Whether you feel the call to a career in nursing or are ready to leave your current job and are interested in nursing, it’s never too late to make the switch. In fact, recent data shows the average age of an RN is 51 years old. Therefore, it can be said many individuals change their careers to nursing later at some point in their professional life.
While changing careers has its challenges, there is a multitude of resources and avenues available for assistance. It’s never too late to pursue a purpose-filled career in nursing. Here’s how to make a mid-career change to become a nurse.
Why Make a Career Change to Nursing?
It can be jarring to realize you no longer want to continue pursuing your current career. Along with a passion and commitment to patient wellbeing, there are many other reasons why you may want to pursue a career in nursing:
- Desire to make a difference: Nurses help save and change people’s lives on a day-to-day basis. Many find nursing purposeful and worth pursuing. It’s important to feel fulfilled in your day-to-day role and, for some, being a nurse is their chance to be a part of something more meaningful than their current job.
- Flexibility: Some find becoming a nurse adds flexibility to their life. Nursing schedules can fluctuate based on current needs. For example, night shifts are available for those more apt to do their best work in the evening while morning shifts are available for the morning person. Others find there are benefits to working longer shifts over fewer days, giving them more time to spend with family. Additionally, traveling nurses have the opportunity to offer their skills and services around the country or around the world.
- Better pay: Changing careers to nursing may give you a boost in pay compared to your current job. In 2019, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses made an average of over $47,000, and registered nurses earned an average of $73,300 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This number may fluctuate based on your current practice, specialty, or whether or not you have a leadership role.
- Job Stability: While many people have felt worried about the job stability of their current industry, there’s a steady demand for nurses in all areas of practice as the baby boomer generation grows older and new medical advances are frequently put into practice. The BLS anticipates nursing to grow at a steady pace of 12% in the next ten years, higher than the average job.
- More exciting and satisfying working environment: Working as a nurse means new challenges to face daily, giving you a boost of excitement in your career you may not have had otherwise. Additionally, studies show nurses have a greater sense of job satisfaction and would not change their decision to become a nurse.
Qualifications and Education Needed for a Career Change to Nursing
A career in nursing requires extensive education and the passing of certain examinations and certificates to move forward in your chosen field. Qualifications and required education to becoming a nurse include:
1st Step of a Career Change to Nursing: Graduating from a Nursing Program
All states require nurses to graduate from an accredited and state-approved nursing program. These programs include classroom instruction as well as clinical training with varying time commitments depending on the program you choose. If you have an existing college degree, you can often count this toward your nursing education and even choose an accelerated nursing program to earn your degree faster. The hands-on experience of nursing programs gives you the chance to connect with already certified nurses and the medical community while working one-on-one with patients.
Passing All Required Exams
No matter the nursing program you’ve chosen, each student is required to pass both clinical course work and classroom exams before being eligible to graduate.
If you’re on the path to becoming a registered nurse, you must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses, or NCLEX-RN. A future practical nurse must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Practical Nurses, or NCLEX-PN. You can register for these tests immediately after finishing your accredited nursing program.
Obtaining State Licensure
Every United States territory and state, including the District of Columbia, requires nurses to have specific licenses to practice. Each state varies on their specified requirements, so be sure to look up your own state for how to best proceed. Background checks and additional questionnaires may be required to earn your state licensure.
While you’ll learn an immense amount of practical knowledge in your nursing program and exams, nothing compares to being up close and personal on the job. Nurses are in such high demand due to the recent events of COVID and the aging population. You may find multiple options that fit your own personal needs after you gain your nursing license. The experience of your on-site nursing duties and responsibilities will allow you to better deal with a variety of situations and find the confidence to step into your desired specialty.
If you’d like to advance in your career and have dipped your toes into various specialties, a master’s degree or higher level of education is the next step. Nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists are only a few of the specialized fields you can pursue once you earn a master’s degree in your chosen field.