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How to Start your Nursing Career in Australia for Overseas Trained Nurses

If you are an Overseas Trained Nurse looking to start your Nursing Career in Australia, then this article will provide you with information regarding what is required to gain nursing registration and work in Australia.  

nursing career in australia

A nursing shortage is being experienced worldwide and Australia is not immune to this problem. Nurses are the single largest group of health professionals in Australia. Health care and social assistance jobs account for more than 10% of the Australian job market, with most jobs concentrated in the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne, followed by Perth. Despite this, a national shortage of nurses exists in every single nursing specialty, as well as in remote and regional locations. 

The nursing profession in Australia is regulated by the Australian Health Professional Regulation Agency (AHPRA). The qualifications of overseas trained nurses must meet the standards set by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). For many overseas trained nurses, this means that they must complete an approved bridging course through an NMBA approved provider. Once an overseas trained nurse has completed and passed an approved bridging course, they must meet the requirements set out by AHPRA in order to apply for nursing registration and to work as a nurse in Australia. 

In addition to meeting the NMBA requirements, bridging courses must meet the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) requirements. It is therefore important for overseas trained nurses wishing to register as a nurse in Australia to do their homework regarding approved bridging courses and education providers.

Bridging courses for overseas trained nurses

Bridging courses for overseas trained nurses in Australia are in high demand. A requirement for enrolling in a bridging course is that overseas trained nurses must meet a suitable standard of English language in both written and verbal communication. A variety of approved bridging courses for overseas trained nurses exist, through different education providers, in different locations, for different durations of time and at different costs.

Bridging courses in Australia for overseas trained nurses:

  • Cost anywhere from AUD $12,500 to AUD $30,000 
  • The span from 10 weeks to 6 months in duration 
  • Offered by a variety of education providers including smaller, private institutions and large well-credentialed Australian universities
  • Available in different locations across Australia 

Before selecting an education provider, you should consider which options will suit your needs including timeframes, location, and budget. The most important part of selecting an education provider is ensuring they are an NMBA approved bridging course provider and that the course meets the TEQSA requirements. 

The following is a list (not exhaustive) of Australian education providers offering approved bridging courses for overseas trained nurses:

  1. Australian College of NursingNew South Wales (Paramatta) Central Queensland University, Queensland (Cairns, Noosa, Rockhampton)
  2. Curtin University, Western Australia (Perth)  
  3. Deakin University, Victoria (Burwood)
  4. La Trobe University in conjunction with Alpine Institute, Victoria (Myrtleford)
  5. Southern Cross University, Queensland (Gold Coast) 
  6. The University of Notre Dame Australia, New South Wales (Sydney) 
  7. The University of South Australia, South Australia (Adelaide) 

Visas and pathways

Training Visa subclass 407

If you intend to complete a bridging course, you should confirm with the educational provider which visa you require. As bridging courses require you to complete workplace-based training (clinical placement), you will likely need a ‘Training Visa subclass 407. 

What is Training Visa subclass 407 and the difference between Work Visa?

The Training Visa (subclass 407), enables overseas qualified professionals, such as nurses, to undertake occupational training in Australia required for registration. This Visa type is specific to industries where the individual must be registered, have a membership or license to work in that occupation in Australia. This Visa may be issued for a period of up to 2 years.

The following nursing professionals (and midwives) may be eligible for the Training Visa (subclass 407): 

  • Nurse practitioner
  • Midwife 
  • 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 (perioperative)
  • Registered nurse (surgical)
  • Registered nurse (paediatrics)
  • Registered nurses (not elsewhere specified)

Work and Holiday Visa (subclass 462) and Working Holiday visa (subclass 417)

These Visas last for 12 months and let people aged 18 to 30 years old (inclusive) have an extended holiday in Australia and work here to help fund their trip. The only difference with the subclass 417 is that this visa type also includes Canadian, French, and Irish citizens 18 to 35 years old (inclusive).

If you are unsure if Australia is a place you would like to live, or if you are unsure of which area you would like to live in, then you may like to consider this visa. There are, however, restrictions around the period of work and types of work that these visa holders can engage in. 

This Visa may be extended on two occasions for 12 months each; however, you will be required to complete 3 months of specified subclass 462 work (for example, farm work and volunteer work in bush fire areas). 

The subclass 42 and subclass 417 visas cost AUD $485 and 90% of applications for this visa type are processed within 59 days.  

Other Visas

There are a variety of Australian visas available, including studying and training visas, visitor visas, family and partner visas, working and skilled visas, refugee and humanitarian visas, and bridging visas. It is recommended that you discuss your visa options with the Australian Department of Home Affairs, an immigration agent, or a prospective employer – if you can obtain sponsorship. 


Once you are registered with AHPRA as a nurse, you then need a Visa to be allowed to live and work in Australia. You may be able to secure sponsorship by an employer. 

What is the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa

The Temporary Skill Shortage Visa is a temporary visa that lets an employer sponsor a suitably skilled worker to fill a position they can’t find a suitably skilled Australian to fill. Holders of this Visa can stay for up to 2 years (or up to 4 years if an International Trade Obligation applies). 

This Visa costs from AUD $1,265, with 90% of applications for this visa type processed within 66 days. 

What is the Employer Nomination Scheme (Permanent Visa)

The Employer Nomination Scheme (Permanent Visa) lets skilled workers, who are nominated by an employer, live and work in Australia permanently. To be eligible for this visa, your occupation (nurses are included) must be on the relevant list of eligible skilled occupations and you must have at least Competent English.

This Visa costs from AUD $4,045, with 90% of applications for this visa type processed in 5 months. 

What is the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (Permanent Visa)

The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (Permanent Visa) allows skilled workers, who are nominated by their employers in regional Australia, to live and work in Australia permanently. To be eligible for this visa you must be under 45 years of age and meet the skills, qualifications and English language requirements.

This Visa costs from AUD $4,045. Processing timeframes are unavailable for this visa type. 

Other pathways 

Nursing registration from a comparable country

If you have nursing registration in a country with a comparable health system such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland or New Zealand – you may not need to complete a bridging course for overseas-trained nurses. You may be able to apply for registration with AHPRA based on your registration from a comparable country.

New Zealand pathway

The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement exists between Australia and New Zealand. This arrangement allows permanent residents and citizens of each country to live and work in either country (conditions apply).

What this means for an overseas trained nurse is that you may be able to work in Australia as a nurse after you have become a permanent resident of the citizen in New Zealand. This pathway without a doubt takes longer than a direct pathway to Australia, but this is another option for you, should you be unable to obtain an Australian visa or registration as a nurse in Australia. 

Nurses in the Australian health care system 

There are two types of nurses in the Australian health system, the Enrolled Nurse (EN) and the Registered Nurse (RN). It must also be noted that Midwifery in Australia is a separate profession to nursing. 

What is Enrolled Nurse (EN) in Australia?

  • Also referred to as a Division 2 Nurse
  • Has not completed a nursing degree
  • Has completed, at minimum, a diploma of nursing qualification
  • Has less authority in a health setting
  • Does not work in a supervisory role
  • Will not personally be able to create and oversee management plans of a patient 
  • Limited scope of practice as a nurse

Registered Nurse (RN) in Australia?

  • Also referred to as a Division 1 Nurse
  • Generally, someone who has completed a nursing degree
  • Responsible for the creation of patient management and care plans
  • The next professional stage from being an EN

Psychiatric / Mental Health Nurses are also registered as a Division 1 RN. However, if the individual has only undertaken a mental health qualification, for example, a Diploma in Mental Health Nursing or a Bachelor of Mental Health Nursing, a notation will be placed against the individual’s registration stating they are solely qualified in the area of mental health nursing. This means the individual will be restricted from practicing in the role of a mental health nurse only. 

Roles for the EN and RN

Nursing career in Australia

Australia is full of opportunities to develop your nursing career in rewarding and exclusive healthcare settings that are outside hospital walls. The EN and RN work in a variety of healthcare and other settings within the Australian, including:

  • Hospital settings
  • Cosmetic procedures
  • Primary health
  • Correctional settings
  • Military
  • Schools
  • Immunization providers 
  • Aged care homes
  • Nursing lectures in educational institutions such as universities 
  • Various other healthcare facilities.


In Australia, midwives are registered as a separate profession. 

Depending on the qualifications (if you are a dual trained nurse midwife), you may be eligible for registration as both a registered nurse and midwife or only as a nurse. Registration is also possible for a midwife only, for overseas trained midwives who have a Bachelor of Midwifery degree or equivalent, from a recognized education provider. 

Roles for the Midwife

 Midwives in Australia work in a variety of settings including:

  • Outpatient clinics
  • Private midwifery practice
  • Antenatal and postnatal wards
  • Women’s health
  • Maternal and child health services
  • Breastfeeding education
  • Special care nurseries 
  • Birthing suite
  • Family planning services

Philippines Nurse to Australian Nurse

Below is a list of requirements for Filipino nurses looking at a future as a nurse in Australia:

  • CV submission
  • Work history, including evidence from your previous employers
  • Criminal history check
  • English language skills
  • Bridging program
  • Evidence of identity
  • Academic qualifications
  • Registration history, including details of any disciplinary actions

For more detailed information I recommend you check out this story from SBS Filipino, [From PH RN to AU RN.]

Nursing Salary in Australia

Australia is one of the highest paying countries for nurses. The average Registered Nurse salary in Australia is in excess of AUD $70,000 annually. However, a Registered Division 1 Nurse working full-time in specialist settings can earn up to $100,000 annually. 

Final words

Nursing is a rewarding profession that opens many doors, including opportunities for travel and immigration. If you are considering taking your nursing career to another level, then why not give Australia a go? 

If you have any questions regarding nursing in Australia, please leave a comment for me and I will endeavor to reply. 

The details provided in this article are intended as a guide only and to provide information and links for overseas trained nursing who may be looking to work as a nurse in Australia. This article is not a complete procedure for overseas trained nurses and individuals should consider their own circumstances.

Further reading

  1. Australian College of Midwives, scope of practice for midwives in Australia https://www.midwives.org.au/sites/default/files/uploaded-content/field_f_content_file/acm_scope_of_practice_for_midwives_in_australia_v2.1.pdf
  2. NMBA Immigration and employment in Australia https://www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au/Registration-and-Endorsement/International/Immigration-and-employment.aspx
  3. NMBA – EN Standards for Practice https://www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines-Statements/FAQ/Enrolled-nurse-standards-for-practice.aspx
  4. NMBA – Midwife Standards for Practice https://www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines-Statements/FAQ/Fact-sheet-midwife-standards-for-practice.aspx
  5. NMBA registration requirements for overseas trained nurses and midwives https://www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au/Registration-and-Endorsement/International.aspx
  6. NMBA – RN Standards for Practice https://www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines-Statements/FAQ/fact-sheet-registered-nurse-standards-for-practice.asp


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