How to Switch from a Biology Degree to Nursing: 7 Steps

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Can you become a nurse with a biology degree? Absolutely! You can apply a biology degree to nursing when you enroll in an accelerated nursing program. An ABSN program can allow you to graduate in as few as 16 months. You may also need to complete some prerequisites.

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So, you earned a biology degree or were partway through your program when you started having second thoughts about your potential career outcomes. Rest assured, plenty of career options exist for individuals with a background in biology.

One option to consider is nursing, which, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is experiencing strong job growth. Healthcare employers expect to hire more than 177,000 new nurses from 2022 through 2032. But can you become a nurse with a biology degree?

The transition from a biology degree to nursing is more straightforward than you might think. Here at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), we specialize in facilitating the process for career switchers. Our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program is designed for individuals with non-nursing college credits who want to transition to healthcare.

You can become a nurse with a biology degree or even a minimum number of credits in biology. The two fields overlap in some key areas. Nurses must have strong life sciences competencies, including biology and foundational knowledge of scientific research and methodologies. They also need excellent critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills.

Biology degree programs tend to teach all these competencies. Switching from a BS in Biology to nursing could be a more natural transition than expected. Plus, making the switch can pay dividends.

In addition to the strong job growth rate nurses enjoy, they also can command lucrative salary potential. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for registered nurses (RNs) was $81,220 as of May 2022. In addition, there is plenty of room for career advancement and many different nursing specialties and workplace settings. Ready to get started?

Nurses gathered around manikin

What other skills do you need to be a nurse? Explore these 9 nursing skills.

1. Find Accelerated Nursing Programs for Biology Majors

The first step is choosing the right nursing school. If you already have a biology degree or a minimum threshold of college credits, you may qualify to apply to an ABSN program, such as the program at PLU.

With an ABSN program, you will not have to return to school for another four years to complete your nursing degree. Instead, you can leverage your past education to graduate in as few as 16 months.

Our ABSN program confers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). An ABSN-conferred BSN degree is indistinguishable in reputation and quality from a four-year BSN. The main difference is that you will not need to retake general education courses. In addition, ABSN programs proceed at an accelerated pace, eliminating summer vacations to allow students to graduate sooner.

Looking for more information on how to choose a nursing school? Check out this blog.

woman sitting at desk with laptop

2. Chat with an Admission Counselor

After deciding to apply to the ABSN program, your next step is contacting an admission counselor. At PLU, we assign each applicant to a dedicated admission counselor, which means you will have one central point of contact throughout the admission process.

Your counselor will review your eligibility, answer your questions and help you navigate the process step by step. (To assess your eligibility, please have a copy of your unofficial transcripts handy when you call.)

3. Complete Any Necessary Prerequisites

You may need to complete some prerequisite courses to prepare for the accelerated nursing program. As a former biology major, however, you will likely need fewer prerequisites than other applicants who did not major in a life science.

You must complete these prerequisites within six years of your ABSN start date at an accredited institution and earn a B- or higher in each class. Your admission counselor will identify which prerequisites you need to take. At PLU, we require credits in courses such as microbiology, introductory statistics and human anatomy.

PLU nursing students talking in simulation lab

4. Consider Gaining Entry-Level Experience

The next step in switching from a biology degree to nursing is optional but recommended. While working on completing the prerequisites, you may wish to gain some entry-level healthcare experience, either as a volunteer or an employee.

Doing so is unnecessary, but it can help bolster your ABSN application. It will also expose you to the field and help you determine which nursing specialty you want to pursue.

You will not be able to work as a nurse yet; however, you may consider pursuing other positions, including:

  • Phlebotomist
  • Medical receptionist
  • Hospital/nursing home volunteer
  • Medical billing specialist
  • Patient transporter

5. Identify Funding Options for Your Nursing Education

During the admission process, you must prepare financially for your nursing education. The tuition for an ABSN program can be well worth it, as you can pursue a rewarding and meaningful career after graduation. However, financing your education may require some careful planning.

If you choose to attend PLU, contact our Student Financial Services office to request information on financing your nursing education. You may qualify for grants, direct federal loans, private loans and third-party scholarships.

PLU nursing students working with lab equipment

6. Complete Your Application

At this stage in the admission process, you are almost ready to officially switch from a BS in Biology to nursing. We recommend contacting your admission counselor for guidance as you complete your application. Your counselor can help ensure your application is as competitive as possible and you have all vital documentation.

7. Prepare for Switching from a BS in Biology to Nursing

If you are accepted into the program, congratulations! It is time to make final preparations for transitioning from a biology degree to nursing. If you need to relocate for nursing school, for example, you will want to begin planning your move well before your start date.

Other steps you can take to prepare include:

  • Get certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Use free online resources like Khan Academy to brush up on any academic areas you struggle with.
  • Purchase needed school supplies, such as notebooks and a day planner with plenty of space allotted for each day.
  • Purchase nursing supplies, such as a stethoscope, penlight with a pupil size guide and compression socks (for long shifts on your feet).
nurse with child

Still wondering if nursing is right for you? Explore these top 10 reasons to consider a nursing career.

Bring Your Biology Background to PLU

When you are ready to apply your background in biology to a nursing career, PLU is here to support you. Our ABSN program offers three start dates so you can get to work immediately and online coursework for greater convenience and flexibility.

Contact our admission counselors today and prepare to switch from a BS in Biology to Nursing.