Nurse Degree Types and Levels in Australia

What are the different types of degrees for nursing available from Australian universities?

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Let's explore the different types of nursing degrees in Australia. Whether you recently left school and want to become a nurse, are aiming to switch careers into nursing, or are a nurse seeking re-entry or advanced qualifications, there is a suitable program for you.

The three-year Bachelor of Nursing is the primary pathway for students to become Registered Nurses in Australia. The comprehensive program includes extensive clinical placements and theoretical study. Alternatives like the two-year Fast Track and Enrolled Nurse Pathway cater to different student needs, offering accelerated routes to the same qualification.

For advanced studies, degrees like the Bachelor of Nursing (Honours), Masters in Nursing, Master of Nurse Practitioner, and Doctorates in Nursing provide in-depth knowledge and research opportunities. These degree programs are designed for nurses seeking specialisation, leadership roles, or academic careers in nursing. They often contain embedded postgraduate courses, especially Graduate Certificate and Diploma qualifications.

Related: 15 Degrees for Nursing in Australia

Bachelor Degrees in Nursing

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Bachelor degrees in nursing provide the essential foundation and training for individuals aspiring to become nurses.

Bachelor of Nursing

The Bachelor of Nursing is a three-year comprehensive program that includes over 800 hours of clinical placements. It prepares first-time university students for a nursing career, leading to Registered Nurse status.

Bachelor of Nursing (Fast Track)

The Bachelor of Nursing (Fast Track) is an accelerated two-year course with three semesters per year. This program includes over 800 hours of clinical placements and is ideal for students who can handle an intensive study load.

Bachelor of Nursing (Enrolled Nurse Pathway)

The Bachelor of Nursing (Enrolled Nurse Pathway) is a two-year program for diploma-qualified Enrolled Nurses. This pathway offers a route to upgrade to Registered Nurse status, including significant professional experience.

Bachelor of Nursing (Graduate Entry)

The Bachelor of Nursing (Graduate Entry) is a two-year course for graduates from any field, focusing on foundational nursing skills. This program includes over 800 hours of clinical placements and prepares graduates for Registered Nurse status.

Bachelor of Nursing / Midwifery

The Bachelor of Nursing / Midwifery is a comprehensive four-year program, integrating nursing and midwifery education. It includes over 1000 hours of clinical placements, preparing students for dual registration as a nurse and midwife.

Advanced Degrees in Nursing

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Advanced degrees in nursing cater to those seeking deeper knowledge, research capabilities, or specialised roles within the nursing profession.

Bachelor of Nursing (Honours)

The Bachelor of Nursing (Honours) is an additional year of academic and research-oriented study. It's tailored for high-achieving graduates of a Bachelor of Nursing, seeking expert knowledge and research experience.

Master of Nurse Practitioner

The Master of Nurse Practitioner is a one-year full-time program for experienced nurses. It qualifies nurses to practice independently with advanced clinical decision-making skills, requiring at least three years of prior clinical experience.

Doctorate in Nursing

The Doctorate in Nursing is a 3-4 year program for nurses and graduates aiming for advanced qualifications in research, healthcare policy, or nursing leadership, involving extensive research and a dissertation.

Postgraduate Courses in Nursing

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Postgraduate nursing courses are designed for Registered Nurses looking to advance their careers through specialisation or re-entry into the profession. For example, to become a mental health nurse, you ordinarily need to a postgraduate qualification in Mental Health Nursing.

Graduate Certificate in Nursing

The Graduate Certificate in Nursing is an 8-month part-time course for Registered Nurses. It provides advanced training in specialised fields, often leading to further studies and career progression.

Related: What Does a Graduate Certificate in Nursing Get You?

Graduate Certificate in Nursing (Bridging and Re-entry)

The Graduate Certificate in Nursing (Bridging and Re-entry) is a 3-month full-time course. It updates the skills of internationally educated nurses or nurses returning to practice, preparing them for registration or re-registration in Australia.

Graduate Certificate in Nursing (Re-entry)

The Graduate Certificate in Nursing (Re-entry) is designed for Registered Nurses with lapsed registration. This 3-month program combines online theory with clinical placement, preparing nurses for re-registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

Graduate Diploma in Nursing

The Graduate Diploma in Nursing is a postgraduate course over 16 months part-time. It offers advanced training for Registered Nurses in areas like Nurse Education and Advanced Practice, enhancing professional skills for higher-level roles.

What are the Levels of Nursing from Lowest to Highest?

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In the hierarchy of nursing in Australia, the qualifications and roles progress from lowest to highest. An Enrolled Nurse (EN) is the lowest station for someone who can genuinely be considered a nurse. Above ENs are Registered Nurses (RNs) who make up the vast bulk of the nursing workforce. RNs can progress to advanced roles, the highest clinical practice position being Nurse Practitioner.

Nurse levels, ranked by status and qualifications

  1. Assistant/Trainee Nurse: The entry-level position in the nursing hierarchy, often not requiring formal qualifications but some foundational healthcare training.
  2. Enrolled Nurse (EN): Above trainee nurses, ENs need a Diploma of Nursing and work under the supervision of Registered Nurses.
  3. Registered Nurse (RN)/Midwife: RNs and Midwives require a Bachelor's degree in nursing or midwifery and are qualified for independent practice.
  4. Clinical Nurse Specialist: A step above RNs, Clinical Nurse Specialists typically need a Graduate Certificate and have specialised skills in specific areas of nursing.
  5. Nurse Educator/Clinical Nurse Consultant/Nurse Unit Manager: These roles generally require advanced qualifications such as a Master's degree and involve specialised practice, education, consultation, or unit management.
  6. Nurse Practitioner: The apex of the nursing profession, requiring a Master of Nurse Practitioner degree, and marked by advanced clinical decision-making and autonomy.


The entry-level position is the Assistant or Trainee Nurse, typically requiring foundational training but not a formal nursing qualification. Enrolled Nurses (ENs) follow, needing a Diploma of Nursing. They perform essential nursing tasks under the supervision of Registered Nurses.

Registered Nurses (RNs) represent a significant leap in responsibility and require a Bachelor's degree in Nursing. RNs are capable of autonomous practice and are the backbone of healthcare services. Advanced roles such as Clinical Nurse Specialists demand a Graduate Certificate in Nursing, reflecting their specialised skills in specific areas of nursing practice.

At the highest levels are roles like Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Unit Manager, Clinical Nurse Consultant, and Nurse Educator. These positions usually require a Master's degree in Nursing or a related field. Nurse Practitioners, at the pinnacle, need a Master of Nurse Practitioner degree and are qualified for advanced clinical decision-making, often akin to doctors.