Skip to main content

Choosing Nursing as a Second Career

SJC nursing students on campus

Starting a new career path can be exciting but also warrants careful consideration. Making a career change to nursing is possible through accelerated BSN programs and offers entry into a rewarding profession.

The additional education required to become a nurse is worth it for many who choose nursing as a second career. Taking time to select an excellent nursing education program makes a difference in the experience of the educational journey. Student nurses find fulfillment in relationships with faculty and peers while learning to help people improve overall health and wellness. 

Each person has their own unique background and can contribute to the nursing profession in different, but exciting ways. Nursing is a good career with substantial opportunities for growth, and prior work and educational experiences can have transferable skills that enrich lives in many ways. Second career nurses are also essential to help with the nation’s nursing shortage and have a positive impact on our nation’s nursing workforce. 

Current Demand for Nurses

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Services (BLS), employment in nursing is growing faster than average. The anticipated job growth for registered nurses is approximately 6% between 2022 and 2023, with an average of 193,100 employment openings projected each year over the decade.

Salary statistics reveal a median annual wage of $86,070 for registered nurses (RNs) in May 2023. The top 10% of RNs earned over $132,680. An industry breakdown by the BLS shows the following approximate median annual salaries for RNs: 

  • Government positions ($99,840)
  • Hospitals ($88,430)
  • Ambulatory services ($81,230)
  • Nursing and residential facilities ($79,280)
  • Educational services ($71,550)

The majority of nurses are employed in hospitals (59%), but there are numerous settings with diversity and flexibility where nurses can find fulfillment. Some nurses work in direct patient care roles, while others choose non-clinical routes. Other types of environments where nurses work include:

  • Outpatient clinics
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Correctional facilities
  • Home health care
  • Educational institutions

The ongoing nursing shortage has created a context in the U.S. where nurses can positively impact access to health care and improve equity among underserved and disadvantaged populations.

Why Nursing as a Second Career?

There are many reasons to go back to school to become an RN. An in-demand career with job stability and a variety of specialty options can motivate individuals to consider nursing for their future. Advancement opportunities within the profession provide meaningful purpose and direction for growth as a nurse.

Motivating factors that encourage individuals to pursue nursing as a second career include deeply meaningful work and a desire to provide compassionate care to others. Nurses experience career fulfillment through:

  • Personal growth and development
  • Joy from serving as an advocate 
  • Appreciation from patients and families
  • Commitment to making a positive difference 

Choosing nursing as a second career has distinct advantages. When you can choose a niche area and continue to progress in your expertise, nursing becomes more than an occupation. For many, nursing becomes a deeply fulfilling second career, combining science-based care, authentic human connection, and alignment with personal goals and values.

Types of Nurses and Specialties

There are many different types of nurses and specialty areas. The variety of specialization opportunities within the nursing profession is one of the most alluring benefits of choosing to become a nurse. Nurses specialize by first becoming licensed as an RN and then pursuing continuing education and ongoing professional development in their focus area, which may include certification.

Specialty areas encompass different patient populations based on age, disease process, or contextual factors such as prenatal (pregnancy) care or home health services. Examples of nursing specialties for RNs with a BSN degree include:

  • Psychiatric-mental health nursing
  • Emergency department nursing
  • Critical care
  • Cardiac nursing
  • Perioperative (surgical) nursing
  • Hospice and palliative care

In each of these roles, nurses tend to interact with patients and families extensively and are trusted members of interdisciplinary teams. A recent Gallup poll revealed that nurses continue to hold top ethics ratings and remain the most trusted profession in the United States.

Educational Pathways

Aspiring nurses have options when it comes to school and program selection. Traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs are typically four years in length, but accelerated nursing program options are much quicker for applicants holding a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. 

To become a second career nurse, you will need to take the following steps:

  • Select your nursing program and meet the prerequisites for admission
  • Complete the nursing curriculum including didactic courses and clinical experiences
  • Pass the NCLEX examination after graduation
  • Apply for your nursing license to practice in the state where you will work
  • Explore available nursing jobs and find a good employment fit

Accelerated BSN (ABSN) programs are an excellent option for quality nursing education today. Online ABSN programs leverage previous education and can be completed in under two years, allowing an efficient pathway forward for second career students. Fast-paced education in a supportive environment are benefits that make accelerated nursing programs worth it to help many students achieve the dream of becoming a nurse.

Tips for Transitioning Successfully

When transitioning to nursing as a second career, you may be nervous about returning to school and participating in a formal education program. This can be especially true if it has been some time since your previous education. Quality nursing programs will foster connection and growth so you are part of a learning community that provides assistance and encouragement when you need it most. 

You might explore questions to help you choose a quality nursing program as you begin to make the change and embrace networking within your chosen program. Relationships with student colleagues and seasoned faculty are valuable when you can receive guidance and celebrate successes together along the way.

Additional practical tips you can consider for transitioning to nursing include: 

  • Form study groups and collaborate when appropriate
  • Develop resilience and stay focused on your long-term goals
  • Keep your resume updated with your new career skills
  • Practice self-care during the transition

Becoming a nurse is a challenging and rewarding path. ABSN programs are immersive and require diligent study and effort from students. Next, let’s explore some effective ways to prepare for nursing school clinicals.

Preparing for Nursing School Clinicals

Nursing school clinicals are the field opportunities where students will work in a variety of clinical settings and learn through practice in areas such as:

  • Medical-surgical nursing
  • Community health nursing
  • Maternal-child nursing
  • Pediatric and geriatric nursing
  • Psychiatric-mental health nursing

Clinical experiences in nursing school are offered in precepted and group format, where students either work directly with an experienced nurse preceptor or learn in a small clinical group with a nursing faculty instructor. Both types of clinicals allow nursing students the chance to practice hands-on clinical skills in a supervised, real-world environment.

To get the most out of your nursing school clinical experiences, be prepared to ask questions and volunteer for chances to practice your nursing skills. Some nursing programs include simulation exercises where you can take comfort in the opportunity to gain confidence and make mistakes as you learn to think critically and make nursing care decisions. 

As you go through your nursing program, you can also prepare for success in clinicals by:

  • Reviewing relevant didactic material before each clinical day
  • Developing communication and interpersonal relationship skills
  • Developing time management skills to prioritize tasks effectively
  • Participating in clinical rotations by practicing a positive attitude and professionalism expected in a nursing career 

Your clinical rotations are a chance to experience different types of nursing specialty areas and discover your interests within the role of a nurse. When interviewing for a first nursing job, your clinical experiences can be significant examples of clinical judgment and progressing nursing competency that is validated through faculty evaluations and recommendations.

Explore the Rewarding Path of Becoming a Second Career Nurse

Nursing is a rewarding second career with benefits extending beyond job security, diverse opportunities, and meaningful work. Within the nursing profession, you can achieve financial stability and personal fulfillment by choosing a nursing specialty that fits your passions and motivation to make a meaningful difference in the world. 

Saint Joseph’s College of Maine offers a Hybrid ABSN program to help develop community leaders in the field of nursing. Exciting program features include: 

  • 100% online coursework
  • Two on-campus immersions in the brand-new simulation lab
  • Completion time in just 15 months (four semesters)
  • Dedicated 1:1 support from enrollment to graduation
  • Accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

Clinical placement services at Saint Joe’s are advantageous for nursing students who want to remain focused on their studies and learn under the guidance of a qualified preceptor. A dedicated clinical placement team will work directly with you to ensure clinical rotations meet national guidelines and that you are supported as your placement logistics are finalized. 

If you’re looking for an affordable, mission-driven community with simulation technology and experienced faculty, Saint Joe’s may be an excellent place to earn your nursing degree. Visit the Saint Joseph’s College of Maine website today to get your brochure for more information about the program. 

Back to top