Should I Get a Nursing Degree?

One of the most popular and necessary fields of employment in the United States, nursing is a rewarding profession where compassion, technical skill, and critical thinking come together to improve a patient’s quality of life. The best nursing degree for you is specific to your temperament, academic curiosities, and professional goals, so it is important to have an idea of what kind of nursing you’re looking to practice.

Finding the most affordable nursing schools or cheap accredited online nursing programs is easy with College Choice’s education rankings that compare cost and quality. At College Choice, we’re looking to help you find the right nursing degree or certification so that you can begin working in this vibrant and noble profession of service and caregiving.

If you’re unsure about what might be the best nursing degree for you, don’t fret!—we’re here to help you. Perhaps you’re looking to begin your nursing career and go for the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)—our Best BSN Programs or our Best Online BSN Programs rankings would be a great place to begin your search for the nursing degree that’s right for you. Or, if you’d like to take an extra year and roll your Bachelor of Science in Nursing into a Registered Nurse (RN) degree as well, then our Best Online RN-BSN Programs or our Cheapest Online RN-BSN Programs rankings would be a good place to begin looking.

Maybe you’ve finished your bachelor’s degree in nursing and are looking to go back to school for a master’s degree in nursing so that you can advance your career in academic medicine. If you want a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), our Best MSN Programs and our Best Online MSN Programs rankings are your go-to for up-to-date information about the nursing schools that are right for you.

Our mission at College Choice is simple: help you find, get into, pay for, and thrive in college. We hope these rankings will help you realize all the options you have for your nursing education, and that you’ll take some time to look over our useful rankings and guides to help you find the best nursing degree.

What Kind of Nurse Should I Be?

The field of nursing houses a diverse set of potential careers. So many that it can be hard to know where to begin. Regarding this profession, there’s one good rule to follow: Begin with the end in mind! Here are a few nursing degrees and fields that might be just right for you:

Registered Nurse (RN)

Average Salary: $67,490

There are two ways to become an RN. You can complete an associate’s degree in nursing, which will provide you with access to entry-level positions in healthcare facilities, or you can complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, which will prepare you for more substantive positions in the nursing profession, such as working in particular fields that require specialized knowledge about the body and the administration of medical care. The bachelor’s in nursing is a more specialized and comprehensive degree which is a gateway to more advance forms of nursing.

Advanced Practice Nurses (APRN)

Average Salary: $104,740

These high-level professional nurses have hold master’s degrees and work alongside patients in a variety of settings coordinating patient care and specialized medical treatment. Together with an advanced degree, these specialized nurses must pass state and national exams specific to their focus areas. Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Anesthetists, and Nurse Midwives are just a few of APRNs that are common in medical care facilities.

Nurse Management

Average Salary: $94,500

Medical and health service managers are the administrators of the medical profession. These authorities coordinate, direct, and facilitate the daily goings-on in healthcare facilities. Working between departments or specific areas of clinical practice, these individuals make sure the facilities obey laws and regulations, manage technology needs, and liaise with physicians to make sure everything is running smoothly so that patients can get the best possible care.

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Average Salary: $37,100

These information specialists work to ensure the confidentiality, accessibility, and accuracy of patient data. Working in both electronic and paper systems, these nursing professionals coordinate with insurance companies, databases, registries, and doctors to keep medical records up-to-date.

Medical Diagnostics

Average Salary: $63,630

Working in specialized departments, technicians use technologies and tests performed on machines, like imaging equipment, to assist physicians as in pre- and post-procedure diagnostics and surgeons during medical procedures. These important medical service professionals work alongside patients and specialists to provide clarity concerning illnesses.

Public Health

Average Salary: $43,840

Working in a variety of industries and organizations, public health workers help people live more productive and healthy lives through health education, public wellness programs, and community-based well-being initiatives. These important healthcare workers ensure that people have the knowledge, resources, and tools to improve their physical and mental health.

How Do I Pass the NCLEX?

One major concern many nurses have leading up to their graduation is the passing of the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which will grant them access to the profession. No matter what degree or certification you’re looking to obtain, to work as a nurse you must complete this pass/fail exam. To pass, you must correctly answer a designated number of questions. Should you fail the exam, you must wait 45 days before being able to attempt the exam again.

Yes, the test is important, but your preparation in school or through your technician’s training will give you the knowledge base you’ll need to pass the exam, but you will also need to study hard. Do all of the following to prep:

Develop a good study plan to pass the NCLEX

Each day, take an hour to an hour and a half to study for the test, taking a couple of short breaks in between. Many helpful test books exist to give you a structure around which you can learn new material or refresh old knowledge. And don’t forget to register for test-prep class to give you a leg up.

Focus on the types of questions for the NCLEX

All of the questions are multiple choice. Case Scenarios and the Stem make up the root elements of each question, so be sure to read them carefully. Each question contains three incorrect distractors and one correct answer. Learn to trust your gut and not read too deeply into each question—your first inclination is usually the best option. And don’t forget that absolute qualifiers (“never,” “always,” “none,” etc.) and incorrect facts are sometimes indicators that you’re reading a distractor.

Don’t be anxious about the NCLEX

Be sure that you develop positive habits while you study—routines that will help you focus and gain confidence. Deep breathing, peaceful visualization, and positive/encouraging self-talk are all helpful ways to keep composure. And don’t forget to relax the night before the exam—have a nice meal with friends, go to the movies, or take a nice long walk before you go to bed at a reasonable hour.

How Do I Pay for My Nursing Degree?

With so many options and specialties for a nursing career, it can be hard enough to understand what kind of nurse you’d like to become, much less worry about how you’re going to pay for it all. College Choice is here to help you figure out some creative ways to pay for your degree.

Luckily, nursing is an in-demand profession, and there are all kinds of scholarships and creative ways to pay for school. If you’re interested in being a nurse, you may already be working in a hospital or health care facility, which will work to your advantage. Here are a couple things to remember as you figure out ways to pay for your nursing degree:

Career Ladder Programs

Designed to take current employees and advance them though organizational ranks, programs like these are a wonderful asset for training nurses where a scholarship and post-graduation job is rewarded by a healthcare facility to the training nurse.

Grow Your Own Programs

Set up by healthcare facilities where you already have a job, these programs put you through school on your employer’s dime, with the stipulation that your newly learned skill will be an asset to the organization for years to come.

Loan Repayment

Negotiable as you take a nursing job post-graduation, this kind of program is an employment perk where the facility pays off your student loans while you work.

Loans and Scholarships

If none of the non-traditional methods of funding pan out, take a look at your school’s scholarship offerings by contacting the Financial Aid office. Or, if you have to, take out a federal loan that can be paid back over time. It is possible that you will eventually get a post-graduation job that will help you pay off these loans as you work.

Residency Programs

Not so much money as a resume-booster, these programs give you hands-on experiences that help you move from being a nursing student to a nursing professional. Focused on training and patient care, many residencies match you with particular physicians in clusters of students with similar interests and career goals, so you’re working with a medical community as opposed to working on your own.

Tuition Reimbursement

This form of education payment occurs when you work for a healthcare facility while you’re completing your degree. During this time, the company running the facility pays for your education.

Essentially, if you’re interested in becoming a nurse, there are ways to have your school paid for without having to break the bank. Be sure to explore our resources concerning scholarships, like Grants, Loans, and Scholarships: What’s the Difference? and 50 Top Scholarships for 2015-2016.

We at College Choice want to help you make the best education decisions possible, so we’ve designed our easy-to-navigate rankings pages to help you understand what schools are right for you. Take a few minutes to check out our rankings and guides, and if you know someone else who needs help finding, getting into, paying for, or thriving in college, be sure to share College Choice with them!

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