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    Nursing Major Overview

    By Lisa Freedland

    Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine. Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: May 6th, 2024
    Nursing Major Overview

    If you enjoy helping people, forming connections, and being a positive presence during difficult times, majoring in nursing may be a good option for you. These are just the basics though – there’s more to nursing than that! Keep on reading our nursing major overview to learn more. We’ll provide you with information on what a nursing major is, how to know if it’s right for you, and what you can do with a degree in nursing. Let’s get into it!

    What is a nursing major?

    As a nursing major you will learn all the necessary skills you need to become a registered nurse, as well as work in a variety of other settings. Those studying nursing will learn concepts in class, as well as how to apply them outside of class in more practical, realistic situations. Learning the fundamentals of nursing, sciences, and humanities in class will thus help prepare you for such hands-on experiences, in which you interact with patients in real healthcare settings. 

    And, if you’re not specifically interested in becoming a nurse, there’s no need to worry – nursing has more career paths than you think! Besides being a nurse, you can also head into a nursing administration role, go into research, or even pursue a nursing-related career in Information technology!

    Typical coursework for nursing majors 

    As a nursing major, you can expect to complete prerequisites in all types of sciences (natural, physical, and even social), which will require you to complete courses such as:

    Besides these prerequisites, you will also study the fundamentals of nursing, where you will learn how to take care of patients. You will cover topics like how to transport patients, distribute medication, give shots, and carry out other activities you will conduct on a daily basis. And, as you get further into the major, you may take classes on basic health assessment, where you will learn how to interview patients about their health history and make clinical judgements based on what you’ve heard. Similarly, as you progress within the major, you will likely take classes on how to take care of specific subgroups, including families, older patients, adults, young adults, and children. 

    Core classes might include subjects such as:

    • Pharmacology
    • Community/Public Health
    • Ethics in healthcare
    • Leadership

    Ultimately, these classes prepare you for your lab simulations and clinicals. Your future interactions with real patients will benefit from these classes. On the topic of clinicals, though, what exactly are they? 

    Clinicals

    Simply put, clinicals are supervised interactions with real patients in local healthcare facilities. They help you put what you’ve studied into practice and are a required component of a majority of nursing degree programs. Depending on your specific school and course load, you may be expected to complete up to 16 hours of clinicals a week in your junior and senior year of undergrad. If you plan on completing nursing school as well, you should also expect to complete clinicals as part of that.

    In order to be approved for clinicals, you may be required to complete a background check, complete a physical exam, or have professional liability insurance.

    Also read: How many years is nursing school?

    Opportunities after graduation

    Unbeknownst to most, there’s more that you can do with a nursing degree than becoming a nurse. So, here are just a few of the many options you have with a degree in nursing:

    • Nurse practitioner
    • Clinical nurse specialist
    • Administrator
    • Educator
    • Researcher
    • Nurse Midwife
    • Nurse Anesthetist
    • Nursing Assistant
    • Nurse Informatic (this is the IT-related job we mentioned before!)
    • Registered Nurse (in a hospital, nursing home, doctor’s office, urgent care facility, city health department, the CDC, etc.)

    And, if none of these sound particularly interesting to you, no worries! Check out 50 things you can do with a nursing degree to learn more!

    Jobs you can get with a nursing degree

    Remember, no matter which nursing path you take, it is important to remember that you must also be licensed in order to become a nurse. While some nurses go on to complete further graduate or professional programs, these are only necessary if you’re planning to work in management, research, or academic settings.

    1. Registered nurse (RN)

    Registered nurses perform incredibly important roles in hospitals, clinics, out-patient centers and a variety of other healthcare settings. They are responsible for monitoring patients, carrying out physician orders, administering medications, and so much more. 

    2023 Median Pay: $86,070 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 6% (faster than average)

    2. Nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, or nurse practitioner

    These roles are more specialized or managerial roles than the general RN. As a result, they pay more, and there is a much higher demand for them.

    2023 Median Pay: $129,480 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 38% (much faster than average)

    See also: What is the average starting salary out of college?

    How do I know if this major is right for me? 

    So, with all of the above in mind, how do you know if nursing is the right major for you? Well, perhaps most importantly, since nursing is all about helping others, you should care about helping people. If you want to work in nursing, you’ll additionally need a strong set of communication skills, a love of the medical field, and at times be able to problem solve in difficult situations.  

    Questions To Consider

    Questions To Consider

    • Are you curious about the way the body works?
    • Do you value communication skills?
    • Are you passionate about health?
    • Do you enjoy helping people?
    • Do you enjoy having to think critically?
    Questions To Consider

    If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, then a nursing major could be right for you!

    Accelerated nursing programs

    Before we close out this article, we’d like to just briefly mention accelerated nursing programs. Accelerated nursing programs are designed for individuals who wish to complete their BSN in a shorter amount of time. They generally range from one and a half to two years and typically require applicants to already hold a bachelor’s degree in some field and have completed certain prerequisite courses. If an accelerated program sounds like something that might be for you, you should definitely take a closer look at them!

    Additional resources for nurses

    First, check out our list of scholarships just for nurses. If you are thinking of earning a master’s in nursing while earning a BA, we have you covered. Did you know that some fields, including nursing, are eligible for loan forgiveness? Read all about Public Service Loan Forgiveness and how it can help you. Maybe you are looking for a basic idea of how to become a nurse? We can help you there too. Learn how to become a military nurse if you want to serve our country as a nurse. Finally, wherever you are in your educational journey, make sure that you apply to all of the scholarships you qualify for!

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    Frequently asked questions about nursing school

    What is the lowest GPA to get into nursing?

    At most colleges and universities, students who wish to major in nursing will spend the first year or two as what is called a “pre-nursing major.” After you’ve successfully completed these preliminary courses with an appropriate GPA, you’ll be admitted to your nursing major. Depending on the school you attend, that GPA limit may look different. For more competitive schools, you may have to keep it above a 3.5. Others may allow you to have as low as 2.5. Check with your school to see what their specific requirements are.

    Is nursing considered a major?

    Yes, nursing is considered a major! Students who chose to pursue nursing as an undergraduate degree will graduate college with a BSN, a bachelor of science in nursing. A BSN has slowly been the standard for nurses to have in most clinical settings, as opposed to a two year associate degree. A BSN is pretty much a necessity if you wish to become an RN and is a great stepping stone for further clinical education, such as becoming a nurse practitioner.

    Is nursing school stressful?

    Like many other graduate or professional programs, nursing school can be stressful. Not only do you have to take in a plethora of new information, but after finishing your schoolwork and attending classes, you will have to do clinicals. Clinicals are supervised interactions with real patients in local healthcare facilities that prepare you for your real interactions with patients in the future. While all this may sound difficult, do not let it deter you from the profession! Many make it through nursing school and go on to have rewarding, successful careers. Good luck!

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