Thinking About Going Back to School? There are Many Questions to Ask Yourself Before you Decide...
OK, so you’ve been a nurse for a while (which might feel like a thousand years) and you’re considering going back to school to further your education. You have so many questions: Is this the right time for me? Is there a return on investment (ROI) for education? Which program should I choose? Which nursing school is the best? How will school affect my family or relationships?
While the questions may appear as endless and overwhelming as your original degree, answering these focused questions will help you define your goals for your future career path.
1. Why? – Seven times
Stick with me on this one. Re-asking the answer to a question such as “Why should I go back to school” seven times will give you great insight as to the true reason to pursue your next degree.
Q: Why should I go back to school?
A: To get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Q: Why do I want/need a BSN?
A: I want more career options.
Q: Why do I want more career options?
A: I might want to leave bedside nursing someday.
Q: Why do I want to leave the bedside?
A: I want to become a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS).
… and so on until you get to the root of why returning to school is important.
2. What do I want to learn?
Once you figure out why you want to return to school, now the question is what subject will you study? Choose the area of focus for your education that will not only keep professional doors open, but you will enjoy learning. If it’s for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), there are numerous tracts to pursue such as Nurse Practitioner (and even more specialties within this degree), education, leadership, innovation, and informatics. Perhaps you would prefer a path outside of nursing such as a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership (MSOL). If you are pursuing a BSN degree, the curriculum is fairly straightforward.
3. Which learning format fits with my life and personality?
Now that you know the why and the what of your pathway, the next question is how. When I decided to return to school for a MSOL, I knew that I needed a program that was completely online and one that I could work through with five kids at home and manage a large ICU. There are numerous options so pick the plan that works for you THEN find the program to match it. You’re more likely to enjoy (yes, I said enjoy) school when it fits into your lifestyle and personality.
4. Which school should I choose?
With all of the above questions asked and answered, now you are ready to discover where to attend. Narrowing down the specialty and the learning format will focus the institutional choices for you. Cost of programs may be a significant factor for you to consider and tuition and fees will change significantly from school to school. For example, an accelerated RN-to-BSN program at California State University, Fullerton will cost around $23,000 for tuition and fees compared to a similar program at Emory University in Atlanta, GA which sets students back around $80,000 for their 15-month program. If you value the prestige of a top-10 university then be prepared to pay more for the education and name.
5. When is the perfect time to go back to school?
Never. Seriously! There is NEVER a perfect time to jump into a huge commitment like pursuing your next degree. One thing is certain: If you never start, you will never finish. It seems simple, yet most people just need the courage to start. Only you can decide when the timing is more ideal for you and your family when it comes to school, but you never want to miss out on your perfect role because you didn’t have that piece of paper that proves you decided, stuck with and completed a program.
Once you’ve honestly answered these questions about your feelings around your next education adventure you’ll know if another degree is the right answer for you. Different from a nursing license, education is something that can never be taken away from you, lapse, or become inactive. As nurses, we are life-long learners whether or not the education comes with a piece of paper because we learn from our colleagues, our patients, and our communities every day. I have yet to meet one nurse who regrets obtaining any level of advanced degrees. In fact, as one nurse with a PhD noted, “Student loans are not meant to be paid off. If you’re doing it right, you die with them.” All kidding aside, now could be your perfect time to start!