Individuals can take several educational routes to qualify to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which allows for entry into the nursing field. As detailed on an American Nurses Association webpage, in the past, students commonly would earn a Diploma in Nursing or an Associate Degree in Nursing before taking the licensure examination. Today, however, it is more common for students to study for a four-year bachelor’s degree. An article from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported on this notable shift: 2011 marked the first time that more fledgling nurses earned bachelor’s degrees over an associate degree. The following year, the number of professionals entering the profession with an associate degree was 47 percent, with a majority — some 53 percent — having a bachelor’s degree.
Nursing professionals who wish to develop their careers beyond the position of registered nurse (to become a nurse manager or nurse educator, perhaps) now have a greater need to earn an advanced degree given that a majority of today’s nurses have a bachelor’s. This imperative is reflected in data from a 2015 American Association of Colleges of Nursing study that observed a notable rise in enrollment in bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. programs. The survey revealed a rise in enrollment in master’s nursing programs of more than 6 percent.
If you are a registered nurse, eager to climb the proverbial ladder studying for a master’s degree is probably on your mind because of the growing competition in the field. One major question that you might have is whether to return to education full-time or to study on a part-time basis while working. Both approaches have benefits, but there are a number of compelling reasons why part-time study combined with working is an astute choice.
What are the benefits of earning a master’s in nursing?
Journalist Ilana Kowarski, writing for U.S. News & World Report, highlighted some of the major upsides to expanding your education beyond a bachelor’s degree. The pay, for example, is typically higher for individuals with master’s degrees — salaries in the six-figure range are not uncommon.
With a master’s in nursing, you will find that a number of career paths open up to you. Nurse director, nurse educator, nurse executive and charge nurse are all common positions for nurses with an advanced degree. Kowarski also noted that with an advanced degree, you will be less likely to struggle to find a job. Employers value individuals with higher levels of education, across virtually all industries, and the nursing field is no exception.
The upsides to balancing work and study
If you do return to school, you will have to decide whether or not to continue working while you study. The decision is not a straightforward one, as both options have benefits and drawbacks. Here are several reasons why studying and working simultaneously could be beneficial:
1. Cultivate professional experience
Working while studying enables you to continue accruing
invaluable professional experience, journalist Miriam Caldwell explained in The Balance. Prospective employers are more likely to be impressed with an advanced degree if it is partnered with several years of work experience as a registered nurse. If you opt to take a year or two off work to pursue a degree, there is a chance that it could negatively impact future searches for new professional opportunities, as you will have less tangible experience under your belt.
2. Improve time management
Working full- or part-time while studying for an advanced degree obviously is time consuming, especially when taking individuals’ personal lives into consideration. While the time necessary to balance work and study can be interpreted as a drawback, it is possible to see the demand as a benefit. An article published by Prospects, a U.K.-based careers service, noted that a packed schedule means that you likely will become more adept at managing your time effectively, which is crucial in virtually all facets of daily life. Successfully balancing study and work is an impressive feat that prospective employers likely will recognize and value.
3. Studying according to your schedule
Studying online is becoming increasingly common, with many students around the world reaping the benefits of a virtual education. As graduate students Jiyuan Yu and Zi Hu explained in an article published by the World Economic Forum, as an industry, online learning is projected to be worth around $255 billion, a marked increase from just two years ago, when the market was valued at around $166 billion.
The popularity of this approach to learning likely can be credited to the benefits it affords — studying online is arguably one of the most viable ways to balance work and school. Online classes typically are designed to be taken at a time that best complements your schedule. For example, if you work a typical nine-to-five job, you can study online in the evenings and/or on the weekends. With such a flexible class schedule, you’ll be able to more easily accommodate work and study. Bradley University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program is taken entirely online, and clinical experience you schedule locally.
4. Keep your benefits
As a registered nurse, your position likely affords you crucial benefits, such as health insurance and the ability to save for retirement via a 401(K) plan. As argued by Caldwell, the benefits of saving early for retirement cannot be underestimated. If you leave the profession to study for your master’s full-time, you could lose these helpful benefits. When it comes to health insurance, this situation could be especially problematic if you are over the age of 26 and no longer legally able to claim on your parents’ insurance. Working as a registered nurse while studying removes this concern.
5. Earn and save money
Working while studying can help offset some of the costs associated with returning to school, and you may be able to save a little bit, too. While your salary may not be enough to cover the cost of tuition outright, having a steady income will help with the cost of living and other expenses you may incur.
Consider Bradley University
Whether working while enrolled or focusing full-time on your studies is the right choice for you, Bradley University’s MSN program can help you achieve your career goals.