, neuroscience, cardiology and geriatrics. Clinical nurses usually have a master's degree in their area of specialty.

5. Nursing assistant

National average salary: $53,391 per year

Primary duties: Nursing assistants complete practical tasks on a health care facility ward such as changing bedding, bathing patients, updating patient records and monitoring vital signs. They also communicate signs of health or behaviour alterations with more senior nurses. This role can be excellent for anyone looking to gain on the job experience and advance in their nursing career.

Related: How to Become a Nursing Assistant (With Salary)

6. Nurse anaesthetist

National average salary: $177,766 per year

Primary duties: An anaesthetist specialises in administering anaesthesia to patients before they undergo surgery to reduce a patient's discomfort. They are adept at providing concise dosages before and during an operation. These professionals also monitor patients' vital signs such as heart and breathing rate during a surgical procedure.

Related: How To Become an Anaesthetist: The Ultimate Guide

7. Triage nurse

National average salary: $82,462 per year

Primary duties: The duties of a triage nurse primarily take place in the emergency department. These professionals examine incoming patients and collaborate with doctors to make informed decisions about necessary treatments. Triage nurses usually experience a high patient turnover as they work in a fast-paced environment. They may also provide patients with recovery advice.

8. Psychiatric nurse

National average salary: $82,195 per year

Primary duties: Psychiatric nurses specialise in managing patients with complex mental conditions. They are responsible for diagnosing patients with mental health illnesses and allocate appropriate treatment and care plans following that diagnosis. These professionals carefully monitor their patient's to ensure their safety. Psychiatric nurses may also work with the patients' families by giving them advice or updating them on their progress.

9. School nurse

National average salary: $84,285 per year

Primary duties: A school nurse is responsible for the well-being and health education of pupils. Their duties can vary daily but commonly involve, treating injuries or sickness, administering vaccinations and discussing mental health. They may also communicate with parents about their child's wellbeing.

Related: Jobs that Involve Working with Children

10. Neonatal nurse

National average salary: $84,004 per year

Primary duties: Neonatal nurses are registered nurses that specialise in caring for infants and premature newborns. They generally operate in an intensive care unit specifically for infants. They may provide specific treatment, monitor progress and provide support to families. These professionals typically hold a Certificate in Neonatal Care.

What skills do you need for a career in nursing?

Before starting a career in nursing, you might wish to accrue specific key skills that enable you to carry out significant responsibilities. These skills can also help you mentally prepare for the role. Nurses may use the following abilities daily:

Empathy and sensitivity

As a nurse, you can interact with many different patients, some of which may experience severe conditions. You might use this skill to show respect to patients and let them know that you understand their feelings. Empathy and sensitivity can help you establish a positive relationship with your patients. You can demonstrate this by answering their questions, speaking in a formal tone and making sure they understand what you've told them.

Communication

As an intermediary between doctor and patient, it's your responsibility to communicate any concerns over a patient's wellbeing to ensure they receive necessary treatment. You might use this skill to convey information concisely and confidently. You can improve your communication by familiarising yourself with key terms and abbreviations used in the medical industry.

Flexibility

Factors like the time of year and ward capacity can determine your daily nursing tasks. You can use this skill to adapt to changing priorities and multitask. Flexibility can also help you become more resilient under pressure. As nursing can be unpredictable, you may work an irregular schedule that includes working during the night, on weekends and during bank holidays.

Related: Nursing Skills (Definition and Examples)

What qualifications do you need for a nursing career?

Becoming a registered or enrolled nurse often entails academic requirements such as a relevant bachelor's degree or higher. Many nurses aim to study at accredited universities to display a high level of skill. Also, to specialise in a particular area of nursing you may acquire additional certification. Relevant pathways include:

Obtain a bachelor's and master's degree

To begin your journey towards qualifying as a registered nurse, you can study for an undergraduate degree in a relevant field. For example, a Bachelor of Nursing, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a Bachelor of Nursing (Enrolled Nurse) can help you enter this career. These courses typically take three years to complete and can improve your medical knowledge and help you gain practical work experience under a professional mentor.

It might also be necessary to complete a postgraduate course if you wish to specialise in certain complicated procedures, such as pharmacology, certified midwifery and anaesthesia. This qualification provides a legal accreditation of your specialist expertise, alongside introducing relevant theories and leadership strategies as part of the curriculum.

Obtain professional qualifications

To reach a higher pay scale as a registered nurse, you can acquire professional certifications. By earning these, you obtain proof of your competence and a legal right to practice. For example, to become a nurse-midwife, you can earn a Graduate Diploma in Midwifery which takes 12-18 months to complete. After graduation, you can register to practice with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. Similarly, to become a triage nurse, you can earn a Diploma in Emergency Nursing. Through this course, you can understand the criteria behind deciding which patients to prioritise.

Enrolled nurses also require vocational certification to practice. To become an enrolled nurse, you can study for the Diploma in Nursing offered by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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