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Nursing 101: Why it could be the career for you

Newlywed, new mom and first-time home buyer, Sarah is currently playing out her exciting life in Phoenix, Arizona. She recently gave up her job in finance to stay at home with her baby girl, who between bath time and feeding time, keeps ...

flexible hours, great pay & benefits

Have you ever thought about becoming a nurse? Do you have a passion for helping people? Do you love a challenge and enjoy learning something new every day?
Nurses standing outside hosptial

If so, nursing could be a job worth considering, especially if you have or plan on having a family. Though it's definitely one of the toughest jobs there is, the benefits could far outweigh the costs.

Schooling

To become an RN, or Registered Nurse, first you need to decide if you want a two-year degree or a four-year bachelor's degree. The benefits of having a bachelor's degree is that you start at a higher salary, you can become a supervisor and it is easier to find a job right after graduation. A two-year degree, though, is much more cost-effective (about $6,000 compared to $20,000 plus for a bachelor's) and obviously takes less time to achieve. Make sure to research two-year programs, though, as the waiting lists can be quite extensive.

Salary

Across the U.S., the average nurse is paid $66,000 per year. The top 10 percent earn more than $80,000 and the bottom 10 percent earn $50,000. If you advance your skills and become a specialized nurse, such as a nurse anesthesiologist, you can make upward of $120,000 per year. Not a bad chunk of change for a career you love that doesn't take too much time away from your family!

Benefits

Nurses can work a variety of hours, in a variety of locations. If you're looking for the more traditional, Monday to Friday type of job, a doctor's office is for you. If you have kids and are looking to avoid daycare expenses, you could work the weekend shift or night shift at a hospital. You can work at a senior care center, be a traveling nurse (expenses paid and a chance to see the world!) or be an in-home nurse (where you go to patients' homes). The opportunities are endless. Not to mention, you also will receive paid time off, sick time, health insurance, medical/dental/vision coverage, holiday pay, retirement plans, social security and even education benefits (if, for example, you want to go back to school for a bachelor's degree).

If you're not quite sure if nursing is for you, look into becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA. Programs are typically six weeks in length and shouldn't cost any more than $1,000. There's usually no waiting list, and you can still work in whatever field you'd like — hospital, doctor's office, nursing home, etc. CNAs are typically paid $11 to $12 per hour and can work full or part time, weekdays, weekends, or nights. Most hospitals offer some sort of education compensation if you're looking to advance yourself, as well. Becoming a CNA will allow you to decide if nursing is the career for you without having to invest much up front.

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