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Nurses work closely with different health professionals, patients and their families. They are well known for their compassion and communication skills. As a nurse, you will encounter some people during the most difficult times of their lives and others during the most exciting times. This is a career that is both rewarding and versatile. Browse Nursing courses by state
Where most people think of nurses as working exclusively in clinical practice (that is, looking after the sick or injured) and in hospitals, there is more variety than first appears. Many work in community education, factories, offices, schools, pharmaceutical companies, in administration or in nurse education. There are also many specialisations within clinical practice, such as emergency, aged care, midwifery or intensive care.To find out more about careers in this area, check out the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation website.If you are interested in nursing, you could also consider a range of other health professions and para-professions. See the field of study profiles for dentistry, medicine, veterinary science, social work, rehabilitation, psychology and health services and support. There may also be some specialisations of interest within the sciences and the humanities and social sciences.
VET study in nursing
Courses and specialisations
If you are considering nursing and want to study at VET level, you will find that there are a number of diplomas and advanced diplomas available for those wanting to enter the occupation at the ‘enrolled’ or ‘division 2’ level rather than ‘registered’ or 'division 1' (graduate) nurse level. Be aware that certificate courses in the VET sector will not usually qualify you for registered nurse positions, although there are special pathways available for those looking to upgrade their qualifications later. There are some differences in what you are qualified to do as an enrolled nurse, which is explained below.
Where to study
At the VET level, nursing courses are available around the country, mainly at TAFE institutes, but also through some private VET providers.
Career opportunities
Most nursing courses in the VET sector will focus on providing the skills and education required for qualification as an enrolled nurse. Enrolled nurses are associates of registered nurses and work under their direction and supervision. They are involved in many facets of patient care and health promotion but, unlike registered nurses, they implement rather than plan nursing care and are not qualified to administer medications. Enrolled nurses are an important part of healthcare teams in all kind of settings, including hospitals, community centres, nursing homes and other residential healthcare organisations. Although enrolled nurses may end up specialising in one type of care or another because they choose a particular health setting, they do not have the same capacity as registered nurses to adopt a clinical specialty. See the Career Search for more information about your career options.
Undergraduate study in nursing
Courses and specialisations
In the past, if you wanted to be a nurse you would have applied to a hospital and not a tertiary institution. Nurses unions (nursing is more unionised than most occupations) agitated for 20 years to get nurse education moved out of the hospitals and into universities. Their main agenda was to increase the status and pay of nurses, and they also claimed that universities could provide the higher standard of education that nurses need. That said, since they were first opened in universities, nursing faculties on most campuses have had problems teaching the practical elements of the nursing profession and making studies exciting and relevant. In recent years though, many have introduced practical training facilities such as on-campus simulation wards. This is an easy field to get into overall, and there are many courses available. Nursing courses take school leavers, practising nurses with years of experience and people with some experience and qualifications from other occupations, including nursing assistants. Courses vary widely in length, and several modes of study are offered (including full time, part time, block/modular and distance education). In some states, there are traineeships and VET courses offered for those wanting to enter the occupation at the ‘enrolled’ or ‘division two’ level rather than ‘registered’ (graduate) nurse level. You can then work your way up the qualifications and career ladder. Although some degrees will let you specialise in a particular area, be aware that you may need to train and work in a range of areas first and you may need to complete additional study after graduation to work in the area you want to specialise in (this used to be the only way to get into midwifery, but undergraduate options are now available).Broadly, however, you can expect to find specialisations such as child health nursing, family nursing, midwifery, psychiatric nursing and surgical nursing, among others.
Where to study
Nursing courses are widely available at undergraduate level and are offered by most universities. Some courses are likely to be better than others though, so look very carefully at the information available and try to get detailed outlines of any course you are considering. Pay particular attention to the amount and kind of practical experience you get. Try to visit the campus and ask to talk with students as well as a staff member about these issues.See Degree costs and loans for more information about paying for your degree.To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.
Career opportunities
The 2014 Course Experience Questionnaire survey suggests that university nursing graduates are not satisfied with their course experience or the quality of teaching, but are moderately satisfied with the skills they gained. At $51,452, starting salaries for nursing graduates are average, and employment is good, with 24 per cent of graduates still seeking work four months after course completion. Nurses, like teachers, have a tendency to leave the profession after some time, often using a postgraduate course to switch careers.See the Career Search for more information about your career options.
Postgraduate study in nursing
Courses and specialisations
The nursing field is still growing at postgraduate level. The overwhelming majority of postgraduate coursework programs are designed for nursing professionals with prior qualifications and experience who want to upgrade their qualifications or enter new specialisations. Postgraduate ‘conversion’ programs designed for students from other fields are not as common. A small number of nursing postgraduate students (just seven per cent) are engaged in research programs — many of them nurse educators.
Where to study
Postgraduate nursing courses are offered at universities and some private higher education providers around the country, although some specialisations may be harder to access than others. When researching courses, you should not only be looking at the quality of the program but also its relevance to your nursing career. Make sure that any program you are considering is going to meet your needs; this means checking the outline to get an idea of the subject matter and the combination of practical and theoretical elements. If you have a particular career goal in mind, such as working in a rural area, you should ensure that relevant opportunities will be available.Those considering research are likely to be better off looking at departments and schools that have an established and sizeable research program and perhaps also a strong connection with the nursing profession if you are interested in applied research. To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.
Career opportunities
According to the national Course Experience Questionnaire survey, postgraduate nurses are moderately satisfied with the skills they gained, but not as happy with the teaching quality or overall experience. Job prospects, on the other hand, are excellent, with the unemployment rate at just six per cent. Salaries for postgraduates are slightly below average, at $74,833.See the Career Search for more information about your career options.
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