TV medical dramas have a focus on doctors, but it’s the nurses who hook up the IVs, administer medications and provide family support. They’re at the patient’s bedside at every moment to care for their needs. It’s this kind of essential work that’s responsible for the positive Registered Nurse (RN) job outlook over the next several years.
Not only is the RN job outlook positive, it’s predicted to be a desperate need for the U.S. as baby boomers age and RNs retire. As a potential future nurse, you’ll want to look at the nursing job outlook and compare this to the cost of nursing school before pursuing this career.
What you can expect from a career in nursing
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 60% of RNs work in Hospitals and 18% work for ambulatory services. The remaining 15% work in residential facilities, government organizations or education.
Because people are in need of care at all hours of the day, your work schedule can have long shifts and holiday or weekend hours.
With the majority of nurses working in hospitals, it’s safe to say you’ll be coming in contact with infectious diseases, not to mention working with some hazardous materials and substances. Because of this, your health should be top-notch to work as a nurse. The BLS suggests that nurses should be physically fit, as they’re required to do a lot of walking, standing and lifting of patients.
Registered nurse job outlook
It’s a hard job, and the U.S. needs more nurses. The BLS reports that employment for RNs is expected to grow by 12% between 2018 and 2028. This is more than twice the average expected growth rate of all occupations in the U.S. economy. By 2026, an additional 371,500 registered nurses will be employed in the workforce.
This doesn’t mean that’s how many nurses we actually need, though. According to a 2017 survey conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers, over half of the RN workforce is age 50 or older. Millions of nurses will be reaching retirement age in the next 10 to 15 years, leaving a gap for nursing.
In addition to nurses retiring, the U.S. population is aging. Soon the amount of people over age 65 will outnumber children under the age of 18. All of these elderly individuals will need care from both doctors and nurses.
This touches on an important point for the nurse career outlook: There’s a physician and nurse shortage in the U.S. that doesn’t have an immediate remedy. The American Association of Colleges of Nurses (AACN) says the shortages will increase nurses’ stress and negatively impact the amount of time nurses can spend with patients.
Even though the need for nurses is high, you should keep in mind that this might affect your day-to-day work life.
How much can a registered nurse make?
Nurses who work for the government have the highest average wage of $78,390, according to the BLS. But this is only a small percentage of nurses. The majority work in hospitals, and their average salary is $73,650. According to U.S. News and World Report, the best-paid nurses make $85,960.
This is a good salary to live on, but the exact numbers depend on your education level and where you opt to work. RNs are only required to have a two-year degree. However, many nurses choose to pursue a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree to increase their earning potential.
Is nursing school worth it considering nurse job growth?
The educational pathway you take to become a nurse can have an impact on your student loan debt. You can choose to get a two-year Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) and save some money. However, the AACN recommends a BSN degree in order for you to be at a professional level in the nursing practice.
The most important factor in how much you’ll spend on nursing school has to do with the school itself. If you attend a private or out-of-state university, the cost of tuition can double and sometimes even triple. Typically, you’ll take on the least amount of student loan debt by choosing an in-state BSN program.
It’s worth mentioning that there are Accelerated BSN programs (ABSN) offered by many schools. These programs are almost always more expensive. Since they’re accelerated, you probably won’t be working and will need to take out even more student loans.
Considering the need for nurses and your salary potential, nursing school can definitely be worth it. Be cautious and choose a program that’s cost-effective. When accredited universities offer a BSN degree to in-state students for about $40,000, there’s no reason to pay for a program that costs double or triple that.
Forgiveness programs and the nurse career outlook
You should check out the various kinds of student loans available to nurses. Of course, take advantage of scholarship opportunities first. Depending on the types of loans you get, you could be eligible for student loan forgiveness after school. Here are a few options to look into:
- The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program offers complete student loan forgiveness after making 120 qualifying payments. PSLF can even work for Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) loans if you consolidate to a Direct Consolidation Loan.
- The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment program is a way to get nurses to work in areas of need. With this program, you can have up to 85% of your student loans forgiven in exchange for service.
- Military student loan forgiveness is available if you’re willing to enlist in active duty after school. This is called the Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program. It’s available for the Navy, Air Force, Army and the Army Reserves. You can receive up to $40,000 annually to pay for your program, with a max of $120,000. The Army Reserves offers a bit less at $50,000 of student loan forgiveness.
- State-specific loan forgiveness programs are another option for nurses. The amount you can have forgiven varies. Most state programs offer forgiveness in exchange for a period of service.
Anytime you’re considering a student loan forgiveness program, doing your research is essential. It’s better to know for sure that you qualify instead of banking on a program and then being denied.
If you want help figuring out how to pay for nursing school, reach out to Student Loan Planner® for a predebt consultation. We can help you map out your years in school with a student loan plan, so you can graduate in charge of your student loan debt.
The job outlook for nursing makes it a solid choice
You should be able to get a job as a nurse. In fact, you’ll probably have multiple offers on the table with the predicted shortages. If you plan to attend an affordable nursing program and take advantage of student loan forgiveness, the nursing job outlook is pretty darn good. As long as you tend to your mental health while caring for others, a nursing career can be a solid choice.