If you're thinking about a career in nursing, starting with an associate degree may make sense. Not only is an associate degree the fastest path to working in a clinical setting, but it also tends to be the most affordable type of nursing degree available. Still, before you start applying to nursing schools, it's important to weigh some of the advantages and potential drawbacks of an Associate Degree in Nursing. This way, you can decide whether this career path is right for you.

Earning an Associate Degree in Nursing

There are two components to pursuing an Associate Degree in Nursing: choosing the right degree program and choosing the right school.

Choosing the Right Degree

Most associate degrees in nursing will take anywhere from one to two years to complete, depending largely on whether you're enrolled full- or part-time. Many people interested in nursing opt for an associate degree because it takes the fewest credit hours to get into the healthcare field. However, bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing are also available.

Choosing the Right School

Not all schools are created equal when it comes to their nursing programs. As you explore your options, take time to select an accredited school. This means that the nursing school itself has been assessed and deemed to meet specific educational standards. University of the Cumberlands, for example, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Pros of a Nursing Career

Next, it's time to consider some of the potential benefits of a career in nursing after you obtain your associate degree.

Upward Mobility

One of the best things about having an Associate Degree in Nursing is that there is plenty of room for advancement in your career. If you want to pursue a higher position in a clinic, hospital, or other setting, you can easily return to school for a bachelor's or even a master's degree in the field.

Job Security

Nursing is also one of the most secure occupations out there, as there will always be a demand for compassionate and knowledgeable nursing professionals. In fact, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for nurses is expected to grow by 6% through 2031, which is above average when compared to other occupations.

Helping Others

When you work in the nursing field, you can enjoy knowing that you're helping make a difference in the lives of others each day. If you enjoy caring for others and are looking for a job that is truly rewarding, then a career as a nurse is one of the best options out there.

Flexible Work Schedule

Because healthcare facilities need nurses around-the-clock, you can almost always find a shift or schedule that suits your lifestyle. Perhaps you prefer working overnights so you can spend more time with your family during the day—or maybe an afternoon schedule is better for your needs. Depending on where you work, you might even be able to find part-time employment as a nurse.

Earning Potential

According to the BLS, nurses make a median salary of $77,600 per year as of 2021. While exact earnings will vary based on where you work, nursing jobs tend to pay quite well.

Workday Variety

If you prefer a job where no two days are alike, then a career in nursing may be a great choice for you. Each day on the job will bring you new patients, cases, and challenges—so you're unlikely to get bored.

Environment Variety

As a nurse, you'll be able to work in a wide range of environments. Pediatric nurses, for example, may work in hospital settings or in pediatrician's offices. Meanwhile, home health nurses may travel from one home to the next to provide patient care each day. Some other possible work environments for nurses may include:

  • Surgical clinics
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Critical care or ICU settings

Choosing an Outfit Each Day

Nurses get to wear comfortable scrubs to work each day—and many hospitals and doctor's offices allow nurses the freedom to choose their own scrubs. This allows nurses to have a little bit of fun with their outfit choices rather than having to wear the same uniform day in and day out.

Cons of a Nursing Career

While nursing jobs can be extremely rewarding, there are some potential drawbacks to consider as well.

Stress and Burnout

Unfortunately, nursing jobs tend to be inherently stressful. In fact, studies have found that up to 34% of surveyed nurses report struggling with their emotional health since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, 75% of surveyed nurses report feeling stressed at work. Dealing with multiple patients, handling bedside losses, long hours, and other factors can contribute to stress as a nurse, so this is something to keep in mind before you embark on this career path.

Exposure to Illnesses

Working with sick patients comes with inherent exposure to all kinds of illness, especially contagious viruses and diseases. In fact, studies have found that 83% of nurses report coming to work sick at least once during the past year. Even though nurses rely on personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and face shields to protect them from the spread of illness, this is still a risk nursing professionals must accept.

Long or Multiple Shifts

Typical shifts in the nursing field are 12 hours long, which can be exhausting. It's not uncommon, for example, for a nurse to work from 7am until 7pm. On the flip side, because of these long shifts, many nurses enjoy three or four days off per week. For some, this could be a welcome trade-off to a "traditional" 9-5 job with only two days off per week.

Standing for Long Periods

Very seldom do nurses get a chance to sit down and take a rest, aside from during dedicated meal breaks. It is not uncommon for nurses to spend the majority of their shifts on their feet, so it's important to wear supportive shoes on the job.

Experiencing Loss/Attachment

Inevitably, working with sick and injured patients will result in a nurse experiencing loss. Even the most professional of nurses can become emotionally attached to their patients—so when outcomes are tragic, this can be very difficult to handle. Unfortunately, research has found that within the first year of nursing education, most students have experienced the death of a patient at least once (and, in some cases, up to three times).

Dealing with Bodily Fluids

Coming into contact with bodily fluids is an unpleasant yet necessary part of the job for many nurses. As a result, you'll need to be prepared to deal with fecal matter, urine, vomit, blood, and other bodily fluids—potentially on a regular basis.

Being Open to Lawsuits

Working as a nurse means taking on an enormous responsibility to act in a patient's best interests at all times. Even mistakes made with good intentions can have major consequences—and nurses are not immune to being sued for accusations of negligence, patient injury, and even malpractice. While it's true that doctors are more prone to being sued than nurses, even an unsubstantiated lawsuit that gets dismissed in court can be costly to a nurse. In fact, the average cost for a nurse to hire a defense attorney is more than $5,300.

Is a Career in Nursing Right for You?

While no job is free of drawbacks, nursing is one of the most rewarding career opportunities out there. Not only do you get to make a positive difference in patients' lives on a daily basis, but you also get to enjoy a high level of job security with plenty of opportunities for advancement and specialization.
If you're ready to kickstart your career in nursing, University of the Cumberlands offers a number of degree options to suit your needs. This includes a 67-credit-hour associate in nursing, which you can level up to a bachelor's or master's degree at your discretion.

Learn more about our Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or reach out to our admissions office at (855) 791-7199 to get started!