Although she originally wanted to be a doctor, Farah Omidbakhsh says she doesn’t regret changing her mind in college to pursue nursing instead. Especially now.

“I have more jobs thrown at me every day. It’s the complete opposite of what everyone’s going through,” she says.  The 29-year-old is currently a registered nurse at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, Calif.

Her rent for her Santa Monica apartment is also covered up to $2,200 a month, since she is a “travel nurse” and employed by a travel nurse agency. Her next stop might be New York and even there, rent would be compensated tax-free. “That’s the biggest perk,” she adds.

But perhaps the biggest incentive is the financial security. Omidbakhsh has never had to worry about being unemployed since getting her nursing degree in 2005 from Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles. (She studied psychology previous to that and holds a bachelor’s from Seton Hall University.) 

Experts agree that a degree in nursing presents plenty of financially stable career paths such as school health nursing, hospital nursing, home health care, occupational therapy and teaching. The pay is solid.  RNs earned, on average, a little more than $56,000 in 2007. The highest 10% brought home an average annual income of $83,000.  

RN Demand to Increase
What’s more, as boomers begin to retire and demand for health care soars, nursing jobs are expected to ramp up through 2016, with an additional 587,000 new jobs (or 23% growth), according to the Department of Labor.  That’s higher than the national average of all other occupations which are expected to show 7 to 13% growth.

Now more people are considering a career in nursing, with some even choosing to switch industries.

“People with degrees in other fields are turning to nursing for a career with meaningful work,” says Diana Mason, editor-in-chief of The American Journal of Nursing.  Omidbakhsh , herself, started out in college thinking she would be a doctor.  But as time went on, she realized her calling was actually to be a nurse, just like her mom. What she loves most about her job is being on the front lines at the hospital, frequent interaction with patients and rotating positions throughout a reputable and large health facility.

“You shouldn’t just go into nursing because it’s a hot career path,” she says. “You still have to be the right person for the job. You have to be compassionate and care about other people before yourself." 

How to Get a Nursing Degree
There are a few ways to pursue a nursing degree. First, there’s the bachelor’s of science degree in nursing at a university or college, which is four years long.  Another path is a two- or three-year associate degree offered by a community or junior college. Then there are diploma programs issued by hospitals, which typically last three years. In general, graduates need to pass the licensing exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing before starting any entry-level position.  Candidates for the NCLEX examination for registered nurses rose by about 5% from 2007 to 2008 to a little more than 209,000 test-takers.

Want to take the next step toward getting your degree? Get more nursing school tips in Higher Ed. Hidden Gems.