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12 Most Common Career Changes for Nurses Seeking a Change
Career Advice

12 Most Common Career Changes for Nurses Seeking a Change

10 minute read | March 21, 2023
Monica J. White

Written by:
Monica J. White

Ready to launch your career?

If you’re working in nursing and looking for a career change, then know that you aren’t alone. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, fatigue and burnout were widespread among nurses, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this. 

So if you’re working as a nurse and aren’t yet to retirement age, but want to make a career transition, then you may be wondering: how can I transition careers?

Not to worry—you’re in the right place. Below, we’ll tell you all about the 12 most common career changes for nurses, in addition to what’s required to make that change, so that you can pick the career change that’s right for you.  

Is It Easy To Make a Career Change as a Nurse?

It’s very easy for nurses to transition into certain roles. This is because nursing experience can be valuable in various medical and social care positions—either in terms of practical knowledge about the role or broader medical knowledge.

12 Common Career Changes for Nurses

Here are the 12 most common alternative careers for nurses, how much they make, and the qualifications they require. 

Medical Sales Representative

This job involves contacting clinics, hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare facilities to inform them about medicines and pharmaceutical products your company sells and the benefits they have.

How Much You Can Make

most common career change for nurses, Medical Sales Representative salary

Depending on experience, medical sales representatives typically earn between $85,000-$155,000 per year in the United States. The most experienced reps at the biggest pharmaceutical companies can earn upwards of $200,000.

Educational Qualifications, Skills, and Other Prerequisites

  • Outstanding communication skills
  • Enough medical knowledge to accurately explain the medication and answer questions
  • Customer service and sales skills
  • Ability to work under pressure and meet KPIs

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists help patients recovering from injuries or suffering from conditions that cause pain or difficulty in movement. They use a variety of techniques like hands-on therapy, special exercises, and ultrasound to help improve their condition and track their progress.

How Much You Can Make

most common career change for nurses, Physical Therapist salary

The typical salary range for a physical therapist in the United States is $68,000-$101,000.

Educational Qualifications, Skills, and Other Prerequisites

  • Complete an accredited DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) program
  • Pass the NPTE (Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy) exam
  • Complete a residency (optional)
  • Good bedside manner

Travel Nurse

As the name suggests, travel nurses take up positions at different hospitals depending on where they’re needed. They travel around the country to help hospitals suffering from staff shortages. 

How Much You Can Make

most common career change for nurses, Travel Nurse salary

Because of the travel requirements, travel nurses can earn a high salary, with the typical range being between $84,000-$128,000.

Educational Qualifications, Skills, and Other Prerequisites

  • Bachelor’s or Associate’s nursing degree
  • Nursing license
  • Willingness to travel  


It’s also quite common for former nurses to go into entrepreneurship, often with a business idea related to the medical or social care fields. Entrepreneurs take business ideas and follow the necessary steps to actualize them. 

How Much You Can Make

most common career change for nurses, Entrepreneur salary

An entrepreneur’s salary can rocket if they start a company that takes off or gets bought for a high price. However, the average salary for successful (but not the most successful) entrepreneurs is also quite high, ranging from $83,000-$153,000.

Educational Qualifications, Skills, and Other Prerequisites

  • Organizational skills
  • High levels of motivation and passion
  • Business acumen and in-depth knowledge of the target industry
  • Good networking skills 

Social Worker

Social workers help those who are most vulnerable find resources. They use their knowledge of social welfare programs and various laws to help and offer advice that can improve a person’s situation. 

How Much You Can Make

most common career change for nurses, Social Worker salary

Typical salaries for social workers in the United States range from $47,000 to around $70,000.

Educational Qualifications, Skills, and Other Prerequisites

  • Complete a relevant social working program 
  • Ability to work under pressure with vulnerable individuals
  • Able to deal with delicate situations such as substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental health

Hospital Administrator

Hospital administrators ensure that hospitals are running efficiently, while also dealing with quality assurance and public relations. There are also other health services manager roles similar to this but with different titles. 

How Much You Can Make

most common career change for nurses, Hospital Administrator salary

In the United States, hospital administrators make between $63,000-$112,000 on average. 

Educational Qualifications, Skills, and Other Prerequisites

  • Complete a degree or program in healthcare administration, or have prior experience working in hospitals
  • Outstanding organizational and interpersonal skills
  • Motivation and passion for improving hospital practices and services
  • Business acumen

Nursing Professor

If you no longer want to work as an active nurse, you can always transition into teaching. A nurse educator works in nursing schools and university hospitals to teach and oversee student nurses as they undergo their education.

How Much You Can Make

most common career change for nurses, Nursing Professor salary

Nursing professors are currently in high demand, which is causing their salaries to rise. In the United States, nursing professors can expect to earn between $106,000-$174,000.

Educational Qualifications, Skills, and Other Prerequisites

  • Be a registered nurse with multiple years of practical experience
  • Gain a master’s degree in nursing (or a doctorate if you want to teach at a university)
  • Teaching skills
  • Knowledge of the nursing curriculum and ability to make lesson plans

Health and Wellness Coach

Health and wellness coaches (or health education specialists) often run their own practices. Their aim is to inform, motivate, and guide patients to develop healthier lifestyles. This can include advice on diet, exercise, hobbies, social life, substances, and more.

How Much You Can Make

most common career change for nurses, Health and Wellness Coach salary

Wellness coaches in the United States typically earn between $41,000-$66,000 per year.

Educational Qualifications, Skills, and Other Prerequisites

  • Knowledge in nutrition and fitness
  • Bedside manner and coaching skills
  • Medical or nursing skills that can help you discern whether a patient also needs to visit a medical professional
  • Good organizational skills and knowledge of the healthcare industry

Medical Laboratory Technician

When you get a blood, fluid, or tissue sample taken at the hospital, the person who actually checks and tests it is the medical laboratory technician. 

How Much You Can Make

most common career change for nurses, Medical Laboratory Technician salary

The common salary range for lab technicians in the United States is $43,000-$65,000.

Educational Qualifications, Skills, and Other Prerequisites

  • Certification in clinical laboratory science (required in some states)
  • Knowledge of microbiology and hematology
  • Patience and diligence when viewing each sample

Medical Writer

Another career option is becoming a medical writer. Medical writers produce content on medical topics for educational, promotional, or informative purposes. This includes everything from the brochures you find in a doctor’s office to the articles you read online. 

How Much You Can Make

most common career change for nurses, Medical Writer salary

Medical writers can work both as full-time employees or freelancers, and the typical salary range in the United States is $67,000-$120,000.

Educational Qualifications, Skills, and Other Prerequisites

  • Writing skills with emphasis on clarity and accuracy and medical terminology
  • Clinical experience, working knowledge of medicine and the industry (your experience in the nursing profession will help here)
  • Passion for helping people arm themselves with the correct information

Healthcare Technology Consultant

From digital medical imaging to digital medical records, technology plays a huge role in increasing efficiency and improving patient experience in hospitals and clinics. Healthcare technology consultants help small to medium practices expand their use of technology to improve their work practices.

How Much You Can Make

most common career change for nurses, Healthcare Technology Consultant salary

These consultants can make salaries in the range of $84,000-$147,000.

Educational Qualifications, Skills, and Other Prerequisites

  • Nursing degree or other medical degrees
  • Extensive experience working in the healthcare industry or a hospital setting
  • Some type of healthcare certification
  • Computer literacy and ability to understand and explain the tech

Childcare Specialist

Just as the name suggests, this role involves caring for children. Either as private contractors or by working at a childcare facility, these professionals are educated and trained on the best ways to communicate and care for young children to help them develop.

How Much You Can Make

most common career change for nurses, Childcare Specialist salary

While your nursing career can make you valuable in this role, childcare doesn’t require an advanced education, and the pay reflects this. Average salaries range from $33,000-$47,000.

Educational Qualifications, Skills, and Other Prerequisites

  • High school diploma 
  • Pass a background check 
  • Possibly a qualification or course in childcare or early education
  • CPR and First Aid certifications (optional)
  • Patience, interpersonal skills, and calmness under pressure

Tips To Make a Career Change From Nursing

Tips To Make a Career Change From Nursing

Now that you’ve seen some of the most common career options for nurses, let’s look at how to actually pull off a career transition.

  1. Remember: You Aren’t Alone

  2. Make a Plan and Give Yourself a Timeline

  3. Create a List of Your Transferable Skills

  4. Invest in Education and Training

  5. Consider an Internship Before Making the Switch

  6. Build Your Network

  7. Find a Mentor

  8. Save Up and Prepare an Emergency Fund

Remember: You Aren’t Alone

Most nurses transition out of the role eventually, as it’s a physically demanding job that’s hard to keep up as you approach retirement age. So if you’re a working nurse, then it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll know someone who has also transitioned out of nursing.

You can also find others in a similar position online through nursing communities and unions. Talking with others that have gone through the process can help you figure out what you want to do and how to do it as smoothly as possible.

Make a Plan and Give Yourself a Timeline

Transitioning careers while working full-time can be difficult because it’s easy to let your current work take over your future plans. You may feel like the transition isn’t a priority and that your responsibilities at work come first, which can lead to significant delays. 

To avoid this, make a plan and give yourself a timeline that you can reasonably stick to. A timeline can help keep you on track and stop you from losing sight of your goal. 

Create a List of Your Transferable Skills

When you’re deciding what kind of career you want to transition into, it can be a good idea to make a list of all the transferable skills you’ve gained from nursing, along with those you’ve developed outside of work. 

This can help you pinpoint jobs that might be a good fit or help you see what skills you’re lacking to enter a certain field that you’re interested in. 

Invest in Education and Training

As a nurse, you’ve already spent a lot of time in schooling and training, and depending on your preferences, it might be difficult to commit to going back into education. However, qualifications and certifications are immeasurably useful for career-changing and job hunting, so it’s definitely worth considering.

Consider an Internship Before Making the Switch

Internships are the perfect way to test out a new career before committing to a career change. You can switch to shift work during this time to make room for another work commitment and see if the job is really for you.

Build Your Network

Use your nursing background to develop your network of other healthcare professionals that can help you find job openings. Healthcare workers are known for creating communities and helping each other out, so if your colleagues are members of such a group, then consider joining, too.

Find a Mentor

Mentors can help you navigate the new landscape you’re trying to enter and act almost like a career coach during your transition. They can give you advice on a wide range of topics and provide you with useful information about the industry. They can even introduce you to potential employers. 

Save Up and Prepare an Emergency Fund

When changing careers, it’s best to plan ahead and try to limit the number of stress factors. One way to do this is to save money and prepare an emergency fund—hopefully you won’t need it but knowing it’s there will help you focus on other things. 

If your first attempt doesn’t go to plan and you do need the fund, you can use it to help with additional education or make it through another round of interviews without falling back onto taking nursing shifts.

Making a Career Change From Nursing: Real-Life Stories and Examples

To overcome the stress of a career change, it can be helpful to read about those who have succeeded in making it happen. Let’s take a look at some folks who have already made the leap:

From Nurse to Software Engineer

most common career change for nurses, From Nurse to Software Engineer

Although we have covered the most common roles to transition into, it’s important to remember that you can completely retrain and aim for a non-nursing job that’s not even related to healthcare. 

That’s what this former nurse from Seattle did, by saving up a fund, quitting his job, and committing to a software engineering bootcamp. It wasn’t easy, but within a year, he succeeded in getting his dream job at a Fortune 500 company.

From Nurse to SNA (Special Needs Assisting)

most common career change for nurses, From Nurse to SNA

This registered nurse retrained as a special needs assistant—a care specialist that works alongside teachers in school to help give special-needs children extra support and assistance. Her nursing background allowed her to skip the lower-level certification and start with the higher level. 

FAQs About Changing Careers as a Nurse

If you’re worried about searching for a new job, check out these common questions about nurse career transitions.

Am I Too Old To Change Careers From Nursing?

As long as you’re willing to keep working, then it’s never too late to switch careers. If you’re unhappy at work or have a new passion calling you, then changing careers will be beneficial, no matter how old you are.

Does a Career Change Look Bad on My Resume?

If you plan well and use your time wisely, a career change won’t look bad on your resume. Even a period of unemployment is fine if it’s filled by education and training. Retraining and meeting the requirements for a new career can also make you look motivated and resourceful.

What Is the Closest Job to a Nurse?

The closest jobs for nurses are either to go into a specialization like travel nursing and CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist) or to go into administration or education. Both options rely on your experience as a nurse but the latter no longer requires you to tend to patients directly.

What Are Some Non-Healthcare-Related Roles That Nurses Can Explore?

Non-healthcare roles that can still use your nursing skills include childcare and social work. They require a mindset and interpersonal skill set similar to nursing but they’re not directly linked to healthcare. You can also explore rewarding careers with no relation at all to nursing, such as tech careers, writing careers, and anything else you’re passionate about.

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About Monica J. White

Monica is a journalist with a lifelong interest in technology, from PC hardware to software and programming. She first started writing over ten years ago and has made a career out of it. Now, her focus is centered around technology and explaining complex concepts to a broader audience.