Nursing as a Second Career: 7 Questions to Ask Yourself

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Are you considering making the career change to nursing? If you are, you may have a flood of questions going through your mind. It can be overwhelming and intimidating to think about nursing as a second career in your 30s, 40s or later, but we are here to tell you that it is possible.

Woman at desk working on laptop

With the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), becoming a second-career nurse is an achievable goal. Time is of the essence with a second career. You likely do not want to spend years going back to school, but with an accelerated program, you can earn a BSN in as few as 16 months.

Before making a career change to nursing, it is important to have all the information so you know how to proceed. We will answer seven questions that will show you how to make a career change to nursing happen for you.

1. Why Should I Make a Career Change to Nursing?

If you are thinking about changing careers, you might be wondering if nursing is a good option. Nursing is an ideal field for career changers because it offers so much opportunity and personal satisfaction. Plus, you can start in a relatively short timeframe.

Nursing is a career with great professional advantages, as well as inherent personal benefits. Nurses make a competitive salary, with a median rate of $77,600 in the United States as of 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nurses also generally qualify for comprehensive benefits packages, such as health insurance, 401(k) matching and paid time off.

Nurses also have flexible scheduling options, and they can choose a position with weekday, weeknight or weekend hours. Many full-time nurses work three 12-hour shifts a week, and then the rest of their time is available for vacations or time with family. With the ability to add additional shifts as desired, nurses can also earn extra income to save for larger purchases or upcoming trips.

Furthermore, nursing offers excellent growth opportunities for individuals with high career aspirations. Nurses with a BSN can enter management roles clinically and outside the hospital. They can also develop greater clinical finesse by becoming certified in challenging specialties.

nurse in scrubs working with IV

If you desire greater clinical independence, a BSN allows you to pursue an advanced practice registered nurse certification, which requires a master’s or doctorate degree.

Personal Advantages of Nursing

In your prior career, you may not have felt your work held meaning for you. Life in a cubicle or behind a desk can be monotonous and feel removed from personal impact. With nursing, that will likely not be the case.

Often nurses choose to go into the field because of the internal fulfillment they experience when caring for patients. Nurses who take time to talk with their patients, listen to their troubles and support them in their recovery are greatly appreciated. Along with emotional support, nurses also provide life-saving care. The impact nurses have is immeasurable.

Nurses experience personal satisfaction when they watch their patients gain strength and make gradual improvements. Contributing to patient health journeys and recovery is truly meaningful work.

2. Is It Too Late? How Much Time Will It Take?

If you are in your 30s, 40s or later, it can be scary to take the necessary steps to make a career change. You may worry that it is too late to start something new. However, that is not the case with accelerated nursing programs.

Programs like the ABSN at Pacific Lutheran make it possible for students with at least 60 non-nursing college credits or a non-nursing bachelor’s degree to earn a BSN degree in as few as 16 months. You do not need to spend years going to school anymore. As long as you meet the requirements and fulfill the prerequisites, you may be eligible to enter the accelerated track.

The Pacific Lutheran ABSN program also offers three start dates each year in February, June and September. With the flexibility to start more than once a year, you can apply to start earlier than would be possible in a traditional program.

3. Do I Qualify for an Accelerated Program?

As you consider a career in nursing, it is important to understand exactly what requirements are needed for your chosen program. At PLU, the ABSN program is designed for individuals who have never worked as a nurse. If you have another type of nursing degree, you might consider a bridge program, such as an associate to bachelor’s degree program.

Another consideration is your prior education. The PLU program is available to students with a bachelor’s degree or at least 60 college credits in a non-nursing field. There are also GPA and prerequisite requirements to consider.

To be eligible for the ABSN program at PLU, you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • Non-nursing bachelor’s degree or 60 college credits
  • Cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for PLU students. For non-PLU students, the minimum GPA is determined by the Registrar’s Office.
  • Cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for prerequisite and co-requisite courses
  • Course grade of at least a 2.5 (B-) on a 4.0 scale for prerequisite and co-requisite courses
  • Completion of the ABSN program prerequisite courses:
    • Intro to Microbiology
    • Human Anatomy & Physiology I
    • Human Anatomy & Physiology II
    • Chemistry of Life
    • Nutrition for Healthcare
    • Intro to Psychology
    • Development Across the Lifespan
    • Introductory Statistics
    • Theology Requirement

If these requirements seem overwhelming, rest assured that our admission counselors will walk you step-by-step through the application and enrollment process.

Pursue your nursing career

Learn more about how PLU's Accelerated BSN program in Seattle works.

4. What Are the Steps for Transitioning to Nursing?

Making a career change to nursing is not as complicated as you might think. At Pacific Lutheran University, the first step is talking with our ABSN admission counselors, who will guide you along the process.

During your conversation, we will determine your eligibility for the program and help you create a plan for taking any incomplete or expired prerequisites. We will then help you through the application process once it becomes time to apply.

Here is a list of the main steps you’ll need to remember when pursuing a career in nursing:

  • Speak with an admission counselor and make an academic plan
  • Complete necessary prerequisites
  • Submit nursing school application, official transcript and supplemental documents
  • Begin the 16-month ABSN program
  • Graduate with a BSN
  • Apply for licensure and pass NCLEX exam
  • Receive nursing license and begin working as a nurse

5. How Will I Get Through the Challenges of School?

Nursing school is not an easy journey. After all, nurses are responsible for keeping people alive, a high calling. Therefore, it is vital that nurses are equipped with the education and skills to care for patients competently.

When you first begin nursing school, you may feel overwhelmed. But over time, students develop a study plan that works for their learning style. A few of the challenges students experience include:

  • Learning the most effective study methods
  • Figuring out how to efficiently manage study time
  • Balancing school scheduled labs and clinicals with study time
  • Maintaining wellness and a school-life balance

Thankfully, many students tackle similar hurdles when they transition to nursing school, so our instructors and faculty are well-versed in supporting and guiding you to success. By employing certain trusted techniques, you can move forward with confidence:

  • Try study methods that fit with your learning style (i.e., visual learners use diagrams, color-coded notes and video learning).
  • Study with a group of peers.
  • Create a detailed schedule of all of your nursing school activities and deadlines.
  • Gather a strong support team to encourage you during the tough times.
  • Take initiative with your education by asking your instructor questions early on.

It takes time to learn how to excel in nursing school, but with hard work and dedication, you can master the curriculum and start down the path toward a rewarding new career.

nursing students in lab with instructor

6. Can Second-Career Nursing Students Be Successful?

Perhaps it has been years since you were a full-time student. Maybe you have pursued another career or even have kids. At this point in your life, you may be wondering if you have what it takes to be successful in an accelerated BSN program.

Nursing school is not easy for anyone, and you might have more to juggle than a student in their 20s, but you can still achieve success. In many ways, you are even more equipped to do well than a younger student. This is because you have gained numerous skills from your career and from being a parent that will prove useful as a nursing student and a nurse.

A few of the skills that help second-career nursing students excel in school and in their nursing career include:


You have already succeeded in another career, so you know what it is like to work hard. You are likely not afraid to put in the time and energy to achieve a goal that is meaningful to you.


This is the key to a truly exceptional nurse. Caring for others with empathy and compassion is a skill you have likely developed if you are a parent. You may have nursed your children back to health when they were sick and comforted them when they were scared. You will be able to use these skills to provide better care to your patients.


You have developed organizational skills in many areas of your life from managing a career and a household, while also maintaining personal balance. From your prior professional experience, you have likely fine-tuned your ability to be accountable and to stay on track.

Stress Management

Nursing school is stressful, and being a nurse can also be stressful at times. You have likely already developed stress management skills during your prior career from meeting deadlines, giving presentations and achieving goals.


Being able to speak clearly and confidently will help you throughout your career as a nurse, and it will also help you succeed in clinical rotations and simulation labs. You are likely already familiar with developing effective communication skills with your coworkers, managers and clients from your prior career.

7. What Are My Career Options After Graduation?

After graduating with a BSN, you will be eligible to enter into a variety of highly sought-after careers. One of the reasons nursing is such a fantastic second career is that in as few as 16 months, you will be qualified for countless unique nursing jobs. Whether in the clinical or non-clinical realm, nurses with a BSN can choose a specialty that fits closely with their personal interests and goals.

A few of the many areas where nurses can work include:

  • Hospital units
  • Emergency departments or urgent care centers
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Surgical centers
  • Telehealth organizations
  • Nursing homes
  • Schools and universities
  • Cruise ships
  • Medical missions
  • Research labs

Because a BSN is a generalist nursing degree, you will be qualified for myriad nursing specialties. Nursing is also a field where there is great growth potential. Because you are coming into nursing with career experience already, you may be in a great position to take on leadership roles and expand into higher-level nursing jobs. Choosing nursing as a second career means you have a sea of opportunities available to you.

Pacific Lutheran University nursing student working with lab equipment

Make a Career Change to Nursing

If you have a passion for people, a caring heart and a desire to learn, nursing may be the ideal second career for you. With the Accelerated BSN program at Pacific Lutheran University, qualified students can enter their new career in as few as 16 months.

Our accelerated nursing program is built around three key educational components:

  • Online courses – Learn didactic, foundational nursing information in a flexible and adaptable online learning environment.
  • Skills and simulation labs – Learn and practice hands-on nursing skills in person with small groups of peers and instructors.
  • Clinical rotations – Develop real world patient care skills through clinical experiences at top regional health care organizations.

To learn more about starting nursing as a second career through the ABSN program at PLU, reach out to our admission counselors. Together we can create a plan for achieving your goals and starting a rewarding new career.