Many of us are secretly harboring dreams of retraining and embarking on a career that is much more meaningful than the one that we have at the moment. We all want to feel as though we are making a difference in the world, and that the work we are doing matters. However, it can sometimes be hard to reconcile a more meaningful career with the demands of our daily lives and the need to keep earning a salary, so we put it off until a ‘later’ which never arrives.
If nursing is the career you have been dreaming of, it is absolutely possible to retrain and embark on the career of your dreams within a year!
Salary and Career Outlook
Becoming a registered nurse doesn’t only mean that you will have a career that is fulfilling, you will also be entering a field that is well paid, has excellent job security and has great progression opportunities for the future.
The average salary for a Registered Nurse in 2019 was $73,300, which is much higher than the average salary for other careers. The salary you can expect to be paid as a nurse will vary depending on which area of the country you are living in, and what type of healthcare institution you choose to work for. For example, a huge teaching hospital in a city is likely to offer higher salaries than a small rural healthcare clinic. That being said, the living costs in those areas will differ too so it should mostly balance out! The highest nurse salary in 2019 was $111,220, and the lowest was $52,080.
There is also likely to be an increased demand for Registered Nurses in the future. The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) is predicting that between 2019 and 2029 the number of nurses needed will increase by 7%, with an additional 221,900 nurses being employed over that time period. This is due in part to the aging population, and the fact that we are seeing a rise in patients with chronic conditions requiring healthcare, such as obesity and diabetes. There is also an increased focus on preventative healthcare techniques, which nurses play a huge part in.
As a nurse you can expect to be paid a good salary as soon as you graduate and to be rewarded as you gain qualifications and experience. There are also a few directions that experienced nurses can take their careers in if they want to progress even further:
- Nurse Practitioner – a senior member of the healthcare with similar authority regarding decisions on patient care to that of a physician. In some states Nurse Practitioners can even go on to start their own practices.
- Nurse Educator – working mostly in academic institutions, nurse educators work to teach the next generation of nurses, while working on their own research at the same time.
- Specialist Nurse – you can choose to specialize in a particular nursing track, for example you could be a pediatric nurse working with children and their families, or a geriatric nurse working with elderly patients to improve their lives.
- Shift leader – this position is a management level position, coordinating teams of healthcare providers while considering budgetary requirements to ensure that patients receive the best possible care.
Choose Your Education Program
To become a Registered Nurse there are a few steps you will need to take:
- Obtain an accredited degree in nursing. We will go on to discuss the available degree types.
- As part of your degree you will need to complete supervised clinical training, roughly three hours of clinical training to every one hour in the classroom.
- Once you have your degree and clinical experience, you can apply for your state license. You will need to check with your individual state for the exact requirements for licensure, but most states will require you to complete a Federal criminal background check with fingerprinting.
- Next you can take the NCLEX (National Certification Licensing Examination) to become an RN.
When it comes to choosing your degree, you have a few options. An Associate Degree in Nursing (ASN) will allow you to complete your degree in two years or less. However, more and more healthcare institutions are making it a requirement that nurses have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) so it’s probably a better choice to take this route. BSNs take four years to complete, or if you already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject you can take an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) to achieve your BSN in a year. You can view a list of post baccalaureate nursing programs to see what options are available to you.
It’s also worth noting that more and more nursing programs are now available online. Although you will have to attend a physical location for your clinical hours, it may be possible to do the academic side of your training virtually, which makes it much easier to fit in with the rest of your life!
A worry for a lot of people undertaking a degree is how they will pay for it. Although it might well be worth it financially once you qualify, getting there can be tough!
If you can find one, scholarships and grants are the best option for financing your studies as you won’t need to pay them back. It’s worth checking with your state whether they are offering any assistance for trainee nurses, as many states are investing heavily in training healthcare providers in order to try and meet the predicted demand.
If you are unable to secure a scholarship or a grant, a loan isn’t necessarily a bad option as several states have implemented student loan forgiveness programs for nurses, so you may be able to get your loan written off.
As far as choosing a loan goes, you can opt for a federal loan or for a private loan. Federal loans are tied in with your earnings, so you don’t pay them back until you are earning enough to do so. Private loans will need to be paid back whatever you are earning, however, you may be able to secure a more favorable interest rate.