Nurse with patient

The Career Change to Nursing

How to Pursue Nursing as a Second Career

Healthcare professionals

Many of us may reach a point in our lives when we question our career choices. Our current jobs may not feel particularly rewarding, either emotionally or financially, or we might just need a change of pace. If you feel this way, it’s perfectly natural. This is a common problem for many people, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re looking for a career change, you may want to consider nursing. A career in nursing comes with job security and a competitive salary. Most importantly, it can be one of the noblest and personally gratifying roles you can practice in the healthcare profession.

Nursing is referred to as a ‘career of caring,’ since you’re granted the opportunity to improve peoples’ lives every day. If you’re interested in pursuing nursing as a second career, continue reading to find all the information you’ll need for a successful career transition.

Why Choose Nursing as a Second Career?

Now’s a Great Time to Enter the Nursing Profession

If you’re still reading, then you’re probably contemplating a career change to nursing. Who could blame you? The job outlook for nurses is stronger than many other occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 12 percent from 2019 to 2028.

Nurses also receive competitive wages. As of 2018, the median annual salary* for registered nurses was $71,730, and the highest-paid 10 percent of registered nurses earned more than $106,530! To put these figures into perspective, average job growth for all occupations is 5 percent, and the median annual salary* earned by all occupations is $38,640.

The demand for qualified nurses is growing, which should make it easier to find employment upon completion of your educational requirements. However, before taking the next step in your career journey, you should learn what it takes to become a nurse before deciding if it’s right for you.

What Is a Registered Nurse?

Registered nurses (RN) provide medical treatment to those in need. Registered nurses typically hold an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Depending on their location, work setting, and level of education, RNs perform a variety of duties centered on patient care and treatment.

RNs can also focus on a particular area or sub-specialty of nursing care. These areas of care include but are not limited to oncology, pediatrics, and geriatrics. All RNs must also pass the NCLEX-RN exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

Registered Nurse Job Description

What Does a Registered Nurse Do?

Nurse with patient

Registered nurses play an essential role in the medical team. They assist physicians in providing treatment to patients suffering from various medical conditions. They must attend to patients by administering medical care, educating them, and communicating with the rest of the medical team.

RNs may hold different jobs and responsibilities based on their level of education and certification. For example, nurses who hold their MSN degree are qualified for executive and professional development positions as well as several different nursing specialties.

Registered Nurse (RN) Job Responsibilities

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of registered nurses include:

  • Reviewing and maintaining medical records
  • Administering direct care to injured, disabled, or ill patients
  • Educating patients about their medical conditions and treatment
  • Monitoring patient health status
  • Administering medications and other treatments
  • Consulting with physicians and supervisors to determine the best treatment plans for their patients

Registered Nurse (RN) Work Hours

As far as work schedules go, registered nurses often work:

  • Five days a week for eight hours per day
  • Four days a week for ten hours per day, or
  • Three days a week for 12 hours per day

Nurses who work five days a week typically end up working a total of about 40 hours per week and nurses who work three days a week may end up working about 36 hours per week.

Where Do Registered Nurses Work?

Registered nurses can work in a variety of healthcare settings. Most RNs work in our nation’s hospitals, however many nurses also work in physicians’ offices, nursing care facilities, and home healthcare services. Some registered nurses may also work in outpatient clinics and schools.

Registered Nurse Schooling and Certification

Registered Nursing Degree

Medical studies

In order to become a registered nurse, you must typically earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.

Each educational pathway requires varying levels of time, effort, and financial investment. If you haven’t already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field, and LVN or ADN could be a great place to start. But for many career switchers, a BSN or MSN could be a lot more valuable in the long run. While you can still become an RN with either an LVN diploma and an ADN, you’ll find that both job outlook and pay are significantly better for RNs who have earned their bachelor’s or master’s degrees.

Registered Nursing Certification

Upon completion of any of these programs, you must also pass the NCLEX-RN certification exam in order to become a registered nurse.

Can I Become a Nurse If I Already Have a Degree?

Nursing as a Second Degree

The BSN is a preferred nursing degree for many healthcare employers. BSN-trained nurses can meet more complex healthcare demands and carry more responsibilities than ADN or LVNs. Without any prior college education, BSN programs can take about three to four years to complete. Students enrolled in these programs are fully trained for a variety of skills, including patient care, nursing fundamentals, pharmacology, and more.

What Is a Second Degree Nursing Program?

If you already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you can enroll in a second-degree nursing program (or accelerated BSN program) to earn your degree in three years or less. If your bachelor’s degree is in a science-oriented major, you may be able to complete an accelerated second-degree nursing program in as little as12 to 18 months.

ADN vs. BSN Salary

Upon earning your BSN degree, you’ll be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam and become a BSN-RN. BSN-RN’s have greater job outlook and higher earning potential compared to nurses who don’t have their bachelor’s degree. According to, the average salary* for nurses with an ADN degree is $68,000, while nurses with a Bachelor of Science degree can earn an average salary* of $82,000.

Masters Entry Program in Nursing

How to Get a Master’s in Nursing with a Non-Nursing Bachelor’s

Another option for people who have a bachelor’s degree and are looking to switch careers to nursing is a Masters Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN). Through a MEPN program, you can earn your Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree without being a registered nurse. With a MEPN program, you can apply your previous experience and college credits towards earning an MSN.

What Is an MSN Degree?

An MSN or Masters of Science in Nursing is an advanced-level postgraduate degree for RNs. The MSN degree can also be used to pursue a specialized nursing career or administrator position. By earning your MSN, you can also become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), which would allow you to work as a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, or nurse-midwife. In fact, there are numerous healthcare areas you can specialize in as an advanced practice registered nurse.

Depending on where you enroll, the admission requirements for a MEPN program may differ between nursing colleges. Some MEPN programs may require special prerequisite courses, while others may require a minimum GPA. Therefore, you should do your research to find the MEPN that’s right for you. More specifically, you should find a MEPN program that will honor your unique credentials and past college credits.

How Long Does It Take to Get Your MSN Degree?

An accelerated MSN program can take about three years to complete, but program length will vary between schools and locations.

By earning your MSN, you’re setting yourself up for a great career in nursing. According to the BLS, the median average salary* for MSN-trained nurses was $113,930, with the highest-paid 10 percent earning more than $182,750. The BLS also reports that overall employment of MSN-trained nurses is projected to grow 26 percent from 2018 to 2028. To put these figures into perspective, the annual median wage for RNs was $71,730, and the overall employment of RNs is projected to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028.

With an MSN degree, you don’t have to worry about low pay or poor job outlook. Pursuing a BSN may be quicker and less costly. However, the MEPN can open up greater job opportunities and higher salaries.

Is Nursing a Good Second Career?

Busy hospital

While there are a ton of clear benefits that come with switching careers to nursing, you must evaluate yourself and decide if nursing is the right career for you. There are a few things about nursing that you should know before making the switch.

Advice for New Nurses

Second-career nurses often struggle with what’s called “new nurse anxiety.” When you begin your new career in nursing, you must remember that you’re starting at the bottom. Nursing is seniority-based, and you’ll have to be comfortable with the idea of giving up control. However, your supervisors will help you learn and adapt quickly, allowing you to climb that career ladder.

One of the most important concepts taught in nursing school is the “5 C’s” of caring: Commitment, Conscience, Competence, Compassion, and Confidence. Learning and adapting these concepts will allow you to provide better care, and will improve the relationships you have with your patients as well as co-workers.

There will be a lot of unexpected challenges you face as a transitioning nurse. For example, your work schedule may be changed drastically from a typical 9-to-5 to working 12-hour shifts on your feet. Hospitals are staffed 24/7, and these 12-hour shifts allow patients to be under care by only two different nurses per day. These long shifts will prove to be physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding. However, if you work hard, your body should naturally adjust to the position over time.

Despite all the challenges you’ll face, improving the lives of your patients is what makes this career so redeeming. The work you’ll do as an RN will benefit the lives of so many people and will make the world a healthier and safer place. As mentioned before, a career in nursing is a “career in caring.”

Click here to learn more about our BSN program, and click here to learn more about our MEPN.