Alternative Jobs For Nurses

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 18, 2020

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Many would-be nurses complete their certification and training programs, only to realize the career path isn’t for them.

Other nurses spend some time in the workforce, eventually burning out from the 12-hour shifts and constant patient-care required by the job.

Fortunately, the essential skills that nurses acquire, such as critical thinking and clinical experience, apply to many other non-bedside healthcare professions.

In this article, we’ll explore some alternative career paths that nurses often find success in. You’ll also learn exactly what you’ll need to do to make the switch.

How to Switch Careers as a Nurse

The main way to change your nursing career towards a job that still utilizes your nursing background is to obtain a Bachelor’s of Science of Nursing (BSN).

A BSN is a four-year program that vastly widens the scope of health-care-related jobs available to you.

You’ll be able to work in non-bedside settings such as:

  • Law and insurance firms

  • Private and public education institutions

  • State institutions

  • Pharmaceutical companies

  • Research laboratories

Obtaining a BSN is also time-efficient, as it builds on the two-year associate degree in nursing that you already earned to become a registered nurse.

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Certain alternative nursing careers may require further education requirements, such as a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a doctorate degree.

Top Alternative Nursing Jobs

After earning a BSN or MSN, many nurses can successfully transition into non-clinical nursing careers such as:

  1. Procurement nurse. Procurement nurses are responsible for procuring human organs for transplant.

    You’ll use your medical and communication skills to evaluate the health conditions of donors, as well as organize the transportation of organs between locations.

    Procurement nurses are typically employed by nonprofit organ transplant organizations.

    Average national salary: $62,500

  2. Flight nurse. Flight nurses, also called transport nurses, provide medical care to patients as they are transported in helicopters or other aircraft.

    While the patient is en route to a hospital, you’ll be in charge of delivering emergency critical care and making sure they’re comfortable.

    Your other duties may involve performing daily checks of medical bags and equipment on-board an aircraft, and providing training to other medical staff.

    Average national salary: $81,093

  3. Dental nurse. Dental nurses, also called dental hygienists, differ from RNs in that they require a completely different degree and certification program.

    However, this is still a great career path for those who enjoy assisting patients but dislike working in stressful clinical settings such as hospitals.

    Your daily tasks will include taking x-rays, cleaning teeth, providing preventative care education, and giving patients whatever dental assistance they need.

    Average national salary: $74,820

  4. Home health aide. Home health aides live with patients suffering from chronic medical issues, providing living assistance and medical help.

    Your daily duties will include any day-to-day tasks of life the patient is unable to perform, such as cooking food, cleaning the home, and doing laundry.

    You’ll also assist them by administering medicine, keeping them comfortable, and offering them advice towards maintaining their mental and physical health.

    This is the fastest-growing job in Hawaii.

    Average national salary: $36,120

  5. Disney nurse. Disney nurses provide medical care to patients at Disney theme parks in Florida and California.

    In addition to utilizing the same patient-care skills you’d use at a hospital or clinic, you’ll need to maintain physical fitness.

    Many Disney nurses find themselves climbing up long flights of stairs or ladders to treat patients. You’ll also need to have experience in first-responder positions.

    Average national salary: $61,624

  6. Correctional care nurse. Correctional care nurses provide patient-care to incarcerated adults.

    You’ll be responsible for conducting initial medical exams for individuals during their intake process, as well as for providing medical attention to address illnesses and injuries that occur during incarceration.

    America’s prison population and its percentage of individuals with preexisting health issues are steadily increasing, resulting in a growing demand for all correctional facility jobs such as this one.

  7. Parish/Faith community nurse. Faith community nurses combine their medical knowledge with the beliefs of the religious community they work for.

    You’ll serve in a breadth of roles depending on the community, such as:

    • Creating holistic health plans that combine physical and spiritual aspects.

    • Recruiting, training, and organizing volunteers to provide assistance.

    • Developing support groups to assist members with specific issues.

    Average national salary: $60,000

Top Non-Nursing Jobs for Former Nurses

Some top non-nursing roles that apply the skills of former-nurses include:

  1. Nutritionist. Nutritionist nurses create wellness programs for a variety of institutions, such as schools and athletic organizations.

    You can also choose to work in primary care, assessing patient diets and providing advice according to their medical issues.

    Average national salary: $64,044

  2. Medical technologist. Medical technologists use a wide range of laboratory techniques and equipment to provide data to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases.

    Your daily duties will involve analyzing bodily fluids such as urine, spinal fluid, and blood to determine the presence of typical and atypical components.

    Average national salary: $69,888

  3. Sales representative. Nurses develop excellent communication and interpersonal skills as a result of working closely with patients.

    These skills allow many nurses to maintain positive business relationships with clients and lead successful careers as sales professionals.

    Average national salary: $48,095

  4. Lactation consultant. Lactation consultants help new and upcoming mothers in their efforts to breastfeed.

    You’ll provide prenatal education and advice for moms and expecting couples to prepare.

    Lactation consultants can work freelance or for private health consultant companies.

    Average national salary: $84,383

  5. Medical script nurse. In order to look and feel authentic, television and movie studios consult medical script nurses to make sure their usage of medical vocabulary, procedures, and equipment are accurate.

    This is more of a temporary part-time job, as the salary is generally low paying.

    Average national salary: $15 per hour

  6. Patient advocate. Patient advocates help patients navigate the complex maze that is the U.S. healthcare systems.

    You’ll assist patients by:

    • Identifying potential care problems

    • Referring them to appropriate healthcare services

    • Directing inquiries and complaints

    • Educating them on policies

    • Providing advice for choosing doctors

    • Discussing treatment options

    National average salary: $63,110

  7. Public/Community health nurse. Public health nurses are in charge of educating communities and implementing health programs to promote wellbeing.

    You can choose to work in various settings, such as schools, non-profit organizations, and government agencies.

    This profession is experiencing above-average job growth, as many nonprofits are now thankfully targeting previously underserved communities such as those mostly of people of color.

    Average national salary: $58,227

  8. Medical journalist. Medical journalists write for medical publications to keep audiences up to date on the latest medical research and news.

    Some work as freelancers, while others are employed by medical journals or universities.

    Average national salary: $91,000

  9. Nurse Lobbyist. Nurse lobbyists work directly with lawmakers to create healthcare laws and improve existing ones.

    On a day-to-day basis, you’ll be analyzing data, reviewing legislation, and recommending suggestions to legal professionals.

    Average national salary: $70,000

  10. Vice-president. Former nurses are surprisingly common among executive positions at large private companies and start-ups.

    This is perhaps due to the mix of interpersonal and critical thinking skills you develop during your healthcare career. After all, nurses are constantly analyzing data and making decisions in addition to maintaining friendly relationships with patients.

    Average national salary: $105,000

  11. Grant writer. Nurses are regularly employed as medical field grant writers due to their clinical experience.

    Researchers make funding requests to continue their operations. It’s up to grant writers to review these requests, identify potential funding sources, and write applications to secure that funding.

    You’ll work in settings such as universities, non-profit organizations, and research centers.

    Average national salary: $71,741

  12. Healthcare compliance specialist. Healthcare compliance specialists ensure that medical organizations follow the regulations that protect patients’ safety and privacy.

    They’re employed by pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and other medical institutions. If the organization falls short of meeting regulations, it’ll be your job to provide recommendations to fix the problem and confirm that resolutions are made.

    You’ll be required to continually stay up to date with HIPAA licenses, regulations, and other legalities.

    Average national salary: $80,000

  13. Pharmaceutical sales representative. This role is perfect for former nurses who possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

    Pharmaceutical firms hire pharmaceutical sales representatives to connect medication-prescribing professionals such as physicians with their newly developed drugs and treatments.

    Average national salary: $73,000

  14. Fitness coach. Nurses possess knowledge about health and nutrition that makes them excellent fitness coaches.

    You can choose to work as a freelance fitness coach for individuals or as a full-time expert for businesses.

    Large companies employ fitness coaches to lead classes and seminars for their vast employee base.

    Average national salary: $49,000

  15. Nurse ethicist. Due to a growing public consciousness around ethical issues in the medical field, more and more institutions are hiring nurse ethicists to address the subject.

    As a nurse ethicist, you’ll tackle ethical challenges such as informed consent, quality of life, and having difficult conversations with patients and their families.

    Average national salary: $90,691 to $113,913

  16. Legal nurse consultant. Law firms often employ legal nurse consultants for their medical education and clinical experience.

    You’ll assist attorneys during the litigation process by making recommendations for selecting medical expert witnesses and conducting research related to cases.

    You’ll also evaluate medical and health care insurance claims.

    Average national salary: $55,092 to $211,399

  17. Disease prevention nurse specialist. Disease prevention nurse specialists, also called infection control experts, analyze data and make decisions to contain the spread of diseases.

    Demand for these professionals has skyrocketed due to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Even after the pandemic ends, this career path will experience above-average growth due to increased public concern around such issues.

    Average national salary: $84,794

  18. Informatics nurse. An informatics nurse uses their medical knowledge and experience to help technical experts optimize tools used by various end-users, such as doctors, administrative staff, and other nurses.

    Your primary responsibilities will include training, user support, and systems preparation.

    Average national salary: $65,870

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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