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, RN 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 up through your retirement. But today’s workforce is not afraid to change course — and it’s not only the younger generations who are considering a career change. Many Gen Xers in their 50s have also made a shift.

Career changes from healthcare can include occupations that use your nursing degree and skills you already have — and some even allow you to find a non-bedside position or work from home. If you’re looking for a career change from nursing, consider these jobs we consider to be 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 average salary of a sales rep for technical and scientific products is $109,950 per year. The top 10% make more than $182,000.

Job outlook: The outlook for jobs for sales reps of technical and scientific products like pharmaceuticals is likely to remain steady in the next 10 years. States with the highest employment levels for sales of these products are Texas, California, Florida, Washington, and Tennessee.

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 average salary for a human resources specialist is $73,080 per year.

Job outlook: Human resources jobs, in general, are slated to grow 6% in the next 10 years, which is faster than the average for all occupations. States with the most human resource specialists are California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

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 average salary for a healthcare social worker is $62,760 per year.

Job outlook: The need for healthcare social workers is projected to grow by 10% 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. Learn more about how to become a legal nurse consultant.

Salary: The median salary for a legal nurse consultant is $69,564 per year.

Job outlook: The legal profession is expected to grow by 8% over the next decade, faster than the average rate for all other occupations.

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 average salary for a health information technologist is $65,280. Pay varies depending on your industry. For example, a health information tech working in the scientific research and development field earns an average of $122,700 per year, making this role a standout on the list of most common career changes for nurses. But if you’re employed by a hospital, your average salary would be closer to $63,430 per year.

Job outlook: Health information technology is projected to be one of the hottest areas of healthcare. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that this role will see 16% growth in the next 10 years, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations.

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 average pay for a business analyst is $104,660.

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. The average grant writer salary is around $74,800 per year.

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 healthcare lobbyist is around $62,560.

Rethink Your Current Job

The exodus of nursing leaving the profession is cause for concern both for patients and for nurses themselves. Ask yourself if what you really need isn’t a new career, but a new job that reinvigorates your passion for the work. Consider different specialty areas, such as:

You can also explore different work environments and scheduling set ups that can give you more job options:

Take Control of Your Work to Fit Your Life

Not sure if you’re ready to make the leap to one of the most common career changes for nurses? We hear you. Learn how IntelyCare can match you with nursing work that better fits your needs.