Are you looking for a career in health that’s both challenging and rewarding? Whilst we primarily focus on medicine on this blog, the Nursing profession certainly fits these criteria. And we often get queries about how to become a nurse in Australia. Caring for patients and ensuring their safety and comfort are demanding tasks, But these are worth it once you see how much patients benefit from your help. As a nurse, you’re making a difference, and the results are visible almost immediately.
Nurses are in demand across the globe, and Australia is no exception. In fact, thanks to high salaries and the numerous benefits nursing come with, it’s one of the most popular professions in the country. And it’s not just Australians that can apply — anyone who meets the requirements can become a nurse, no matter where they come from.
In short, to become a nurse in Australia, you have to decide whether you’d like to be a Registered or Enrolled Nurse first. To become a Registered Nurse in Australia, you will need a Bachelor of Nursing, while a Diploma of Nursing will suffice for an Enrolled Nurse career in Australia. You should apply to AHPRA in both cases, and if you meet the criteria, you can start working as a nurse in general roles. Nurses and midwives from other countries can also apply to work as nurses and midwives in Australia, but on top of the requirements above, they also need to get a visa to stay.
Table of Contents
Keep on reading to find out all you need to know about becoming a nurse in Australia, including the requirements, the salary, and the benefits this career brings.
If you want to become a nurse in Australia the first thing you should know is that there are two main types of nurses in Australia: Registered Nurses (RN) and Enrolled Nurses (EN). You should decide which one you want to be right off the bat, as that will determine the kind of education you need to pursue.
Registered Nurses (RNs) are highly skilled and responsible, often acting as team leaders or unit managers. They receive the most training. Registered nurses take on various tasks and are trained to respond to a range of complex situations and provide the best possible care. Because of this, they also earn more — around $79,169 annually.
On the other hand, Enrolled Nurses are usually supervised by an RN, and they tend to the patients’ comfort, safety, and hygiene. They bear a lot of responsibility, but not as much as a Registered Nurse. RNs and doctors are the ones making decisions about a patient’s well-being, while an EN typically only assists. That’s why their nursing salary is lower — they make about $61,778 a year.
There are a few steps you need to complete to become a Registered Nurse in Australia. Those include:
- Completing a Bachelor of Nursing
- Applying to the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to practice as an RN
- Meeting Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA)’s registration standards
- Working for a few years as an RN in a general capacity. After that, you can specialise in one area of interest
The process seems straightforward, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
Before attending a university that offers Bachelor of Nursing courses, you need to have a Higher School Certificate (HSC) with an appropriate Universities Admission Index (UAI). The bachelor itself takes three years to complete and includes around 840 hours of clinical practice. If you opt for fast-tracking, you can cut this time down to two years, though.
How to Become a Registered Midwife
A Midwife is a role often confused with Nursing. But there is a difference. A midwife is a registered health professional, having acquired the appropriate qualifications to practice midwifery. They work in partnership with women to give the necessary support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour, birth and the postnatal period. They can provide care for the newborn infant and are trained in the birthing process and can deal capably with any adverse situation including seeking medical assistance when required.
Midwives work in a range of settings including:
- Maternity units in public and private hospitals
- Antenatal clinics
- Labour and Birth units
- Birth centres
- Postnatal and neonatal units
- Childbirth and parent education
- Private midwifery practice
- Community based health service
- Caseload/midwifery Group practice
- Practice with obstetricians (doctors)
The process of becoming a Registered midwife is similar to the process of becoming a Registered nurse in that you complete a Bachelor of Midwifery 3 years full time. There is also the option to become a Registered nurse first and then complete postgraduate studies in midwifery.
To become a nurse in Australia you need to be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Applying to AHPRA is relatively simple — all you need to do is follow the instructions on the official website, upload the required documents and make a payment. Students are encouraged to register even before their courses are entirely over. That way, there will be no delays and waiting times when they graduate.
Once you apply, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia will have to check whether you meet their standards. If you do, your application will be accepted, and you can start practising as an RN or RW. But don’t forget — you need to renew your AHPRA registration annually.
Once you have become a nurse in Australia you may want to consider specialising. If you have a preferred field of nursing or midwifery that you’d like to be working in you might consider completing additional postgraduate education, as this will enhance your ability to work in a specialist area, give you additional skills, allow you to take on more responsibility and likely boost your take-home pay. Ultimately, nursing is a career that requires you to keep learning and improving your skills, so be prepared to do just that.
The steps to becoming an Enrolled Nurse (EN) in Australia are similar to those you need to take to become an RN, but not quite the same. They include:
- Completing an HLT54115 — Diploma of Nursing
- Applying to AHPRA
- Meeting NMBA’s registration standards
- Gaining practical experience as an EN and then deciding whether you’d like to stay in that career or become an RN
A Diploma of Nursing is generally a 102-week course that gives you all the necessary skills that an EN needs. You can complete these courses at a number of institutions, including universities as well as Vocational Education Training (VET) providers, such as TAFE’s and Colleges of Nursing. Your course will include around 400 hours of unpaid clinical placement which you can attend during the semester or the semester breaks. If you study full-time, you can complete the course in 20 months, after which you officially become an Enrolled Nurse.
From then on, you’ll have a similar path to an RN but with different responsibilities. If you want to further your education, you can enrol in a Bachelor of Nursing and become a Registered Nurse after completion. Since you already have a Diploma of Nursing, you will be granted some recognition of prior learning and your course is likely to be two years rather than three years.
How to Become a Nurse in Australia as an Internationally Qualified Nurse or Midwife
Since nurses are in such high demand in Australia, you can come to work here as a nurse, even if you’re not a citizen. There are a few steps you need to take before you do, though. Let’s break it down.
Just like Australian citizens who complete their Bachelor of Nursing, you need to meet the registration requirements of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. Here is what that entails:
- Providing proof of identity documents such as a passport and passport-sized photos
- Demonstrating an appropriate level of English language proficiency on one of the approved tests — IELTS, OET, PTE, or TOEFL
- Meeting Australian education standards (each applicant is assessed individually, but those from certain countries, such as Canada, Hong Kong, USA, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Ireland, are more likely to pass)
- Providing evidence that you have practised as a nurse in the five years before applying
- Demonstrating that there are no disciplinary proceedings against you and restrictions arising from physical or mental incapacity
Before you can be allowed to work, though, you need to register with AHPRA as an internationally qualified nurse or midwife (IQNM). The whole registration process is explained in detail on the official website, but we’ll still give you an overview of what you can expect.
Completing the Self-check
Before applying for registration as an IQNM, you should complete a self-check on the official website, providing your qualification information. If your qualifications match what is available on the list, you’ll be assigned to one of the three registration streams. If not, AHPRA will advise you on what steps to take to improve your qualification.
The three registration streams are:
- Stream A for those with equivalent or similar competencies to an approved qualification
- Stream B for those with a relevant qualification but not necessarily equivalent or similar
- Stream C for those with a qualification that is neither relevant nor equivalent to an approved qualification
Once you’re assigned a stream, you can proceed with the assessment stage which entails a number of steps. After completing it, you become eligible for registration.
To be assigned stream A, your qualification has to be rather strong, so the assessment stage has only one step. Before you take it, though, you need to pay a non-refundable IQNM assessment fee of $640. Then you can proceed to Orientation Part 1, an online course that serves as an introduction to Australian healthcare. Complete it within 90 days from creating your account in order to progress to registration.
Stream B’s assessment stage begins similarly to Stream A’s — with an IQNM assessment fee and Orientation Part 1. After that, though, there are two more steps to take:
- Portfolio — a stage that requires you to provide identification and qualification details
- Outcomes-based assessment (OBA) — the examination stage that includes a multiple-choice question exam and an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)
These exams assess the graduate’s professional knowledge and check whether the candidate has the necessary skills and competencies to work in Australian healthcare. If you pass them both successfully, you can move on to the registration stage.
Stream C members usually can’t proceed with the registration unless they upgrade their qualifications first. They can do that by obtaining a midwifery or nursing Bachelor’s degree or a nursing Diploma in Australia or the equivalent in a country of their choice. Once they finish upgrading, they can come back and get assigned to a different stream.
Once an internationally qualified nurse or midwife (IQNMs) successfully completes the Self-check and any required assessment stages, they are eligible to apply for registration. Once an IQNM is eligible to apply for registration, the registration application form will be made available within the IQNM candidate dashboard on the Nursing and Midwifery Board website.
Note. This is different to International Medical Graduates (IMGs). IMG doctors are not able to apply for registration until they have a suitable first job offer.
If you’ve successfully passed the assessment stage, you can finally apply for registration. This process has a few stages as well, but those are completed by AHPRA. All you need to do is send your application form and supporting documentation by post or bring them to AHPRA’s office in person.
AHPRA may take some time to process your application, but in the end, you’ll receive an email or a letter with the outcome. If you’re not happy with it, you can appeal the decision within 30 days of receiving the notice.
In case you don’t fit the education criterion but meet all other requirements, you can apply for a training visa to improve your skills. Then you can begin working as a nurse in Australia.
You can’t live and work in Australia if you don’t have a visa, so obtaining one has to be your next step. Typically, workers in Australia pursue the General Skilled Migration (GSM) visa. However, if you secure sponsorship from your employer, you can obtain a few different kinds. For example:
Make sure to follow the instructions for obtaining each type carefully. The last thing you want is to have trouble with your visa after securing everything else on the list. And consider talking to a Registered Migration Agent.
So, you may be wondering — what exactly makes Australia a better place to pursue a nursing career than other countries? We’ve already covered some of the key benefits, but let’s quickly go through all of them.
- Nurses consistently top the rankings of the most trusted profession in Australia (even outranking doctors).
- Due to the ageing population, nurses are in high demand
- There are numerous job openings and opportunities
- Working conditions are excellent, and job satisfaction is high
- The profession is well-paid
- There are many career advancement opportunities
- On average, you’ll be working 33 hours a week
- You’ll be able to specialise in one field, pursue additional trainine and pursue a career you really want
In addition, if you’re a foreigner, you’ll have a much easier time moving to Australia as a nurse. That’s certainly a huge plus if you’ve always wanted to live in this country!
Can IMG Doctors Become Nurses in Australia?
Yes. A number of IMG doctors have chosen to undertake nursing careers in Australia. This is either as a permanent career change or as part of a plan to ultimately work in Medicine in Australia. Having an overseas medical degree will generally assist you to enrol in a postgraduate nursing degree. Entry into nursing degrees is far less competitive than gaining entry into a medical school program.
How Much Will a Bachelor of Nursing Cost You?
An average Bachelor of Nursing degree will cost you around $20,000-$35,000 in tuition fees. If you’re planning to attend a more prestigious university, that price tag might be even higher. However, as an Australian citizen or permanent resident, you can apply for the government’s Commonwealth Support Place subsidy. In that case, the government will pay some of the fees for you.
Where Can You Get Your Bachelor of Nursing?
Many universities in Australia offer a Bachelor of Nursing, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a school that suits you. However, here are some of the top Australian universities where you can get this bachelor:
– University of Sydney
– University of Queensland
– Deakin University
– University of Adelaide
– University of Newcastle
– Australian Catholic University
What Are a Registered Nurse’s Responsibilities in Australia?
A Registered Nurse has quite a few tasks to carry out on a daily basis. Those include:
– Assessing and monitoring patients’ conditions and responses to treatment
– Offering health advice, providing first aid, and conducting physical examinations
– Adjusting and monitoring medical equipment during patient treatment
-Supervising Enrolled Nurses, junior RNs and Nursing students
– Administering medicine
– Participating in health education and promotion activities
– Undertaking professional development
– Contributing to the clinical training of nursing students
This article was written by the Medshop Editor – Medshop is a leading medical supplier, servicing the Australasian region with an unbeatable range of medical supplies and a drive to exceed consumer needs.