Over 2.6 million people work as RNs; there are a greater number of people employed in this field than in any other profession. Approximately 60% work in hospitals around the country. In addition to hospitals, they work in doctor’s offices, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, on cruise ships, as a traveling nurse or the military.
Emergency room, pediatrics, forensics, and mental health are just a few of the many specialties. Additional specialties exist for nearly every major illness, population group and life situation requiring medical care. A great number of these specialties have professional associations that sponsor financial aid programs for undergraduate and graduate students.
Projected Job Growth
According to the Department of Labor, career opportunities will continue to grow by 22% between 2008 and 2018. This is much faster than average. The area of most growth is expected to be in doctor’s offices and nursing homes due to the increasing population of elderly patients.
Salaries range from a low of $42,000 per year to a high of over $90,000 per year. The average RN salary is $62,000. In order to attract top candidates to a particular area, some employers pay for re-location and/or offer substantial sign-on bonuses amounting to thousands of dollars.
Would You Make a Good Nurse?
Nursing is a good career choice for people who want to make a difference in the lives of other people and who want a stable career that pays well. People who enjoy science, want a flexible schedule and the opportunity for advancement will find it meets all of these criteria. Many career options require long shifts and the ability to interact with people while managing significant stress levels.
Paths to Becoming a RN
To become a registered nurse, one can attend a technical school, a two-year college to earn an associates degree or attend a four-year college to earn a BSN. The last step to becoming a RN is to take and pass the National Council Licensing Exam (NCLE). Each state’s board of nursing has more information about this exam, including study guides and suggestions. Once this exam is passed, the student is officially a RN.
Once the path to earning an RN diploma or degree is decided upon, the next step is to figure out how to finance that education. Fortunately, nursing is one of the fields that has an abundance of financial aid opportunities.
Scholarships are either merit-based, need-based or with specific service criteria attached. Merit-based opportunities can be awarded by a college or university or a private foundation. They usually require an essay and an interview with the committee in charge of selecting the winners for a given organization. Applicants will also submit letters of reference from teachers or employers to the selection committee. Winners are evaluated by the committee based on academic performance and community service, as well as future goals. The applicant deemed most worthy is then awarded.
Need-based opportunities are based on financial need or to members of groups that are under-represented in higher education. Financial need programs require an application, as well as submission of tax returns or other financial documents. Some need-based options focus on particular ethnic backgrounds, such as African-American, Hispanic, Arab or Japanese. Need-based programs are also available to individuals with a learning or physical disability. Most states (listed at the bottom of this page) offer a variety of options, as well.
Scholarships with service obligations are sponsored by the United States government. In addition to ROTC military programs in all four branches of the service (Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines), the government also offers programs in the National Health Service Corps and the Veterans Affairs Health Careers. After graduation, financial aid recipients with service obligations are required to serve between two and eight years, depending on the agreed upon arrangement when they were awarded.
The number of applicants for any financial aid opportunity varies greatly. Some have an abundance of applicants, while others have very few. When searching for a program, apply for lesser known ones or options with small award amounts, as well as larger, well-known programs. There are no limits to the number of programs one student can qualify for. All of the money, no matter how small the award, does add up quickly.
Increase Your Chances of Winning
To increase your chances of receiving financial aid you should make sure you follow these tips.
- Follow all of the instructions in the application packet precisely.
- Write down deadlines on your calendar. Keep track of them and meet them.
- Give your references plenty of time to write letters of recommendation.
- Write what you think, feel, believe and not what you presume the committee wants to hear.
- Proofread your essay; read it aloud.
- Have someone else look your essay over.
- Use concrete examples and descriptive language.
- Be clear and concise.
- Make sure you are on time to the interview.
- Dress professionally and conservatively. Men wear a shirt and tie. Women wear a dress or work pants and blouse. No jeans or sneakers.
- Answer questions confidently.
- Practice interview with someone else before the actual interview.
- Come with your own questions to ask the committee.
- Be polite and positive; stay on topic.
Financial Aid Can Help Student Nurses
Recent high school graduates rarely have the financial means to even consider paying for years of expensive tuition. Adults in the midst of a career change could find the prospect of student loans intimidating. Workers already employed in the health care field may wish to advance, but lack the resources to do so.
Men, minorities, and other underrepresented groups might simply lack the necessary information that could help them enter the field. Many more individuals that are talented would probably join the field if money issues did not interfere.
Fortunately, there are many financial aid programs available. Federal funding has been allocated at colleges and universities. Nearly all of the states have also implemented grant and scholarship programs.
Private foundations offer varying amounts of one-time and continuing awards. Professional organizations offer support as well. Even military organizations offer awards to their members who wish to pursue the field. Special programs exist, also, to encourage men and minorities to enter the profession.
Most of these opportunities are open to applicants at all levels of education. They are offered by a wide variety of sources, including:
- Professional Associations
- Government and Military programs
- Private foundations
Professional associations have a strong interest in developing high quality standards in the field. Most members of professional associations are highly motivated individuals who take their career seriously and tend to read widely. They study research about current trends and advancements in technology that may affect their patients. They tend to be leaders in the workplace, and enthusiastic participants in outside discussions. For this reason, professional associations want o encourage the most highly qualified candidates to reach their academic goals.
Some associations are based on educational achievement. Sigma Theta Tau International is an honor society that rewards high grades. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing connects professionals in higher education. The National Student Nurses Association draws together pre-service nurses from across the country.
Some organizations simply emphasize certain special experiences or locations. Their programs may be limited to select applicants. The Midwest Alliance for Nursing serves several states. The National Black Nurses Association seeks to draw members together to form supportive collaborations. The HOSA and SGNA RN scholarships are directed toward certain types of nursing practice. The AORN offers awards as well.
Government and Military Options
The Federal government offers programs nationwide. The National Health Service Corps offers students the opportunity to serve in needy locations in return for financial support. The Us Department of Health sponsors several forms of information about financial aid on its website.
Individual states offer various forms of support. Some states require that the student attend school within the state, or agree to serve in the state after graduation. Often, applying for state money can lead to other opportunities including grants and loans.
Military branches also offer funding options. Most often, applicants must be ROTC corps members. The Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines all offer economic assistance to help with school.
Many organizations provide grants. Here are some categories you may want to look through
- Nursing Education Grants
- Nursing School Grants
- Research Grants
- Women Grants
- Male Grants
- Federal Grants including the Pell Grant
- Grants for Minorities
- Grants for Women
A Few Final Words of Caution: Beware of Scam Artists
The health care field has a gap that ought to be filled by smart, dedicated graduates with quality education and skills. Students need not fear starting a new career thousands of dollars in debt. Financial aid programs can help bring new students into this valuable occupation. However, there are unscrupulous individuals who will take advantage of students in financial need. Be cautious when searching for aid opportunities. With patience and diligence, the right opportunity can be found.
Most of the research prospective students need to do when determining which options to apply for is available for free online. It is not necessary for any prospective student to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to so-called scholarship companies. Be especially careful not to get involved with any company that guarantees a student will absolutely receive the scholarship he or she applies for.
From government sponsored programs to awards given out by historical societies, sororities and fraternities and professional nurse associations, with a bit of research and persistence the chances of receiving aid are good. But, it is important to look into other ways to finance your education, such as federal loans and grants because scholarships alone (unless you receive a full-tuition scholarship) will not be enough to finance the entire education completely.
- DO NOT require handling fees
- DO NOT charge money for information
- DO NOT complete applications for students
- DO NOT request credit card or bank information
- DO NOT claim to have exclusive access to information
- DO NOT guarantee anyone a scholarship before application
- DO NOT schedule informational appointments at hotels or other public places
- DO take time and effort to locate
- DO publicize their requirements
- DO offer applications free of charge
- DO have deadlines and requirements
- DO seek qualified applicants through a competitive process
- DO occasionally interview candidates at appropriate places and times
While not as appealing as grants or scholarships, student loans are reality of college life for most students. Make sure to fill out your FAFSA and apply for federal funds before applying for private student loans. Many states (and the federal government) have loan forgiveness programs which help repay student loans.
Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
Most federal student loan forgiveness programs are exempt from taxes; however, there are a few instances in which they are taxed. If an individual has loan forgiveness in exchange for a service obligation, the amount of the forgiven loan is not taxable. See The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 for more information. The cancellation of a debt $600 or more is reported on IRS form 1099-C.
Federal Loan Forgiveness Programs
Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program
The US Department of Health and Human Services will repay 60% of a loan balance in exchange for two years to four of service in a critical shortage area. Particular criteria must be met, including holding a permanent RN license, full-time employment and others. Travel nurses, nurses working on-call, in default on a loan or under other service obligations are not eligible. The URL for more information is http://nhsc.hrsa.gov/loanrepayment/.
The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
Up to $50,000 in loan repayment is available to US citizens or nationals who are trained as certified nurse-midwives, primary care nurse practitioner or psychiatric nurse specialists, as well as other medical and dental fields. Recipients have a two-year service obligation to work full-time at an approved site that has a critical shortage of health professionals. Current employees of approved sites are eligible to apply for this program.
State Loan Forgiveness Programs
States in every corner of the United States have loan repayment programs for those who agree to work in under-served areas of the state. The following loan forgiveness programs are just a sampling of what is available in each part of the country.