What Is the Best Nursing Certificate?

If you’re a nurse considering postgraduate study, you have a range of Graduate Certificate in Nursing courses to choose from. The main decision, apart from selecting a university, is choosing an area of specialisation.

Each type of nursing certificate is similar, consisting of four subjects and typically being part of a larger master’s program. They are generally available online and structured for part-time study by working professionals. The key difference lies in the area of study, as certificates are highly specialised.

Nursing Certificates Ranked

While any ranking of nursing specialisations is subjective and varies based on individual preferences, here is my ordering of Graduate Certificates in Nursing from best to worst. To summarise, critical care ranks at the top, followed by clinical nursing and mental health. These specialisations offer strong foundations for career growth. I’ve placed paediatrics at the bottom among the popular nursing fields, as its career paths are not as clearly defined as others.

Some of the key factors that went into this were consideration of the breadth of job opportunities each specialisation offers, the potential for career growth, and the likelihood of leading to senior roles in management, clinical consulting, or education. These factors are crucial for nurses who are looking to advance their careers and expand their professional scope.

Note that ‘best’ in this context means offering a wider range of opportunities and a clearer path to higher-level positions, rather than a judgment on the importance or value of the work itself. As a starting point, I used the list of nursing certification programs from Lerna Courses.

1. Critical Care Nursing

Gain competencies in managing critically ill patients in intensive care units with a Graduate Certificate in Critical Care Nursing. The course focuses on advanced clinical decision-making and patient management.
Pros: Opens doors to leadership and specialised clinical roles.
Cons: Limited to specific healthcare environments, potentially restricting job diversity.

2. Clinical Nursing

Builds skills in advanced roles within clinical settings, including clinical governance and health assessment.
Pros: Provides a broad foundation for diverse clinical roles.
Cons: Additional specialised training may be needed for targeted career progression.

3. Mental Health Nursing

Learn how to support patients with psychological conditions through therapeutic guidance and medication management.
Pros: Growing demand across various healthcare settings.
Cons: May require continual education for progression to more specialised roles.

4. Nursing Education

This certificate is for nurses looking to move into healthcare education, training, and professional development.
Pros: Facilitates transition into educational and administrative roles.
Cons: Higher positions in this field often require further qualifications, like a master’s degree.

5. Emergency Nursing

Gain competencies in handling high-pressure situations in emergency departments, focusing on critical injuries and emergency care.
Pros: High demand due to the dynamic and challenging nature of the work.
Cons: Career opportunities primarily limited to emergency and acute care settings.

6. Advanced Nursing

This field requires a broad understanding of various specialty clinical practices, offering versatile career opportunities.
Pros: Pathways to specialised clinical, managerial, and educator roles.
Cons: The wide-ranging scope may require additional focus to align with specific career aspirations.

7. Leadership and Management

Designed for those aiming for managerial and leadership positions in healthcare, focusing on management and leadership skills.
Pros: Offers significant career advancement into senior management roles, such as Health Services Manager.
Cons: More beneficial for mid-career nurses, less suitable for those in early stages of their career.

8. Perioperative Nursing

Learn how to provide care in all surgical phases, including pre-operative, intraoperative, and post-operative care.
Pros: Vital in high-volume surgical settings with roles in surgical support and coordination.
Cons: Specialisation may limit job options to surgical and perioperative environments.

9. Acute Care

Builds skills in managing short-term health episodes in hospital settings, enhancing acute care nursing abilities.
Pros: Improves employability in hospital-based roles.
Cons: May not lead directly to further specialisation or advanced roles.

10. Paediatric Nursing

This certificate is for those focusing on the unique health and developmental needs of children, from infants to adolescents.
Pros: Fulfilling roles in paediatric healthcare settings.
Cons: Specialisation may limit career opportunities outside of paediatric care.

What Is a Nursing Certificate?

Woman smiling while writing notes

In Australia, a Certificate of Nursing usually means a Graduate Certificate of Nursing. This postgraduate program lets registered nurses specialise in areas like mental health or critical care. It’s often completed in one semester full-time or eight months part-time.

This certificate is a step up for nurses who have university degrees or a Diploma of Nursing from TAFE. It helps them focus on a specific nursing area, leading to advanced healthcare roles.

Ranked at Level 8 on the Australian Qualifications Framework, the Graduate Certificate is above a bachelor’s degree. Graduates are normally eligible for qualification allowances, raising their take-home pay by $2k to $3k per year.