Enrolled Nurse vs Registered Nurse: Key Differences

Updated 26 July 2023

Registered nurses and enrolled nurses both work in similar environments and undertake similar duties, but there are differences between the skill level, tasks and responsibilities of these primary health professions. Your preference between the two careers can depend on your specific objectives and desired outcomes. Understanding the key duties and qualifications needed for these positions can help you learn what makes both nursing positions unique.

In this article, we discuss the main differences between enrolled nurses and registered nurses and the different qualifications, skills and characteristics you can pursue to succeed in each job.

What is the difference between an enrolled nurse vs a registered nurse?

Although they are in the same industry and share similar roles, there are a few main differences between an enrolled nurse vs. a registered nurse:

Scope of practice

The scope of practice describes the activities, procedures and tasks a medical professional can perform. Enrolled nurses and registered nurses have a different scope of practice, with registered nurses able to undertake more skilled processes, like diagnostic tests and the administering of medication. Registered nurses can also mix drugs and manage blood transfusions.


An enrolled nurse has a diploma-level qualification while a registered nurse has at least a bachelor's degree. This means both roles come into the profession with varying time in formal education, with enrolled nurses spending a minimum of two years learning, while registered nurses are at university for three years.


Due to their level of skill and education, registered nurses have authority over enrolled nurses in clinical settings. They can delegate tasks and issue instructions to enrolled nurses. Additionally, registered nurses can communicate any problems to doctors and specialists.


In the majority of cases, a registered nurse can earn a higher salary than an enrolled nurse. On average, a registered nurse has a salary of $76,873 per year while an enrolled nurse has an average salary of $62,418 per year. Salaries for each role can depend on experience.

Decision-making responsibilities

Thanks to the extra years of study, a registered nurse can make some decisions about a patient's level and type of care. They can implement their assessments into a care or treatment plan. Enrolled nurses have minimal input into making these plans, but instead they have the responsibility to carry out the procedures in the plan.

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What is the role of an enrolled nurse?

An enrolled nurse (also known as an EN) provides care to patients in medical practices, such as hospitals, medical centres and clinics and aged-care homes. Enrolled nurses measure and record patients' vital signs and observe any changes to their behaviours and appearance. They can record all this information for other health care team members and report any urgent changes to their supervising doctor or registered nurse. This nursing level can provide wound care and assist with basic care t asks, such as bathing, toileting and dressing.

An enrolled nurse can also give emotional support to patients and their families and, in some cases, helps them connect with doctors and other specialists to answer questions and take concerns. Enrolled nurses can also undertake extra training to extend their scope of practice. Common duties that require extra qualifications include administering medicines and providing food to patients via stomach feeding tubes, known as PEG feeding tubes. Some enrolled nurses may earn the title of endorsed enrolled nurse if they have completed a certain amount of additional education.

What is the role of a registered nurse?

A registered nurse ( also known as an RN) works in similar environments and institutions as an enrolled nurse. However, because of their higher level of education, registered nurses fulfil tasks that require higher skill levels and usually hold more responsibility and seniority within their employer clinic or hospital. Registered nurses work alongside doctors, specialists and allied health professionals to provide care to patients. They perform a range of diagnostic tests and administer medications, including via intravenous lines. They also observe and record patients' vital signs and behaviour.

As a registered nurse, you may prepare patients for examinations and tests and assist in some operations. Registered nurses help create patient care plans and have the overall responsibility of ensuring a patients' medical records are correct and up to date. There are opportunities for registered nurses to progress into more specialised fields, such as emergencies, critical care, community health and aged care, as well as taking on management roles within an institution.

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What qualifications do you need to be an enrolled nurse?

To become an enrolled nurse, you can complete a Diploma of Nursing through an accredited educational institution, such as TAFE. This qualification usually takes one year of full-time study and involves theoretical and practical study, with work experience placements. To gain entry into a diploma, you can complete a Year 12 study or finish a previous certificate course in a related field.

You can also apply to join the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) to practice as an enrolled nurse. This registration requires yearly renewal.

What qualifications do you need to be a registered nurse?

As it is a more senior role, to become a registered nurse you can complete a bachelor level degree, such as a Bachelor of Nursing or a Bachelor of Science majoring in Nursing. This is typically a three-year, full-time course. To be accepted into one of these programs, you can finish Year 12 with an adequate Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) and some prerequisite subjects.

To be a practising registered nurse, you can register with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and renew this annually.

Related: How to Become a Registered Nurse in Australia from Overseas

Which role is better, an enrolled nurse or a registered nurse?

Job roles don't suit everybody, and it can be virtually impossible to compare two positions that can be different in many ways. Also, you may not value some benefits of one role while another person may see them as an advantage. Due to the natural seniority of a registered nurse, there are some intrinsic benefits to this position over an enrolled nurse including:

  • Salary and conditions: A registered nurse can earn higher pay and may command better hours and a more flexible schedule than an enrolled nurse. This may include the ability to get casual shifts and work in overseas hospitals or clinics.

  • More responsibility: If you enjoy taking control and making decisions, a career as a registered nurse may be for you. There are also more leadership roles on offer to registered nurses and, with more training, you could move into a director of nursing role at your employment institution.

  • More opportunities for career advancement and specialisation: As registered nurses are only one step below doctors, there are generally more avenues to advance your career and enter different clinic specialties. This can include taking on a position as a critical care nurse or nurse practitioner.

  • Better job prospects: With the higher level of education needed, there is usually a lower supply of available registered nurses than enrolled nurses. Therefore, there can be less competition for roles.

However, depending on your career objectives, the positives that come with a registered nurse role may not suit your goals. These benefits also come with downsides, such as:

  • Extra study: The difference between one year and three years of study may not suit you or your lifestyle. Your ability to work may be lower during periods of study and you may value your current income rather than the prospect of gaining a higher salary in the future.

  • Less time with patients. Registered nurses can spend less time working directly with patients than enrolled nurses. If this is something you value and enjoy, an enrolled nurse role may be a better choice for you.

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Can a registered nurse perform the role of an enrolled nurse?

In Australia, all nurses can register with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). According to their rules, you can register with the NMBA as both a registered nurse and an enrolled nurse at the same time. Therefore, if you have both concurrent and valid registrations, you can work as either an enrolled nurse or a registered nurse.

The NMBA doesn't recommend you move between roles regularly as this might create confusion for both yourself and your employer.

How can an enrolled nurse become a registered nurse?

As an enrolled nurse has some of the knowledge and experience of a registered nurse, upgrading skills usually won't require a complete three-year bachelor's degree. If you are currently registered as an enrolled nurse, many universities offer special degrees designed with your existing level of experience in mind. In most cases, it is reduced to a two-year course or less depending on your background.


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