It can be difficult to decide whether to return to school — especially if you have already earned a bachelor’s degree and have been a working professional for a while. However, if your career isn’t turning out to be everything you hoped for, you’re certainly not alone.
In some cases, the barrier to switching to a different occupation is relatively low, such as when people decide to stay in the same field. However, if you’re thinking about switching to a new field entirely (e.g., transitioning to nursing after working in logistics), then you’ll need to head back to school. The good news is that you might not need to spend four years working toward another degree if you decide to earn an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN).
Transitioning to a nursing career can be incredibly rewarding and personally fulfilling. You’ll be able to help others and serve your community. Ultimately, however, only you can answer the question, “Is nursing school worth it?”
Is an ABSN the Same as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing?
Before considering the many possible answers to the question “Are accelerated nursing programs worth it?” it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of your academic options. If you were a high school graduate who was planning on heading off to college for the first time to study nursing, you would apply to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. This is a pre-licensure degree that can lead to a nursing career, provided you pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam.
An ABSN is also a pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree with one main difference. Whereas a BSN is a four-year program, an ABSN is an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program that can be completed in as few as 16 months, even if you have no prior nursing background.1
The ABSN is designed for working professionals who have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. Although it’s an abbreviated program, you’ll still tackle an intensive curriculum including classroom instruction, labs, simulated experiences and clinical rotations.
Are Accelerated Nursing Programs Worth It?
There are many compelling reasons to consider enrolling in an accelerated nursing program. For example, pursuing a nursing career will place you in an in-demand field that allows you to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Plus, the nursing field offers many opportunities to specialize and pursue advancement.
1. Nursing Professionals Are in High Demand
Nurses have long been in high demand; in fact, there is a shortage of qualified nurses that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. As of September 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for registered nurses to increase by about 9% from 2020 to 2030 — as fast as the average for all profession — accounting for an estimated increase of 276,800 jobs in the field.2
For advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), a career that requires a graduate degree, the job growth rate is even higher. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners to increase by about 45% from 2020 to 2030 — about as fast as the average for all professions — accounting for an estimated increase of 121,400 jobs in the field.3
2. Nurses Make a Positive Difference in Their Communities
If you’re like many people who are thinking about going to nursing school, you like the idea of making a positive difference in the lives of other people. You may want to dedicate your life to the service of your community.
Without a doubt, nursing is a highly meaningful field, and many people find it personally fulfilling. The day-to-day life of a nurse can be difficult at times. However, every shift is rewarding because nurses know that they are helping others by providing an invaluable service.
3. A Nursing Career Is Geographically Flexible
Some careers are closely tied to a particular geographic region or type of area. For example, publishing careers are largely centered in major East Coast cities like New York City and Boston. In contrast, the nursing profession is highly geographically flexible.
If you decide to return to school to earn your ABSN and become a licensed nurse, you won’t be limited to a particular area. You could work in an urban or rural area. You could even pursue work aboard a cruise ship.
If you love to travel, see new sights and meet new people, you might even decide to become a travel nurse. A travel nurse is someone who is associated with a travel nurse agency. This agency connects the nurse to temporary nursing jobs (i.e., six- to 13-week contracts) throughout the country. In one year, you may be able to live in places as diverse as rural Alaska, bustling San Francisco and sunny Tampa.
4. Registered Nurses (RNs) Have the Opportunity to Specialize and Advance
After earning your ABSN and passing the NCLEX-RN to acquire nursing licensure, you’ll likely work as an RN for a while to gain experience and practice your clinical skills. However, you may decide to return to school yet again to earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. A graduate degree can pave the way for pursuing advancement to the role of an advanced practice registered nurse in a specialty such as anesthetics, pediatrics or women’s health.
However, even if you don’t pursue a role as an APRN, you could choose to focus on a particular clinical area, condition or patient population. For example, some RNs choose to work in emergency rooms, while others prefer family medicine practices. A wide range of possibilities are available for qualified nurses.
5. Accelerated Nursing Programs Save Time and Money
There is no question that going back to school will take time and money. However, choosing an ABSN program means that you might graduate in about half the time needed for a traditional BSN program. At the same time, you’ll save tuition dollars by graduating earlier than you would have from a BSN program.
There are, of course, salary differences from one healthcare employer to the next. In general, however, nurses are well paid and receive solid benefits packages. If the average nurses’ salary is higher than your current salary, going to nursing school to earn an ABSN can seem like an even more attractive idea.
Is Nursing School Worth It for You?
All of the incentives discussed above are compelling ones. However, only you can determine for certain whether nursing school would be a good choice for you. If you’re still having trouble making a decision, consider taking the following steps:
- Call local hospitals and clinics to inquire whether they offer job-shadowing opportunities. You’ll be able to get an inside look at what nurses typically do during each shift and what the work environment is like.
- Apply to an internship position in the healthcare field to gain hands-on experience and see whether this type of work appeals to you.
- Make use of your school’s alumni network, if available. See whether you can contact alums from the school where you earned your first bachelor’s degree, and ask them for their insights on the nursing profession.
- Sign up to research relevant courses (e.g., anatomy or human physiology) from an online learning platform to become familiar with the academic demand of earning an ABSN. If you find that the learning material appeals to you, then perhaps your answer to the question, “Is nursing school worth it?” is “Yes.”
Have you decided that becoming a nurse is your true calling in life? Grand Canyon University welcomes you to apply to our accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing: Pre-Licensure (ABSN) program. Our ABSN degree combines online classes with in-person, hands-on nursing skills labs, immersive simulation learning activities and supervised clinical rotations at local medical settings. Click on “Request Info” at the top of your screen to learn how you can earn your ABSN degree in as few as 16 months.1
1 Based on location, applicants must transfer a minimum of 60 of the required 123 credits, or have completed a baccalaureate degree, and complete 9 prerequisite courses/labs and 10 general education courses prior to starting the core nursing courses which can be completed in 16 months. An additional prerequisite course is required for students enrolled in Grand Canyon University’s ABSN program in Nevada. For more information on the accreditation of nursing programs and other university licensures, please visit our University Accreditation and Regulations page at gcu.edu/CONHCPAccreditation.
2 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses.
3 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners, retrieved on 06/02/2022.
Approved by the assistant dean of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions on Dec. 27, 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.