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Guide to Making a Career Change to Nursing

Guide to Making a Career Change to Nursing

Changing jobs can seem like a daunting process, but it is never too late to follow a more rewarding career path. Switching careers can be a great way to boost your job satisfaction, increase your earning potential, and improve your career prospects.

Many people choose nursing as a second career because they want a more rewarding and fulfilling working life. Retraining as a nurse in later life is hard work, but it is a relatively straightforward process.

Here’s everything you need to know about making a career change to nursing:

What does a nurse do?

If you’re thinking about switching career to nursing, then you must do lots of research and have a good understanding of what a nurse does day-to-day. Nursingworld.org describes nursing as “identifying and protecting the needs of an individual who needs care.” The role of a nurse is difficult to describe as nurses have many duties. This includes examining patients, making treatment decisions, monitoring patients, administering medication, and coordinating with other members of the healthcare team.

Nurses specialize in a wide variety of areas and you should have a good understanding of the different nursing specialties. Some popular types of nurses are family nurse practitioners, pediatric nurses, clinical nurses, and nurse educators. Explore the various career paths in nursing and decide what type of nursing role would be most suited to you based on your skills, interests, and education level.

What qualifications do I need?

There are various routes to become a registered nurse, but all nurses must complete an accredited nursing training program. Most nurses complete a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). This program typically takes four years to complete and is generally the preferred qualification in the field.

You can opt to enroll in an associate degree in nursing (ADN) and become a registered nurse in as little as two years, although you may not have as many job opportunities with an ADN. Some aspiring nurses choose to earn a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) to expand their skills and improve their future job prospects. Read this article by Nurse.org for guidance on the different types of nursing degrees.

Can I become a nurse if I already have a degree?

If you already have a non-nursing degree, then you may be able to complete an accelerated course and qualify as a registered nurse in a shorter timeframe. Second-degree nursing programs are accelerated courses that leverage your existing experience and education. An accelerated nursing program will allow you to earn a BSN in three years or less. Elmhurst University states that that accelerated bsn nursing program can be completed within just 16 months. This makes the program ideal for people wanting to launch a second career in nursing and start their new career quickly.

What prerequisites do I need?

Nursing programs require applicants to complete any outstanding ABSN prerequisites and academic requirements before they can apply. Common examples of academic requirements include a BA or BS degree from an accredited school and a minimum GPA of 3.0. The ABSN prerequisite courses you need to complete will vary depending on your education and prior experience. For example, most applicants will need to pass a series of science courses before being accepted onto a nursing degree program.

Get in contact with your admissions office to find out what academic requirements apply and what prerequisite courses you’ll need to complete before you apply. It may take some time to complete these courses, so don’t leave it until the last minute.

Do I need nursing experience?

You must gain some nursing experience if you are considering switching careers to nursing. Nursing experience will give you a genuine insight into the nursing profession and confirm that a career switch is the best option for you. Gaining nursing experience will also demonstrate to prospective employers that you are passionate about the industry and serious about your career change.

Most nursing degree programs require students to complete a certain number of placements hours and hands-on training. However, you should also look for opportunities to build your experience outside of your course. Apply for internships, look for volunteer work, and enquire about shadowing and mentorship opportunities. Read this blog by RCNI for tips on how to make the most of nursing placements.

How do I get a nursing license?

You can apply for a nursing license after you complete your nursing degree program. All graduate nurses must pass the NCLEX-PN or the NCLEX-RN exam before being granted a license. The NCLEN-RN is a more in-depth examination that is designed for registered nurses, whereas the NCLEX-PN is for applicants who have a diploma in licensed practical nursing or licensed vocational nursing.

Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to revise for the NCLEX exam and complete practice papers so that you know what to expect on the day. You can visit nursinglicensure.org to check nursing licenses by state and find out if you meet the requirements for licensure.

Will I have a good work-life balance?

Working as a nurse can be challenging and many nurses struggle with the emotional stress and physical demands of the job. That said, you should be able to maintain a healthy work-life balance by being organized and managing your time well. Find healthy outlets to relieve work stress and make sure that you maintain boundaries between your work and personal life.


If you’re questioning your career choices and feel unhappy in your current role, then nursing could offer a rewarding alternative career path. Becoming a nurse could suit anyone who wants to help people and make a positive impact through their work. A career in nursing comes with perks such as job security, advancement, and high earning potential.

If you’ve decided that you want to pursue a rewarding career in nursing, then follow the above steps to help you plan a smooth career transition.

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