How to Make a Career Change to Nursing in 5 Steps

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If you're thinking of making a career change to nursing and you already have prior non-nursing college education, you'll need to pursue nursing as a second degree. First, find an accelerated nursing program and contact an admission counselor. After you've earned your nursing degree, you'll need to pass the NCLEX.

nurses standing around an IV

You may have already been in the workforce for a while—perhaps even a couple decades or longer—but you’ve realized your current profession isn’t your true calling. If you’re considering a career change to nursing and you already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, you won’t have to enroll in another four-year program. Instead, you could choose an accelerated program for nursing as a second degree.

Xavier University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program allows you to leverage your prior non-nursing college education to obtain a BSN in as few as 16 months. Plus, Xavier offers three enrollment locations in Ohio for greater geographic flexibility.

Xavier ABSN student standing in hallway

Are accelerated nursing programs worth it? Read this blog to find out.

Nursing can certainly be personally fulfilling, but it also offers appealing job security and salary potential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth rate for registered nurses (RNs) from 2021 through 2031 is expected to be 6%, as fast as average. This indicates that health-care employers expect to hire 195,400 new nurses during this time period. The BLS also notes that the median annual salary for RNs as of May 2021 was $77,600.

Once you decide to make a career change to nursing, your next step is to begin planning exactly how you will accomplish it. You might also want to tap into your existing professional network, if applicable. Talk to any nurses you know or ask your contacts to connect you to nurses they know. You may be able to ask questions about the career and the opportunities available, and get some valuable advice for your own nursing journey.

Let’s explore how to switch careers to nursing in five steps.

1. Contact an Admission Counselor

If you decide to apply for enrollment in Xavier’s ABSN program, you’ll be assigned a dedicated admission counselor. Your counselor will be your main point of contact while you’re working on preparing for and applying to the Xavier University College of Nursing. During your initial conversation with your admission counselor, you’ll learn more about the program and have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the admission process.

2. Check the Admission Requirements

Your admission counselor will review your prior education (have your unofficial transcripts handy) and help you develop a plan to meet the requirements for nursing school. What if you don’t have any prior health-care or science-related education or experience? Not to worry! Xavier ABSN students come from all academic backgrounds—from finance to public policy and beyond.

Here’s a look at the eligibility requirements to enroll as a nursing as a second degree student:

  • Completed non-nursing bachelor’s degree from an accredited school
  • Cumulative GPA of 2.7 or higher
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0 in all prerequisite classes
  • Minimum grade of C in all prerequisite classes

You can retake the prerequisites up to one time each if need be.

student writing in notebook

3. Meet the Prerequisites

What exactly are prerequisite courses? A prerequisite class is a class you must take and pass before you can qualify to begin the accelerated nursing program. Xavier requires prerequisites to ensure all accepted nursing candidates can tackle the academic challenges of the nursing coursework.

Our prerequisites are as follows:

  • Microbiology
  • Statistics
  • Human Anatomy or Anatomy & Physiology I (with Lab)
  • Human Physiology or Anatomy & Physiology II

You must have completed these prerequisites within eight years of attending our College of Nursing. If you need to take or retake any of these classes, you could choose to do so through Xavier’s e-learning platform.

4. Enroll in Nursing School and Complete Your Degree

As soon as you’ve completed the prerequisites and earned the minimum grade for them, you can complete and submit your application package to pursue nursing as a second degree. If you’ve decided to earn your BSN at Xavier’s College of Nursing, you’ll receive an admission decision within a few weeks of submitting your application. Xavier uses a rolling admission process.

It can take as few as 16 months to finish the program at one of our ABSN Learning Centers in Ohio. It’s an intensive pace, so make sure you use smart time management practices and set aside time every day to study.

5. Earn Your Nursing License

nursing student standing in hallway

Getting into the habit of studying every day will help you prepare for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), which all aspiring nurses must pass to become licensed RNs. You can retake the NCLEX if you don’t pass it the first time, but a first-time pass is ideal as it allows you to enter the workforce sooner.

It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the test beforehand. The NCLEX isn’t like most other exams in that you cannot rely on rote memorization to pass it. Instead of quizzing you on specific facts, the NCLEX largely tests you on your clinical judgment. Yes, you will of course need to memorize nursing concepts and theories. However, the NCLEX will test your ability to apply your clinical knowledge to specific situations likely to arise.

For example, you might be presented with a hypothetical case study of an 80-year-old patient with end stage cancer who is receiving end-of-life care. You may be asked to indicate some assessment findings requiring your immediate intervention, such as those involving pain management, symptom control, and quality of life.

Once you pass the NCLEX and obtain your nursing license, you’ll be ready to pursue your first nursing job. Over time, you may decide to add to your academic qualifications by earning additional certifications or a graduate degree, which might allow you to pursue a more specialized position or perhaps step into a health-care administration position.

smiling nurse with other nurses standing in background

What type of nurse should you be? You’ve got lots of options! Explore some of them here.

What to Expect from Nursing School

Every nursing school is a little different. At Xavier, we try to make nursing education as accessible as possible for our students. For this reason, we offer online coursework, accessible from virtually anywhere. You’ll complete your courses online, but keep in mind you’ll still need to meet all applicable deadlines.

Although online coursework can make it easier to earn your nursing degree, nursing does require hands-on, experiential learning. You’ll need to visit the ABSN Learning Center local to the program site location in which you’re enrolled to complete nursing skills and simulation labs. During these lab experiences, you’ll develop foundational nursing skills. You’ll work on medical manikins as you practice patient assessments, inserting IV lines, providing tracheotomy care and similar activities.

nursing student in front of Xavier wall smiling at camera

Clinical rotations, or clinicals, are another important part of the ABSN program. For each clinical, you’ll be placed in a health-care facility local to the program site you’re enrolled in, where you’ll provide direct patient care under your preceptor’s supervision. This is a crucial learning experience, in which you’ll learn not only how to care for patients, but also how to interact with them.

Apply to Pursue a Nursing Career Today

If you’ve decided to pursue a career change to nursing, you can get started with the friendly admission staff at Xavier. You could earn your second degree in nursing in as few as 16 months. Get started working toward a meaningful career in nursing today by contacting an admission counselor.