As a career, nursing is one of the best out there today. With a 16 percent job growth outlook projected over the next decade and an average pay nationwide of just under $70,000 per year ($32.45 per hour for part-timers), a nursing career is about the closest you will find to a “sure thing” in today’s job market.
In this post, learn what to consider as you contemplate returning to school for nursing.
Factors to Consider as a Mature Student
One of the biggest hesitations older students express is a fear of not fitting in. The image of the “student” is young, but the reality is that students today come from all walks of life.
Over the last decade, the entire scope of higher education today has changed, and those changes continue to unfold. Thanks in large part to an ever-wider range of education options, students of all ages are returning to school today.
Having said that, there are certain considerations that are often somewhat unique to going to college as an older student. These considerations include the following:
With age often comes increasing obligations and responsibilities. But age alone is no barrier to pursuing a career as a nurse (as proof, check out this inspiring story of a 74-year-old grandfather who returned to school to pursue nursing)!
2) Marital status.
Time, finances, childcare or eldercare, work, and household chores are all important topics to discuss so you don’t place undue pressure on a partner and risk the health of the relationship.
3) Family responsibilities.
In the same way, it is important to talk with children and elders under your care to explain how your dream of becoming a nurse may temporarily impact their daily schedules.
4) Single parent responsibilities.
If you are a single parent, there are many flexible night/weekend/online options for pursuing the education and training you need.
Of course, finances is always a major area of consideration. Smart advance planning can net you many financial aid resources in the form of scholarships, work-study programs, aid from your current job (especially if it is nursing-related and you plan to return to work there after completing your education), need-based grants and loans, merit-based grants and loans and other options you can apply for.
These advantages are your reward for making the time to pursue your dream of launching a new career in the field of nursing:
- Great career flexibility in large/small organizations.
- Starting pay in the high $60s for full-time employment.
- Chance to make your dreams come true.
- Demand in urban and rural areas.
- Can work in public policy, health education, traditional hospital/clinic nursing, home care for the elderly or infirm, pediatrics, geriatrics, ob-gyn, schools, the military and so many other facets of nursing.
- Varied degree plans can get you into your new career in stages if needed.
Of course, even the rosiest outlook comes with certain limitations and sacrifices. Two of the biggest of these are the short-term time and financial sacrifice of earning the required education to become a nurse.
Here are some of the possible disadvantages you may want to think through as you ponder pursuing a nursing career:
- Cash flow may be constricted as you fund your education.
- It can be challenging to clear your schedule to make time for classes, studying, homework and exams.
- Even after completing your education, you will still need to obtain your licensure to work in your state.
- If you leave the state permanently, you may need to meet extra requirements before you can work in a nurse in your new state.
- You will need to complete a certain number of continuing education hours annually to maintain your licensure.
- Nursing can be a very active, physically demanding job, so maintaining a certain baseline level of health and fitness can be important to career success.
You will need to meet certain pre-requisites to earn your credentials and licensure and begin working in the nursing field. The typical path is as follows:
- Earn a nursing diploma, 2-year (associates) degree or 4-year (bachelor’s) degree featuring a concentration of anatomy/physiology, chemistry, psychology and similar coursework.
- Often a 4-year bachelor’s degree is required to move into supervisory, research, teaching or consulting jobs.
- The diploma degree leads to licensure as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN).
- The associates or bachelor’s degree plan leads to licensure as a registered nurse (RN).
- Gettings a Masters in Nursing opens up further options, including career growth projections up to 31 percent over the next decade.
Researching and Planning for School
Much of research and planning to return to school as a nurse will revolve around what type of education works best for your schedule and finance as well as your career ambitions.
1) Nursing Degrees.
As mentioned here, degree types include a diploma, associate’s degree, and bachelor’s degree. Higher education can include a Masters in Nursing.
2) Online versus traditional education.
Online education can offer greater flexibility in terms of the ability to take self-paced or on-demand courses. However, traditional education (in a brick-and-mortar school) can suit some students better – especially if you struggle with time management.
What to Expect at School?
Starting college is a big commitment but it can also be one of life’s greatest adventures.
Here are some of the things to expect:
- Improvement in time management skills.
- Greater life structure.
- Many chances to make new friends and key networking contacts.
- Hands-on clinical training to bring your textbook studies to life.
There is something in you that resonates with the concept of nursing as a profession.
So while you may not perceive exactly how all the pieces are going to fit together yet, by taking one small step and then another, you may discover a whole new vista of opportunities opening up, including a great new career with wonderful financial and advancement benefits!