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5 reasons now is a good time to become a nurse

Become a nurse

Nursing is more prestigious than ever. Not only are nurses in demand, but they have more options of places to work and opportunities to learn new specialties.

“Gallup polls have called [nursing] the most trusted profession in America for 12 years running,” notes Joyce Benjamin, an instructor in the nursing program at the University of Phoenix Main Campus.

Here are five reasons to consider a career in this growing field:

Strong demand

The health care sector of the economy is growing fast, creating a high job demand for nurses compared with other professionals, according to a 2012 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Of all occupations, the report states, nursing has the highest projected rate of job growth, with more than 700,000 net new positions — an increase of 26 percent between 2010 and 2020. The report also projects overall job openings of 1.2 million in the next seven years, as large numbers of current nurses retire.

Better pay

Average nursing salaries have increased over the past 20 years, even when factoring in inflation. For example, BLS salary averages from 1993  listed the median annual Midwest nursing wage at $32,552, or $58,834 in today’s dollars. The current U.S. median salary for a registered nurse is $67,188, which is 9 percent above what it would have been just with inflation. 

Registered nurses also ranked No. 8 in 2011 on Forbes’ list of 10 Best Entry-Level Jobs.

More perks

In the past, many nurses punched a clock and collected a modest paycheck. Not anymore: Today’s nurses often command many job perks, including tuition reimbursement, as well as health insurance, retirement plans and personal time off.

“I got my [BSN and MSN] back when hospitals did not pay for tuition at all,” Benjamin says. “There really were no perks in the ’70s and ’80s.”

Today’s nurses also can receive compensation for attending nursing conferences, taking continuing education classes and mentoring younger nurses, Benjamin notes.

Hospitals also offer far better staffing ratios than in the past. “My first position out of [nursing school] was working on a 40-bed unit … as the only RN [on staff],” Benjamin says, pointing out that today’s typical ratio is four to eight patients per nurse.

New specialties

Nurses nowadays do everything from creating new software to helping design hospitals.

Informatics — the blending of nursing with software development — is an “exciting field” for nurses, says Benjamin, a health care design consultant, who notes that architecture and design firms are hiring nurses “as advisors on workflow, clinical … and equipment issues [for new care facilities].”


More places to work

Being a nurse today means having lots of professional options.

“[Nurses] can now practice in hospitals, clinics, [doctors’] offices, homes, schools, workplaces, extended-care facilities, the military, community centers, nursing homes, children’s camps, homeless shelters,” Benjamin points out. “I tell my students they can do anything they want to do. … They are not stuck working in one environment.”