Healthcare is a rewarding career field in many respects. Since doctors and nurses are two of the most prevalent and most visible figures in the healthcare landscape, it makes sense that many students are eager to take on one of these recognizable roles. If you are wondering whether a career as a nurse or a doctor is a better option for you, there are plenty of factors to consider. Physicians earn more the nurses, but nurses generally have more of that fulfilling patient interaction. The two occupations approach healthcare from different perspectives, but there are plenty of other distinctions, too. Among the benefits of choosing nursing over medicine is the faster career preparation time, the more affordable cost of education and the opportunity to advance your education and career in stages, rather than earning a terminal degree before even starting out in the field.

Quicker Entrance Into the Workforce

If you are eager to get your healthcare career started as soon as possible, a nursing degree is a much better choice for you personally than a medical degree would be. You can become a registered nurse (RN) with a diploma, an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Choosing the diploma or associate’s degree option allows you to prepare to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) test to become an RN in just two to three years. Even if you opt to go for your BSN, which allows for higher income potential and more advancement opportunities, you can start your career as a nurse after just four years of study beyond high school.

Students who pursue a medical degree will be in school much longer. In fact, it will be more than a decade before they have the opportunity to establish themselves as fully trained and qualified physicians. Aspiring doctors must first earn a bachelor’s degree, which typically requires at least four years of undergraduate study. At the same time their peers who chose to study nursing are entering the workforce, medical students are just starting to work toward their Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. Medical school requires two years of coursework plus an additional two years of clinical rotations, which could require you to travel across the country. Finally, graduates of medical school programs must complete more clinical training in a residency program, which can take anywhere as little as three to as much as seven years, the BLS reported.

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If you would feel satisfied providing only basic nursing care, you can become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN) even faster. A certificate or diploma program to become an LPN takes about one year, the BLS reported.

Less Debt

No matter how long your education lasts, you will have to pay for it somehow. For the majority of students – 68 percent, according to Forbes – that means taking out student loans to pay for some or all of the cost of college. The average graduate of a four-year degree program, including RNs with a BSN degree, has more than $30,000 in student loan debt. That may sound like a lot of debt hanging over new graduates’ heads, and in some ways, it certainly is. However, it pales in comparison to the massive loans medical students incur as they make their way through eight or more years of intensive instruction.

For medical students, the average amount of student loan debt has risen to $190,000, according to The New York Times. Add to that the income aspiring doctors have missed out on during the four years of medical school, when working is all but impossible, and it becomes clear that nurses don’t only take on less debt for their education, but they can also start repaying their loans sooner.

Particularly cost-conscious nursing students could save even more money by starting out their careers with an ADN or diploma and then counting the work experience they gain in their early careers toward the clinical experience requirements needed to complete a BSN.

Can Gain Experience Before Advancing Education

Nurses often begin their profession with one degree and earn a more advanced degree later. In fact, researchers have found that the number-one reason nurses go back to school is to advance their careers. For physicians, this generally isn’t an option. Sure, aspiring doctors can spend a couple of years working in a field relevant to their undergraduate field of study, but they certainly can’t choose to start working as a doctor before they go to medical school. If they find after seven or more years of medical training that they don’t like the work of a physician, their only alternatives may be medical research, public policy and public health, the BLS reported.

Some RNs ultimately go to medical school, though this career move is less common and, according to some, “less encouraged.” Nevertheless, the coursework in a BSN program, along with real-world clinical experience, can help students get accepted into medical school.

 Additional Resources

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