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How to become a nurse in Australia

Discover how to start your career as a nurse.
Two healthcare professionals having a conversation in a hospital staff room.

You’re interested in pursuing a career in nursing. But, where do you begin? And what steps do you need to take? Read on to find out how to become a nurse in Australia. 

What does a nurse do?

Before we launch in, let’s examine what nurses do. What exactly does a nursing career involve?

Nurses play an essential role in the healthcare profession, providing care and support to people across a range of settings. As a critical part of the medical team, nurses administer treatment and medication, provide physical and emotional support, and assist in forming, implementing, and monitoring patient care plans.

As a registered nurse, you’ll have the skills to work in a variety of workplace settings in Australia or overseas. From public and private hospitals, to community health centres and aged care facilities, there are a diverse range of career avenues available. At UniSQ, you can even choose to build on your expertise and complete a Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma or Masters degree to specialise in a chosen nursing discipline. Gerontology, mental health, clinical education; whatever your area of interest, you’ll gain the valuable skills and expertise you need to excel in your field! 

Registered Nurse vs Enrolled Nurse

You might have heard both terms in your travels, but what’s the difference between a registered nurse and an enrolled nurse? The long and short of it is that Registered Nurses (RN’s for short) have a 3-year Bachelor of Nursing qualification. Enrolled Nurses (EN) on the other hand, hold a 2-year Diploma of Nursing. This difference in qualification levels means that RN’s have more responsibility and carry out more skilled processes such as administering medication.

Are you an enrolled nurse wondering how to become a registered nurse? To start, you’ll need to enrol in a Bachelor of Nursing. To gain entry into a Bachelor of Nursing at UniSQ, you’ll need to provide evidence of AHPRA registration in your application, as well as upon enrolment.

If it’s been more than five years since you completed your Diploma of Nursing, you’ll also need to provide additional supporting documentation during the application process. For all the detailed information you need, you can view the entry requirements section for our Bachelor of Nursing degree.

Once you have completed your Bachelor of Nursing and met all of the registration requirements, you’ll be a registered nurse.  

How to become a nurse in Australia

To become a nurse in Australia, you will need a Bachelor of Nursing qualification and be able to satisfy the registration criteria of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA), which involves meeting standards in English language, criminal history, and professional indemnity insurance. As a practicing nurse, you will also need to meet certain criteria to maintain your registration.

For all the detailed information you need, we recommend viewing the entry requirements section for our Bachelor of Nursing degree.

How long does it take to become a nurse in Australia

University study is a big commitment, so it’s understandable to want to know how study will fit into your lifestyle. So, how long does it take to become a nurse? In general, a nursing degree will take approximately three years to complete, which is the case if you choose to study at UniSQ. Our Bachelor of Nursing can be studied full-time over three years or you can complete the part-time equivalent if that option is a better fit for you. Take one subject at a time, study over summer, or take extra subjects when life allows it. If you choose the part-time option, you’ll have a maximum of six years to complete the degree.  

You can also take advantage of our flexible ways to study. UniSQ’s Bachelor of Nursing can be studied on-campus, externally, or a combination of both. If you choose external study, you’ll be able to access learning resources, forums, assessment information and study support from wherever you are. You’ll just need to attend your clinical placements in person and come on-campus during residential schools.

Types of nurses in Australia

So far we’ve covered how to become a nurse. But where do you start if you are wanting to pursue a career in a specialist field? You may be wondering how to become a cosmetic nurse, or how to become a mental health nurse. Or maybe you’ve been thinking about how to become a nurse anaesthetist... or even how to become a remote area nurse in Australia! What are the steps you need to take to begin the journey?

Specialist nursing careers will always require some form of further study in addition to a Bachelor of Nursing. Cosmetic nurses, for instance, require a Graduate Diploma in Cosmetic Nursing on top of their bachelor qualification, and nurse anaesthetists need additional postgraduate study specialising in anaesthesiology.

At UniSQ, we offer postgraduate study in a range of specialist areas, including rural and remote health, clinical education, gerontology, mental health or leadership and management in health. Diversifying your existing skill-set with a specialisation is a great way to advance your career and open the door to more opportunity.

How much do nurses earn in Australia?
According to ,the average annual salary for Registered Nurses in Australia ranged from $80 0000- $85 000. That being said, your earning potential as a nurse can change dramatically depending on the nursing role you undertake. For instance, in a hospital setting that runs on shift work, there is potential to increase your earnings by picking up additional shifts or working weekends for penalty rates.  
What ATAR do you need to be a nurse?
To study a Bachelor of Nursing at UniSQ you need to meet a minimum ATAR, subject pre-requisites and inherent requirements. For further information on ATAR please view the Bachelor of Nursing entry requirements.

If you haven't got an ATAR, we can derive a selection rank score based on your prior study, work experience or professional qualifications.
What subjects are needed to become a nurse?
Entry requirements such as pre-requisite subjects may vary slightly depending on the learning institution you choose to study with. At UniSQ, the pre-requisite subject required for entry into the Bachelor of Nursing is English. Mathematics and either Biology, Chemistry, or Physics is also recommended. For more detailed information, view the Bachelor of Nursing entry requirements.