Enrolling in nursing school is an increasingly popular option today, and it’s easy to see why. In the wake of the Great Recession, world economies have been very slow to recover, and many college graduates find themselves looking for many months before landing a job that pays them less than half of what they thought they’d be making after incurring six figures in student loan debt.
This is not the case, however, with nursing. In the health care sector, things are booming. Populations throughout the developed world are aging, and this means greater numbers of retirees with health concerns. In fact, the demand for nursing professionals is hardly keeping up with the supply of students graduating from nursing programs. This creates an incredible opportunity for those who believe this career would be a good fit for them.
There are a few different ways to enter the lucrative nursing field. All have their pros and cons, and the one you choose will depend largely on your own circumstances.
CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)
The CNA route is the fastest way into the health care field and can be a good way to get your feet wet and help you decide if a nursing career is right for you. Schooling only takes a couple weeks, and after you’re done, you’ll need to pass your licensure. From there, you can dive right in and earn around $15 an hour. This is a great choice for those needing immediate income, but if you want to earn greater pay down the road, you’ll need to have a plan to go to LPN school in your spare time.
LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse)
Most people wanting to get into nursing end up in an LPN program. The main reason is that it offers almost the best of both worlds; relatively short length of schooling and good pay/benefits after completion. LPN training runs 1-2 years, depending on the school and whether you choose a part-time or full-time option. That’s not bad compared to a 4 year liberal arts degree. And once you start working, you can expect pay of around the mid-five figures annually.
RN (Registered Nurse)
This is pretty much the top of the rung as far as nurses go. RNs are normally supervising LPNs and with that responsibility comes a higher salary (and many times longer hours as well). Length of school depends on the program. It can be done as a 4 year bachelor’s degree, or as a specialized program. The financial rewards are nice, but if you go this route, be ready to work a lot of overtime.
Whatever path you choose, it is always best to do your due diligence and research your options thoroughly. If possible, talk to people who have gone down each path, and find out what their experiences have been. This should help you make an informed decision on what career path is best for you.