I Want to be an RN but I Didn't Major in Nursing
For many, choosing a major in college was a tricky decision. There are so many options to choose from and many that cross paths to other opportunities. Then there are careers like nursing that seem impossible to break into unless you started early.
But that’s just not the case.
The truth is that it’s never too late to get into nursing—even if you majored in something else or followed a different career path out of school. If you’re interested in becoming an RN, don’t let your non-medical major stop you.
You can carve a unique path to the nursing career you’ve been dreaming of. Don’t believe us? We gathered insights from experts who did just that. So read on to learn how you can become an RN with the major you already have and let these nurses inspire you.
Not every nursing career path is the same
It may seem like the path to nursing is straightforward, but that’s not always the case. Plenty of nurses got degrees in other subjects before launching their new career as an RN.
Nancy Brook, RN, MSN, author and nurse practitioner, first earned her degree in psychology. “I knew I wanted to help people but was not sure how,” she explains. She decided to make the switch and enrolled in nursing school fully prepared to take on the challenge, knowing it would be well worth the effort.
Regardless of what degree you earn, your career path can surprise you. Michelle Katz, LPN, author and patient advocate, first earned an undergraduate degree in public administration with a minor in communication. She wanted to work in government and also had aspirations of being a news anchor.
"If I'm going to love what I'm doing for the rest of my life, it will be worth it!"
Katz was carrying loans after graduation and needed a job that would pay well enough to deal with them, so she started working in a business development and sales position. Even though the job was lucrative, she didn’t feel fulfilled in her career. She remembered how much she loved biology, which made becoming a nurse intriguing.
Katz remembers being concerned at the thought of taking on more loans and switching jobs. But with so many nursing specialties and the wide variety of work settings, she decided it was worth the risk. She took work anywhere she could to pay for nursing school.
“People were like, when do you sleep?” Katz says, remembering the long, stressful days. But she also recalls the sentiments that helped her make it through. She reminded herself, “If I’m going to love what I’m doing for the rest of my life, it will be worth it!”
Overcoming the transition into nursing
Becoming an RN after earning a different degree can feel like you’re starting from scratch. But that’s not how these nurses saw it, and that’s not how many nursing programs see it, either. Some institutions offer accelerated BSN programs that allow bachelor degree holders to graduate in as few as 18 months.*
“Reinventing yourself is always a challenge, but it can be exciting as well,” Brook says. “While nursing school will require you to work hard both in the classroom and during clinical rotations, you will come away with an education that will change the course of your life as well as the lives of the patients you care for.”
Katz volunteered at numerous medical locations before, during and after nursing school. It was this hands-on volunteer work that reinforced the textbook knowledge she was learning in school. This practical experience helped her discover her passion for psychology nursing.
Using your experience as an asset
Far from being a setback, your non-nursing degree can actually help you in ways that might surprise you. Katz realized her background in administration and communication uniquely prepared her for psych nursing and the patient advocacy organization she later pioneered.
“A different degree gives you more perspective,” Katz says. “If you’re strictly science and nursing, you don’t know where the patient is coming from and it can be harder to communicate.”
"A different degree gives you more perspective."
Katz spent so much time with different people and cultures in her work before nursing school that she learned to speak carefully and read people patiently, which comes in handy on the job. “You have to read your patients’ backgrounds and cultures, which can be harder if you only know nursing.”
“My background in psychology gave me a better understanding of human behavior,” adds Brook, noting that it came in handy for some of the nursing curriculum as well. “Having a broad undergraduate education is never a negative and can help you down the road.”
Is nursing your new career path?
Any new venture involves taking a risk, but as these nurses have demonstrated, investing in a nursing career can pave the way to a whole new level of opportunity. According to them, it’s worth the work.
“Becoming a nurse is a huge accomplishment that will create opportunities you cannot yet imagine,” Brook says.
If you’re ready to learn how to become an RN, find out how to put your existing undergrad degree to work toward your new profession. Check out our article: What is an Accelerated BSN? Your Fast-Track to an Advanced Nursing Career.
* Completion time is dependent on transfer credits accepted and courses completed each term.
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