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Nursing salary in Australia: does postgraduate study pay off?

Explore the relationship between postgraduate education and a nursing salary in Australia.

By GlobalHealth Education Published 22/05/2023

Nursing can have a strong reputation for being a rewarding vocation. But how much does a nurse earn in Australia?

The typical nursing salary depends on the position and location of the role, along with the nurse’s education and experience. This article explores the value that postgraduate study can add to a nurse’s earning potential as well as why healthcare professionals prefer courses with flexible study options to advance their career.

The average nursing salary in Australia

How much do nurses get paid in Australia? Like any profession, a nurse’s level of education, specific expertise and years of experience will influence the roles and incomes that come their way. The state a nurse works in, as well as the type of work setting, and whether a nurse has a specialisation, impact the nursing salary they receive.

Registered nurses in Australia are paid on a sliding scale according to their years of experience, moving up the pay scale and earning higher wages as they gain more experience. Nurses who gain additional education can then apply for advanced nursing roles and earn higher pay rates. However it's worth noting that pay scales and requirements vary depending on the employer and the state a nurse works in.

Critical care nurse Kate Hoskin specialises in clinical education. Through ongoing education and on-the-job experience, her career progressed from being a registered nurse to leadership and education roles. Ultimately, her studies resulted in increased earning potential and broadened her job opportunities.

“When you start adding the qualifications, your pay goes up,” she says. “In critical care in the state of Victoria, for example, once you’ve got your emergency nursing or ICU nursing certificate, they add another $1.50 or so to your hourly wage.

“And once an experienced and postgraduate-qualified nurse steps into a leadership role, like a clinical nurse specialist, they earn more money again.”

So, what’s the salary potential for a postgraduate nurse? Let’s explore. 

The difference postgraduate education makes

How much do nurses earn in Australia with a postgraduate qualification? On average, a nurse earns around $90,000 a year. However, professions like nurse practitioners and nurse educators can make an average of $138,000 a year.

With increased demand for healthcare services nationally, the need for advanced nursing skills will continue to grow. Successfully completing postgraduate studies provides nurses the opportunity to advance, and increase their earning potential.

Nursing salary and specialisations

A career as a nurse creates many professional opportunities. Depending on your goals, nurses can work in various specialisations and settings. Here are several specialities within the nursing profession and their earning potentials.

Nurse educator. A nurse educator’s role is to educate and train other nurses. They work in clinical and non-clinical settings, including universities, hospitals and healthcare services.

Nurse practitioner. A specialist who usually works independently providing advanced clinical care, nurse practitioners must complete a master’s degree to be endorsed.

Mental health nurse. These nurses focus on mental health and wellbeing and work with patients in hospitals, inpatient care facilities, community health services and more.

Nurse unit manager. As the supervisor and manager of a specific nurse unit in a health service or hospital, a nurse unit manager is a high-level role.


Specialisation Average annual salary
Nurse educator $126,000
Nurse practitioner  $138,000
Mental health nurse $93,000
Nurse unit manager $125,000

GlobalHealth Education has a range of postgraduate nursing degrees from some of Australia’s leading universities. But which one should you study?

As a registered nurse, GlobalHealth Education provides tailored online nursing courses to upskill and advance your career through its university partners. Southern Cross University's Master of Mental Health Nursing, which covers topics such as psychiatric assessment, diagnosis and treatment, and mental health promotion, is ideal for nurses looking to specialise in mental health care.

Compared to James Cook University’s Master of Nursing Majoring in Education, which is designed for nurses seeking to specialise in education, teaching and curriculum development within the nursing field. Whereas Master of Nursing Advanced Practice by JCU focuses on equipping students with the knowledge and skills to provide expert care to patients in a range of clinical settings. These degrees will open the door to evolving your career in a speciality focus area.

Enhance your career and earning potential

Continued learning is valuable for nurses and healthcare professionals, as higher qualifications can result in better pay, more opportunities and greater employability. Here are some benefits that may help nurture your professional growth should you decide to further your nursing education and earn a postgraduate qualification.

  • Professional development. Nurses should continue to improve their skill sets and knowledge beyond mandatory professional development. “It’s important to continue to develop and learn professionally so you can be the best nurse you can be,” says Kate. “This benefits you and your patients, allowing you to contribute in bigger and better ways.”
  • Bigger and better opportunities. Ongoing education opens up various professional opportunities, including numerous pathways to progress your career. So when it comes to postgraduate education, you’ll be qualified to pursue more of these prospects.
  • Employability. Specific skills and knowledge, like those earned through postgraduate study, can make you more employable. “I can go anywhere in the country, knock on any door and be offered a job because of my qualifications and experience,” says Kate. “You’re employable and a valuable asset to whichever organisation you choose to work for.”
  • Increased salary. Postgraduate education can boost your nursing salary, depending on the role, setting and location. As mentioned above, professionals like specialist nurses can earn up to $138,000 annually.

Studying online: the benefits for nurses

Online learning offers advantages for students in all fields, but these advantages are particularly beneficial for nurses. Here are several ways that studying online can benefit a registered nurse.

  • Flexible schedule. Online education allows students to study wherever and however it suits them. With traditionally demanding jobs and varying work rosters, nurses undertaking postgraduate studies can benefit from being able to cater their studies to their working lives.
  • Learn anywhere. Accessing quality education is challenging in many parts of the country, especially for remote and rural nurses. Online learning gives students access to some of the world’s leading institutions at the click of a mouse, including healthcare courses offered by quality Australian providers.
  • Up-to-date education. Online learning teaches skills that can be applied in today’s nursing careers in real time. These skills include soft skills such as adaptability, nursing communication and team management, along with hard skills such as technical knowledge and know-how, like checking and monitoring vital signs. With up-to-date teachings, nurses can ensure they stay in demand within their profession.

The next step in your nursing career

Looking to take your career to the next level and enjoy the benefits of online study? GlobalHealth Education partners with universities offering nursing courses that can help you level up to new opportunities. Speak to a Student Enrolment Advisor today to see what’s possible.