Second Career Nursing: Becoming a Nurse with a Bachelor's in Another Field

Nurse running down a hall
Nurse running down a hall

Nurses are highly skilled professionals who serve their communities every day. And since nursing is a career that offers job security, leadership opportunities, scheduling flexibility, and a sense of true purpose, it attracts people from a wide variety of educational backgrounds and life experiences. It’s no surprise (or secret) that registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree have been and continue to be in high demand nationwide. 

Most people switching to a second career aren’t looking to waste any time. With a bachelor’s in another field, you can leverage your previous skills and coursework to become a nurse in under two years — without sacrificing the quality of your nursing education. 

Let’s look at the current job forecast for nurses in 2023, the advantages of switching to nursing as a second career, and some options for becoming a nurse with a bachelor’s in another field.


What is the outlook for nurses entering the field? 

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics consistently ranks nursing as a promising career choice. Current projections estimate that demand for nurses will grow 6 percent in the US over the next ten years, which is faster than average for other occupations. 

The BLS also estimates that there will be 193,100 openings for registered nurses each year for the next decade. 

As the US population ages, the need for healthcare workers continues to expand. According to the CDC, chronic health conditions now impact over half of US adults. Individuals looking to age in place are also looking for nurses to provide at-home care. All of this should be factored in when considering the opportunities available to nurses in the next several years. 


How do you know nursing is right for you? 

There’s no denying that nurses are special people. Not everyone has the stamina, patience, and dedication required for nursing. However, it should also be noted that nursing is a wide workforce made up of millions of people, each of whom has a unique backstory and reason for pursuing the profession. 

If you are considering entering nursing from another field, you may want to consider what you like about your current profession, as well as what you don’t like. Narrowing down your goals and figuring out the reason why you want to pursue a new career will help you identify if you are ready to earn your BSN in nursing. 

Successful nurses often: 

  • Get a deep sense of satisfaction from helping other people 
  • Have a deep well of patience to tap into during challenging conversations 
  • Thrive off of collective success and enjoy being a team player 
  • Maintain composure under pressure, even when the stakes are high 


What are the advantages of switching to nursing from another field? 

Nurses who join the profession from another field may be surprised at how much of their previous work life transfers into invaluable, desirable skills in their new career. Previous roles in patient care, customer assistance, hospitality, retail, and education can all be leveraged in a nursing role. 

Life experience and transferable skills that are useful for nurses include: 

  • Ability to navigate challenging interpersonal conflicts 
  • Experience offering education and resources to people in need of assistance 
  • Fortitude and stamina in moments of crisis 
  • Ability to execute tasks and get time-sensitive things done on schedule 
  • Experience working under different management styles and collaborating with a team 
  • Attention to detail

ABSN students come from a diverse array of previous employment situations. Some become nurses from another field of healthcare, making the move to nursing from roles as a healthcare technician, medical assistant, EMT, pharmacist’s assistant, or first responder. But plenty of other second-career nurses come from outside healthcare entirely, starting as fitness instructors, social workers, case managers, teachers, childcare workers, retail associates, business managers, and many more. 

There’s no age limit on who can enroll in nursing school, so some enter into the practice after a break from being in the workforce or retiring from their first career. 


What is an Accelerated BSN (ABSN)? 

Many second-career nurses choose an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program to get an educational foundation in nursing and earn their RN license as quickly as possible. ABSN programs build on what you already know to give you the tools you need to pass the NCLEX-RN and become a licensed nurse. According to data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, more students are enrolling in these programs every year. 

ABSN programs are different from the traditional BSN because they do not typically require you to take classes outside your concentration. There are also no long breaks between sessions/semesters. That makes the program a lot shorter than the traditional 4-year bachelor’s. (Marymount University’s online ABSN can be completed in as little as 16 months.) 

People who are enrolled in an ABSN often have what are called “soft skills” —the type of expertise that is hard to teach and can typically only be gained through maturity and real-world work experience. These soft skills, like time management and interpersonal abilities, can translate to success when it comes to online group coursework and clinical placements. Many nursing faculty find that ABSN students are highly motivated and eager to learn and excel in class

Employers recognize accredited ABSN programs as a valid way to earn a nursing education. Graduates of ABSNs are still required to complete the same number of clinical hours as their counterparts in traditional nursing schools. 

Note that the accelerated nature of an ABSN means that the curriculum is rigorous and fast-paced. You’ll need to be dedicated to learning a large amount of information quickly to keep up with your assignments. 


How do you become a nurse fast with a bachelor’s in another field? 

If you want to start your second career as a nurse, our online ABSN is one of the fastest ways to become an RN. Marymount University has been a national nursing education leader for over 50 years.

Nestled among influential organizations and healthcare providers, you get the benefits of Washington D.C. with the flexibility of online coursework. Students are required to be in Virginia for clinical rotations and one two-week residency. Learn from the epicenter of healthcare policy and advocacy in a program designed for students like you. Find out more about the program by looking through our course guide.