Jobs & Career

A Second Career in Nursing: Your Questions Answered

A lot of people will head to university with very little idea as to what they want to do in life. As such, we graduate with a degree that doesn’t necessarily have a career at the end of it. Even if it does, there’s something that just doesn’t feel quite right, leading to us to seek out a career switch in later life.

If you’re currently in this situation, you might have considered nursing as a choice of the second career – and you wouldn’t be alone. Nursing is an incredibly popular choice for those looking to switch up their careers. The NCSBN reports that the average age of registered nurses in the US is 51 years old – so no matter how old you are, there’s definitely the opportunity to retrain and enjoy a new career in nursing.

While there’s no one reason why so many people choose this profession as a second career, it might have something to do with the high rates of job satisfaction reported. We all start off our first job with the best of intentions but eventually might come to realize we’re not actually that fulfilled or satisfied. According to ANT (American Nursing Today), however, 85% of nurses are happy and satisfied in their line of work, and would choose to become nurses all over again if they had to restart.

If nursing has caught your eye, we’re here to answer some of the biggest questions you’ll have about choosing this profession as a second career.

Is nursing right for me?

While the job boasts high satisfaction rates and job security, it’s not right for everyone. Deciding whether nursing is the right choice for you can be tricky. If you have a passion for helping other people, and love giving back to people of all ages then it’s clear a customer- or patient-facing role is ideal for you. The added skills needed to be a good nurse are strong empathy and stamina. You’ll also need to be willing to get stuck in, no matter what you’re faced with, whether that’s restraining patients, or cleaning unsightly wounds.

Nurses provide a valuable support system for doctors, surgeons, patients and their families. Once you’ve done the initial training, there are plenty of ways to specialize and climb your personalized career ladder.

Before diving in, however, you need to understand why you’ve reached nursing as an option. Is it because TV makes it look so good? Or do you genuinely feel you could make a difference? It’s important to consider what your motives behind choosing nursing as a second career are, and whether these motivations could be satisfied in a different role.

Do I need experience in healthcare?

Trainee nurses and students come from all walks of life, bringing their own experiences into the work they do. While you don’t need past healthcare experience, you do need to be able show ‘soft skills’ such as empathy, professionalism and positivity. Those who choose nursing as a second career have often previously studied humanities, arts or even engineering.

What is the process for becoming a nurse?

Studying to be a nurse has actually never been easier. For those who already have a degree, an accelerated BSN nursing program could have you qualified by this time next year. And for the most part, it can all be studied online.

E-learning is a great way to retrain as a nurse, as it means you benefit from a flexibility that an on-campus course can’t provide. You can schedule modules around other engagements and work, while also saving money on accommodation and commuting.

Once you’ve completed the BSN, you can then apply for your nursing license to become a registered nurse (RN). To register, you’ll likely need to complete a certain number of hours in a clinical setting as well as pass the written exam.

How much will it cost to retrain?

Without accommodation and commuting to pay for, online nursing courses are actually quite affordable. As so many people are looking for courses, more and more universities are working to provide multiple start dates across the year – giving you more opportunities to start your training. With this in mind, colleges are always looking to make their prices competitive with their peers, with some offering financial aid programs to help.

What specialisms are available?

The great thing about retraining to be a nurse is that you can continue to learn and create the perfect progression ladder to suit you. There are so many ways nurses can specialize once they have completed their BSN or ABSN.

Below are just a few ideas that might take your fancy. For each, you will need to look into the skills, and hours of experience you’ll need, as well as the day-to-day work of these nurses.

Nurse Practitioners

A nurse practitioner has a similar role to a general nurse but has more autonomy and responsibility. With the help of telemedicine, some nurse practitioners even go on to having their own practices, rather than working in a GP clinic or hospital setting. Practitioners provide both primary and specialty care to their patients and work with all age groups. According to the BLS, Nurse Practitioner jobs are growing faster than the average opening, with an expected 45% increase by 2029.


Pediatric nurses work directly with children, providing both primary and acute care. They also play an integral part in giving families the tools they need to prevent health issues in their children. Pediatric nurses are in high demand, with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners estimating that only 4% of practitioners specialize in pediatrics, with even fewer being qualified to handle acute cases.

Nurse Leadership

Some nurses finish training and find they’re not cut out for a hands-on role, but still want to use their experience for good. Nurse Executives work in the industry from a business perspective; they work on allocating financial and human resources within the practice, and work with other stakeholders to understand how different departments can optimize their resources to provide patients the best care available. Nurse Executives also work as advocates for the nursing workforce, making real changes to benefit staff.

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