Q: My wife returned to school part-time several years ago. She will be graduating in May of 2010 with a bachelor's degree in nursing. Then we will be paying off her student loans. I am worried about her job prospects. She doesn't need benefits because I carry them for our family. I have been supportive about her return to school because she always regretted not having a degree. But all I hear is bad news about the job market and that this is like the Great Depression. Have we sunk money into a black hole?
A: First, congratulations to your wife (and to you for supporting her during her return to work). I think you both have made a very wise investment.
According to several sources, a bachelor's degree can significantly increase your earning power. The US Census reported "workers 18 and over with a bachelor?s degree earn an average of $51,206 a year, while those with a high school diploma earn $27,915. Workers with an advanced degree make an average of $74,602, and those without a high school diploma average $18,734." And although it is now almost five years old, the College Board published an informative article entitled Education Pays. A copy of this article can be found at http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/press/cost05/education_pays_05.pdf. In short, the article summarizes the economic value of differing levels of education. It is not surprising that individuals with higher levels of education typically earn higher incomes.
Your wife's career interests are brilliant. As our population ages, we are all putting increased demands on our healthcare system. As the delivery of healthcare becomes more expensive, there is an increased demand for skilled nurses in almost all disciplines within health care. Think about the last time you visited your doctor's office. The nurse handles quite a bit of the upfront work that used to be handled by the physician. The nurse is a more efficient and less expensive provider.
We all think of hospitals and doctor's offices as the primary employers of nurses. However, nurses can also work "per diem" (per day) through health care agencies or visiting nurse associations. More and more nurses are also being employed by biotech or life science companies. These employers value the clinical skills, experience and training that an experience nurse can bring to the biotech world.
Overall, the job outlook for nurses is excellent. For more information, visit the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 edition. This publication is available through the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The link is http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos083.htm#outlook. This is also a valuable resource for all job seekers who want to better understand the outlook for a variety of fields.
Your wife is entering (or perhaps re-entering) the workforce at a challenging time. Like all job seekers in 2010, she will likely have to work incredibly hard in her search. Those with persistence, focus and tenacity are landing jobs.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
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