Is a Nursing Degree Right for You?

Nursing degrees prepare students to administer patient care, use critical thinking to make important decisions for patients, and educate patients and the public on health and wellness. Specialized areas of nursing study include adult practice, cardiology, critical care, emergency/trauma, general medicine, family practice, oncology, occupational medicine, pediatrics and radiology.

Nursing students must have strong scientific and mathematical competencies. Also, nurses must be able to handle high-stress situations, long work hours, unconventional schedules, and be comfortable dealing with patients’ physical and, at times, emotional needs. If you feel you have these characteristics, a nursing degree might be a good option for you.

Advice for Earning Your Nursing Degree Online

An online nursing degree program is a viable alternative to traditional nursing programs as the courses, assignments, exams, and papers are the same regardless of the medium used for the class. However, many online Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs are offered as RN to B.S.N. programs, in which you must already be an RN to enroll in the program.

If you are not already a registered nurse, you may be limited to hybrid bachelor’s programs, in which you are required to complete on-campus labs and practicum hours in addition to online coursework. You should also consider programs accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (CCNE) to ensure your degree is eligible for financial aid and that you are receiving a quality education.

Required Courses

Online nursing degree programs typically include lecture courses in laboratory sciences like chemistry, biology, and anatomy, and life sciences like physiology. Major courses build on the science foundation, with courses in assessment, practice, nutrition, an intervention. A few required courses might include:

  • Nursing Process
  • Pharmacological Concepts
  • Health Assessment
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Principles of Nutrition

Common Career Paths

Some potential careers for those with a bachelor’s degree in nursing include:

Registered Nurses

  • Expected Growth: 26 %
  • Average Annual Salary: $69,660

Registered nurses, commonly referred to as RNs, treat patients and provide emotional support and advice to patients’ family members. They also educate patients and the public on the importance of health and wellness. Job duties and responsibilities of RNs will vary by medical field, but they generally include monitoring patients, recording their medical histories and symptoms, performing tests and analyzing results, administering medications and treatment plans, and helping with rehabilitation efforts. When caring for patients, RNs check medication dosages and monitor symptoms. The above salary and employment growth figures were gathered from the BLS, and represent mean incomes.

Physician Assistants

  • Expected Growth: 27%
  • Average Annual Salary: $74,940

A physician assistant is trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive health care services to patients, as delegated by a physician. PAs work under the supervision of a physician, take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order tests and prescribe medication. The specific duties of a PA may vary by state and employer and many PAs work in specialized fields of health care such as pediatrics or internal or family medicine.

PAs are also required to have a master’s degree, but a bachelor’s degree in nursing is a strong foundation for a career in this field. Figures above were provided by the BLS.

Health Educator

  • Expected Growth: 37%
  • Average Annual Salary: $74,350

Health educators teach the public about health issues and disease prevention, with the aim of promoting human health and wellness. This can be through community service, educational seminars and presentations that are given to students, the elderly and other groups interested in learning about how to live a healthy lifestyle. Health-related topics include adequate rest and sleep, proper nutrition, the importance of physical exercise, and how to avoid illnesses. Presentations involve videos, booklets, pamphlets and other visual resources. Figures above were provided by the BLS.

Physical Therapists

  • Expected Growth: 39%
  • Average Annual Salary: $80,770

Physical therapists help people physically recover after an injury or illness that affected their mobility. They also prescribe activities and treatments to manage pain after an injury or chronic disease. Physical therapists need a professional degree in order to practice. However, a bachelor’s degree in nursing is strong foundation for a long-term career in physical therapy. Figures above were provided by the BLS.

Financial Examiners

  • Expected Growth: 27%
  • Average Annual Salary: $74,940

Social workers are trained social service professionals who connect people that provide a variety of services, from case management to clinical treatment for mental and emotional issues. Social workers function in many different settings, but there is a growing demand in the field for healthcare social workers. Healthcare social workers help people deal with chronic disease or terminal illness or assist patients and their families with the process of finding and getting the best treatment sources.

Most social workers need a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in nursing is extremely helpful for those interested in healthcare social work. Figures above were provided by the BLS.