7 High-Paying Career Change Options For Nurses

portrait of Bethanny Parker
by Bethanny Parker
Published on November 5, 2021
Reviewed by Shrilekha Deshaies, MSN, CCRN, RN

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Ready to start your journey?

Long hours, lack of sleep, and a high-stress environment can lead to burnout at work. This is especially true for nursing professionals who have to deal with high mortality rates, traumatic injuries, and combative patients.

Nurses who suffer from burnout experience exhaustion, increased negative feelings about their jobs, and reduced job performance. If you're experiencing burnout, it might be time for a career change. In this guide, you'll find seven high-paying career changes for nurses.

Is It Time to Make A Nursing Career Change?

Nursing professionals decide to leave their jobs for many reasons. A study published by the JAMA network asked nurses who had recently left their job about what contributed to their decision. Here are the top five results:

  1. Stressful work environment: 34.4%
  2. Lack of good management or leadership: 33.9%
  3. Burnout: 31.5%
  4. Inadequate staffing: 30.0%
  5. Better pay and/or benefits: 26.5%

Maybe you are seeing some of the same problems at your job. If so, it's good to realize that many of the traits that serve you well as a nurse can help you excel at other jobs, as well. Important soft skills, such as communication skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork, professionalism, and empathy, come in handy in a variety of non-nursing jobs.

What Careers Can I Consider After Nursing?

The best careers to consider after nursing are those that use your nursing skills in a different way. A nurse educator, for example, uses their nursing skills to teach other nurses rather than working as a nurse themself. In addition to nursing skills, your skills in organization, conflict resolution, and the soft skills mentioned above can help you qualify for your next position.

Nurse Educator

As an RN, you know all about nursing. With a little extra training, you could become a nurse educator and manage the continuing education at your healthcare organization. Your BSN and a few years of experience in nursing may be enough. However, you can increase your chances by earning an MSN or graduate certificate with a specialization in nurse education. These professionals must also maintain a valid nursing license.

Nurse educators take charge of making sure that the nursing staff and caregivers get the continuing education they need. They may work with administrators in the hospital to develop evaluations and continuing education programs for the staff. Many nurse educators also work in nursing schools, teaching in the classroom/lab or as clinical instructors


Social Worker

As a social worker, you may work with the elderly, people with substance use disorders, low-income individuals, people with severe illnesses, and formerly incarcerated people. You'll give them advice and help them connect with the services they need to improve their lives.

Social workers often work closely with healthcare providers, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, and general care practitioners. They may need to communicate with doctors, nurses, and employers on a client's behalf. Many social work jobs only require a bachelor's degree, although clinical social workers must hold a master's.


Clinical Manager

Clinical managers work in medical offices or clinics. They have the authority to manage day-to-day treatment strategies. They must ensure that care and scheduling is done in an orderly and effective way. In larger healthcare organizations, clinical managers may be referred to as departmental managers. They oversee a department within the organization.

A clinical manager oversees scheduling and makes sure the clinic or department runs smoothly. They coordinate with the doctors and try to accommodate patients' needs. They also arrange for the purchase of needed supplies and equipment. Clinical managers typically work during business hours, which may be a nice change for nurses who have grown tired of working 12-hour shifts.


Director of Case Management

Directors of case management typically have a bachelor's degree or higher and are either licensed social workers or registered nurses. The similarity in educational requirements for this role may appeal to nurses looking for a career change.

Directors of case management make sure the patients at the hospital or healthcare organization they work for receive quality care. They manage other case managers and provide guidance and feedback on the care they offer. Directors of case management develop policies and procedures for the staff they manage. They may also oversee budgets.


Clinical Documentation Specialist

Clinical documentation specialists help hospitals and other healthcare facilities maintain good recordkeeping. They make sure primary healthcare providers have access to the information they need to treat patients. Clinical documentation specialists work for organizations that have a large number of records.

These specialists need to be familiar with HIPAA and other regulations regarding the privacy of medical records. They also should have strong computer skills, particularly skills related to handling database queries. A background in information technology is helpful, but a healthcare background also important, making this an suitable position for a registered nurse.


Nursing Quality Improvement Coordinator

Nursing quality improvement coordinators usually work in hospitals. They perform quality audits and make sure nurses adhere to standards related to tasks like keeping medical records. This job generally requires an RN license and a BSN, as well as five or more years of experience in nursing. These quality improvement coordinators may have to work odd hours.

Nursing quality improvement coordinators also respond to complaints about quality, and they perform periodic reviews to ensure that standards are met. They document and investigate complaints, compile quality improvement reports, and develop corrective action plans.


Clinical Informatics Specialist

Clinical informatics specialists work in healthcare facilities that have a lot of medical records to manage. They create user interfaces to facilitate access to records and train staff members to use databases of information. They may also design plans to improve these processes and present them to management.

This job typically requires an RN license and several years of nursing experience in an environment certified by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. In addition to nursing skills, candidates should have a background in information technology. Clinical informatics specialists must understand database technology, especially the system that their employer is using.

How Do I Change Careers After Nursing?

Evaluate your skills.

First, take stock of your strengths. Make a list of the skills and traits that could help with your career change. Then, honestly evaluate your weaknesses and make a plan to improve them. How well do your strengths match up with jobs you might consider doing? Decide what you need to work on to improve your chances of getting a new job.

Decide what you want to do.

Think about what jobs you could do with your skills. Make a list of the pros and cons for each job and take some time to evaluate your options. You shouldn't necessarily rule out an occupation just because it requires more training — take your time and think about which position you would enjoy the most.

Upgrade your education if needed.

If you need to get a master's degree or graduate certificate to qualify for your new position, now is the time to go back to college. Look around to find a quality program that you can afford. If you find an appealing part-time program, you may be able to keep working while you go to school.

Research professional organizations.

Many professions have professional organizations. For example, you may already be a member of the American Nurses Association. Check to see if there are any professional organizations for the career you're preparing for. Becoming a member could provide you with access to networking opportunities in addition to looking good on your resume.

Apply for the job you want.

Now you're ready to start applying for jobs. Be picky about the jobs you apply for. You've spent a lot of time preparing for your career change, so be prepared to take some time with the job hunt process, as well. Keep an eye on popular job boards and apply to any jobs you see that sound interesting and are a good match for your skills and experience.

Frequently Asked Questions About Career Change Options For Nurses

What is a good career change for nurses? true

All of the careers mentioned could be good options for nurses, but some may suit you better than others. Those that require only an RN license and a few years of experience working as a nurse will likely be easier to get into than those that require more training.

If careers that don't require additional education don't appeal to you, it may be time to consider going back to school, either to study a concentration like nurse education or to earn a master's degree or a second bachelor's in another area.

What is a good second career for a nurse? true

Becoming a social worker may be a good second career for a nurse because you still get to work closely with people who need help. The work is usually done during business hours, so your schedule may be more manageable than your nursing schedule.

Another good second career for a nurse is clinical manager. These professionals oversee scheduling in medical clinics and help keep things running smoothly. Because they typically work in smaller clinics that are only open during business hours, clinical managers may also have more manageable schedules than nurses.

What can you do with a nursing degree if you hate nursing? true

If you don't like nursing and want to get out of the healthcare field altogether, consider a career in business management. With some extra training, you could become a leader at a company that values your organizational skills. If you want to climb the corporate ladder, you should consider going back to school to earn a degree in business administration, accounting, or finance.

Another career choice is director of case management. Your RN license makes you a good candidate for this career. Directors of case management oversee case managers who work with people with substance use disorders, the elderly, people with low incomes, and people with severe illnesses.

Featured Image: FatCamera / E+ / Getty Images

Check out various nursing scholarships, grants for nursing school, and student loan forgiveness for nurses to save money on your education. If you're longing for a career change, going back to college can be a smart choice, especially if you're interested in one of these four in-demand careers. Online education is increasingly popular, but students may wonder whether it's worth it. Melissa Venable, Ph.D., debunks the myths about earning an online degree.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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