Ongoing education is a great way to ensure your skills as a nurse remain relevant and advance your career.
With benefits like new career opportunities, increased earning potential and improved knowledge, there are many reasons why experienced nurses pursue further education. We explore today’s options for experienced nurses as well as those entering the profession, and where a new qualification can take you.
To enter the nursing profession, there are several entry-level education options. Once you become a working nurse, there are then plenty of postgraduate opportunities. Let’s look at the various qualifications:
Diplomas and undergraduate degrees are the starting point for those looking to enter the nursing profession. Enrolled nurses, who provide basic nursing care to patients, complete a certificate IV or diploma in nursing. Registered nurses offer more complex care to patients, and have to complete a three-year bachelor’s degree in nursing. These are the educational starting points for a nursing career.
Graduate certificates and graduate degrees provide additional training in specific areas and may be required in certain nursing specialities. Graduate certificates and graduate diplomas are those completed following an undergraduate degree by already qualified nurses.
Master and doctorate degrees are the highest levels of postgraduate study in nursing. Postgraduate degrees are usually available only to undergraduate degree holders or those who have studied a relevant graduate certificate or graduate diploma, with some exceptions and alternate study pathways for experienced nurses. These include JCU’s online Master of Nursing Majoring in Education and SCU’s online Master of Mental Health Nursing.
Flexible education options offering a broad range of qualifications are available for nurses who are keen to gain new skills.
The good news for those entering or already working in the profession is that they can study when and where it suits them: with full-time or part-time, on-campus or online options available.
Online study is perfect for healthcare professionals with busy schedules, allowing them to upskill without taking time off work.
Benefits of postgraduate courses for nurses
Postgraduate study is the most common way for experienced nurses to take the next step in their careers. Beyond knowledge gained, there are many other benefits to be obtained by undertaking further study. We spoke to critical care nurse Kate Hoskin, a clinical education specialist, who shared her thoughts on the benefits of ongoing education.
In addition to mandatory training, postgraduate studies ensure a nurse’s knowledge stays up-to-date and relevant. This can be especially beneficial for those who completed their degrees some time ago.
“What you cover in your three years of university is the bare minimum,” says Kate. “There’s always an opportunity to learn about advancements in research and evidence-based practice. This ensures you’re always offering the current standard of care.”
The chance to specialise
A registered nurse may choose to undertake postgraduate study in order to pursue leadership roles, such as a nurse unit manager. Likewise, nurses who wish to move into specialist areas such as mental health, child and family health and palliative care can choose to gain further qualifications, such as a masters degree, in order to do so. While not all specialist areas require a postgraduate qualification, nurses who do undertake further study have more options available to them.
Better earning potential
Healthcare positions that require postgraduate education, like nurse practitioners, pay substantially more than a traditional registered nurse role. On average, the nursing salary for a nurse practitioner is between $135,000 and $140,000, whereas a registered nurse makes $80,000 to $85,000 a year.
Postgraduate education allows nurses to pursue careers and opportunities that are unavailable to those who hold only undergraduate qualifications.
“If you choose to do postgraduate studies in your field of expertise, it opens up so many more doors for you in the clinical space,” says Kate. Plus, undertaking further studies demonstrates your commitment and initiative to future employers.
Choosing the right postgraduate pathway
Already a nurse but want to take the next step in your profession? It’s hard to know which course to choose. Consider these factors before deciding which option to pursue.
Schedule suitability. Online delivery makes balancing study with your professional and personal life more manageable. Students choose study times that suit them and benefit from flexibility around where and how they study. However, ensuring your future study plans fit your life is essential so you’re not overwhelmed.
Career goals. Examine your long-term career goals and communicate them to your supervisor to determine the best course to meet them. Some courses are suited to specific careers, and others offer more general knowledge that you can apply in many areas and positions within nursing.
Entry requirements. Are there prerequisites to the course you’re considering? A postgraduate nursing degree or course may have selection criteria or prior learning requirements to be eligible for enrolment. Ensure you’ve met all the prerequisites before applying.
A commitment to lifelong learning
Whether you’re new to the profession or are already working as a nurse, there are many advantages to undertaking ongoing education. GlobalHealth Education partners with Australian universities that can help you upskill and level up in your career.
These courses are designed to give you the skills to advance your career and become a specialist in advanced practice and leadership. Whether you want to specialise in mental health, chronic and complex care or chronic disease and ageing or a range of other disciplines, we can help you find the course for you.
Ready to move forward in your profession? Speak to a Student Enrolment Advisor today.