Aim. This paper reports a study examining the influence of age, ethnicity and part-time employment on nursing students' academic performance for second year pathophysiology and nursing practice subjects. Background. Age and ethnicity are known to be significant predictors of academic achievement among nursing students. The endemic nursing shortage has increased the impetus to diversify, resulting in more mature-age students and students from diverse ethnic and cultural groups in nursing programmes. There is increasing pressure for nursing students to participate in part-time employment whilst undertaking higher education, and this may affect their academic performance. Methods. A prospective, quantitative survey design was used to collect data from a regional university in Australia over a 2-year period from 2001 to 2002. A total of 267 nursing students were included in the study. Findings. More than three-quarters (78%) of second year students were participating in paid employment, with the majority in nursing-related jobs. Of those working, half did so more than 16 hours per week during the semester. Students who were not in paid employment had the highest academic achievements in both pathophysiology and nursing practice. Age was positively related with academic performance, but hours of part-time employment and ethnicity were negatively associated with academic performance, with the amount of time spent in paid employment being the strongest predictor of academic performance in both pathophysiology and nursing practice. Conclusion. Working more than 16 hours per week had a detrimental impact on the academic performance of nursing students. More importantly, this study shows that nursing-related employment is not advantageous to students' academic performance, even for a nursing practice-based subject. If the current practice of employing nursing students in clinical settings is to continue, this experience needs to be aligned to the academic curriculum if it is to be beneficial to students' knowledge and skill acquisition. �� 2006 The Authors.