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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. Nursing is all about helping people in a variety of healthcare settings, interacting with patients, and giving people the help they need. 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 field, nursing emphasizes serving others, thinking critically, and using clinical reasoning to come to conclusions. As a result, those studying nursing will not only learn concepts in class, but will also learn 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. 

Before we get into possible career paths with a nursing degree, though, what type of coursework can you expect in college?

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:

Studying these subjects will not only give you a better understanding of the human body, but the human mind as well. This combined knowledge will help you lift up patients during their difficult times.

Besides these prerequisites, you will also study the fundamentals of nursing, where you will learn how to take care of patients. You will likely 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? 


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 Infomatic (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! Here are some more comprehensive lists of what you can do with a nursing degree:

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)

Technical writers compose instruction manuals, help sections of websites, and other documentation regarding the use of products and services. They use precise language to make complex and technical topics easier to understand.

2020 Median Pay: $75,330 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 7% (faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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.

2020 Median Pay: $49,300 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 45% (much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

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

Frequently asked questions about nursing school

Is nursing school stressful?

Like many other graduate or professional programs, nursing school is 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, to 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! 

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 also need good communication skills. The ability to talk with others readily and easily not only improves your interactions with your patients, but with your coworkers as well. This way you can keep track of what you’ve completed and what you still need to complete.

If you’re considering a major in nursing, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Are you curious about the way the body works?
  • Do you value communication skills? 
  • Are you passionate about health? 
  • Do you enjoy helping people?

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

See also: Nursing scholarships