Nursing as a Second Career

Learn whether nursing as a second career is the right career choice for you in this Q & A.

Is nursing the right career for me?

Whether you are a college student or a seasoned professional in a different field who is looking for a career change, a nursing career can be a very rewarding professional path, and now is a great time to become a nurse with the nursing shortage and demand for qualified nurses all over the U.S. There are many opportunities, not to mention financial aid resources, available to nursing students. Whatever the reason, if you are considering nursing as a second career, get more nursing career information by reading the nursing education Q&A below.

I have a bachelor’s degree. Can I earn a nursing degree faster?

Yes. Many nursing schools offer Second Degree BSN, Accelerated BSN or Direct Entry MSN programs designed specifically to allow students with previous bachelor’s degrees to complete their nursing degrees on an accelerated schedule. This helps many people expedite their education to begin their nursing as a second career within 1- to 2-years of starting their nursing education.

Can I work while earning my nursing degree?

Yes. Many nursing schools offer part-time nursing programs designed to accommodate the schedules of working students.

Can I earn my degree faster with medical field experience?

Because each person’s educational and work experience are unique, the best way to figure out if yours will allow you to gain advanced placement in a nursing program is to talk to the nursing schools you’re interested in directly.

I’m over 40. Am I too old to begin a nursing as a second career?

No. While you should keep in mind that nursing is a physically (and at times emotionally) demanding job, if you have an aptitude for math and science, thrive on working in an intense atmosphere, and love working with people, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider nursing as a second career after 40. If you’re not convinced that your age won’t be a handicap, here are some things to consider:

  • According to the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, 45 percent of RNs are 50 years or older.
  • According to the same survey, the average age of all licensed registered nurses is currently 47, and this average is increasing every year—indicating that more and more students are entering the field after having pursued another career.
  • Nursing school administrators report that second-career nursing students typically bring an energy and intensity of focus to their studies that their younger counterparts lack, and are often top performers academically.
  • Potential employers value the maturity, professionalism, and advanced decision-making skills that older workers bring to nursing.

Is it hard for an older student to get into school or find work?

No. It would be illegal for any nursing school or employer to take your age into consideration while evaluating your application. What’s more, with nursing school enrollment just beginning to increase after a long decline and no sign of an end to the nation-wide shortage of nurses, both nursing schools and health care providers are actively seeking to recruit non-traditional nursing students—including second-career students.

What are the physical demands of a nurse job?

Working in a hospital or nursing home may be very demanding, for example, while working in an out-patient clinic, government agency or school may be much less stressful. Similarly, working as a staff nurse may be more physically demanding than working as a nurse administrator. Depending on where you work, some of the physical and mental stresses you’ll face may include:

  • Shift work, working on-call, or working weekends and holidays
  • Being on your feet for long periods of time
  • Moving (lifting and supporting) patients
  • Working in inadequately staffed facilities
  • Working with critically/chronically ill people and their families
  • Working in emergency situations

Tips for choosing the right nursing as a second career program

To read more on these topics, please visit the Types of Nursing Programs sections of our Nursing School Education Resource Center. To learn more about upgrading your education in the nursing field, please see our Nursing Continuing Education page.

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