In a world of economic uncertainty, nursing still offers a pathway to a secure and steady income. Direct care lies at the heart of what you may imagine when considering a nursing career, but opportunities go far beyond that. You can choose different career paths as a qualified nurse, including nursing education and lecturing, critical care nursing, and nursing management.
The best nurses are caring, empathetic, emotionally intelligent, and resilient. They like helping people and get satisfaction from easing pain and suffering. Work hours can be long; you will need to work day and night shifts, but the rewards are significant. A career in nursing means you make a difference to people, but you will need to develop the skills to create healthy boundaries to prevent burnout.
Different educational paths lead to a nursing degree. You can choose the direct route, a bachelor’s degree in Nursing Science, or fast-track your training with the Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing Science, provided you already hold a degree.
This article examines the personal and professional benefits of a career in nursing, delves into aptitudes for nursing, and discusses the core aspects of the BSN vs. ABSN training paths.
The professional benefits of a nursing career
A career in nursing provides much more than the opportunity to care for people. Professionally, nursing offers job security, promotional opportunities, and various specialty options. Let’s look at the fundamental professional benefits of the nursing career pathway.
Top job security
The demand for qualified nurses will likely continue as healthcare remains one of the few industries set for ongoing growth. Across the US, many states have nursing shortages, meaning qualified nurses can find employment almost anywhere. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that over 3 million nursing jobs exist, estimating an addition of nearly 200,000 nursing vacancies in the decade from 2021–2031.
With an average salary of over $80,000, nurses earn more than the average salary across all professions. Significant salary differences exist between the different nursing professions, with certified registered nurse anesthetists being the highest-paid at over $200k. Here is a list of the best-paid nursing jobs:
- Certified registered nurse anesthetist: $200k+
- Neonatal nurse practitioner: $130k+
- Cardiac nurse practitioner: $120k
- Orthopedic nurse practitioner: $115k+
- Oncology nurse practitioner: $115+
- General nurse practitioner: $115k+
- Family nurse practitioner: $115k+
- Nurse midwife: $110k+
- Clinical nurse specialist: $110k+
- Psychiatric nurse practitioner: $110k+
- Pediatric nurse practitioner: $110k+
- Pain management nurse: $110k
- Nurse researcher: $100k+
- Gerontological nurse practitioner: $100k
- Nurse administrator: $95k+
- Nurse educator: $75k+
According to the Nurse Journal, registered nurses enjoy better access to employment benefits than other professionals. Here is a list of benefits and the percentage of nurses with access to them:
- Sick pay: 94%
- Healthcare: 94%
- Retirement plan: 90%
- Life insurance: 84%
- Paid family leave: 36%
- Paid annual leave: 89%
- Childcare: 28%
- Wellness programs: 81%
- Retirement benefits: 90%
In some settings, nurses also receive tuition and certificate fee reimbursement. Other non-salary benefits include sign-on bonuses, paid paternity and maternity leave, easy access to training programs, mental health support, relocation cost reimbursement, and employee support services.
Career path options
As a qualified nurse, you enjoy significant promotional and advanced training opportunities. Many nurses choose a specialty, undergo relevant training, and end up in better-paid, highly skilled jobs. Here are some of the nursing specialties you may like to consider:
Certified registered nurse anesthetist: CRNAs assist surgeons and anesthetists before surgery. Intensive training is required. The position is among the highest-paid nursing specialties.
Cardiac nurse: CNs assist patients in hospitals with heart problems, preparing them for procedures such as a bypass operation or angioplasty.
Mental health nurse: You can also specialize in mental health nursing and assist patients with their mental and emotional needs.
ER nurse: An ER nurse works as part of the emergency team, attending to patients, checking charts, administering medication, dressing wounds, and stabilizing patients.
Clinical nurse specialist: Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) work with patients and other nurses to optimize patient care. Clinical nurse positions come with a top salary.
Other specialty areas include critical care nursing, pediatric nursing, geriatric nursing, surgical nursing, midwifery nursing, and oncology nursing.
Career advancement options are also available in nursing education and management if you prefer a less hands-on nursing profession. These more administrative nursing careers require relevant training within care settings. The financial rewards exceed those of many other nursing professions, but fewer positions are available.
Flexible work schedule
Nurses work shifts, meaning they work 10-12 hours at a time rather than five days per week. Some nursing jobs, including community care nursing jobs, offer office-like schedules, leaving nurses free at weekends.
Collaborative work environment
Nurses work alongside nurses with different areas of expertise, doctors, therapists, and hospital maintenance staff. Close collaboration and constant interaction enrich the work experience, leading to learning and the joy of in-depth human contact. As a nurse, you learn and teach all the time, which improves your performance and allows you to mature as a person.
As your career progresses, the close interaction likely shapes your path, opening new opportunities and helping you to define new personal and professional goals.
Supportive work environment
Hospitals, private practices, and community healthcare facilities feature strong, mutually supportive work teams. As a nurse, you support colleagues while being able to rely on them when you need it too. Nurses and other health professionals provide each other with stellar assistance, and you will likely make lifelong friends.
Excellent promotional opportunities
You start out in general nursing after graduation, but promotional opportunities arise quickly. In healthcare settings, new posts frequently become available, offering you the opportunity to secure a better-paid nursing job. You may discover a passion for a nursing specialty and seek further training, or you may move up the ranks and aspire toward a managerial position.
Nurses are much sought-after all over the world. You can relocate to the destination of your dreams and likely find a nursing position there. Opportunities exist in Europe, Australia, Canada, and developing countries, each with its own entry requirements. Overseas charities offer nurses volunteering opportunities, allowing them to work as far afield as Africa. Specialty nurses are also in high demand all over the world. WHO statistics show that one in eight nurses works in a country different from their country of origin.
You will likely never get bored when working as a nurse. The care environment is dynamic and ever-changing, meaning no day is like another. The minute nurses put on their uniforms, they know they must be ready for anything. You won’t find many professions with similar variety and dynamism.
The professional disadvantages of a nursing career
Nurses need a great deal of resilience to survive in the workplace for the long term. Here are some of the drawbacks to keep in mind:
Long and unsociable hours: Nurses can often work when everyone else enjoys time off, including holidays, evenings, weekends, and nights.
Stressful work environment: Dealing with sick people and their relatives can be emotionally taxing and exhausting if nurses do not take care of their well-being.
Challenging team dynamics: Nurses work in teams of doctors, surgeons, specialty nurses, and therapists and must navigate changing team dynamics.
The personal benefits of a nursing career
On a personal level, a nursing career can be exceedingly rewarding and provide significant job satisfaction, especially for those with a passion for helping others. You can make a real difference in people’s lives, ease suffering, and provide much-needed support to patients and relatives.
Many skills you acquire during training and in the workplace are highly transferable and actionable in everyday life. Nursing is a social profession, offering many opportunities for collaboration and communication. You likely grow as a person daily when working as a nurse.
Meaningful human interaction
Few professions offer a similar number of enriching interactions as nursing. Daily, nurses care for patients, support them, make them feel better, and help them recover. Anyone who loves caring for people will thrive in this environment and derive much energy, joy, and learning.
Ongoing personal growth
The daily interactions with other healthcare professionals, patients, and relatives offer ample personal growth for nurses. You get to know yourself better, learn to communicate more effectively, and set boundaries.
Self-care is essential to surviving long-term in nursing. A stressful hospital or community setting necessitates taking excellent care of yourself. Many nurses take up meaningful pastimes; some hire a mentor or coach, while others seek the support of a counselor.
Striking a good work-life balance is also crucial, with the care of body, mind, and soul a top priority. Exercise is as vital as mindfulness, with good nutrition and sleep being equally essential elements of self-care.
Few professions offer a similar degree of job satisfaction. A nurse’s work is so unmissable that completing tasks rewards deep satisfaction. Seeing a patient recover and becoming aware of the part you played in their healing brings you joy and pride in equal measure. Your motivation levels remain high with each task’s completion, even if health outcomes vary.
Constantly improving your care is rewarding too. As you gain experience, you scale the quality of the care you provide bit by bit.
Nursing is one of the most respected professions, thanks to the love and sensitivity nurses display toward patients and relatives. In healthcare settings, they feel vulnerable and deeply respect and appreciate the nurses they encounter. This respect and gratitude reverberate throughout society, and you will feel it whenever you tell someone you are a nurse.
Building life-long bonds
The intensity and depth of nursing foster the growth of lifelong bonds and friendships among healthcare staff. Shared experiences and joint caregiving naturally bring people closer together. Not all nurses get along well with each other, but you will always find colleagues on the same wavelength.
Any task you complete matters a great deal
Every job a nurse completes is essential and makes a real difference to patients and relatives, which sets nursing far apart from other career choices. In most professions, you carry out many meaningless tasks, leaving you feeling empty and frustrated.
The personal disadvantages of a nursing career
A job in nursing comes with a host of stressors. For starters, you work in an environment where people are experiencing pain or may be losing their fight for life. Nurses must develop healthy boundaries so they can detach from patient suffering. Learning how to switch off after work is one of the most critical skills you must learn as a nurse.
The physical and emotional toll of a job in nursing is also far above average. You spend long hours on your feet, do significant lifting, and encounter infectious diseases.
Now that you know the pros and cons of choosing a career in nursing, let’s examine the training paths available.
Nursing career pathways
You can earn a nursing qualification in two ways: a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN). The two training pathways vary significantly in length, cost, and content, but you earn the same accreditation.
The relevant differences between ABSN vs BSN programs will depend on the personal goals of the student and their current circumstances. Rockhurst University offers their accredited degree programs with 100% online coursework to fit any prospective student’s lifestyle and commitments, along with complimentary clinical placement services for even more peace of mind.
Your choice will also depend on your education level, as entry to a BSN only requires a high school diploma, whereas you need a degree to complete the ABSN. The duration of the programs differs too. Like most degrees, it takes four years to graduate from a BSN degree course. In contrast, you can complete the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in as little as 11 months.
Hospitals tend to prefer BSN holders. According to a survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, out of 515 participating healthcare facilities, nearly 80% preferred BSN holders, with over 40% of participants making BSN accreditation a job prerequisite.
BSN vs. ABSN: two paths to nursing career benefits
Both training pathways deliver a nursing career’s professional and personal benefits. High school diploma holders must consider the knowledge base of each option before choosing. The most straightforward route is via a BSN program, whereby participants acquire all the relevant knowledge and skills over four years. Graduates enjoy many job opportunities and high demand from hospitals across the US and beyond.
An ABSN program will leave you in the same privileged position while allowing you to acquire knowledge and skills in other fields. Let’s assume you have a passion for biology. The ABSN route enables you to pursue a biology degree, still bringing you to the same end destination. You can spend four years studying a subject you love, secure in the knowledge that you will end up as an accredited nurse. Acquiring a degree in a different field also gives you the time to mature, especially if you are not 100% certain that nursing is your passion.
Degree holders can rest assured that the ABSN program content and structure facilitate condensed knowledge and skill acquisition. The program design builds on your previous knowledge and delivers all the elements you need to become a top-quality nurse.
Nursing is one of the most rewarding and challenging career choices
If you have your heart set on becoming a nurse, you can start preparing immediately. Start by talking to nursing professionals in your circle of friends and family to get advice. Consider volunteering for a nursing-related charity to gain first-hand insight into the profession.
Next, choose your nursing degree program and develop strong study habits. The BSN and ABSN programs come with a significant study load and workload, which you must manage. A good study routine, excellent time management, and a good study-life balance will ensure you progress through the program successfully without stressing out.
During your studies, focus on maximizing the benefits and learning while taking advantage of all networking opportunities. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and benefit from the knowledge of experienced colleagues. A willingness to learn will help you become the best nurse you can be. Be proactive throughout the training, ask for feedback from superiors, and when in a clinical setting, put patient welfare at the heart of your work.
No doubt, nursing is one of the most rewarding and challenging careers. Professional and personal benefits are plentiful, as nursing job rewards exceed most other professions’ perks. A nursing career is a smart financial and career choice, and the personal rewards are unrivaled too. Provided you take excellent care of yourself, nursing can bring lifelong satisfaction, many meaningful human interactions and relationships, and the continuous respect of anyone you encounter.