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Study to be a Nurse in Australia

Nursing Studies In AustraliaThere is a shortage of nurses in Australia, thus nursing is a popular choice for many international students.  To work in Australia as a nurse you, must be licensed by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. Some Australian qualifications will automatically result a license. If you already hold a bachelor of nursing or higher, and industry experience, you may also qualify for a bridging program in order to receive your nursing license. We explain everything below. Contact us to discuss the best solution to reach your goals.

Nursing employment categories

Nursing qualifications

Education pathways to an Australian nursing license

Employment trend for nurses

Nursing Categories in Employment

There are three main categories of nurses: enrolled nurse (EN), registered nurse (RN), and nurse practitioner (NP):


Registered Nurse (RN) / Division 1 Nurse

A registered nurse has graduated from a Bachelor of Science (Nursing) or Bachelor of Nursing, and pass the national licensing exam. An RN often specialises in his or her field, and may manage other staff in a medical environment, including enrolled nurses and nursing students. Registered nurses often work in intensive care, emergency care, neurology, midwifery, mental health, cardiology, or surgery.

Specialisations include:

  • Registered Nurse (Aged Care)
  • Registered Nurse (Child and Family Health)
  • Registered Nurse (Community Health)
  • Registered Nurse (Critical Care and Emergency)
  • Registered Nurse (Developmental Disability)
  • Registered Nurse (Disability and Rehabilitation)
  • Registered Nurse (Medical)
  • Registered Nurse (Medical Practice)
  • Registered Nurse (Mental Health)
  • Registered Nurse (Surgical)
Enrolled Nurse (EN) / Division 2 Nurse

In Australia, an enrolled nurse may also be referred to as a 'mothercraft' nurse. An enrolled nurse must hold a Diploma of Nursing, which takes approximately 24 months of study and includes practical experience in a hospital. ENs must be supervised by a registered nurse and are responsible for basic nursing care. However, an advanced skill enrolled nurse (ASEN) performs more complex tasks. Becoming an ASCN requires six months of additional training, and a minimum of 3 years experience as an enrolled nurse, or proven talent after at least 4 years experience as an enrolled nurse.

An enrolled nurse can work in a public or private hospital, or nursing home. This is an excellent program in which to decide if you are suited to the nursing profession before moving on to achieve a bachelor degree. Enrolled nurses have limited job growth opportunities, thus higher education should be considered.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse who holds a Master of Nursing (Nurse Practitioner), and acts quite independently in a clinic capacity. And NP assesses and manages patients, and is allowed to prescribe medicine and organise tests.

Nursing Qualifications

  • Diploma of Nursing

  • Advanced Diploma of Nursing

  • Bachelor of Science (Nursing) or Bachelor of Nursing

  • Master of Nursing, Master of Nursing Practice, or Master of Nursing (Nurse Practitioner)

  • Bridging programs for qualified overseas nurses


Send an inquiry to find the perfect nursing program for your goals


Education Pathways to an Australian Nursing License

At Drake, we specialise in study pathways that may can lead to nursing employment for long-term migration for Australia. These programs will result in registration as a Registered Nurse with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.


1. Master of Nursing Practice

Master Of Nursing PracticeAt this time, only a few universities in Australia offer a Master of Nursing Practice to international students. This qualification leads to recognition as a professional nurse with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, and in one case, New Zealand as well. These include Monash University, the University of New England (UNE), and Curtin University.

Another benefit of this Masters program is the ability to apply for the temporary skilled graduate 485 Visa at the end of the program. This Visa gives you full work rights for 2 years in any job, but you would ideally be getting experience in nursing. In addition, Registered Nurse is on the Skilled Occupations Lists, providing a pathway to permanent residency. Finally, holding a Master’s degree will make you highly employable, particularly in regional Australia.

This program is suitable for trained nurses with a bachelor degree or higher, or those who would like to switch to a career in nursing. The program is a mix of classroom and clinical time, assisting learners to gain both theoretical and practical experience.

Depending on the University the program is 1.8 to 2.5 years of full-time study, depending on the school. The full tuition investment for this qualification ranges from $AU46,500-$72,000 for your tuition, plus about $18,000 per year for living expenses.  Ask us about enroling in a Master of Nursing Practice course.


2. Bridging Course (IRON Program)

Australian Bridging Program For NursesMany colleges and universities have been authorised by AHPRA to deliver the Initial Registration for Overseas Registered Nurses (IRON) Program to internationally trained nurses. This bridging course, which may also be referred to as a conversion program, qualifies graduates for nursing registration. This is a 3month accredited program of study which includes 4 weeks of theory, and approximately 8 weeks of clinical practice.

In order to qualify for the program, a student must receive a Letter of Eligibility from AHPRA. The agency does an assessment of the student's overseas education and work experience to decide whether or not a bridging program is required to 'fill the gaps in knowledge' that is required to be a nurse in Australia. The assessment generally takes 3 to 4 months, so you must plan ahead. Once you have the Letter of Eligibility, enrolment in your IRON course happens very quickly. To take the course, you may enter the country on a business or student. This may take 1-2 months to issue.

It is important to keep in mind that upon graduation you will now have your nursing registration, securing sponsorship for ongoing employment in Australia as a nurse is not easy. Yes, there is a skill shortage, but many hospitals are hesitant to issue 457 visas to international nurses. You can apply for permanent residency once you have your nursing approval, but you need Australian work experience for the application process.


3. General nursing studies

Like any Australian, an international student can pursue a diploma or degree, which lead to a nursing license. You can enter straight into a Bachelor of Nursing or Bachelor of Science (Nursing), which will take 3 years full-time, at a cost of approximately $AU70,000-100,000, depending on the university you select.

International students can also pursue a diploma, at a much lower cost. Keep in mind though, you can only work as an Enrolled Nurse with this qualification. 


Employment Trends in Nursing

Job forecast for enrolled nurses

Employment For NursingThere are approximately 23,000 enrolled nurses working in Australia.  Employment for enrolled nurses over the next few years has been below average. In fact, there was a decrease in jobs over the past five-year period. However, with the ageing population, there should be a small increase in job opportunities in the foreseeable future. Less than 50% of roles are full-time, and the salary is below the average for the country. The average salary before tax for a full-time enrolled nurse is approximately $1,000 a week.

Please note: enrolled nurse is not on the Skilled Occupations List for Australia, thus is not a pathway to residency unless you continue your studies into the bachelor level.

Job forcast for registered nurses

In comparison to enrolled nursing, the career forecast for registered nurses is much more promising. There has been an increase in vacancies of the past few years, and this is expected to continue to grow over the next decade. Approximately 241,000 professionals are working as registered nurses, but only 52% have full-time jobs. The average salary for a full-time nurse is approximately $1,300, which is above the national average for all industries.

While the overall statistics for nursing are good, keep in mind that getting sponsorship as a nurse is not easy. For this reason, we suggest you pursue a bachelor degree, as it results in eligibility for the 485 Temporary Skilled Graduate Visa. This visa gives you unlimited work rights for 2 years after graduation. During this time, you can gain valuable nursing experience for your permanent residency application, if this is a goal.

Before you can begin working as a nurse in Australia, you must receive your nursing license. To receive this, you must prove that your English level is IELTS 7. Unfortunately, IELTS is the only test that the nursing accreditation body will accept.

'Registered nurse' is on the Australian Skilled Occupations List. This makes a bachelor degree or higher in nursing a pathway to permanent residency.