Understanding how nurses are employed in Australia is important when planning your working holiday.

Nursing in Australia, like any country, can be done on a range of terms of employment. It’s possible to choose the flexibility of day-to-day work – or you can also opt for the certainty of income that a permanent job brings.

The first thing that you need to decide is what do you want to get out of your Australian experience?

  • Do you want to settle in one place and focus on the progression of your nursing career? -or-
  • Do you want to make the most of your time in Australia, travel, and nurse along the way to fund your adventure?

Once you have decided which statement best describes you, it will be easier to determine what type of employment you will want to seek – and ultimately, which visa you will need to apply for.

In Australia, there are three main ways you can be employed as a nurse.


Most nurses who come to Australia to travel and work, choose this option. This involves signing up with a suitable agency and going on their list to fill daily staffing needs for certain hospitals. This means you have the option of working as much as you want and taking a holiday, or a day off, whenever you need it. In order to be offered as many shifts as possible, it is highly recommended to base yourself in a capital city for agency work.


This option is most like the 13 week travel assignments that nurses from the USA are familiar with. In saying this, contracts in Australia vary in length, and could be anything from 6 weeks to 6 months – or anything in between. Nursing contracts in Australia also usually take place in rural areas, outside the major cities. There are specific nursing agencies that specialise in placing nurses in these roles. Rural nursing contracts are very different to working in capital cities as you are often in a very isolated areas, sometimes without specialist or doctor assistance. This kind of nursing requires experienced, confident nurses who are comfortable working in situations that they might not be used to.


Whether it be full-time or part-time work, this option is for nurses who want the stability of a permanent job – rather than a want to travel. Obtaining a permanent position requires a work visa that allows ongoing employment with a single employer. This is not an option for nurses relocating on a temporary Working Holiday (or Work and Holiday) Visa.

As you can see, nursing in Australia comes in a variety of shapes and sizes – and it’s important to figure out which style fits you best. Be mindful that the employment type you choose here, will also have an impact on which visa you will need to apply for – and also how long you will therefore be allowed to stay in Australia.