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Alternative Careers for Nurses or Former Nurses

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Nursing is a very rewarding career. Many graduates who earn their nursing degree work as nurses for a while to gain experience. While they enjoy what they do, many want to try new things and gain experience in different areas. Alternative careers for registered nurses are available for those who want to broaden their horizons and put a new twist on an old career. For some, it’s just a matter of wanting to try something different that will add depth to their experience. Variety is the spice of life and it can keep the life of a nurse interesting if they are willing to look for new career opportunities.

Alternate nursing careers can be found in many different places, somewhere you wouldn’t expect a nurse to be. Nurses have valuable skills that they can use in many different areas. Aside from the most traditional positions in hospitals, nursing homes, and other types of healthcare facilities, registered nurses can find work in schools, on cruise ships, at camps, research facilities, fitness centers, and many other places that deal with generalized healthcare. Nurses who want to explore all of their options can choose to be hands-on, work in a classroom, or take on an administrative role. The options are there. All you have to do is pursue them.

An alternative nursing career can lead you in an entirely new and different direction. If you are interested in trying a different type of nursing, you can choose a specialization, such as surgical, trauma, pediatrics, oncology, hospice, or any of the other types of nursing options. You can also choose to work outside of the more traditional settings. Think outside the box and look for ways you can use your nursing degree to make a difference in other areas.

1. Camp Nurse

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A camp nurse works at day camps, scout camps, or any other type of camp where kids go to learn about themselves and the world around them. Camp nurses are onsite to treat any minor injuries that the children may receive and educate the children about good health and the lifestyle habits they need to include in their daily routine.

In most cases, camp nurses are only needed during the summer or over holidays where special camps are held. The average yearly salary for a camp nurse with at least a few years of experience is approximately $45,000. This may be a little higher depending on how much experience they have and what degrees they have earned.

2. Community Organizer/Community Health Educator

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A community organizer/community health educator is assigned the task of educating the public about specific events or health concerns that they need to be aware of. A community health educator is normally hired by the Public Health Officer or a public health official. A community health educator works to educate the community at large and organize events that encourage healthy lifestyle habits.

A community organizer/community health educator can find work in almost any community. More than one position may be available in each area depending on how large the community is. The average yearly salary for a community organizer/community health educator is approximately $32,000 to $80,000 depending on their degree and the amount of experience they have.

3. Cruise Ship Nurse

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Cruise ship nurses work alongside the doctor on staff. They are hired by cruise lines to travel on cruises throughout the year and provide nursing care to those who may become ill or injured while on the cruise. They may be asked to offer an occasional class that teaches the passengers something useful like first aid or how to manage seasickness while they are on board.

With cruises beginning to book more voyages, the demand for cruise ship nurses is steadily on the rise. For nurses who have a solid resume and a few years of quality experience, the average yearly salary is rather impressive. Most cruise ship nurses can expect to make approximately $76,000 per year.

4. Disease Prevention Nurse Specialist

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A disease prevention nurse specialist, also referred to as an infection control nurse, can find employment in many different areas, including research and public health. Healthcare facilities and public health organizations are commonly known to hire this type of nurse to help educate the public. The ultimate goal is to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The best way to accomplish this is through education.

In today’s health conscious environment, the demand for disease prevention nurse specialist is growing. Nurses in this field can expect to earn anywhere from $77,000 to $93,000 per year. The actual salary will depend on how much experience they have and what degree they have completed.

5. Flight Nurse

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Flight nurses travel on planes either on stand-by if someone gets sick or as part of a medical flight crew that is traveling with a patient that requires constant medical attention. Airlines may hire a flight nurse or they may be hired as part of an ambulatory crew that specializes in mobile or trauma care. The nurse provides hands-on care throughout the flight in whatever capacity it is needed.

Flight nurses are always in demand due to the intense and very stressful work they do. Flight nurses who are just starting out can expect to make approximately $36,000 to $50,000 or more per year. As they continue to gain experience, they can eventually make upwards of $90,000 to $120,000 per year on average.

6. Forensic Nurse

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A forensic nurse performs many tasks that include investigating injuries, taking photographs, working with attorneys, or advocating for abuse victims. They work hand in hand with medical teams, legal professionals, and law enforcement officers. They are often hired by legal firms and medical investigators who work to uncover and categorize evidence.

Forensic nurses are often in demand in larger communities but may still be able to find work in more rural areas as well. The average salary is approximately $57,000 per year for those who have at least a small amount of experience.

7. Genetics Nurse

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A genetics nurse works with patients to assess their genetic makeup and identify any risk factors they may have. They also collect samples for genetic testing. Hospitals and labs are normally the types of facilities that hire genetics nurses. Their role in the process is to assess the patient’s risk factors and collect and preserve samples until they can be tested.

There is a need for genetics nurses throughout the country, especially in larger, metropolitan areas. The average yearly salary for a genetics nurse is approximately $63,000 depending on your level of experience. A Master’s degree is also beneficial in raising the salary base.

8. Grant Writer

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Nurses who work as grant writers can use their skills to write grants for medical facilities and organizations that support medical studies. In many situations, nurses will write grants for their employers as part of their jobs. Others may offer their grant writing services to medical facilities that perform specific types of research.

The demand for grant writing nurses is rather high considering the amount of research that is being performed. The average salary for a grant writer is approximately $68,000 per year, but can go much higher if they are successful. Nurses who are exceptionally good at grant writing can make as much as $128,000 per year.

9. Health Representative 

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Nurses who work as health representative are well-spoken and capable of speaking to large audiences. They work in media relations as a public affairs representative. Health representatives are often hired by large hospitals and other healthcare facilities to speak on their behalf at conferences or other media outlets. It is their job to present information to the public.

Health representatives are always in demand, especially during periods when there is a situation that requires constant communication with the public. A healthcare representative can expect to make over $37,000 per year depending on their level of experience.

10. Health/Nutrition/Fitness Coach

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Nurses who work as a health, nutrition, or fitness coach help to educate their clients in a specific capacity. They are normally hired by individuals who need guidance in a specific area. They may also be hired by fitness centers or other companies that offer these types of services. A coach works one on one with clients to help them achieve whatever goals they have set for themselves.

Today, many people prefer to work one on one with a coach to ensure they are getting the attention they need to feel confident when working toward their goals. A nurse who uses their skills to coach others can expect to earn anywhere from $43,000 to $87,000 per year. They can choose to work in a facility or open their own coaching business.

11. Healthcare Compliance Specialist 

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Nurses who choose to work as a healthcare compliance specialist are normally hired by state or government agencies. Their duties include inspecting facilities such as group homes, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and doctor’s offices to ensure they are in compliance with state and federal regulations.

Healthcare compliance specialists are in moderate demand throughout the country with the best option for employment in larger, metropolitan areas. The average salary for compliance specialists can be as high as $69,000. This will mainly depend on their level of experience. Having a higher degree will help to increase your earning potential over time.

12. Holistic/Alternative Medicine

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Nurses who work as a holistic or alternative medicine practitioner use alternative or holistic treatment methods to help patients find more natural ways to deal with illnesses and injuries. In most cases, this type of nurse will either work in a facility that specializes in holistic or alternative healthcare methods. They may also choose to open their own practice.

With more and more people becoming interested in holistic healing methods, the job outlook for this type of career is very good. Depending on where you live, you can make anywhere from $55,000 to $128,000 per year on average.

13. Insurance Nurse

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Nurses who work for insurance companies perform a number of duties. They collect information and perform evaluations to determine eligibility for specific types of insurance policies. Insurance companies hire nurses with these skills and use them throughout the country to work with clients. Insurance nurses who work directly with clients not only help to determine eligibility, they may also help with the filing of claims as well.

Nurses who work with insurance companies can find jobs all over the country at almost any time. The average salary for nurses who work in this field is approximately $80,000 per year. The more experience you have, the higher your earning potential will be as you continue your career.

14. Legal Nurse Consultant

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Legal nurse consultants work for law firms or as independent contractors to help attorneys work their way through medical evidence. They may testify in court or help to identify evidence that is located on or inside of a body. Legal nurse consultants may also act as advocates for victims who may not have anyone else to speak to them.

The job outlook for a legal nurse consultant is good considering the increased number of lawsuits involving health and medical As a legal nurse consultant, you can expect to earn anywhere from $55,000 to $211,000. The amount you earn will be directly related to your level of experience and what degree you possess.

15. Medical Journalist

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Nurses who find work as a medical journalist are normally hired by media companies or publications to provide up to date and accurate news articles. They must be able to perform diligence when it comes to research and uncovering factual information. They may need to conduct interviews or meet with individuals who can provide new insights or points of view.

Although medical journalism is prevalent in larger cities, but you may have difficulty finding work in smaller communities. Depending on where you plan on working, you may be able to expect around $69,000 per year on average. Experience and education will be a factor in determining your earning potential.

16. Nurse Case Manager

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A nurse case manager works hand in hand with managers who handle the cases for clients who are in constant need of medical care. This is often the case when it comes to group homes, rehabilitation facilities, and assisted living facilities. A case manager monitors the patient’s progress as well as any treatment they receive. They work with doctors and caregivers to make sure the patient gets the care they need.

Case manager positions are in high demand due to the large number of facilities that utilize their services. For an RN case manager, you can expect to earn on average approximately $72,000 per year. Case managers can increase their earning potential by going back to school or through years of experience.

17. Nurse Lobbyist

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A nurse lobbyist is someone who works with lawmakers to make changes to existing laws and statutes and also make new laws governing healthcare. Nurse lobbyists are hired by organizations that work under specific healthcare laws and statutes. Lobbyists spend long hours meeting with lawmakers and other individuals who enforce laws pertaining to healthcare and medical services.

Nurse lobbyists are always in demand, especially in states where healthcare is a common topic with lawmakers. If a nurse lobbyist has at least five years of experience, you can expect to earn around $75,000 to $100,000 a year. Individuals who have worked as a lobbyist for many years can earn as much as $300,000 a year.

18. Nurse Researcher

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Nurse researchers are often hired by laboratories and manufacturers that have a Research and Development department. Nurse researchers work with developers to help them design new products that may be beneficial to patients. In addition to assisting with the design of a new product, a nurse researcher may also help with the testing phase.

Nurse researchers are better able to find work in areas where medical manufacturers have their factories and testing facilities. Depending on the amount of experience they have and what degree program they have completed, a nurse researcher may be able to make as much as $95,000 per year on average.

19. Nursing Facility Administrator

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Nursing facility administrators manage large facilities and work with teams of nurses who provide hands on care to the patients who have been admitted. Facility administrators are hired by upper management of these facilities to take care of both the residents and the staff who take care of them. Facility administrators monitor the operations of the facility and maintain a positive work environment.

Because nursing facility administrators are considered a much higher level position, it requires many years of experience and a higher degree program. This may limit the job market for many people. Nursing facility administrators can make anywhere from $75,000 to $90,000 a year.

20. Nursing Professor

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A nursing professor works to educate students who are interested in becoming a nurse. They can teach basic nursing skills or the skills that are associated with certain specializations. Nursing professors are hired by colleges and universities to teach nursing students the skills they need to pass their licensing test and become nurses who work in many different capacities.

Nursing professors are in high demand and make an ideal career choice for nurses who want to help others and are looking for a possible career change. Nursing professors who are at the lower end of the hiring scale can earn approximately $85,000 per year, while those that rank at the top of the scale and work for a higher end university may be able to earn as much as $190,000 per year.

21. Occupational/Industrial Health Nurse

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Occupational and industrial health nurses work in factories and other industrial settings to help employees who have been injured while on the job. They are hired by companies that need someone who has experience in industrial settings. They may be required to perform a variety of tests that include drug screenings or dexterity tests.

Occupational/Industrial health nurses are in demand anywhere that there is a large industrial or manufacturing presence. With this type of career, nurses can expect to earn anywhere from $66,000 to $100,000 per year. In order to earn the higher salary, the applicant will have to have more experience and a higher degree.

22. Pharmaceutical Nurse

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Pharmaceutical nurses work within the pharmaceutical industry. They work for dispensaries and pharmacies where drugs are dispensed within healthcare facilities. A pharmaceutical nurse can work in a pharmacy or healthcare facility where they not only dispense the medications but also monitor the patients’ care as well.

A pharmaceutical nurse salary can make as little as $24,000 or as high as $140,000. The key differences are due to the years of experience and what degree they have. Pharmaceutical nurses are commonly found in larger facilities where they are in charge of handling all of the medications for the patients.

23. Procurement Nurse

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A procurement nurse primarily deals with the transplant process. They are in charge of procuring the organs from the donor and working with other health professionals to ensure the organ is transplanted according to state and federal protocols. Procurement nurses often work for hospitals and other facilities that specialize in transplant procedures.

The need for procurement nurses is moderate depending on where you live and how close you are to a facility that performs transplants. Procurement nurses can make anywhere from $40,000 to $114,000 depending on their degree and the years of experience they have in dealing with transplants.

24. Program Development

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A nurse who works in the field of program development helps to coordinate programs and activities that allow nurses to make the most of their careers. They are often hired by hospitals and nursing facilities to assist nurses in receiving the training and experience they need to advance their careers. Coordinating programs also allows other medical professionals to find the right nurses for job openings in specific areas.

Program coordinator positions are often found in larger facilities. The average salary is approximately $67,000 per year. Nurses who have years of experience in managing these types of programs can expect to make a much higher salary.

25. Quality Assurance Nurse Specialist

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Quality assurance nurse specialists help facilities improve the quality of care they provide to their patients. They help to develop new programs that allow companies to run more efficiently. Quality assurance nurse specialists are hired by both healthcare facilities as well as governing agencies that oversee them.

Quality assurance nurse specialist positions are available in many areas and pay more if the candidate has more experience and a higher degree to back up there experience. Pay can range from $72,000 to $88,000 per year on average, even if they only have moderate experience.

How Do I Get a Job Outside of Nursing? 

There are many ways you can get a job outside of nursing. Alternative nursing jobs can be found in many different areas. Choose your passion and follow your heart. Some nurses prefer to teach others and enjoy seeing the differences they can make in the lives of others. There are many people who have a difficult time working with patients who they know are not going to get better. There are a wide variety of jobs available that will allow them to do what they love and still know they are making a positive impact on the world around them.

Can I Be a Nurse Without Doing Direct Care?

For individuals who do not want to work directly with patients, there are many alternatives to bedside nursing that they can choose from. Earning a nursing degree opens the doors to many opportunities that do not involve providing hands-on care to patients. From a program coordinator to a procurement nurse, you have many options that allow you to use your skills in ways that you enjoy. Pharmaceutical nursing, research and development, and grant writing all allow you to expand your horizons and still use the skills you have worked so hard to learn.

Does a Nursing Degree Have Value Outside of Nursing?

Your nursing degree holds the value you place on it. If you put in the work, you can pursue almost any type of career you want whether you work as a nurse or in another field altogether. The skills you learn through your degree will allow you to choose whatever career path most interests you. In fact, you maybe able to expand on your skills to the point where you work in two industries at the same time and are very successful in both.

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