There are no hard and fast rules on how old is too old when it comes to entering the nursing profession. So, don’t make your age a barrier.

When thinking about pursuing nursing as a second career you might think:

  • You are almost age 50.
  • Your daughter is newly married.
  • Your son is away at college.
  • Now it’s just you and your husband ready to move into your next life chapter.

But something else is on your mind — something you’ve been thinking about for a long time. You want to pursue nursing as a second career.

You’ve done some research on where you might be able to apply for nursing school. You’ve looked at the time and costs involved and what they’ll mean to your current budget and lifestyle. And your family is supportive.

There’s only one thing you’re worried about: you think you might be too old for nursing as a second career. But your worry might not be warranted.

Others your age — and even older — have made nursing their second career. It’s one of the most popular career choices out there.

The problem is some of them allowed themselves to see their age as a stumbling block. They questioned whether:

  • They’d fit in with younger students.
  • Keep up with the demands of a nursing school program.
  • Be accepted into a program.
  • Get hired into a job after completing it.

For those reasons, they may have abandoned the idea of nursing as a second career.

Happily, there have been others who have overcome the hurdles of choosing a second career. They believed in themselves, searched out various nursing programs, studied enrollment requirements, filled out applications, got accepted, and yes, became nurses. That group proved to themselves, and others, that it can be done.

Plenty of helpful information is available online in articles such as “Is 51 Too Old to Become a Nurse?” and “3 Strategies Second-Career Nurses Can Use to Market Skills, Experience.”

How old is too old?

There are many opinions on when it might be too late to start a second career, but there are no definitive answers. The question becomes even more difficult when it comes to nursing, where the average age of working RNs currently is 50, and five generations of nurses from their 20s to their 80s are working happily and successfully side by side in the profession.

AARP says those who change to second careers at an older age are part of a revolution making up the first generation of Americans changing careers after age 50.

Second-career nursing applicants come from a wide variety of jobs, including police officers and firefighters, teachers and business people, and a wide variety of healthcare jobs.

In the article “Second Acts: Discovering Nursing as a Second Career,” Columbia University’s School of Nursing asks: “What do a former opera singer, an organic farmer and an ex-sommelier have in common?” The answer is they’ve all made the unlikely switch to nursing.

The second time around

For many reasons, a move to nursing as a second career is a good choice. Many career analysts say nursing’s future looks bright, its options are many and its salaries, benefits and career mobility are all good.

Last year, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics projected 1.1 million additional nurses will be needed to avoid a further nursing shortage and employment opportunities will grow at a faster rate in nursing (15%) than all other occupations through 2026. 

Still unsure? Browse all the open nursing jobs on our jobs board in your area to see how many nursing opportunities exist.

Nursing is a profession that can take you from the hospital bedside to the boardroom and allow you to work in acute, ambulatory or long-term care with patients of all ages. The profession can include staff, management or administrative roles, along with opportunities in business, sales, education, law and more.

You can even work on weekdays or weekends, day or night, or on full-time, part-time or per-diem schedules.

Nursing is diverse and inclusive in employment and patient care. All patients are cared for and all nurses are welcome to apply, regardless of age, gender, sexual preference, race, ethnicity, religion or socioeconomic background.

Nursing as a second career words of advice

As with all important life decisions, don’t allow yourself to be deterred by factors that don’t matter, and don’t jump into something without doing your due diligence. Think about the time investment, schedules and costs, along with how all of it will impact your life and family.

You’re never too old to do something you love, and how long you’ll be doing it isn’t the most important part of the decision. Whether your career spans 50 or 15 years, you’ll have great opportunities to make contributions that matter.

Don’t sell yourself short. You have much to offer. There’s no substitute for the wisdom of age or life experience. Be confident in the fact that the list of positives you bring to the table is a long one.

Think about some words of advice I once heard about starting a new nursing degree program: “If you put off beginning your degree now because you think you’ll be too old to start a new job in four years, just remember that in four years you won’t have the degree and you’ll be four years older!”

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