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15 Degrees for Nursing in Australia

The different types of nursing degrees to become a nurse or further your career.

Two young nurse students chatting while walking

Overview

To become a nurse in Australia, the standard pathway is to complete Year 12 followed by a 3-year Bachelor of Nursing. This qualifies you to become a Registered Nurse (RN).

However, other options are available, including a Diploma of Nursing, which leads to becoming an Enrolled Nurse (EN). Accelerated degrees are also available for ENs and graduates holding non-nursing degrees.

For established nurses, a range of postgraduate courses are available for career advancement. These include graduate certificates, graduate diplomas, and master's degrees. RNs can also complete a Master of Nurse Practitioner, which qualifies them to be a Nurse Practitioner (NP).

Types of Nursing Degrees

To understand the different educational options available, here is a comprehensive guide to degrees for nurses in Australia.

Notes: a: Qualify to be an Enrolled Nurse. b: Qualify to be a Registered Nurse. c: Qualify to be a Nurse Practitioner.

Diploma of Nursing

A foundational course for becoming an Enrolled Nurse, the Diploma of Nursing focuses on essential skills and practical healthcare experience.

  • Duration: 18-24 months of full-time study, including 400+ hours of clinical placements.
  • Who is it for: Anyone interested in starting a career in nursing, offering a blend of theoretical knowledge and hands-on training.
  • Outcome: Eligibility to practice as an Enrolled Nurse upon completion and registration with AHPRA.

Advanced Diploma of Nursing

A higher-level VET qualification for enrolled nurses to develop advanced skills in specialised areas under the supervision of a registered nurse.

  • Duration: Generally between 18 months to 2 years.
  • Who is it for: Enrolled nurses in Australia who are registered without notation with the NMBA, looking to upskill and specialise in areas like acute care, mental health, or critical care.
  • Outcome: Enhanced expertise in a chosen specialisation, contributing to improved clinical practices.

Bachelor of Nursing

The Bachelor of Nursing is a comprehensive degree program designed to prepare students for registration as nurses, combining theoretical learning with extensive practical training. It may also be called a Bachelor of Science (Nursing) or Bachelor of Nursing Science.

  • Duration: 3 years, including over 800 hours of clinical placements.
  • Who is it for: First-time university students to prepare for a nursing career. The required ATAR is usually around 65 but varies by university.
  • Outcome: Become a Registered Nurse (after graduating and applying to the NMBA).

Bachelor of Nursing (Fast Track)

An accelerated version of the Bachelor of Nursing, this program condenses the standard curriculum into two years by adding a summer semester.

  • Duration: 2 years, with three semesters per year. 800+ hours in clinical placements.
  • Who is it for: Students looking to fast-track their nursing education, suitable for those able to handle a more intensive course load.
  • Outcome: Become a Registered Nurse (after graduating and applying to the NMBA).

Bachelor of Nursing (Enrolled Nurse Pathway)

An accelerated program designed for diploma-qualified Enrolled Nurses to upgrade to a Registered Nurse qualification.

  • Duration: 2 years full-time or equivalent part-time, including¬†at least 720 hours of professional experience.
  • Who is it for: Enrolled Nurses with a completed Diploma of Nursing and current AHPRA registration.
  • Outcome: Become a Registered Nurse (after graduating and applying to the NMBA).

Bachelor of Nursing (Graduate Entry)

An accelerated Bachelor of Nursing program for individuals with any undergraduate degree. It offers a career change with a focus on foundational skills.

  • Duration: 2 years, with over 800 hours of clinical placements.
  • Who is it for: Graduates from any field, ideal for those with a health background. Entry typically requires a completed bachelor's degree.
  • Outcome: Become a Registered Nurse (after graduating and applying to the NMBA).

Note: A Master of Nursing (Graduate Entry) fulfills the same function.

Bachelor of Nursing (Honours)

The Bachelor of Nursing (Honours) represents an optional extra year of academic and research-orientated study for high achievers in a Bachelor of Nursing.

  • Duration: 1 year full-time or part-time equivalent.
  • Who is it for: Graduates of a Bachelor of Nursing (or other nurse qualifying degree) with high grades. A Distinction average is a common minimum requirement.
  • Outcome: Specialised knowledge and exposure to research and academia as a career option.

Graduate Certificate in Nursing

Providing advanced training in specialised fields, a Graduate Certificate in Nursing is a postgraduate course for RNs. Its consists of four subjects, typically drawn from a larger master's program.

  • Duration: 8 months part-time.
  • Who is it for: Registered nurses with at least 12 months of clinical experience, seeking to specialise or advance their career.
  • Outcome: Nursing certification in a chosen area, paving the way for roles like Clinical Nurse Specialist and providing a stepping stone towards further studies such as a Graduate Diploma or Master of Nursing. Qualification allowance typically exceeding $3k per year.

Graduate Certificate in Nursing (Bridging and Re-entry)

A streamlined program designed to update the skills of internationally qualified nurses and those returning to practice, ensuring alignment with Australian standards.

  • Duration: 3 months full-time.
  • Who is it for: Internationally educated nurses seeking Australian registration and nurses re-entering the profession after a break.
  • Outcome: Registration or re-registration in Australia in order to resume practice.

Graduate Certificate in Nursing (Re-entry)

A course designed for nurses to regain their registration, updating skills and knowledge to current standards.

  • Duration: 3 months, combining online theory and clinical placement.
  • Who is it for: Registered Nurses (Division 1) with lapsed registration.
  • Outcome: Prepared for re-registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

Graduate Diploma in Nursing

A specialised postgraduate course for RNs, the Graduate Diploma in Nursing offers eight subjects in areas like Advanced Practice and Nurse Education.

  • Duration: 16 months part-time.
  • Who is it for: Registered nurses aiming to specialise and advance their careers.
  • Outcome: Enhanced professional skills and qualifications for advanced roles or further study. Qualification allowance averaging over $4k per year.

Master of Nursing

A Masters of Nursing is an extended program for RNs to specialise in Advanced Practice, Mental Health, and many other fields.

  • Duration: 2 years part-time.
  • Who is it for: Nurses aiming for advanced roles or specialisation.
  • Outcome: Enhanced career opportunities in specialised pactice and leadership. Highest qualification allowances, averaging more than $5k per annum.

Master of Nursing (Graduate Entry)

A nurse training program for those with a previous undergraduate degree in another field. Also known as Master of Nursing (Entry to Practice) and Master of Nursing Practice (Pre-Registration).

  • Duration: 2 years, including a total of 800 hours of professional placement experience.
  • Who is it for: Graduates from any field. Entry requires a bachelor's degree with minimum grade standards.
  • Outcome: Qualification as a Registered Nurse upon graduation and registration with the NMBA.

Note: A Bachelor of Nursing (Graduate Entry) fulfills the same function.

Master of Nurse Practitioner

A specialised program designed to qualify registered nurses as Nurse Practitioners, a role that combines advanced medical and nursing skills.

  • Duration: 1 year full-time, following at least 3 years of clinical experience.
  • Who is it for: Experienced nurses aiming to qualify for the medical role of Nurse Practitioner.
  • Outcome: Ability to practice independently as a Nurse Practitioner with a broad scope in clinical decision-making and patient management. Nurse practitioners are the highest paid nurses in Australia.

Doctorate in Nursing

A doctoral program for nurses, typically requiring a long dissertation to be written.

  • Duration: Approximately 3-4 years.
  • Who is it for: Nurses and graduates seeking advanced qualifications.
  • Outcome: PhD qualification leading to opportunities in academic research, healthcare policy development, and nursing leadership.

Different Nurse Levels in Australia

Medical staff administering vaccination

The vast majority of nurses in Australia are degree-qualified Registered Nurses (RNs). In addition, there are diploma-qualified Enrolled Nurses (ENs) who work under the supervision of RNs. Higher nursing classifications available to RNs after postgraduate study include designations such as Clinical Nurse Specialist and Nurse Practitioner.

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses form the backbone of the nursing workforce. Each one has passed a rigorous training program for their nursing degree, including participating in on-campus simulations and completing hundreds of hours of clinical placements.

An RN is qualified to independently manage patient care, administer medications, develop and implement treatment plans, and collaborate with multidisciplinary teams to ensure holistic patient wellbeing. They also play a vital role in educating patients and their families about health conditions and ongoing care.

Related: Registered Nurse Courses: Approved Programs of Study

Enrolled Nurses

Enrolled nurses perform some of the direct care patients need, including in aged care and hospital environments. ENs are always required to work under the supervision of an RN, though the level of oversight can be quite relaxed, especially for more experienced nurses.

Becoming an EN requires completing an 18-24 month Diploma of Nursing. This intensive course is highly accessible and doesn't have minimum ATAR requirements. For ongoing career progression, ENs should consider pursuing a Bachelor of Nursing (Enrolled Nurse Pathway), as it offers an accelerated pathway to becoming an RN.

Related: Enrolled Nurse Courses: Approved Programs of Study

Advanced Roles

Contingent on postgraduate study, at least to a graduate certificate level, RNs can progress to advanced roles with greater responsibilities and higher pay. A level above the standard RN classification is the position of Clinical Nurse Specialist, as it's known in Victoria and New South Wales. Equivalent roles in other regions include "Clinical Nurse" and "Registered Nurse, Level 2."

Career streams for nurses include clinical consultancy, nursing education, management, and research. Senior roles often benefit from a Master's in Nursing to supplement on-the-job experience and include jobs such as Clinical Nurse Consultant, Nurse Educator, and Nurse Unit Manager.

Related: Postgraduate Nursing Courses Online

Nurse Practitioners

The highest-paying hands-on role for nurses in Australia is Nurse Practitioner. Becoming an NP depends on having extensive clinical experience in a specialty area and completing a Master of Nurse Practitioner. NPs are qualified to prescribe medications, order diagnostic tests, and manage both acute and chronic illnesses.

Related: Approved Master of Nurse Practitioner Programs

Specialisations

Midwifery Courses

For aspiring and current midwives, a range of courses are available comparable to those for nurses.

Notes: a: Qualify to be a Registered Midwife. b: Qualify to be a Registered Nurse.

Bachelor of Midwifery

The Bachelor of Midwifery is for aspiring midwives, offering extensive practical experience in maternal and newborn care.

  • Duration: 3 years, with roughly 1000 hours in clinical placements.
  • Who is it for: Aspiring midwives committed to supporting women and families through pregnancy, birth, and early parenting.
  • Outcome: Qualification as a Registered Midwife.

Bachelor of Midwifery (Graduate Entry)

An accelerated program for nurses and paramedics to qualify as midwives, integrating theoretical study with clinical practice.

  • Duration: 2 years, including approximately 1000 hours of clinical placements.
  • Who is it for: RNs and practicing paramedics aiming to transition into midwifery.
  • Outcome: Eligibility for registration as a Registered Midwife with AHPRA.

Note: This course serves the same function as Graduate Diploma of Midwifery and Master of Midwifery (Graduate Entry).

Bachelor of Nursing / Midwifery

The Bachelor of Nursing / Bachelor of Midwifery is a dual degree program designed to prepare students for registration as both nurses and midwives.

  • Duration: 4 years full-time, including 1000-1600 hours of supervised clinical experience.
  • Who is it for: Students aiming to become qualified in both nursing and midwifery.
  • Outcome: Qualification as a Registered Nurse (Division 1) and a Midwife. Graduates can provide nursing care and midwifery services, contributing to maternal and newborn health in a versatile fashion.

Bachelor of Midwifery (Honours)

The Bachelor of Midwifery (Honours) represents an optional extra year of academic and research-orientated study for high achievers in a Bachelor of Midwifery.

  • Duration: 1 year full-time or part-time equivalent.
  • Who is it for: Graduates of a Bachelor of Midwifery (or other midwife qualifying degree) with high grades. A Distinction average is a common minimum requirement.
  • Outcome: Specialised knowledge and exposure to research and academia as a career option.

Graduate Certificate in Midwifery

A postgraduate program designed for Registered Midwives to deepen their knowledge and skills for advanced practice in midwifery.

  • Duration: 0.5 year full-time.
  • Who is it for: Registered Midwives seeking to enhance their professional capabilities and prepare for expanded roles in midwifery.
  • Outcome: Advanced knowledge and skills in midwifery, with the option to further study for a Master of Midwifery.

Graduate Certificate in Midwifery (Re-entry)

A program for midwives re-entering the workforce, focusing on refreshing and enhancing skills.

  • Duration: Typically 0.5 year full-time, including around 360 hours of professional workplace experience.
  • Who is it for: Midwives who have been out of practice seeking re-entry into the profession.
  • Outcome: Qualification for re-registration as a Registered Midwife with the NMBA.

Graduate Diploma of Midwifery

A program for nurses to gain midwifery qualifications.

  • Duration: 12-18 months with roughly 1000 hours of clinical practice.
  • Who is it for: Registered nurses aiming to become midwives.
  • Outcome: Eligibility to practise as a Registered Midwife with registration from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

Note: This course serves the same function as Bachelor of Midwifery (Graduate Entry) and Master of Midwifery (Graduate Entry).

Master of Midwifery

A postgraduate program for midwives to extend their skills in areas like midwifery practice, policy, leadership, and research.

  • Duration: 1.5 years full-time, with options for part-time study.
  • Who is it for: Midwives seeking to enhance their expertise in specialised midwifery areas and develop research skills.
  • Outcome: Advanced midwifery qualifications.

Master of Midwifery (Graduate Entry)

A program for nurses to gain a midwifery qualification. Also known as a Master of Midwifery Practice.

  • Duration: 2 years full-time. The program includes a substantial amount of clinical experience and Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities.
  • Who is it for: Nurses seeking to specialise in midwifery.
  • Outcome: Graduates can work as registered midwives and are eligible to register with the NMBA.

Note: Bachelor of Midwifery (Graduate Entry) and Graduate Diploma of Midwifery fulfill the same function.

Doctorate in Midwifery

A doctoral program for nurses such as a PhD (Midwifery) or Doctor of Midwifery, typically requiring a long dissertation to be written.

  • Duration: Approximately 3-4 years.
  • Who is it for: Midwives and graduates seeking advanced qualifications.
  • Outcome: Doctoral qualification leading to opportunities in academic research, healthcare policy development, and midwifery leadership.

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