How To Become A Nurse In Australia: A Step-By-Step Guide

(917 Votes, Average 4.5 out of 5)

Students want to know how to become registered and enrolled nurses in Australia, including when coming from overseas.


Do you want to become a registered or enrolled nurse in Australia? Becoming a nurse is one of the most professionally and personally rewarding careers you can pursue.


Nurses are in great demand in Australia and worldwide. The continual advancement of new technology makes nursing one of the most challenging and exciting occupations.


Nurses get the opportunity of helping patients at crucial moments in their lives while working as part of a team of competent professionals.


A career as a registered nurse will provide you with continued support, education, satisfying working relationships, and the chance to work in various settings while earning a high income.


Read the post below to learn how to become an enrolled or registered nurse in Australia, including from overseas, how long it takes, and much more.



1. What Do Nurses Do, and Where Do They Work?


Nurses work in medical clinics or hospitals the majority of the time. They might also work for other organisations like rehabilitation centres, outpatient clinics, or senior centres. Overall, their primary responsibility is to promote good health and well-being.


Generally, nurses' traditional work environment is at a hospital, with emergency rooms being one of the most demanding and stressful. However, nowadays, nurses have a wide range of employment options beyond the traditional hospital or ward setting. 


Here are career opportunities and fields where nurses can work today:


  • Palliative care

  • Specialist ear nursing

  • Nursing in general practice

  • Aged care nursing

  • Cancer Nursing

  • Getting a job as a nurse practitioner (who can prescribe some medications independently)

  • Mental health nursing (both inside and outside general hospital settings).


While there are numerous nursing specialty fields, some may require you to complete a TSPP (Transition to Specialty Practice Program). Obtaining a spot in one of these programs can be extremely hard and competitive, with up to 40 candidates competing for a single position in certain circumstances.



2. What Is An Enrolled Nurse?


An enrolled nurse is a highly skilled and experienced nurse performing various duties.


Many consider them the backbone of the nursing profession. Enrolled nurses provide nursing care under the registered nurse's direction, delegation and supervision.


An enrolled nurse takes care of patients by providing for their daily needs, helping physicians with treatments, and carrying out some basic medical tasks independently. They also need to be accountable for appropriate care for the patient. 


Their work duties vary significantly based on the following:


  • Type of healthcare organisation or facility they work in, and whether it is in the public or private sector 

  • The state and the area they work in - metropolitan, rural, regional, and remote areas

  • The environments they work in - aged care, primary health care, acute care, or community care. 



3. What Is A Registered Nurse?


A registered nurse is a qualified medical professional who performs a wide range of clinical care duties. They work as part of the healthcare team to examine patients, implement treatment plans, and determine diagnoses.


These nurses received training and licensing per the Nursing Act competency standards. It gives them autonomy when making decisions and enables them to take on heavy responsibilities and perform various medical interventions.



4. Registered Nurses Vs Enrolled Nurses


Most of the time, Enrolled Nurses and Registered Nurses work together, with the Enrolled Nurses working under the supervision of the Registered Nurses.


The Registered Nurse has a greater responsibility than an Enrolled Nurse. Besides doing practical hands-on tasks like an Enrolled Nurse, they provide complex nursing, specialised care, patient assessments, nursing care plans, administering medicine, conducting admin tasks, working as a unit manager, and more.


The Differences Between Enrolled and Registered Nurses:



Scope Of Practice


The scope of practice mentions the procedures, activities, and tasks a medical professional can perform. In general, Enrolled Nurses have more limited responsibilities than Registered Nurses, as their qualifications don't allow them to perform more complex medical care. 


Registered Nurses usually implement medical treatments and perform more skilled processes, such as diagnostic tests and administering medications under the guidance of a physician. Enrolled Nurses only perform restricted medical tasks.


Registered nurses are responsible for performing patient assessments. On the other hand, enrolled nurses spend time conducting daily, practical tasks such as assisting patients with eating, grooming, and monitoring their vital signs like glucose and blood pressure.



Educational Requirements


Both nurses work in the profession after spending time in formal education and gaining relevant licences.


Registered nurses generally require a more advanced study level than enrolled nurses. They need an accredited 3-year bachelor's degree in nursing to qualify for a license.


On the other hand, an Enrolled Nurse usually has completed an 18-months/2-year Diploma of Enrolled Nursing via TAFE or a similar training centre. Just like RNs, ENs also have to pass an exam to obtain a license before they are allowed to work in the field.



Opportunities For Advancement Or Specialisation


As ENs cover several disciplines, the role can be diverse and exciting. The valuable skills they develop during their career opens the door to limitless career possibilities in various settings, both within nursing and any other field in the healthcare industry.


Enrolled nurses can earn speciality certificates to work with a specific group of people, such as the elderly or stroke patients. ENs seeking to advance their career can complete a Bachelor of Nursing to become RNs.


The experience they gain as EN is invaluable in this transition. It will give them credit for their Nursing Diploma towards the Bachelor of Nursing.


Registered nurses also have plenty of career advancement opportunities in different areas of nursing specialisation. For example, experienced registered nurses can enrol in a master's program to become psychiatric nurses, pediatric nurses, and nurse practitioners.





Since the registered nurse job involves more experience and expertise, they draw a higher salary than an enrolled nurse. According to Indeed, a registered nurse earns $79,907 per year on average, whereas an enrolled nurse gets paid $67,311.



Decision-Making Abilities


As RNs have more skills, education, and experience than ENs, they enjoy a higher level of autonomy over ENs in clinical settings to form patients' decisions, including the type of care.


They can do a detailed patient assessment to design a medical treatment or healthcare plan and communicate any issues to specialists and doctors.


Furthermore, they can issue instructions and delegate tasks to ENs. On the other hand, enrolled nurses contribute little to making these plans. They are responsible for carrying out the procedures as per the plan.



5. Major Duties and Tasks of a Registered Nurse


  • Observe, assess, monitor, document, and report patients' conditions and responses to treatment.

  • Provide first aid, offer health advice, conduct routine physical examinations, and keep track of illnesses and accidents (when employed by large commercial or industrial organisations).

  • Provide psychological and emotional support and health information to patients and their families.

  • Adjust and monitor medical equipment used in patient care and treatment, which might be highly complex and technical.

  • Supervise nursing support staff and other hospital staff.

  • Supervise or perform patient nursing care.

  • Provide patients with physical and technical nursing care and assistance.

  • Collaborate with other health professionals and members of health teams and coordinate patient care.

  • Participate in health education and other health promotion activities to promote health and help prevent illnesses.

  • Oversee and coordinate the work of enrolled nurses and other healthcare workers.

  • Contribute to the clinical training of midwifery and nursing students.

  • As per applicable regulations, administer medications and other recommended medical treatments to patients.

  • Provide and plan patients' rehabilitative care, including discharge planning and care.

  • Prepare patients for surgical treatments and help with surgical procedures and post-operative care such as nutritional management and wound care.


Note: The duties of an RN vary based on the setting where you work and the patients you encounter, but RNs typically collaborate with other qualified professionals to provide patient care, including surgeonsdoctors, specialty nurses, physiotherapists, and others.



6. Steps To Become A Registered Nurse (RN) In Australia


Are you interested to know how to become a registered nurse in Australia? Here are the steps to get started on your professional journey:



Step 1: Get Your Vaccinations And Necessary Checks


Complete an adult vaccination program, Working with Children and National Police Check, to qualify to enrol in classes.



Step 2: Study For A Bachelor Of Nursing


The degree gives you a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical clinical experience. Students learn from highly-experienced lecturers, work with state-of-the-art technology, and complete 800 hours of placements during the course.


The skills and knowledge they gain enable them to work across various clinical settings such as operating theatres, aged care facilities, emergency departments, and more. 


Bachelor of Nursing Degree – Swinburne University of Technology



Step 3: Register With The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)


After completing your degree course, apply to register with AHPRA to practice as a registered nurse. Renew your registration every year to keep it active.



7. Steps To Become An Enrolled Nurse (EN) In Australia



Step 1: Complete The Necessary Vaccinations And Other Checks


To enrol in your Diploma of Nursing course, complete an adult vaccination program, Working with Children Check, and Police Check. You can only enrol in a nursing course and begin your clinical placements when you show evidence of these requirements.


Also, you must ensure that these checks come from the appropriate state authority and stay valid throughout the course.



Step 2: Get Qualified


Once you meet the course eligibility requirements, the next step is to get the appropriate qualification required to begin your career as an EN.


Aspiring ENs must complete at least a Diploma in Nursing to work in this role. Several universities in Australia offer this course to desirable applicants. 


Diploma of Nursing (TAFE course) – Swinburne University of Technology


The Diploma of Nursing program equips you with the clinical knowledge and skills to work in a healthcare setting under the direction of an RN with extensive industry experience.


Learning sessions are in state-of-the-art nursing facilities with purpose-built labs. They help students to learn how to effectively implement nursing care, examine clients' health, and analyse health-related information.


As part of the Diploma course, students undergo at least 440 hours of supervised clinical placements in different healthcare environments - aged care, sub-acute, acute, and mental health care.


The Diploma course serves as a pathway to undertaking an undergraduate nursing course.



Step 3: Get Registered


After completing the course, register with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency to practice as an enrolled nurse. You will need to renew your registration each year to continue your practice.



8. Study Pathways To Become A Nurse In Australia


If you aspire to become a nurse in Australia, you can take the following nursing study pathways at three levels:



At a Diploma Level - (Enrolled Nurses):


  • After completing year 12 or higher in Australia, or for international students in their native country, you may apply at TAFEs and different universities around Australia to pursue a Diploma in Nursing. 


  • However, nursing programs frequently require students of legal age to enrol. This means that students must be at least 18 years old. When a student is under 18, special permission from the academic faculty is required to enrol in a Nursing program.


  • In most cases, mathematics must be taken as a mandatory unit in year 12 to enter a Diploma of Nursing program. If you are under 18 years, a Certificate III in Ageing Support or Individual Support is an excellent prerequisite course before beginning the Diploma program.



At a Bachelor's level - (Registered Nurse):


  • After finishing year 12 in their home country, an overseas student can enrol in a Bachelor of Nursing in Australia. For direct entry, the student must have a good grade point average across STEM-indicative subjects (Chemistry, Physics, Maths, General Sciences, Biology, etc.).


  • They must also have good English competency with an overall IELTS score of seven and no individual score of less than 7. Or the equivalent scores set up by Australian Universities for other tests like PTE, OTE, and more.



At a Masters Level - (Registered Nurse):


  • After graduating from a non-graduate school with a bachelor's degree in a field unrelated to nursing, a student can enrol in a Master of Nursing program at any reputed Australian university. It permits students who have completed different courses at the bachelor's level to pursue a two-year Master's degree in nursing and become nursing practitioners.


  • A perfect example is when a student completes a Bachelor of Community Services, Social Work, Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Pharmacy, or Science and gets accepted into a Master of Nursing program. This enables a health worker to enter the nursing industry without completing a three-year bachelor's degree to become a registered nurse.


Some of the best Australian universities that offer master's level nursing programs include:




9. How Much Does A Registered Nurse Earn In Australia?



According to Payscale, the average annual salary of a registered nurse in Australia is between AU$56,000 and AU$90,000. The registered nurse's compensation may vary based on your qualifications, location, seniority level, and experience.


Experience and place of work are the two major factors influencing their earnings.


  • Entry-level Registered Nurse (<1-year experience): AU$30.82 per year

  • Early career Registered Nurse (1-4 years of experience): AU$32.64 per year 

  • Mid-career Registered Nurse (5-9 years of experience): AU$38.61 per year 

  • Experienced Registered Nurse (10-19 years of experience): AU$40.10 per year 



10. Working Conditions Of A Nurse In Australia


Nurses work in modern and well-equipped settings, including hospitals and healthcare facilities. They work with advanced hospital equipment to provide the best patient care. 


Nurses work in a comfortable, hygienic, and friendly working atmosphere. It is common to work 8-12 hours-long shifts, including nights, public holidays, and weekends.



11. Why Study Nursing In Australia?


Australian institutions are known across the world for their nursing education programs. Also, did you know that the QS World University Rankings have identified Australia as having 11 of the top 50 nursing institutes worldwide?


Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing industries in Australia, and considering Australia's ageing population, the demand for healthcare services will continue to rise. Nursing is a secure and fulfilling job, so it's no surprise that this profession is in great need. As a result of the assistance they offer to patients, nurses have a high level of job satisfaction.


Nursing courses in Australia cover many topics, with nurses assisting patients at challenging times. Compassion, effective communication, and practical and theoretical medical knowledge are all required to become a nurse in Australia. 


The most significant advantage of studying nursing in Australia is that it allows you to work anywhere within Australia and other parts of the world.


After completing your nursing degree, you can join the AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency). The top benefits of joining such an organisation are the ability to network with other professionals and get better employment opportunities


You will also receive recognition for your qualifications in this profession and be able to continue to enhance your skills and knowledge.



12. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



What ATAR Do You Need To Be A Nurse In Australia?


At Swinburne University, the Guaranteed Entry ATAR (2023) to complete a Bachelor of Nursing degree course is 65.



How To Become A Nurse At TAFE?


You can undertake a Diploma of Nursing (TAFE) course at Swinburne University. Here are the course details:


Diploma of Nursing course


  • Nationally approved vocational course recognised all over Australia

  • Duration: 18 months full-time

  • Study mode: Full-time


After you complete the course, you need to apply for APHRA registration to become and work as an accredited nurse in Australia.



How To Become A Nurse In Australia From Overseas?


The Healthcare industry in Australia is known to have one of the highest ratings of patient satisfaction. Currently, there is a shortage of skilled nursing workforce in the country, which is why Australia welcomes overseas nurses with open arms.


If you hold a nursing degree from a foreign school and intend to work and live in Australia, you need to meet specific requirements:


  • An overseas nurse can work in Australia through the Employer Nomination Scheme. 

  • They have to meet the APHRA requirements and qualifications to become eligible to apply for the visa. 

  • Skilled nurses considering migrating to Australia can apply through the General Skilled Migration Program to live and work in Australia without employer sponsorship.


Available Visa types under the General Skilled Migration Program:


  • 189 Visa: For skilled nurses without any sponsor.

  • 190 Visa: For skilled nurses sponsored by the Australian Territory Government or any Australian State.

  • 491 Visa: For skilled nurses sponsored by a family member.

  • Employer-Sponsored: For overseas nurses sponsored by an Australian Employer, which can be a private healthcare facility or hospital.

  • NZ Independent Visa: For overseas nurses who hold New Zealand Citizenship and want to migrate to Australia.


The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council examines the qualifications of an Internationally Qualified Nurse to determine whether they can fulfil the requirements of a skilled migrant worker.



The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (Registration) Assessments:


To work as a nurse in Australia, you must register with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia and get your qualifications and skills assessed by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.


Foreign nurses should meet the five criteria to work and live in Australia:


Criterion 1 – Provide your identity proof, such as your passport with a recent passport-sized photo (not older than six months)


Criterion 2 – Sit for the following English Language Proficiency tests and meet the minimum score as shown below:


  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System): 7 

  • OET (Occupational English Test for Nurses): B 

  • PTE (Pearson Test of English Academic): 65 

  • TOEFL iBT (Test of English as a Foreign Language): 24 for reading, 24 for listening, 27 for writing, and 23 for speaking.


Criterion 3 – Meet the education requirements of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). You need to provide a copy of your graduation certificate or diploma from your overseas nursing school with the hour breakdown of your clinical and theoretical training.


Criterion 4 – To work as a professional nurse in Australia, you must have a minimum of 36 months of paid clinical experience in the last five years. As proof, you will need to provide evidence of your professional practice and professional references.


Criterion 5 – Last but not least, you have to prove your Fitness to Practice. It implies that you have no limitations on physical and mental capacity, no criminal history, and no past or pending disciplinary proceedings against you.



Obtain A Visa 


When meeting the APHRA requirements, wait for your registration certification. Apply for a visa to live and work in Australia. To secure sponsorship through an employer, apply for any of the below visas:


  • Temporary Skill Shortage Visa

  • Employer Nomination Scheme (Permanent Visa)

  • Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (Permanent Visa)

  • Occupational Trainee Visa

  • Business Short Stay Visa 


When you fail to get an employer sponsorship, you can apply for a General Skilled Migration Visa. You must fulfil all the mentioned criteria for consideration.



Pass The Examination


To start your nursing practice in Australia, international nurses (RN and EN) should undertake two examinations- The objective Structured Clinical Exam and The National Council Licensure Examination.



How Many Years Does It Take To Become A Nurse In Australia?


There are various registered nurse education requirements and pathways you can take to be an RN in Australia.


The direct learning route is to complete an accredited course, a Bachelor of Nursing, at a recognised university. The course duration can range from 2 to 4 years, with three years being the national average.


Some universities even offer a rigorous 2-year' fast track' bachelor's degree, wherein you can complete a 3-year degree course in just 2-years.


Students who complete the coursework can apply for registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. 


You also need to meet a few other registration standards outlined by the NMBA, such as continuing professional development, criminal history checks, English language competency, and recency of practice.



How To Become A Registered Nurse In One Year?


No. You can not become an RN in one year. You require at least a 3-year bachelor's degree or 18-month Diploma in Nursing. Some universities offer an accelerated bachelor's degree, wherein you can complete a 3-year course in just two years. 


No course to date compresses the duration even further to 1 year. So, you must devote a minimum of 2 years of study to pursue a nursing career.



What Is The Youngest Age To Be A Nurse?


You can start your nursing career as early as 19 years. Many nurses complete high school at the age of 16 and graduate from nursing school at the age of 19. After earning the required registration, you can start working as a nurse in Australia.



How To Become a Registered Nurse From Enrolled Nurse?


In Australia, it is allowed for a nurse to have simultaneous registration as an enrolled nurse (EN) and a registered nurse (RN).


Suppose you are currently registered as an EN and wish to apply to become an RN nurse. In that case, you must complete an Australian-approved program of study that will qualify you for registration as an RN.


Enrolled Nurse to Registered Nurse Stream (BSc Nursing) - Curtin University


Only Australian Registered Enrolled Nurses with a Diploma in Enrolled Nursing registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia can apply for this stream.


As part of the course, you will complete at least 680 hours of professional placements in varied clinical settings, such as private practices or public hospitals in rural and metropolitan locations.


Interested candidates should note that this stream comes with a Bachelor of Science (Nursing) degree. To apply for this stream, you need to apply for the Bachelor of Science (Nursing).



How To Become A Nurse In Melbourne?


So, how do you start as a nurse in Melbourne? The University of Melbourne suggests the following path to pursue a nursing career:



Step 1: Complete a three years bachelor's degree


You can complete any undergraduate degree in any discipline of your interest. Available degree options include:


  • Bachelor of Biomedicine 

  • Bachelor of Commerce

  • Bachelor of Design

  • Bachelor of Science



Step 2: Complete a two years Master of Nursing Science to become a registered nurse. To apply for this course, applicants must score an ATAR between 96.00 and 99.85 in Year 12 and commence.


Thus, studying at the University of Melbourne, you will graduate with both an undergraduate and a graduate degree that gives you a higher level of qualification than just a conventional double degree.


Course features:


  • Accredited by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia

  • Internationally recognised nursing qualifications.

  • Guaranteed entry available

  • Commonwealth Supported Places available (The University offers an array of scholarships at both undergraduate and graduate levels.)



How To Become A Nurse Practitioner In Australia?


Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are the most senior and independent clinical nurses in the health system in Australia. They are registered nurses with the expertise, experience, and authority to diagnose and cure people of all age groups with various chronic health issues.


Nurse Practitioners have diverse clinical backgrounds and areas of speciality practice, such as:



These nurses work across various healthcare settings, such as community health, hospitals, and private practice, to provide superior patient care in extended and advanced clinical roles.



Steps To Become A Nurse Practitioner In Australia


The Australian College of Nurse Practitioners provides a Career Guide to help aspiring Nurse Practitioners access precise information to advance their careers.


To become an NP, RNs with experience at an advanced nursing level and expertise in a speciality area of practice must meet minimum requirements before applying for endorsement as a Nurse Practitioner.


These are as follows:




Now that you know everything about becoming a nurse in Australia, you are ready to explore several career opportunities in nursing and make a difference in society.


Useful Links to Explore:


How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Please Subscribe to our Newsletter