Is Nursing School Worth It? Pros and Cons of Becoming a Nurse or Nurse Practitioner

Dayton Uttinger  | 

Many people who work in healthcare claim to have experienced a type of calling to enter the field. Nurses are no different.

However, the realities of being a nurse might not be everything you think it is, and it’s natural to second guess your dream of nursing. It’s a very important decision that you should make with careful consideration.

How Much Does It Cost to Be a Nurse?

Becoming a nurse can be done in a few different ways. If you want to become a registered nurse (RN), you can attend a traditional college or university and get a bachelor’s degree in nursing (normally a BSN: Bachelor of Science in Nursing). However, this will likely be your most expensive option, as it will take four years of schooling. The cost of tuition will vary depending on the school you choose to attend; some community colleges are only a few thousand dollars a year. Some private universities have much higher tuition.

While a bachelor’s degree will make you a more competitive hire, there are other ways of becoming a nurse. There are associate degree programs as well, which are quicker to complete. Additionally, there are specific programs that allow you to become a nurse after only a year! These will allow you to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN), which has less career advancement opportunities than an RN, but you’ll be able to start much quicker. However, there is a growing movement to require a BSN degree as a new minimum qualification for nurses, and to phase out LPNs. Taking the shorter route now may lead you back to school later in your career.

What Credentials Will I Need?

Ultimately, it’s up to you how much you want to invest in this career. Some options are more expensive than others, but school prestige and further education might open doors later in life.  No matter which path you take, however, you will have to jump through a few more hoops.

You’ll have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), either for RN or LPN.  That alone will run you a couple hundred dollars. However, without passing an exam, you won’t have the license to practice nursing. After that, your employer or state might require you to have additional certifications. Be sure to check with them!

Pros of Being a Nurse

Nursing is a promising profession with a lot to offer, including:

  • You’ll make a difference. You will literally save lives, and that is incredibly rewarding.
  • Nurses are always in demand, no matter where you go.
  • You’ll make decent, stable money. You might not get rich by being an LPN or RN, but your salary may allow you to live a comfortable lifestyle depending on where in the country you end up working.
  • Nursing can be an intellectually stimulating profession. Every day will present you with different challenges.

Cons of Being a Nurse

However, nursing does have some disadvantages as well. Weigh them against the pros above.

  • Nursing is a stressful job. Not only will you have to deal with life or death situations, but not all patients are cooperative. Some are not in their right mind or just plain rude. This, coupled with long shifts, can lead to job dissatisfaction or even burnout.
  • You may have to work nights, weekends, or even holidays. Patients don’t only have health issues Monday thru Friday, 9-5. This can cut down on your social life or family time.
  • You’ll be exposed to germs and bodily fluids of all types.
  • Although the demand for nurses is rising, the jobs might not be where you want them to be. If you lock yourself into nursing as a profession, be prepared to move if necessary.

Is Being a Nurse Practitioner Worth It?

If you are interested in more than an entry-level nurse position, you might want to consider being a nurse practitioner (NP). A nurse practitioner is more like a doctor than an RN. It’s estimated that NPs can provide 80-90 percent of the care that family physicians can, often with similar autonomy to physicians. As an NP, you can examine patients, diagnose them, and write prescriptions.

Nurse Practitioner Pros

  • You’ll have more autonomy and authority.
  • NPs have more opportunity to specialize. If you are interested in a particular area of medicine, you can focus there instead of having to play the field.
  • You can still work while attending school to become an NP.
  • You can make considerably more money than an RN or LPN.

Nurse Practitioner Cons

  • You will have to enroll in more schooling. Becoming a nurse practitioner requires a master’s degree, so that is more debt that you’re racking up.
  • With that increased autonomy comes more liability. You are more likely be to be sued for medical malpractice.
  • Although there is the potential to make more money as a NP than an RN, it doesn’t always work out that way. If you only receive a modest raise, it may not be enough to compensate for your extra schooling and expenses.

Becoming a nurse practitioner is a long road, so only travel it if you’re sure you’ll like the destination. Although becoming a RN or a LPN takes less time, it’s still a huge decision. Take your time with it, and weigh your options carefully. There are a lot of opportunities in nursing, but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily right for you.


Image Source: https://depositphotos.com/

Dayton is a chronic Wikipedia addict, which is detrimental to her social life but stellar for her writing. She resides in Boise, ID, surrounded by her own frantic outlines, highlighted encyclopedias, and potatoes. The latter was not by choice.

This post was updated March 8, 2018. It was originally published February 21, 2018.