Thinking about changing careers to nursing? You’re in good company. Many people have made the switch already and for a number of reasons. Nursing is an exciting career path that allows you to truly help people in a way that offers plenty of variety in terms of what you’ll do and what you can specialize in. Plus, the pay and job outlook are strong, including growth into higher-paying positions with more responsibility.
The following sections explore changing careers to nursing on a deeper level. You’ll learn more about why you might want to make the change, examine some career possibilities, and get a better understanding of the education you’ll need.
Note that all employment data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The “Why” Behind Changing Careers to Nursing
Nursing is a compelling career choice for many reasons, but perhaps the most convincing is the salary data. Registered nurses earn a median annual wage of $70,000, which is approximately double the average for all occupations. There are even more lucrative options within nursing at higher levels. The next section explores some of those lucrative nursing career opportunities in more detail.
For many people, though, changing careers to nursing is more about the passion to help other people. It’s no secret that nurses are some of the most caring professionals. In fact, for 17 straight years, nurses have earned the top spot among all professionals for honesty and ethical standards, according toan annual poll from Gallup.
Maybe you’ve encountered high-quality care from a nurse who made a loved one’s or your stay in a hospital or other medical environment better. Lengthier stays can highlight the difference that nurses make in people’s lives and treatments, and that may be what’s driving your career change to nursing, as is often the case. A lot of people have positive experiences with nurses and want to have that same type of impact on others. As a result, they consider changing careers to nursing.
Whatever your motivation may be, a career switch to nursing can offer you the opportunity to make a difference for the people who need it most, and it can also have several benefits for you, which are highlighted in the next section.
Careers in Nursing
Changing careers to nursing offers plenty of variety. In other words, you’re not making a decision to pursue a single career role. In nursing, there’s a wide variety of major career options, and within those options, there are several specialties you can explore. Here’s a brief overview of some of the most common possibilities.
Registered nurses help provide care for patients. They also educate patients and the public about health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their families. Other specific tasks include the following.
- Observing patients and noting their symptoms and medical histories
- Administering medicines and treatments
- Working alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals
- Performing tests and analyzing the results
- Teaching patients how to manage illnesses or injuries, and what to do for follow-up home treatment
Those are just some of the general duties that registered nurses have. If you make the career change to nursing, your prospective responsibilities will depend on your specific role and environment. For instance, your responsibilities will be different if you’re a nurse in a nursing home, physician’s office, or a specific unit of a hospital.
That leads to part of the beauty of changing careers to nursing. Not only are there several different roles and specialties you can pursue within registered nursing, but no two days are the same for many roles. You’ll get to perform a variety of tasks and work with different patients and medical professionals.
The specialties are endless. You could concentrate on specific type of unit in a hospital, such as critical care nursing or surgical nursing. You could work with specific types of patients, such as geriatric nursing or obstetrical nursing. Your specialty could also say more about where you work, such as school nursing or travel nursing. There are several dozen specialties you can pursue within registered nursing alone.
In addition to a median salary mentioned earlier that is double that of all other occupations, the projected employment rate is double, as well. The demand for registered nurses is expected to increase 15% by 2026.
Advanced Practice Registered Nursing and Other Leadership Roles
Changing careers to nursing isn’t just about becoming a registered nurse. Once you reach that point, you can consider pursuing more advanced roles in nursing.
One option is to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). APRNs provide primary and specialty healthcare that may be independent of or in collaboration with physicians. Their scope of practice varies by state, but in most states, APRNs can prescribe medications, diagnose health issues, and order medical tests. Here are a few types of APRNs:
Nurse anesthetists provide anesthesia and related care to patients for various procedures. They earn a median annual wage of $165,120, and employment is projected to increase 16 percent by 2026.
Nurse midwives provide care to women, including prenatal care, delivering babies and monitoring women during childbirth, gynecological exams, and family planning services. They earn a median annual wage of $100,590, and employment is projected to increase 21 percent by 2026.
Nurse practitioners provide primary and specialty care, often for a certain population of people, like adult, geriatric, and pediatric health. They earn a median annual wage of $103,880, and employment is projected to increase 36 percent by 2026.
In addition to APRN careers, you could also consider executive- or management-level careers in nursing. Medical and health services managers, also called healthcare executives and administrators, manage specific clinical areas or departments in hospitals, or medical practices. They earn a median annual wage of $98,350, and employment is projected to increase 20 percent by 2026.
Traditionally, the minimum educational requirement for becoming a registered nurse has been one of three paths: a diploma from an approved nursing program, an associate degree in nursing (ADN), or a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN).
However, things have changed. You might be able to make the career switch to nursing with a diploma or ADN, but your employment opportunities will be limited. A large number of hospitals and other medical environments have started requiring nurses to have a BSN. That’s because of the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 landmark report, “The Future of Nursing.” which called for 80% of registered nurses to have at least a bachelor’s degree. After that, U.S. hospitals have encouraged and required the degree, often in an effort to achieve Magnet status, which is an award from the American Nurses Credentialing Center recognizing quality of nursing care.
As a result, for many RN positions, a BSN is seen as the required education. That’s certainly the case for a lot of hospital positions and specialty roles. Other careers in nursing will depend on the position. For instance, you may be able to move into management roles with your BSN, but many will require a master’s degree. All APRN roles require at least a master’s degree.
Current Transferable Skills
What kind of skills would you need to work as a nurse? Here are a few skills that nurses typically need.
Communication skills enable nurses to communicate with patients and coworkers. For instance, clear communication is essential to helping a patient know when and how to take medication. It’s also necessary for talking to a doctor about any changes needed to a patient’s care.
Critical thinking skills help nurses gain clarity into important situations that can impact patients’ health. One example is a patient who is experiencing multiple symptoms. By combining medical knowledge with a deep look into the patient’s condition and medication, a nurse can determine what might be causing symptoms like pain and discomfort.
Organizational skills help nurses deliver optimum care. In many hospital positions, nurses are in charge of a certain number of patients, as there are nurse-to-patient ratios in play. Additionally, nurses must juggle other responsibilities, making organizational and time management skills a top priority.
Your Career Switch to Nursing
Changing careers to nursing isn’t as difficult as you might think. In the previous section, you may have noticed some required skills that you’ve already developed in your current profession. They can pay off if you become a nurse.
For instance, changing careers from a teacher to nurse is fairly common, and it’s because a lot of the required skills overlap. There’s a lot of patient education in nursing, and that’s, of course, relevant to teaching. Also, interpersonal skills developed in teaching will be especially relevant when managing relationships with coworkers and patients as a nurse. Going from teacher to nurse is a pretty natural move to make.
Another common situation is making the career change to nursing at 40. Like teaching, there are other career fields that make for a more seamless transition to nursing. You might even have an advantage when it comes to your current education because you can use your previous experience as a student to help you pursue a nursing degree. Additionally, you might have some transfer credit that can shorten the length of your education. A career change to nursing at 40 or older isn’t something you should avoid due to age.
Those types of scenarios can help illustrate how you can complete your career switch to nursing by using your current skills. It might seem daunting, but with the right education and skills, you can achieve your goals and have a successful career in nursing.