Working While in Nursing School: Things to Consider

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Working while in nursing school is challenging and not advisable. However, under limited circumstances, it may be possible. Look for a job with flexible hours, an employer who understands your school obligations, and, ideally, that offers plenty of downtime for studying.

nurse sitting in dark room using laptop

Thinking about transitioning to a different career? It’s actually quite common to earn a bachelor’s degree, gain some experience in the workforce, and then decide to retrain in another field.

Nursing is one among the most popular choices for second-degree students, because the healthcare field offers meaningful work that allows professionals to serve others. However, figuring out the logistics of going back to school can seem a little daunting.

For instance, is working while in nursing school possible? Is a nursing degree worth it? How can I finance a second degree? These are common questions that you can discuss with the admissions counselors at the College of Mount Saint Vincent. The Mount’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program welcomes second-degree students interested in fast-tracking a career transition.

First, consider the question, “Should I work in nursing school?” If you were to enroll in a traditional BSN program that takes four years to complete, you could likely balance your schoolwork and clinicals with a part-time job.

However, as a second-degree student in an ABSN program, you’ll be taking on a much more intensive schedule. Nursing school is akin to a demanding full-time job, and it’s not unheard of for students to dedicate 60 hours each week to their studies.

You will work through a fast-paced schedule of classes, nursing skills labs, nursing simulation labs, and clinical rotations; and you’ll study topics ranging from human anatomy and development to healthcare ethics and patient interactions. All of this amounts to a significant volume of information to absorb within just 16 months, so it’s best not to try to overdo it by working a part-time job on the side.

nurses talking together while standing at hospital desk

There are steps you can take to prepare for the rigors of a BSN program. Here, get 10 tips for preparing for nursing school.

Should I Work in Nursing School If I Have To?

It’s not ideal to try to juggle a job alongside nursing school. You may find that you won’t have as much time as you need to study for your classes, prepare for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), and take care of your own health. However, if you absolutely must commit to working while in nursing school, it may be possible to do so on a very limited basis.

If you do choose to work while earning your BSN, be aware that flexibility is a must. That is, if you find yourself lagging behind the rest of your nursing cohort, you may need to cut back on your work hours or even resign from your job entirely.

Remember that your nursing degree is an investment in your future, and you owe it to yourself to graduate on time. In addition, your future patients are counting on you to develop strong clinical skills and nursing knowledge.

How to Work While in Nursing School: 4 Actionable Tips to Follow

If you do decide that you need to earn a paycheck while working toward your BSN, it’s important to think through your employment choices carefully. The following tips can help you figure out how to work while in nursing school while not letting your grades or clinical skills suffer.

nurse shaking a man's hand in interview

1. Look for a Relevant Position

One way to approach working while in nursing school is to look for a part-time job in the healthcare field. This would enable you to gain some experience while also developing professional contacts who might help you find an RN job after you acquire your nursing license. Of course, you won’t be able to work as a nurse just yet. However, there are entry-level jobs in the field that you may qualify for, including the following:

  • Nursing assistant
  • Phlebotomist
  • Surgical technician
  • Patient representative
  • Health facility front desk representative
  • Medical transcriptionist
  • Patient care technician
  • Hospital transporter
  • Home health aide
  • Dietary aide
  • Monitor technician

Bear in mind that the requirements and qualifications for these positions can vary from state to state and employer to employer. In some cases, you might need to go through a training program and earn a certification, which might defeat the purpose of finding a flexible, low-commitment job during nursing school. Weigh your options carefully.

2. Look for Jobs That Accommodate Studying

Although it’s desirable to gain some sort of healthcare experience on the job while earning your BSN, not all relevant positions may offer the flexibility you need as a student. In some cases, the perfect part-time job for you might be one that offers a lot of downtime.

During your on-the-job downtime, you can study for your classes and for the NCLEX—just remember to discuss with your potential employer before accepting the position whether studying is permitted during your downtime. In addition, when a customer requires your attention or you otherwise need to get back to work, you’ll have to prioritize your job responsibilities over your studies.

Here’s a look at some jobs that can offer lots of downtime for studying, depending on the employer:

  • Babysitter/nanny (you can study after putting the kids to bed)
  • Security guard
  • Customer service representative
  • Front desk or information desk staffer at a museum, library, or similar organization
  • Night auditor at a hotel
  • Receptionist at an office that isn’t overly busy
  • Parking lot attendant
  • Front desk staffer at a health/fitness club

3. Consider Work-from-Home (WFH) and Freelance Gigs

Students in class reviewing notes

Freelance and work-from-home (WFH) gigs can be doable for some nursing students. These generally offer more flexibility than other part-time jobs. For example, you might decide to become a rideshare driver or delivery driver (delivering packages, meals from restaurants, or groceries). These types of freelance gigs usually enable you to choose exactly when and how long you want to work. Plus, in most cases you can receive tips to bulk up your income.

When looking for WFH jobs, consider how you might tap into your preexisting skillset. Given that you already have a degree in a non-nursing field, is there a way you can use your existing education and skills to land a flexible, remote job with part-time hours? If your degree is in marketing, for example, perhaps you could do some remote copywriting for a marketing agency on a part-time or contract basis.

4. Look for a Job with Flexible Hours and Low Commitment

No matter which job you choose, you’ll need a position that doesn’t require a significant commitment. In other words, look for a job without stressful responsibilities—or a job that you wouldn’t mind resigning from if your nursing school obligations become so demanding that you can no longer work.

A flexible schedule is also a must. Look for a position that would enable you to switch shifts relatively easily if you need to accommodate clinical rotation shifts or study groups.

two ABSN students working in sim lab

Not quite sure if an ABSN program is right for you? Learn all about how an ABSN program works here!

Quick Tips for Work/School/Life Balance

It’s possible to feel slightly overwhelmed when you’re working while in nursing school. These quick tips may help:

  • Remember your priorities. If you need more study time, scale back on your work hours.
  • Always be transparent with your employer about your school commitments.
  • Talk to members of your nursing cohort. Do they also work part-time jobs? If so, perhaps they can connect you with a highly flexible opportunity.
  • Find a stress reduction method that works for you and use it every day (e.g., yoga, meditation, deep breathing).
  • Create a schedule each week and stick to it.
  • Set aside an hour each week just for “me time.”
  • Talk to your family members about your schedule and lean on them for help with everyday tasks.

Is a Nursing Degree Worth It?

Working while in nursing school can be challenging and it’s certainly not recommended. However, if you absolutely must earn an income, then it is doable. You’ll need to maintain a strong work ethic, excellent time management skills, and a positive attitude, but all this begs the question: Is the effort worth the reward?

Only you can determine your own answer to that question. Reflect upon your reasons for wanting to become a nurse. Perhaps you’re feeling stuck in your current career and you want a job that offers career progression and strong job growth prospects, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Or maybe you just want a career that is meaningful and personally fulfilling.

Nursing students practicing on a manikin

Nurses with a BSN are in high demand. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there has been an international shift toward preferring BSN-educated nurses because of the comprehensive nature of their education.

Nurses also have high earning potential. According to the BLS, registered nurses’ median annual wage is $89,010. Thus, while nursing school is certainly an investment, students will see a return throughout their careers.

Whatever your reason, earning a BSN on an accelerated, intensive timeline is definitely worth it as long as you truly want to become a nurse. Remember that you aren’t going through the journey alone. Lean on members of your nursing cohort for support and take advantage of any support resources that your ABSN program offers.

Take Advantage of an Accelerated Timeline Toward Graduating!

At the Mount, it’s possible to graduate in as few as 16 months if you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree from an accredited school.

Contact the Mount today and you’ll be assigned a dedicated admission counselor who will walk you through the admission process step by step. Your counselor will answer all of your questions and help you determine if this is the right program for your needs.