7 High-Paying Career-Change Options for Nurses

Are you an RN who is tired of nursing? Read on to learn about seven high-paying career-change options for nurses who want a new career.
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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.

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 jobs about what contributed to their decision. Here are the top five results:

Maybe you're 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, too.

Critical soft skills, such as communication, problem-solving, teamwork, professionalism, and empathy, can come in handy in a variety of non-nursing jobs.

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What Are the Most Common Career Changes for Nurses?

The best careers to consider after nursing are those that use your nursing skills in a different way. A nurse educator, for example, can use their nursing skills to teach other nurses rather than working as a nurse.

In addition to nursing skills, your skills in organization, conflict resolution, and the soft skills mentioned above can help you qualify for a new position.

Here are seven high-paying career changes for nurses. All job growth projections below come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while all salary data comes from either the BLS or Payscale.

1. Nurse Educator

  • Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): 22%
  • Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $77,440

As an RN, you know all about nursing. With a little extra training, you could become a nurse educator and manage continuing education at your healthcare organization. Your BSN degree, combined with a few years of nursing experience, may be enough.

That said, you can increase your chances of getting a job as a nurse educator by earning an MSN or a graduate certificate with a specialization in nurse education. These professionals must also maintain a valid nursing license.

Nurse educators ensure that nursing staff and caregivers get the continuing education they need. They may work with hospital administrators to develop evaluations and continuing education programs for staff.

Many nurse educators also work in nursing schools, teaching in the classroom or lab, or as clinical instructors.

2. Social Worker

  • Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): 9%
  • Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $50,390

Social workers can work with the elderly, people with substance use disorders, low-income individuals, people with severe illnesses, and formerly incarcerated people. You'll give your clients 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, though clinical social workers must hold a master of social work.

3. Clinical Manager

  • Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): 28% (medical and health services managers)
  • Average Annual Salary (March 2023): $74,320

Clinical managers work in medical offices and clinics, overseeing day-to-day treatment strategies and scheduling to ensure the clinic or department runs smoothly. In larger healthcare organizations, clinical managers may be referred to as departmental managers.

These professionals coordinate with doctors and try to accommodate patients' needs. They also arrange for the purchase of necessary supplies and equipment.

Clinical managers typically work during regular business hours, which might be a nice change for nurses who've grown tired of working long 12-hour shifts.

4. Director of Case Management

  • Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): 28% (medical and health services managers)
  • Average Annual Salary (March 2023): $100,120

Directors of case management typically have a bachelor's degree or higher and are either licensed social workers or RNs. The similarity in educational requirements for this role may appeal to nurses aiming to change careers without having to go back to school.

Directors of case management ensure that patients at hospitals and healthcare organizations receive quality care. These professionals manage other case managers and provide guidance and feedback on the care they offer.

They also develop policies and procedures for the staff they manage and may oversee budgets.

5. Clinical Documentation Specialist

  • Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): 7% (medical records specialists)
  • Average Annual Salary (March 2023): $77,740

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

These specialists must be familiar with HIPAA and other regulations regarding the privacy of medical records. They must also have strong computer skills, particularly skills related to handling database queries.

A background in information technology is helpful, but a healthcare background is also important, making this a suitable position for a nurse.

6. Nursing Quality Improvement Coordinator

  • Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): Unavailable
  • Average Annual Salary (March 2023): $75,000

Typically working in hospitals, nursing quality improvement coordinators perform quality audits and make sure nurses adhere to standards related to tasks like medical recordkeeping. They also respond to complaints about quality and perform periodic reviews to ensure standards are met.

Other tasks include documenting and investigating complaints, compiling quality improvement reports, and developing corrective action plans.

To become a nursing quality improvement coordinator, you'll typically need an RN license, a BSN, and five or more years of nursing experience. Note you may have to work odd hours.

7. Clinical Informatics Specialist

  • Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): 7% (medical records specialists)
  • Average Annual Salary (March 2023): $80,310

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

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, you must have a background in information technology, as you need to be able to understand database technology, especially whatever system your employer uses.

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: Many industries have professional organizations. For example, you may already be a member of the American Nurses Association. Check whether there are any professional organizations for the career you're preparing for. Becoming a member could give you access to networking opportunities in addition to looking good on your resume.
  • Research professional organizations: If you need to get a master's degree or graduate certificate to qualify for the role you want, now is the time to go back to college. Look around to find a quality program you can afford. If you find an appealing part-time program, you might be able to keep working while you attend school.
  • 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 that sound interesting and that match your skills and experience.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Career Change Options for Nurses

What is a good career change for nurses?

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?

Becoming a social worker may be a good alternative 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?

If you don't want to be a nurse anymore 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.