Spotlight on a Nursing Major

I recently received an e-mail asking me about majors. The reader had no clue what to major in, and didn’t know where to start looking for advice (I find that some college advisers can be rather unhelpful at times). I’ve already written about questions you should ask before selecting a major, as well as what you should and shouldn’t do when you finally choose your major. I figured that it would be most helpful to have some information about some specific majors.

It is very, very important to select a major that you feel you will be interested in, and a major that can help your career (whatever your goals may be). I am a big fan of forward thinking, so job outlooks, college rankings, and length of completion should all be taken into account. The first major I’ve decided to discuss is nursing.

As I’ve stated before, job outlook is key to any major, and few majors have a better job outlook than nursing. This is because there’s an real-life nursing shortage (people are actually suing hospitals because of a lack of nursing care). This means that when you graduate, there will be more jobs available, and more people willing to pay top dollar for your services. The shortage has been present since the 1980s, and even though there are upwards of 12 million employed nurses in the country, the need is still there. Companies are even campaigning for nurses (Johnson & Johnson has spent $30 million so far just trying to encourage people to become nurses). This abundance in spending has lead to increased scholarships for persons wanting to attend nursing score, but I’ll elaborate on that later.

The average salary of nurses is rising, along with the amount of nurses in the workplace. In fact, in 2002, 86,000 nurses were hired; the very next year, 119,000 nurses were hired. In 2006, the average starting salary for a registered nurse (RN) was $39,000. For nurses with at least three years experience, the salary increases to $47,110 (average). To give you a comparison, I’m a marketing major (which I feel is a solid career prospect), and the average starting salary is $34,712. In a recent survey, The Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that more than 25% of all nurses had an income of at least $64,000 a year. Ben Stiller’s character, Greg Focker, had the right idea when he chose his career!

Variety of career prospects is also essential to any major. I’m a big fan of majors where one can work in a wide variety of environments with the same degree. With nursing, one can work in a typical hospital setting, possibly helping to deliver babies, or simply care for those having operations. Nurses can also work with children in schools, or travel around the world to care for patients. Statistics show that most people will change their careers at least once. With a flexible job, you may not have to completely throw away your education and start over in order to have a change of scenery or career scope. With nursing, you can still utilize the essential skills obtained at nursing school in dynamic situations.

Flexible career prospects are also helpful for those who have an interest in something, but may not know how to translate it to a career. Some may think that the only career option for those interested in working with children is to become a teacher or counselor. However, nurses working in schools get to work with students, faculty, and staff. Pediatric nursing also deals with treating children, outside of a school setting. For those interested in working with babies, there are a plethora of opportunities.

In the same vein as those interested in children, a person who is really interested in travel doesn’t need to look very far to find a useful career that combines nursing with travel. One can see the sites while even working on a cruise ship. Others may be interested in psychology or critical care, both of which have a branch of nursing. The point is that limiting yourself is the worst thing you can do, so keep your options open.

Careers may seem to be static at times. When someone says “accounting,” most people imagine the guy from Office Space stuck in his cubicle and hating his job. When people mention “nursing” they often only think of the person who helps with emergencies and works as the physicians assistant. In choosing any career, it’s tremendously important to think outside of the box. If you dismiss any career because of what your first impression of it is, then you might be missing out on something that could have been very fulfilling.

After one picks a major, picking the school is the next big decision. I’ve written about important questions to ask when selecting a college, so I won’t bore you with the details of what you should be thinking about during the decision process. However, a good piece of advice is to never take things at face value. Meaning, don’t just look for the highest ranked school. Consider class sizes, cost, flexibility of class schedules, and then consider reputation. Reputation should be considered last, because, according to many, rankings aren’t that important.

With any degree you work to obtain, be sure to consider distance education versus on campus education. For students who are just out of high school, and want the on campus experience, then clearly going the traditional brick and mortar route is best. However, for many people who are getting college degrees, attending traditional classes may be an option. That’s where distance education comes into play. Distance education allows one to have a flexible class schedule (more so than traditional college environments), and allows people to hold jobs while attending college. Financially, you should have a job in college. Distance education allows many to actually work full-time while taking classes.

There are a wide variety of schools who offer nursing programs. With some programs one may be limited, and, to sound like a broken record, keeping your options open is key. Being able to obtain a high level of education is also essential to any profession. Many careers may become stagnant after a while. I feel that the ideal career holds continuing opportunities for those who are interested. For me, that means the ability to get associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. I’m in business because even after I graduate I won’t be confined to just one level, and there’s always an opportunity to obtain more education in my field.

This is a web site about college AND finance, so it would be ridiculous to discuss a major without mentioning scholarships, grants, and financial aid opportunities associated with that major. The nursing shortage has lead to higher starting salaries for nurses. It has also lead to increased scholarships for those who are interested in pursuing a career in nursing. There are also a wide variety of grants available for those who want to pursue a degree in the field of nursing. Specific schools (like Drexel University and Institute of Medicine, to name a few) offer grants for nurses. While many businesses and associations offer scholarships of varying amounts. Part of the United State’s push to increase the amount of nurses in the work force has involved various corporations making more scholarships available so that many more people who previously could not afford a nursing education can now achieve their nursing career goals.

The idea behind financial aid is that everyone should be able to afford an education, and those in the field of nursing (as well as in other fields) have taken that idea to heart. As with any financial decision, it is important to evaluate the returns versus the investment. If the salary outweighs the cost of education over time, then it is clearly a wise investment to make. Scholarships and aid help to make the educational costs more manageable, and increase the eventual profits of any education. Without scholarships and aid, I certainly wouldn’t be able to afford my education.

The point of all this is to help you to consider different majors. Even if nursing sounds like boring work to you, at least you can think about some things like average salaries and the cost of education in your area. Sometimes I wonder if I made my decision to become a business major by considering other’s opinions too much. Your major is completely up to you, and you should definitely make your own educated decision when it comes to your degree and what career you want. If it’s not nursing, be sure to find something else that you’ll be interested in which will hopefully provide you with many opportunities in your career, and financially.

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