Question: “I want to be a nurse. Tell me… how much will I be paid and how do I get paid the most in the industry?”
It’s different state to state, but every state has an award-based system depending on the nurse’s level and years of experience. Factors such as which hospital they work in and their role also play into salary, and whether nurses choose to accept or decline shifts.
Overall, entry level nursing salaries are actually higher than many other industries such as pharmacy (median salary of $41,600), vet science ($49,600) and communications ($46,000). It’s also higher than the 2018 national average starting salary of $56,000.
These are the average starting salaries for registered nurses in the public system, lowest to highest.
Are nurses overworked?
Registered nurses are capped at 60 hours a week, however that’s well over the average 38 hour working week. Many websites state that nurses work an average of 33 hours a week, however these figures are hard to calculate as understaffing and shift work are important variables.
Many nurses who work in the public system will work long shifts (often 12-14 hours), which often includes night shifts and weekend work.
Emma: Ninety-nine per cent of nursing jobs are shift work and therefore have night shifts. At 4’oclock in the morning, you’re bound to have less cognitive function, so it’s rough.
Ellie: If you want better hours, you don’t have to work in a hospital, it just depends what you want to do. I had a friend who worked in an IVF clinic which was Monday-Friday 9-5, which are nice hours. There are also cosmetic surgeries which have the same hours as well as day unit surgeries. Then obviously there’s general practice clinics, so your local doctor, which offer better hours as well.
Highest paying jobs:
Studying a master’s is the best way for nurses to earn more money. With a master’s, you can become a nurse practitioner, which is a lucrative specialisation (base salary $86,500). Nurse practitioners specialise in care for people with serious illnesses. Clinical nurses and midwifery specialists are specialties that also earn more money ($82,612-$91,650).
Becoming an agency nurse (they are essentially freelance/contract nurses) will also give you a higher hourly rate, as well as being able to choose your working hours. However, it may be harder to get full time working hours and travel is often required.
Emma: Nursing is broad, and there are lots of job opportunities. Many nurses have done further studies, and I think the vast majority of people don’t appreciate that nursing as a profession is more than helping people, many of us are highly skilled and trained in our chosen fields.
Emma: My advice for making more money as a younger nurse is to offer yourself up for the shifts that nobody wants. You get paid excellent rates on the weekends and on public holidays. In NSW, the typical night shift penalty for a public hospital is +15%. Same as weekends and public holidays – in NSW, we earn time and a half for Saturdays and time and ¾ pay for Sundays.
Ellie: At the end of the day, no one should do nursing for the money. It can take years to get up the ladder high enough to earn a very good salary.
Your step one:
Ellie: I studied a Bachelor of Nursing, which is essential to become a registered nurse. You’ll do clinical placements throughout your degree, working with kids and adults in different wards. I chose my university based on the fact that it had the highest number of clinical hours, as nursing is so hands on and you learn everything on your placements.
Emma: If you’re in school, I think getting a job as an AIN is a good idea. You’ll take blood pressures, vital signs as well as helping patients in their hygiene routine in the mornings and helping out the nurses. It’s such a great way to get a look into what the nursing world is all about.
Belle: In terms of getting a grad role, you apply through NSW Health and you put down your hospital preferences 1-10. Then you have the interview, which is either a group interview or panel interview. The other option is to apply independently to private hospitals. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t putting all my eggs in one basket, so I did both.
I actually got offered 3 grad positions and I think it’s mainly because I was so keen. I was going to open days, emailing them afterwards thanking them, I was thinking of questions to ask them. Any hospital is going to employ someone who’s that keen. I also looked at their websites, latest policies and integrated that into my interviews, which showed that I had gone above and beyond.
What about enrolled nurses?
Here is the base entry level salaries for enrolled nurses in the public system.
NSW: $52, 380