People start asking what you want to be when you grow up early on. How do you know what to answer? There are so many aspects to each job and career that narrowing the choices down and choosing a field is difficult. Here are a few questions that may offer one path forward.
- Do you like to help people?
- Are you physically active?
- Do you want a secure career?
- Do you want a field that offers chances to move up?
- Do you like science?
If you answered, “yes” to these questions, you should consider healthcare. Of the 20 fastest growing jobs, twelve are healthcare related. Whatever your interests, having a job that will exist over the course of your career is important.
The next big question is how quickly you want to move into the work force. This is not a simple decision, but a career in nursing can be rewarding. If you look at a job ladder where the first rung is $25,000 with no college, the second rung is $30,000 with one year of college, the third rung is three or four years of college at $75,000, and six years of college with $100,000 — these annual rates are your pay for every year that you work.
Consider the costs of education and scholarships, grants, loans and the discipline to stick with it. Do the math, and you’ll quickly see that starting as high on the ladder as you can pays off very quickly.
If you can’t start at rung 3 or 4 of the ladder, there are a wide variety of supports that will help you move from rung to rung and work your way up.
Do you want to get a job as soon as you get out of high school? If getting to work quickly is something you need or want, consider becoming a certified Nursing Aide. These positions provide direct patient care in hospitals, nursing homes, and other care centers. Nursing Aides work under the supervision of an LPN, RN, or other certified medical provider. Qualifications include a high school graduation and a combination of classroom and hands-on experience, totaling about 4 weeks and leading to a state examination for certification. Pay ranges from $13 to $17 per hour, or about $24,000 per year.
Many people starting as CNAs attend bridge programs that vary widely in length and format but generally take about a year. These programs provide the knowledge and skills required to sit for the LPN licensing examination. LPNs are able to provide more complex direct care tasks. Salaries for LPNs average in the low $40,000 range. There are many part-time and other flex programs that facilitate this career step. Many employers will provide tuition support for CNAs seeking LPN training. There are many other sources of financial aid as well. Part-time and online programs can allow for both school and work.
Willing to spend some time in post high school education? If you’re willing to spend a year in a college program, many healthcare jobs open up and position you on the career and salary ladder. A wide variety of LPN programs lead to licensure. Most require one year of full time study in a combination of classroom and fieldwork. Financial aid is available in most programs, and the starting salary for LPNs is much higher than for CNAs.
Once you’re an LPN, options to move to RN present themselves. There are many LPN to RN bridge programs that cut the total RN training time in half. Many hospitals and other employers will provide subsidy or other supports for these programs. Recently developed online programs can ease the time pressure of working and going to school. Some programs will allow experience for credit as well.
If you’re able to attend college directly, you should consider college programs that lead directly to the RN licensure or to the BSN (Bachelor’s degree with an RN). Completing an RN program and becoming a Registered Nurse offers you a great career start at an excellent salary and a wide variety of job options. This degree starts at a median salary of $75,000 per year and allows you to consider your interests among the wide variety of options. Getting the BSN gives you a bump in salary and sets the base for further career mobility.
The RN is not the end of the upward path. Additional training to obtain a Master’s Degree allows the RN to become a Nurse Practitioner which also offers many opportunities for further specialization and career advancement. Many of these positions offer salaries over $100,000 and provide greater independence in providing medical care to patients.
In a world of uncertain future, the certain increase in the older population, the increase in insurance coverage which yields higher demand for service, and advances in medical services all create demand for a trained, dedicated, healthcare workforce for both the short and long term. Whether you are able to go to college and step directly into the RN level or above, or advance level to level through the professional ladder, healthcare is a path to a secure, rewarding, and remunerative career.