Nursing as a Second Career

As many fields are experiencing layoffs and shrinking career opportunities, one career is attracting many experienced workers. People who are seeking a career change that provides them with job stability and advancement opportunities frequently find themselves called to nursing as a second career.

Benefits to Nursing as a Second Career

For experienced workers seeking a second career that is challenging, enriching, and provides stability, nursing can be an excellent option. Between the growing need for nurses, particularly in the chronic illness sector, and record numbers of nurses retiring, the field is expected to grow by about 19 percent by 2020. Another factor – the Affordable Care Act. The passage of this health care law brought millions of Americans into the insured population, meaning they now take advantage of preventative and ongoing care measures.

People choosing nursing as a second career are typically well established in their lives. They have homes, families, and other financial responsibilities. As such, they’re also seeking a career change that will support their lifestyle and needs. Depending on the education level and area of specialty chosen, second career nurses can make between $57,446 and $100,000 per year, on average. Depending on their first career, this can even be a salary increase for some.

Benefits to Hiring a Second Career Nurse

Hospitals, doctor’s offices and other nursing employers see huge benefits in hiring second career nurses. Although second career nurses may not be experienced in the medical field, they are experienced in coping with workplace politics, managing work related stress, and bring diversity to the workforce. In a field traditionally dominated by women, many men seek nursing as a second career, particularly in critical need areas such as the ICU.

The ability to understand and navigate workplace politics means second career nurses are able to come up to speed more quickly and often serve to mentor younger nurses in managing workplace stress and navigating the complexities of workplace politics.

The Path to Nursing as a Second Career

In preparation for the nursing shortage, many schools have already developed accelerated nursing programs. For second career nursing students, these programs can be completed even more quickly by applying credits and knowledge from their previous degree and career path to the requirements of their nursing program. In many instances, second career nursing students can earn a bachelor’s degree in 12 to 18 months and a master’s in nursing in two to three years.

While returning to school can be challenging due to other financial responsibilities, there are specialized financial aide programs to assist those seeking nursing as a second career. For example, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funds a scholarship program called New Careers In Nursing (NCIN), which provides financial aide to people from “underrepresented” backgrounds seeking a second career in the nursing industry.

Loving Nursing as a Second Career

Second career nurses come from all walks of life and have a variety of motivations for entering the nursing field. One thing, however, remains constant – they all feel called to make a difference in people’s health and wellbeing. Check out these great success stories.


Sarah Woodard is a freelance writer based in Southern New Hampshire. She enjoys bringing stories, issues and topics to live with words and pictures. In addition to writing, Sarah is a beekeeper, Reiki Master Teacher and black belt in Muay Thai Kickboxing. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her boyfriend and playing with their four cats.