Second careers for nurses

Lindsay Caplan Jeremy Coppock

Lindsay Caplan,

Lindsay Caplan

Lindsay Caplan is a graduate nursing student at the Phillips School of Nursing at Mount Sinai, working towards her second accelerated degree in nursing. She holds a B.S. in Biology and English from Boston College.

Jeremy Coppock

Jeremy Coppock

Jeremy is a content writer and editor for Degreechoices. He also has previous experience translating and teaching English. In his free time, he likes learning languages, baking bread, and spending time with his two basset hounds, Chowder and Snuffles.


Published May. 09, 2023 Updated May. 18, 2023
Second careers for nurses

    Nursing can be a rewarding career. It’s also a difficult, stressful job that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Unfortunately, many nurses realize this only after they’ve completed their education and entered the profession. For this reason, burnout in the field of healthcare is pretty darn common. If you’ve caught yourself thinking “I hate nursing, what else can I do?”, we guarantee you, you’re not alone.

    Fortunately, if you’re a nurse, you’re not just an average schmo – you’re a capable professional with a useful skill set that can be applied to many different jobs, both inside and outside the world of healthcare. In this article, we remind nurses of the highly sought-after abilities and character traits they possess, which they may be taking for granted. Then we list some second careers for nurses. Although some of these jobs may require you to go back to school, it could be worth it in the long run if you get more job satisfaction.

    Nursing burnout

    Burnout in nursing can be defined, in the healthcare field, as compassion fatigue. Nursing burnout can take a large physical and mental toll on professionals who provide patient care or work in emergency situations.

    Signs of nursing burnout can manifest in fatigue, feelings of dread, cynicism, and feeling overworked, underappreciated, and unmotivated. This often occurs when nurses are constantly in high-stress environments, providing emotional support and giving all of themselves to others without taking the time to care for themselves.


    According to the National Academy of Medicine, at least 50% of caretakers across medical fields report symptoms of burnout. This can lead to a decline in overall mental health, poor performance, medical mistakes, high turnover rates, and potentially life-altering consequences.

    Nursing burnout also leads nurses to seek out alternative careers – either within healthcare or outside it – where they can put their skills to work in a less exhausting environment. This could mean looking for alternative careers in healthcare, leaving nursing for another profession, or transitioning from healthcare to tech, among others.

    »Read: Key differences between urban and rural nursing

    Your transferable nursing skills

    Many exasperated nurses are asking themselves “I want to leave nursing, what else can I do?” The answer is that you can do a lot. If you’re a nurse considering a career change from healthcare or within it, you have plenty of options. That’s because throughout your nursing career, you have learned vital transferable skills that can help you succeed in a many different roles. Some of these nursing skills include:

    • Effective listening
    • Communication
    • Empathy and compassion
    • Medical knowledge
    • Multitasking and time management
    • Problem solving and adaptability
    • A deep understanding of the healthcare system
    • Teamwork
    • Professionalism and cultural awareness
    • Strong work ethic
    • Documentation and attention to detail

    Taking stock of your nursing super-powers can help guide your search for new jobs, as well as put your best foot forward for resume building and interviews. Remember that many nursing skills are widely sought-after, and you’ve had ample occasion to prove to recruiters that you possess them. As a nurse, you are uniquely positioned to transition to many other careers.

    »Read: Our guide to nursing

    Jobs for burned out nurses

    Below, we list some good jobs for ex-nurses. We have included remote healthcare jobs – including remote healthcare administration jobs – and careers for nurses wondering how to get out of healthcare altogether. These are some of the best jobs for nurses leaving nursing. Note that some jobs may require you to go back to school for additional training, or in some instances obtain a master’s degree.

    »Read: Career options within nursing

    Healthcare jobs that aren’t nursing

    The best jobs for nurses leaving nursing are probably still in healthcare, as they will require minimal retraining or education. After all, not everyone experiencing nursing burnout requires a complete change of scenery. There are plenty of healthcare jobs that could still appeal to you depending on what aspect of nursing you’re most frustrated with.

    While some positions may offer lower earnings than the average for registered nurses (which is $77,600 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), they may also be less stressful and more flexible. Remember that this list is just a starting point for your search, so it’s by no means exhaustive.

    Medical insurance claim adjustor, examiner, or investigator

    As a medical insurance adjustor, you will investigate medical claims to ascertain how much an insurance company will ultimately have to pay out to a policy holder. Your medical knowledge and attention to detail will be a significant asset. Some insurance jobs are remote.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) -2.7%
    Wage estimates
    $41,490 10%
    $49,620 25%
    $65,080 Median
    $81,890 75%
    $101,290 90%

    Nuclear medicine technologists

    Nuclear medicine technologists work with radioactive drugs in a hospital or clinic. You will need a certificate or license, usually obtainable as an associate degree.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) 7.7%
    Wage estimates
    $60,550 10%
    $74,820 25%
    $78,760 Median
    $98,410 75%
    $105,530 90%

    Medical record specialist

    Medical record specialists (or medical billers) work with patients’ files in a healthcare setting. This is a desk job that is less stressful than being a nurse, although average earnings are also lower. Most medical record specialists have some college education, but no specific degree is required. Some employers may prefer candidates with certification. This is an example of a healthcare administration job that could potentially be performed remotely.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) N/A
    Wage estimates
    $29,430 10%
    $36,930 25%
    $46,660 Median
    $59,120 75%
    $74,200 90%

    Post-secondary nursing instructor

    If you love nursing but are tired of working in a hospital setting, you could consider going back to college and entering academia. This option is well suited to nurses who love teaching, enjoy research, and aren’t afraid of theory. While earnings are high, the time commitment is significant, as nursing professors usually possess a doctorate.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) 24.3%
    Wage estimates
    $48,890 10%
    $64,630 25%
    $102,720 Median
    $172,680 75%
    N/A 90%

    Healthcare manager

    As a manager in a healthcare setting, you would shift away from the day-to-day aspects of nursing and focus on “running the ship.” About 30% of healthcare managers have a master’s degree. This implies that going back to school to become a manager could give you a leg up, but it isn’t essential.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) 32.5%
    Wage estimates
    $60,780 10%
    $77,750 25%
    $101,340 Median
    $135,750 75%
    $205,620 90%

    Community health educator

    Health educators think of ways to teach people about issues affecting public health. They may work with schools, the government, or companies. This is a good option for nurses who want to continue helping people improve their health but no longer want to work in a clinical setting.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) 12.4%
    Wage estimates
    $37,020 10%
    $46,770 25%
    $60,600 Median
    $78,220 75%
    $102,480 90%

    Healthcare social worker

    Healthcare social workers offer psychological support to people experiencing serious illnesses. If you are a highly empathetic person, this could be a good alternative career for you. You’ll likely need a master’s in social work for this position.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) 13.2%
    Wage estimates
    $37,630 10%
    $47,630 25%
    $60,840 Median
    $76,920 75%
    $86,820 90%


    Pharmacists ensure that patients receive the correct medications and understand how to use them properly. They also help to prevent potentially harmful drug interactions and side effects by reviewing a patient’s medication history and making recommendations to healthcare providers. Although you will need to go back to school, there are programs available specifically for nurses who want to transition to pharmacy.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) -2.1%
    Wage estimates
    $76,840 10%
    $121,070 25%
    $128,570 Median
    $143,600 75%
    $164,590 90%

    Clinical lab technologist

    As a lab technician, you will perform tests for diagnosing and treating diseases in patients, usually in a hospital or clinical setting. Most lab technicians have a bachelor’s in a medical-adjacent field, but some may only have an associate degree. This job could allow you to put your skills and knowledge as a nurse to good use, but with less stress.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) 10.9%
    Wage estimates
    $30,280 10%
    $37,990 25%
    $57,800 Median
    $74,530 75%
    $79,340 90%

    Genetic counselor

    Genetic counselors advise patients on their genetic predispositions towards certain medical issues. This job requires a master’s degree, so you’d need to go back to college.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) 29.2%
    Wage estimates
    $49,120 10%
    $76,300 25%
    $80,150 Median
    $100,200 75%
    $121,070 90%

    Speech-language pathologist

    Speech-language pathologists help people with speech disorders. This job does require a master’s degree in speech-language pathology and certification.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) 29.2%
    Wage estimates
    $49,120 10%
    $76,300 25%
    $80,150 Median
    $100,200 75%
    $121,070 90%

    Medical translator or interpreter

    Medical interpreters translate spoken language in real-time so that patients who don’t speak English can understand healthcare professionals. Translators translate written medical information, like case files or studies. Note that while interpreters are generally paid more, translators have the option of working remotely. You do not need to go back to school to become a translator or interpreter (as long as you’re already bilingual), but you may need to acquire certification.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) 23.7%
    Wage estimates
    $29,360 10%
    $38,230 25%
    $49,110 Median
    $75,940 75%
    $97,760 90%

    Tech jobs for former nurses

    Switching from healthcare to tech is possible, and there are several suitable jobs for formers nurses in this industry. Some of these positions are closely tied to nursing, but not all. Note that for some high-paying positions, you may need to go back to school or devote a lot of time to independent learning. Notably, some remote healthcare jobs lie at the intersection of healthcare and tech.

    Medical IT professional or medical registrar

    Medical IT professionals, sometimes termed medical information technologists, work in an office behind a computer to analyze medical data. They may advise hospitals and clinics about the software they use to function. Some roles may require specific certification, while others do not; the typical entry-level educational requirement is only an associate degree. As a nurse, your knowledge of healthcare will give you an advantage over other candidates.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) N/A
    Wage estimates
    $29,680 10%
    $37,500 25%
    $55,560 Median
    $76,960 75%
    $98,490 90%

    Data scientist

    Data scientists analyze big data; they can see the story in the numbers and explain these insights to stakeholders. Most data scientists have a bachelor’s or master’s in the subject, so you may have to go back to school. A shorter immersive data science program could also be an option if you have time to study independently.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) N/A
    Wage estimates
    $59,430 10%
    $77,620 25%
    $100,910 Median
    $130,770 75%
    $167,040 90%

    Web developer

    Web developers build websites and make sure they continue to function properly. This is definitely a job you could do from home, and many web developers are freelancers. If you’re very motivated, you could teach yourself to become a web developer without going back to school.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) N/A
    Wage estimates
    $38,280 10%
    $51,100 25%
    $77,030 Median
    $100,670 75%
    $129,760 90%

    Other jobs for former nurses intent on leaving healthcare

    Some nurses may be wanting something completely different, and that’s totally ok. However, these jobs are more likely to require you to go back to college. Think carefully about your soft skills – as well was what you enjoyed or were frustrated by in nursing – when considering a career change from healthcare.

    Massage therapist

    Massage therapists give massages to clients with sore bodies, helping ease pain and discomfort. Most states require masseurs and masseuses to have a license.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) 32.2%
    Wage estimates
    $24,450 10%
    $34,770 25%
    $46,910 Median
    $60,510 75%
    $77,600 90%

    Mental health / substance abuse social worker

    Social workers specializing in mental health or substance abuse help people overcome challenges to their emotional well-being. As a nurse, your empathy and knowledge of healthcare will help you in this role. However, you will need to go back to college.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) 14.9%
    Wage estimates
    $31,010 10%
    $38,630 25%
    $49,130 Median
    $69,260 75%
    $97,300 90%

    Human resource specialist

    Human resources specialists are responsible for recruiting candidates for job openings, as well as assigning newly hired employees to suitable positions. They may also oversee tasks related to compensation and benefits and maintaining positive employee relations. This position combines nurses’ people skills with their attention to detail. You may be able to get a job in HR without going back to college.

    Projected growth (2020-2030) 10.4%
    Wage estimates
    $37,680 10%
    $48,080 25%
    $62,290 Median
    $81,090 75%
    $108,160 90%

    Final thoughts

    As a nurse, you’ve already done a lot to help people around you. You’ve supported people as they navigate through very hard times, and you may have helped save more than a few lives. With that said, there’s no reason to feel shame if you’re simply burned out and you’re thinking about leaving healthcare. If you’re looking at a career change – be it for a job that’s less stressful or a position where you don’t have to deal with frightened, grumpy people all day – there are so many great jobs for ex-nurses.

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