Avoiding Debt

Becoming a Nurse Will Help You Become Debt Free

heart and stethoscope

Millennial’s are pouring into the workforce.  Educated, innovative, and ready to change the world.  After spending 4+ years earning their degree, they expect to hit the ground running.

Instead, many are met by a saturated market.  Jobs aren’t readily available and if they are… the pay isn’t ideal to cover their massive student loan burden.

If you’re drowning in debt and worried about finding a great job, becoming a nurse will put you on the fast track toward debt freedom.

It’s time to consider how a career in nursing will be the ticket to personal and professional success.

Nursing, you say?

nurse with stethoscope

I didn’t plan on becoming a Registered Nurse, I accidentally fell into this career.  I graduated high school, went to college and, without much thought, I was jumping on the same hamster wheel as my millennial brethren.

Luckily, I tripped and fell into a good thing.  After 2 years of college, I couldn’t find a focus other than thirsty Thursdays and playing Halo with my buddies.  I had wasted 2 years of my life and I needed to figure out how to make the most out of the next 2.

After a lot of research, I decided to apply to a few nursing programs.  Nursing school seemed like a logical choice.  My mother was a nurse, I knew they made good money, finding a job would be pretty easy, and I could get it all done in 2 years.  Boom, sign me up.

(Gasp) “You mean… you didn’t become a nurse because you have a saint-like passion to take care of people?”  Sorry, no I didn’t.

I HATE hearing “if you get into nursing for the wrong reasons, you’ll fail”.  It’s total bullshit.  You’ll fail if you’re a shitty worker and heartless asshole, but I’d argue you’d fail at ANYTHING with that moral compass.

In my opinion, choosing a career should be about a few things.  Job availability, job satisfaction, and financial return.  If you can find a nice mix of those things, you’re golden.

I had no idea if I’d like this job.  I did know that it offered job security and a strong return on my educational investment and the flexibility of nursing eased my anxiety about potentially hating my first job.

Nice, sounds easy!

Becoming a Registered Nurse isn’t easy.  Let’s get that out of the way right now.  Nursing school is intense.  Programs move quickly and push you outside of your mental and physical comfort zones.

You’re going to learn about every body system, diseases of all types, medications to treat said diseases, side effects of said medications, how to perform a number of physical procedures, and assume the responsibility for human lives… Oh, and medical terminology, which is pretty much its own language.

So, you understand on a very tiny scale how difficult nursing school is and you’re still interested?  Cool… let’s figure out how to get started.

Degree Options


There are a few options in terms of schooling.  4 year bachelor degree programs and 2 year associates/diploma programs.  Both options have their pros and cons but, both options give you the ability to obtain a Registered Nursing license.

If you are looking to save some money and get into the field quickly, check out the 2 year programs.

Many 2 year programs are hospital based, and you’ll get a ton of clinical experience as well as a fast paced didactic program.  The best part, you’ll save a ton of money and hit the work force quickly.

The average cost of a 2 year program is around $31,000.  Not too shabby when you consider the median salary is double that.

Looking to obtain your bachelor’s degree?  You’ll spend 2 additional years in school, you’ll pay more for the degree but, you’ll come out with a bachelor’s degree and I’m sure that means something to someone?  Ok… that was rude.

A little known fact about nursing is that we all take the same test to obtain our license.  If you complete a 2 year program, or if you obtain your bachelor’s degree, you have to take the same NCLEX exam.

You’ll receive the exact same nursing license, and enter the workforce on the same level as your 2 year degree peers.  I’m sorry but, initially, it doesn’t matter.

Sure I’ll get some hate for saying that but, it’s true.  I’m a diploma nurse (2 year degree) and I’ve worked my way into a regional leadership position and I manage RNs with master’s degrees.  Nursing is a different animal when it comes to “formal education”.

They have the same job… They work under the same salary scale, but hold wildly different levels of educational experience.

If you’re trying to save money, most hospitals and health care organizations will pay for you to obtain your bachelors.  It’ll slow you down a bit but, it’ll save you a ton of money!  I’m currently doing this. Granted I can only take a few course a year but, it’s totally free.

Career Outlook

success written in sand

Woo!  You’re an RN!  Now what… Well, I’ve got some news for you!  You can pretty much go get a job anywhere.  During my senior year of nursing school, I was hired for my first job 4 months prior to graduating.  Think about that, I hadn’t graduated from nursing school yet, I had zero experience, and I was offered a job… with a $10,000 sign on bonus.

That was over 10 years ago, and the need for nurses remains on the rise.  The nursing profession continues to be one of the fasted growing career fields available, expecting roughly 439,000 new jobs by 2024.

Baby boomers are getting ready to exit the work force and this will open up roughly 649,000 nursing positions by 2024.  These needs, plus the fact that nursing programs are struggling to graduate more than 180,000 new RNs a year and you’ve got a recipe for a booming career field!

So, finding a job won’t hard… Ok.  You may be wondering what does a RN’s salary looks like?  The median nursing salary is roughly $70,000 per year.

As a new hire, expect to make a bit less, but the option to earn a stellar salary is there.  Gain a bit of experience, specialize, and you can push 6 figures.

A starting salary north of $60,000 is common, and can help propel you toward debt freedom right out of the gate!

Many hospitals and other organizations also offer lucrative sign on bonuses, as well as other incentives.

Discounts on common products (cell plans, gym memberships, etc…), vehicles, and even discounted tickets to Disney (we travel hacked to Disney this past summer this way)!

Health care organizations are hurting badly for hard working, intelligent RNs.  Entering this career field can be both personally rewarding and lucrative.

Final Thoughts

Although I didn’t enter the nursing field because I had a passion to following Florence Nightingale’s footsteps, I did gain a tremendous amount of satisfaction while working in the ICU.

Caring for the critically ill was a stressful job, but wildly rewarding job.  The shifts were long, the work was difficult and, I never felt like my job mattered so much.  To this day, I believe I made a tremendous impact in that intensive care unit.

My career as a Registered Nurse has taken me from working on a general medical floor, to the ICU, to a regional leadership position far removed from patient care.

The options to advance in this field are endless, the pay is lucrative, and the job can be immensely satisfying.  If you’re financial head is screwed on right, you can have a smooth(ish) path to debt freedom.

If you’re on the fence about a career change, or about your first career send me a message I’d love to talk in greater detail about the wonderful field of nursing.

6 thoughts on “Becoming a Nurse Will Help You Become Debt Free

  1. I’ve read many times about the practicality if pursuing nursing as a career. For all the reasons you list (job availability, competitive pay, and growing demand), it doesn’t seem like that will change structurally in the years to come. Instead, the increasing demand will provide more career advancement opportunities.

    My grandmother was a nurse and I thought about medical school (and nursing for a hot second) as a career path. I wanted to be a doctor but quickly realized my natural interests were more in line with economics and finance.

    However, if I had a gun to my head and realized I had made bad choices in college, nursing would have been one of the professions I would have chosen to provide me a secure financial position. Kudos to you for thinking practically and making the most of your situation.

    1. It certainly provides a strong foundation to professional success. With that being said, it’s a mentally tough career field. I believe I made the right decision, just happy I did!

  2. I’m a paramedic and so much of this is applicable to EMS as well! The education-to-earnings ratio is fantastic in a lot of mid-level healthcare jobs. I have also noticed that millennials tend to write them off because they’re unglamorous, despite the job security and income potential. They’re missing out!

  3. Great post. I couldn’t agree more.

    I began pursuing nursing back in 2008, when the recession hit and the competition for teaching jobs became more difficult. I used it as an opportunity to pivot into a field in demand.

    I didn’t become a nurse because of an overly compassionate personality. I became a nurse because it gave me what I wanted out of a career: flexibility, quality pay, work-life balance, and a field I was genuinely interested in – health sciences.

    I ran the numbers this week on an associate’s degree in nursing at a community college vs. a bachelor’s degree in nursing at a private college. When crunching numbers for tuition alone, the result was $145k vs. $6k. It’s truly incredible that these two degrees set you up for the same exact position, with the same exact pay. I truly believe nursing is America’s fast pass to the middle class. Low barrier to entry and a great income. You hit it on the head.

    Sure, evidence shows that bachelor’s prepared nurses deliver better patient outcomes. I didn’t tackle my position on this, but I really think it has something to do with type of person that eventually pursues their BSN – not the training itself. Nurses will improve outcomes when they continue their education (even if informally), strive to improve, and remain humble regarding their skills. Obviously, you don’t need a BSN to have these qualities.

    I’ve moved from med-surg to the ICU and have found my home. My curiosity is fed on a daily basis and it’s a truly rewarding position. After running the cost benefit analysis of becoming a nurse anesthetist, I realized it wasn’t worth the time, money, and stress of school.

    I’ll use nursing to reach FI, but luckily, I feel life as a nurse already gives me the life that most people in the FIRE community seek.

    1. Beautifully said!! I miss my ICU days, but I burnt out after a few years. I remember those days well, and I miss how I felt after a hard day… Thanks for the comment!!

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