So you’ve graduated from college with your degree in nursing — congratulations!
And after all of that hard work on your feet in clinicals, logging in hours and hours of studying, test-taking, studying for boards and — let’s face it — wondering why you ever decided nursing was a good idea in the first place.
Well, you’ve just finished the easy part.
Well, that’s where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Nursing Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone — it’s pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We’ll give you the rundown on:
- What skills you’ll need
- How to begin
- What jobs you can expect to find
- Some quick tips for the job search
- Options for furthering your education
- External resources
First thing’s first: what skills you’ll need to get started.
1. Skills for Nursing Majors
While the education gained in the classroom is without a doubt beneficial, you’ve chosen a skill-based degree and probably learned more in clinicals — beyond personal development and simply learning how to learn, employers will want to see how you can reflect, realize, and grow.
Applying these skills to real world learning opportunities yields a more robust and balanced career, no matter your GPA and alma mater. Here are some of the common skills that you should focus on and talk up when you shoot for that dream job.
Critical-thinking and organizational skills.
Registered nurses must be able to assess changes in the health status of patients, including determining when to take corrective action and when to make referrals.
Organizational skills are critical to ensure that each patient is given appropriate care (avoid calling this “multitasking”).
Nurses must be able to communicate effectively with patients — and other medical staff — in order to understand their concerns and assess their health conditions.
Nurses need to explain instructions, such as how to take medication, clearly. They must be able to work in teams with other health professionals and communicate what patients need.
Compassion and emotional stability.
Nurses should be caring and empathetic when caring for patients — it’s a marker of skilled care.
In the same vein, you need emotional resilience and the ability to manage your emotions to cope with human suffering, emergencies, and other stresses.
2. Where to Begin Your Career After Getting a Nursing Degree
Nursing is a broad subject with equally diverse specifications, and you should take any and all opportunities to shadow a variety of nursing specialties.
Do you want to work in a hospital? A nursing home? Did you hear about an open position with a local health care facility? Do you want to work as a school nurse? Does the pay and constant change of traveling entice you?
That’s a lot to figure out, but here are a couple of ideas for narrowing down.
Land yourself a Nursing internship
Internships gives you experience and knowledge you might not find in your clinicals and lectures — you won’t witness patient progression of care in the classroom or see the day-to-day operation of medical practice in your clinicals.
Here are some additional types of internships for Nursing Majors to help you make an informed decision about your career path:
Look within your program — just reach out to your career services office or university hospital systems. If you’re not part of one, local hospitals regularly post opportunities as well.
How to get the most out of it
You obviously need to learn from everyone you encounter — from co-workers to patients — but you should treat your internship like a several hundred hour long interview.
Your managers, supervisors and staff will notice your talents and perseverance — They might ask you to come back as soon as you graduate or even work as a nurse’s aide during the school year.
Before you settle on an internship, though, you’ll want to make sure it’s the right fit for you as far as your career trajectory.
Ask yourself these practical questions:
- Will this internship grow me as a person or is it just checking off a box?
- Where (in the state/the country/the world) do you want to work?
- What type of organization do you want to work for?
- Would you take an unpaid internship in exchange for experience, references, networking, and further education?
- Is relocation an option?
If you can’t intern, then shadow
Shadowing isn’t as nearly as likely to result in a job offer, but it will help ensure that you’re choosing the right field of nursing.
The experience also may help you home in on what specialties and settings interest you. And with all of the options available to nursing students, the opportunity to learn what it is that you don’t want to do in your career is invaluable.
It may be as simple as calling a nurse you know and asking if you can shadow — if not, reach out to an advisor. Your school may have a relationship with a hospital that allow students to shadow.
3. Available Jobs for Nursing Majors
And now, the step you’ve probably been waiting for: getting a job.
Generally, licensed graduates of any of the three types of education programs (BSN, ADN, or diploma) qualify for entry-level positions as a staff nurse.
However, employers—particularly those in hospitals—may require a bachelor’s degree.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common types of jobs for recent Nursing grads.
Just like you.
- Area hospitals
- Nursing homes
- Government agencies
- Home care agencies
- Rehabilitation clinics
- Travel nursing agencies
You need to determine your priorities. If location and work schedule don’t matter to you, you’re in luck — the more open you are to working nights, weekends, or 12-hour shifts, the more likely it is that you can find work in a hospital.
Nurses are in demand everywhere, but some cities — and entire states — are better locations for the profession as a whole.
If you want to try them all out as a traveling nurse, get your licenses. Apply for a few licenses to make yourself more marketable. You’ll typically work for an agency or traveling nurse company and hospitals are only giving out a few weeks notice. So, have your licenses and references ready to go.
According to BluePipes, those most in-demand specialties are ICU, ER, MS, MS/TELE, TELE, OR, L&D, PACU, CVICU, Cath Lab, PEDS, PICU, and NICU. Get a year of experience and give it a shot if you desire life on the road.
Consider your long-term goals. You may be in a position where you have to take whatever comes available — but if you have the option, take a job that aligns with your overall career plan.
Get a job in a hospital if your plan is to wind up in hospital administration. Want to work in NICU but can’t find a position in a hospital? Get the closest thing, even if it’s an obstetrician’s office.
All nursing experience will help you in some way, but the point is, you don’t have to accept the first offer you get. Aim for the jobs that will provide the best stepping stones for your intended career path.
4. Some Quick Job Tips for Nursing Majors
Chances are, one of the things that drew you to nursing in the beginning was the promise of job security in the seemingly recession-proof healthcare market.
The thing is, you’re not the only one.
The demand for nurses is growing, but so too is the supply. And with the recent economic dip, you’ve got to contend with the “grey ceiling” — people are retiring later in life, taking up jobs in the work pool.
Keep these tips in mind to give yourself an edge on other applicants.
Get a nursing job as soon as possible.
You learn the most in your last year of clinicals, but you should get a job in the field as soon as possible — become an EMT, get an externship, work as a CNA, etc.
If I can recommend any one thing, it’s this. You’ll learn the flow of taking care of multiple patients and a functional floor or unit. This can also help you get a foot in the door with whichever health organization you’re working within.
Prepare for your interview.
Even though your skills are the most important part of your job, don’t neglect your interview. Take the time to learn about the facility, the culture, the services offered and anything that’s unique about the employer.
And I shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t show up wearing scrubs, even if the manager is wearing them.
Talk to someone in your careers office about reading your resume. Someone with experience will help think of ways to make it look like you got a lot out of the experiences. At the very least, they can make sure you format your resume appropriately.
Even though the field is growing, focus on things you can do to compete with the millions of young people who have heard about nursing as a secure career.
Beef up your nursing resume with internships and volunteering experiences. Get all certifications possible in your field, stay in a specialty for a while and avoid excessive unit hopping.
5. Continuing Education for Nursing
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing is projected to grow — of the 100 fastest growing jobs in the country, 11 are a form of nursing.
And pretty much all of the ten highest paid nursing specialities require at least a master’s degree in nursing.
Advanced Practice Registered Nursing
There are the advanced nursing occupations like nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, and nurse practitioners, all of which are sometimes referred to collectively as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).
To explain simply, an NP is a type of APRN. You’ll need to get at least a Master’s Degree in Nursing. You can specialize further in the APRN — Certified Nurse Midwives, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, and Clinical Nurse Specialists are all APRNs.
NPs are typically more independent, working in private practice. They’ve often with their own office or practice with a family physician’s supervision and have a large degree of autonomy.
6. External Resources for Nursing Majors
If you’re still not sure what to do with your degree or could use some help making yourself even more competitive, here are some external sites to help you with your decision:
A detailed chart comparing NPs to APRNs.
Enter “nursing” into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to nurses. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
Bureau Of Labor Statistics
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot – don’t worry – the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.