Most Common Career Changes for Nurses

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Written by Kathleen Walder Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Morganne Skinner, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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When you started your nursing career, you probably pictured yourself working in a hospital, doctor’s office, or skilled nursing facility. But according to a national nursing survey, nearly 30% of all employed RNs have jobs outside familiar healthcare environments. Career changes from healthcare include occupations that use your nursing degree and skills you already have. If you’re looking for a career change from nursing, consider these jobs classified as five of the most common career changes for nurses.

5 Alternative Careers to Nursing

  1. Pharmaceutical Sales Representative
  2. Healthcare Recruiter
  3. Social Worker
  4. Legal Nurse Consultant
  5. Health Information Technician

Read about what you would do, how much you would make, and the job outlook for each of the most common career changes for nurses.

1. Pharmaceutical Sales Representative

What you’d do: Pharmaceutical sales reps work for a drug manufacturer or distributor. Their main activity is calling on doctors to educate them about their company’s medications or devices and introduce new medicines to get sales.

You’ve got the skills: Pharmaceutical sales is one of the most common career changes for nurses because it requires someone with your wide range of knowledge about health conditions and how medications work. Your experience communicating with doctors and other healthcare providers will help you get in the door to make sales.

What you need: At least a bachelor’s degree and outstanding customer service skills. You’ll also receive training from the pharmaceutical company.

Salary: The median salary of a pharmaceutical sales rep is $79,433. The top pharma sales reps can make more than $440,000.

Job outlook: The outlook for jobs for sales reps of technical and scientific products like pharmaceuticals is likely to grow 5% in the next 10 years, which is about the same as all occupations. States with the highest employment levels for sales of these products are California, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and New York.

2. Healthcare Recruiter

What you’d do: Healthcare recruiters help hospitals, healthcare facilities, and other companies find qualified candidates for job openings. They also help candidates navigate the hiring process. They might even help others look into the most common career changes for nurses.

You’ve got the skills: You’re experienced working and building rapport with various healthcare professionals. You understand the healthcare field and its specialties.

What you need: Most companies require a bachelor’s degree.

Salary: The median salary for a healthcare recruiter is $40,000.

Job outlook: Human resources jobs, in general, are slated to grow 8% in the next 10 years, which is faster than the average for all occupations. States with the most human resource specialists are California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Ohio.

3. Social Worker

What you’d do: As a social worker, you work with all ages in familiar settings, including hospitals, schools, government agencies, the community, and homes. Your primary focus is to advocate for people and help improve their lives during difficult times. You may provide counseling and education and make referrals to specialists and social services. Your clients might include the elderly, low-income families with health issues, people with substance abuse issues, and formerly incarcerated people.

You’ve got the skills: A social worker encounters various people, so your communication skills and ability to build rapport quickly make you a good candidate for social work. As a nurse, you’ve developed empathy and have an inherent desire to help people.

What you need: You need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work. Continuing your education to have your master’s degree or doctorate will open more employment doors and increase your income opportunities.

Salary: The median salary for a medical/clinical social worker is $58,649. Depending on your education, location, and experience, salaries range from $37,141 to $78,907.

Job outlook: The need for social workers is projected to grow by 9% in the next 10 years, which is faster than other jobs.

4. Legal Nurse Consultant

What you’d do: You work with lawyers, insurance companies, and healthcare organizations to provide background or serve as an expert witness in legal cases about worker’s compensation, personal injury, and medical malpractice.

You’ve got the skills: Your experience reading and analyzing medical records, working with patients, and your understanding of medical terminology qualifies you to speak about legal cases involving medical issues.

What you need: At least a BSN and a current RN license.

Salary: Legal nurse consultants make a median salary of $64,526. The highest paid make more than $350,000.

Job outlook: Personal injury, medical malpractice, and worker’s compensation claims have seen a steady rise in the past few years, with some experts predicting that trend to continue, along with an increase in monetary claims.

5. Health Information Technician

What you’d do: Health information technicians analyze computerized healthcare systems and electronic record keeping to find ways to better serve patients.

You’ve got the skills: You’ve likely used electronic medical records working as a nurse. These skills would easily transfer over for patient health-monitoring systems and evidence-based healthcare.

What you need: You need a minimum of an associate degree, but it’s preferable to have a science-based bachelor’s degree as well.

Salary: The median salary for a health information technologist is $55,560. Pay varies depending on your industry. For example, a health information tech working for a company that provides professional, scientific, and technical services can make more than $77,000, putting this on the list of most common career changes for nurses. If you work in a physician’s office analyzing and organizing medical records, you can expect your salary to be less than $45,000.

Job outlook: Health information technology is projected to be one of the hottest areas of healthcare. The Bureau of Labor Statistics sees 17% growth in the next 10 years.

Other Common Career Changes to Consider

If you’re still thinking, “I want to leave nursing, what else can I do?” here are a few more ways to make a career change from healthcare:

Business analyst: Your acumen for numbers, research and analysis could be an ideal fit for a business analyst job, especially in the healthcare industry. A hospital, health technology company, or insurance organization would benefit from your knowledge to keep their policies and procedures in line with state and federal regulations. The median pay for a business analyst is $93,000.

Grant writer: A passion for serving the community and helping those in need combined with your organization and communication skills can make grant writing a win for you. You would create research and write reports and applications seeking funding for non-profit organizations. These could be health related, or any other segment of the community. Most grant writers are self employed and earn between $20 to $100 per hour.

Healthcare lobbyist: Your healthcare background puts you in a good position to lobby for federal, state, and local legislation that affects healthcare. Your inside knowledge and experience as a patient advocate can help shape the messages that persuade change. Augmenting your education with law school, political science, or public policy classes puts you in a good position for this career change. The median salary for a lobbyist is $100,561.

Take Control of Your Work to Fit Your Life

If you’re thinking about making a move to one of the most common career changes for nurses, you may want to start taking a course to learn new skills or see what a different path might offer. In the meantime, IntelyCare helps you shift to a better schedule while you shift your career. Check out the future of nursing and start your application today.