Four-year nursing degree still a great choice

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Elizabeth Newman
Elizabeth Newman

Good news for career nurses with bachelor's degrees: You're killing it compared to teachers, journalists and high school graduates.

A legitimate question for those entering or completing college is the difference a major makes. Conventional wisdom says it doesn't much matter if you get your bachelor's in physical sciences, physics or physical education. But a recent Hamilton Project report actually breaks this down, and finds some fascinating information for those of you encouraging teenagers to stay on a college track, or trying to encourage employees to finish their bachelor's degree.

The typical college graduate with any major makes $200,000 more, at least, than the average high school graduate over a lifetime. Those with a degree in nursing have median lifetime earnings that are more than those with majors in biology, business management, human resources or even chemistry. (Keep in mind that this is only looking at college, so some of those people completing the listed degrees might go on to earn MBAs or advanced medical degrees. But still, nurses are expected to earn around $1.4 million over the course of their career, compared to those finishing education degrees, who will mostly come in at well under $1 million. For those of you who are wondering, chemical engineers top the list.)

Meanwhile, if there's another reason to push tuition reimbursement as an option for your company or facility, it's a study this week from Michigan State University that says hiring for new college graduates is expected to rise 16% in 2014-2015.

While it's no surprise that this biggest jump is in information services (up 51% from last year), other growing industries include business and scientific services, nonprofits and health services.

It's also not surprising that while MBAs should see a 38% percent increasing in hiring, those with an associate's degree are expected to see a 19% jump. That's good news for nurses studying for a two-year degree. It's bad news for employers trying to get the best and brightest.

Michigan State University economist and director of Collegiate Employment Research Institute Phil Gardner, Ph.D., said the jump comes after years of modest growth with employers now “recruiting college graduates at levels not seen since the dot-com frenzy of 1999-2000.” The findings were released in advance of the full Recruiting Trends report, which will be out in November.

Why does that mean you need to take another look at or boost your tuition reimbursement program? The ethical reasons include to increase loyalty, promote quality in a skilled nursing setting and to be, basically, a good company; the financial reason relates to high levels of turnover in long-term care and the increased ability of companies to hire.

Administrators should have a tuition reimbursement program that gives a certain amount for any higher-level degree and a whole lot more for a nursing degree. That should be contingent upon the employee staying with the facility or company for at least another year after completing his or her degree. While not every certified nursing assistant is necessarily going to want to obtain a college degree, those who have dreams of being a nurse need institutional support to make that happen. They also need a reason to stay at their current facility.

If offering reimbursement is absolutely not an option, nursing homes can still ask local nursing schools to offer a long-term care rotation. A study from New York University found that a third of newly registered nurses chose a place where they worked as a student. Familiarity, rather than breeding contempt, can often land you a person already familiar with your facility's practices.

Elizabeth Newman is Senior Editor at McKnight's. She would not have been a good chemical engineer. Follow her @TigerELN.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.

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