Becoming a nurse is one of the most fulfilling job roles that a person can take on.
However, professional nurses with a wealth of training and experience can find just as rewarding work in a range of other related career paths. Many nursing workers don’t want to feel stuck in one place for their whole careers. If this sounds like you, don’t panic! Because nurses are in such high demand, you have the option to pick and choose where, how and when you work. So, to help you decide where to go next, here is our guide on what you can do with a nursing degree, alongside tips on how you can change your speciality without too much hassle.
Related Article: How to Become a Nurse.
Careers you can pursue with a nursing degree
There are plenty of alternative careers for nurses. Your training and expertise will have equipped you for much more than you likely realise, and many nurses take advantage of the wide range of opportunities available and often change their position in the field. Nearly four in ten nurses feel that it’s acceptable for them to change jobs every one or two years, and at least 87% say it’s okay to switch within five years[ii]!
Take a look at what you can do with a nursing degree to help you decide which path to take.
1) Physical Therapist
Average Salary: £27,650
Becoming a physical therapist is the most common career change for nurses in the UK because they already have most of the correct training. A physical therapist examines patients and puts together a treatment plan to improve their movement, reduce pain or prevent disability. Since your nursing training has already educated you in branches of maths and science, you already have the basic skills required to become a physical therapist. However, walking this career path requires extra training. You will need to complete an approved degree level qualification in physiotherapy and register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)[iv].
2) Adult Nurse
Average Salary: £38,971
An adult nurse differs from a regular nurse since – you guessed it! – they only work with people over 18. The main focuses of an adult nurse are to provide care to adult patients, formulate recovery plans and evaluate the patient’s needs. In addition, adult nursing is a branch of regular nursing, meaning you won’t require any additional training.
3) Health Visitor
Average Salary: £39,027
As a health visitor, you would be expected to work with families that have a child aged 0 – five to identify any early health needs. In addition, you would support the parents with any questions or issue they are facing regarding their newborn. In this role, you may be required to work with at-risk or deprived groups, such as addicts or the homeless. To become a health visitor, you must be a registered midwife or nurse. This allows you to apply to Specialist Community Public Health Nursing – Health Visiting course, the UK’s health visitor training programme, [vii]
4) Health Care Assistant
Average Salary: £17,881
A health care assistant works under the guidance of a health care professional, and it can be a varied position. Depending on where you work and who with, you may find yourself doing various tasks, such as caring for patients, taking blood samples, doing health education work and ordering supplies. Employers expect previous experience in health care or care work for this role. Health care assistant courses or apprenticeships can provide you with the right knowledge and experience to give you a boost in this speciality[ix].
Average Salary: £36,295
Midwives provide care to women and their families during pregnancy, labour, and immediately after the baby’s birth. As a midwife, you would primarily be dealing with pregnant women in need of professional support. This means your responsibilities will be diverse but pregnancy focused. To become a midwife, you must complete an approved degree in midwifery, which can take up to 3 years. However, if you are a nurse, you can apply for a shortened 18-month programme[xi].
6) Mental Health Nurse
Average Salary: £31,527
Mental health nursing is a special branch of the nursing career that allows you to connect with people suffering from mental health issues and support their recovery, encouraging them to live fulfilling lives. You would build relationships with those who use mental health services, plus their relatives and carers, and work as part of a team to formulate recovery plans. Becoming a mental health nurse requires no more than a regular nursing degree. Alternatively, you could take a mental health nursing apprenticeship[xiii].
Average Salary: £25,870
This fast-paced role isn’t for everyone, but you could save lives on the spot if you can work well under pressure and take charge of situations. You will be trained on dealing with a range of emergency and non-emergency services and will find yourself working alongside various other first responders. Plus, you will be expected to support members of the public as well as your patients and their relatives. To become a paramedic, you’ll have to complete a degree in paramedic science. If you are a registered nurse, you can take one of the pre-registration courses to gain registration as a paramedic quickly[xv].
8) Nutrition Specialist
Average Salary: £24,593
As a registered nurse, you can specialise in nutrition work. This would mean that you work within gastroenterology or oncology departments in a hospital environment, providing expert advice and counselling to patients in need of nutritional support. In addition, you would be required to understand the science of food and help your patients make the right choices about what they eat. Alternatively, you could train to be a fully-fledged nutritionist. This gives you more flexibility in where and how you can work but requires a nutrition degree course[xvii].
9) Biomedical Scientist
Average Salary: £35,000
Biomedical science is the perfect alternative career for nurses who are looking to get away from bedsides for a while. As a biomedical scientist, you would carry out scientific tests in laboratories to help understand the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Biomedical science is a varied career path that requires both analytical and practical focuses, and no day will be the same. Naturally, such an important role requires specific training, but your experience in the field will be vital to get ahead. To become a biomedical scientist, you can:
- Complete the NHS Practitioner Training Programme
- Achieve a biomedical science degree
- Gain employment as a trainee biomedical scientist[xix]
Other Careers Where Nursing Degrees Are Useful
If you’d like a complete change in your career, a nursing degree is useful in a varied number of jobs, so don’t restrict yourself when applying! However, there are several careers where a nursing degree will be beneficial, including:
- Social worker
- Genetic counsellor
- Health service manager
- Further education teacher
- Police officer[xx]
How To Switch Specialities in Nursing
Now you know what you can do with a nursing degree, it’s time to see how you can switch specialities. Although it may seem daunting to change your nursing speciality at first, it’s very common in the business and keeps your working life fresh and interesting. The change may seem difficult, but several steps will make the whole process easier. And the more you do it, the easier it will get! So prepare yourself for a range of new skills and fulfilling experiences with these tips on making the transition easier.
- Begin With Some Self-Evaluation – Considering why you want to switch specialities and what other career paths you’d like to try will increase your confidence and ensure that you’re making the best decision for yourself.
- Start Your Application Early – Prepare the basics of your application in advance so you can easily send off for any jobs you may hear about in passing and get in there first!
- Research New Specialities – There are plenty of nursing specialities out there, so make sure to do your research on anything that attracts your interest, so you’re sure you’d like to give it a try.
- Consider Additional Education – You may be required to get further education depending on the career you want to transition into. Make sure to find this out during your research.
- Try and Get Experience – Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, hands-on experience will show you exactly how the job truly is. Ask to shadow nurses in units you’re interested in and get involved with the job!
- Network With Specialists – Try and network with others in the speciality you hope to switch to. They can keep you updated on the business, and any job offers that may be coming up.
- Transition At The Right Time – Make sure to transition before your current career path grows stagnant but after you’ve mastered your original speciality[i].
Don’t Be Afraid of Change
Nursing is such an important job role, but it’s natural to want a change every now and again. And now you know where your nursing degree can come in handy! Your knowledge and experience will benefit people no matter the role you choose, so start a new career path you’re certain you’ll love today.