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.
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!
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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