If you’ve already spent time in a career and are thinking of switching, you may want to know if you should pursue a nursing degree later in life. The health care industry is growing rapidly, and there is a nursing shortage in the United States. Not only is a nursing degree one of the best investments when it comes to potential income, but becoming a nurse makes you a health care professional who is trusted by people in need and looked up to by society in general.

The Benefits of Becoming a Registered Nurse

Nurses are trusted with the most sensitive and vulnerable people in society, and they have a great responsibility to take care of patients who may not be able to get out of a hospital bed. A nursing degree can be pursued by anyone over the age of 18, but if you’re 35 or older, you have a different perspective on life than a teenager or young person.

Your perspective is valuable, and if you’re a humble enough person to start at the beginning of a new career, your wisdom and personality will be extremely useful to the hospital or clinic you end up working for. In general, you need to be in fairly good physical condition and able to work long shifts throughout the night and at different times depending on the day of the week, but because there is a shortage of nurses in the health care industry, you can probably find a clinic or private practice that offers more regular hours.

Switching careers takes a lot of effort, especially when it requires earning a degree, but the payoff is usually a significantly higher paycheck and increased prestige and job satisfaction. The minimum education requirement to be a nurse is an associate’s degree, and the median annual salary for all nurses was $65,470 in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The cost of an associate’s degree is usually less than $10,000 from a community college or public university, but nurses can earn higher incomes by getting four-year bachelor’s degrees.

The Types of Degrees You Can Get

There are online nursing programs that offer flexible schedules, and these degrees are looked on just as favorably as traditional degrees in the health care industry. However, online degrees from for-profit universities usually cost at least 20 percent more than degrees from brick-and-mortar schools, and they typically require in-person clinical experience. You will have to become licensed after earning your degree, and this process varies from state to state.

If you choose to get a four-year degree, you can continue your education to become qualified for more specialized positions, such as a gastroenterology nurse or labor and delivery nurse (please see, How Do I Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse?). If you choose to get only an associate’s degree, you can always finish the remaining two years in a specialized nursing program for nurses who are already registered. Nursing school is moderately difficult and sometimes takes longer than other majors because not all classes are offered every semester.

The health care industry is one of the most reliable sectors of the economy, and nurses have a special place in this industry because they’re in charge of caring for patients. If you’re over 35 and want to be a nurse, it makes sense to pursue a nursing degree later in life.