Our nursing advisors speak with more than 100 people a month who are considering pursuing our accelerated nursing program. Many of these people decide to postpone starting their nursing degree due to time or money constraints. Others choose to be on a wait list for a school who offers a less expensive nursing degree.
While taking time off may help manage the hectic schedule of a busy home, any financial issues may only grow worse. Waiting to start a nursing program will delay the time it will take you to get into the workforce and start earning the wages of a registered nurse.
Let’s start by defining opportunity cost. This term refers to the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. All choices have an opportunity cost that must be weighed carefully.
Next, let’s review the facts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual wage for a registered nurse was $75,330 in 2020, and projects a 7 percent job growth through 2029.
So, what do you have to lose by waiting? The most obvious answer is money.
Sometimes we hear “I’ll work for a year or two and save money for school so that I don’t have to take out a loan.” I will challenge you to show me how your current hourly wage will result in a savings of the total amount of tuition. Unfortunately, loans are usually inevitable, but there are plenty of resources to help finance school.
Typically, our students are not leaving a job where they make a salary of $75,330 to come to nursing school, so my next statement is that the sooner you start, the sooner you graduate and have the opportunity to get a job making the wage of a registered nurse.
Let’s say you delay nursing school for one year and stay working at a job with a salary of $30,000. The opportunity cost is the one year you just set yourself back from graduating and entering the nursing workforce where you could have made double your current salary.
Similarly, if you apply to a less expensive nursing program where you are wait listed for a future date, you have the same opportunity cost as above. Let’s say that you decide to wait until January to start the “cheaper” school’s 24-month program, pushing your graduation date to December of the following year. After taking some time to prepare for and take the NCLEX, this puts you into the workforce around March 2017.
What if there was an option for you to start a 16-month nursing program in January 2014? This program allows you to graduate in May 2015, putting you into the nursing workforce around August 2015. A year sooner! Even at a higher tuition rate, the latter option has less of an opportunity cost than the first option because you are working as a registered nurse faster!
The bottom line is that if you want to become a nurse, the time is now. It is the occupation with the fastest growing job projections for the next six years. Who knows what the future holds, but don’t wait to find out.
Julie Smith is the regional site director for the Marian University accelerated nursing program.