Career Alternatives for Registered Nurses

Although hospital-based bedside care is a foundational aspect of nursing, exciting career options exist outside of these facilities and without the need for frequent patient interactions. Therefore, nurses interested in nontraditional jobs — like the ones listed below — should be prepared to function at the top of their scope of practice, hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and seek relevant specialty certifications.

Occupational Nurse

Occupational nurses are usually hired by businesses, often medium- to large-sized entities, and work directly with the company’s managers and leaders. They focus on preventing employee harm, typically by developing policies and procedures that improve employee health and safety. For example, they may coordinate blood drives and health fairs, conduct educational workshops about workplace hazards or health issues and treat injured and ill employees.

Occupational nurses tend to have a predictable schedule. Those who pursue a specialty certification from the American Board of Occupational Health Nurses are likely to be more competitive in the job market. According to PayScale (August 2021), an occupational nurse’s average annual base salary is $74K.

Legal Nurse Consultant

“Legal nurse consulting is the analysis and evaluation of facts and testimony and the rendering of informed opinions related to the delivery of nursing and other healthcare services and outcomes, and the nature and cause of injuries,” says the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. RNs in this field may serve as expert witnesses during trials or advise attorneys. They may also serve as experts for individual or government agencies about nursing practice standards of care. Professionals in this role must have a solid nursing background and excellent research and communication skills.

Legal nurse consultants work for companies, like law firms and insurers, or enjoy the benefits of self-employment. Earnings vary, but PayScale (August 2021) reports that the annual median base salary exceeds $79K, with bonuses and profit-sharing opportunities.

Nurse Auditor

If you are detail-oriented, enjoy problem-solving and have an affinity for numbers, then a career as a nurse auditor may be an excellent option. Nurse auditors review patient medical records and related documentation to ensure that insurance companies are reimbursing claims correctly. They also work as consultants, advising healthcare businesses on how to improve cash flow and reduce overhead expenses. Remote positions are common.

In addition to a BSN, it is helpful for nurse auditors to have experience in medical coding and billing. With these credentials, top-earning auditors can generate an average of $71,278 annually, according to ZipRecruiter (August 2021).

Utilization Review Nurse

“Utilization review nurses perform frequent case reviews, check medical records, speak with patients and care providers regarding treatment, and respond to the plan of care,” according to the Daily Nurse. They make care recommendations following the latest evidence-based research, perform insurance pre-certifications and assist patients in transitioning to home care.

Utilization review nurses generally work a set schedule, sometimes remotely, and earn a median annual salary of $72K, per PayScale data (August 2021), with the possibility for bonuses, too.

Academic Nurse Writer

The internet has prompted a greater demand for high-quality, informative content than ever before. Academic nurse writers leverage their healthcare expertise to create content for websites, textbooks, continuing education programs, training manuals and other print and digital outlets. They may be self-employed or hired by magazines, publishers, pharmaceutical companies or healthcare-related businesses.

This role offers a creative outlet for nurses with strong writing, research and communication skills and can be done on a contract or part-time basis. The average annual salary is $68K, according to ZipRecruiter (August 2021), though writing for more specialized niches will often garner higher wages.

Nursing is a dynamic field with plenty of non-bedside jobs that extend far beyond hospitals and direct patient care. Consider transitioning into one of these career alternatives that better fits your needs and interests.

Learn more about Southern Utah University’s online RN to BSN program.


American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants: What Is an LNC?

American Board of Occupational Health Nurses: Occupational Health Nursing Certifications

Daily Nurse: What Is Utilization Review?

Legal Nurse Consultant
Utilization Review Nurse
Occupational Health Nurse

Nurse Writer
Remote Nurse Auditor

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