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Can You Work While in Nursing School?

Published on: May 26, 2023

If you’re already working as an RN, there are several compelling reasons to consider earning an advanced degree in nursing, including higher pay and more opportunities.

As you think about pursuing graduate nursing programs, however, you’re probably wondering what to do about your current job. Should you put work on hold and go back to being a full-time student? Or is it possible (or even advisable) to work while in nursing school? 

The good news? It certainly is possible, and many students do. In this article, we’ll highlight the benefits of working as you earn your degree — and we’ll share some ideas about how you can do it without burning out. 

4 benefits of working during nursing school

1. Avoid debt

The first reason most people think about working during nursing school is to be able to continue to earn money to pay for educational and living expenses. You may have already experienced accumulating debt during your undergraduate studies and want to avoid taking on any more. 

According to Nurse Journal, costs for an MSN can range from $35,000 to $70,000 — and sometimes even more. When you include basic living expenses, that’s a lot of money to come up with. Even if you receive scholarships and other aid to reduce the total, foregoing work entirely could mean relying upon substantial loans. 

On the other hand, if you’re careful about your budgeting, working while you learn can make it possible to graduate debt free. There’s no question that it will mean hard work, but it will be worth it to avoid the burden of loan payments in the years ahead.  

What if you happen to have substantial savings? Or, maybe finances aren’t an issue for you. Even then, it might be a good idea to work during nursing school. Keep reading to learn why.

2. Deepen your education

We learn more deeply and more permanently when we can put theory into practice. Nursing is a hands-on, practical discipline. Absorbing information in the classroom and your textbooks is vital, but having the opportunity to apply what you’re learning to real-life situations is just as important.

While it’s true that even a non-working student will be required to have a certain number of clinical hours, when you work, your opportunities to practice are greatly expanded. 

3. Build your career

If you’re considering going back to school for a graduate degree, you’re probably hoping to advance into new career opportunities. That might mean moving into an administrative role or perhaps into a more specialized area of nursing. In either case, your years of schooling are an opportunity to build your expertise in a way that will give you a stronger resume when you graduate. 

If you plan to become an advanced practice nurse in gerontology, for instance, working in a long-term care facility during your studies would give you a wealth of relevant experience and confidence as you pursue your next role. You might even make strategic connections that will help you find your next job.

4. Develop your non-technical skills

Nursing is demanding work, even when you’re not in school at the same time. Working while studying can help you grow in your ability to manage your job (and life) responsibilities efficiently.


Jillian Ward, a nurse who worked during her graduate program at USD, put it this way:“I find that the busier I am, the more I strive to fill my day with intention and meaning. Working during the MEPN program has taught me the importance of managing my time, allocating my resources, and prioritizing each task I am faced with; all skills that are essential to the field of nursing.”


How to work while in nursing school 

As you can see, there are some pretty compelling reasons to consider working while you earn your advanced degree in nursing. But you might be wondering whether you could manage it. 

We’ll be honest: working and earning your degree at the same time is demanding. Here are three keys to making it manageable.

Find flexible work

You’ll need a job that allows you to work around your classes and clinicals. Fortunately, this part should be relatively easy. Working as a nurse, you should have some flexibility about when you schedule your shifts. You are also likely to have a supervisor who understands what you’re trying to accomplish and is willing to work with you.   

Find a flexible program

Look for a program that’s designed with working nurses in mind. This might mean that all classes meet on the same day or that they’re offered in a hybrid format. Some programs may also allow you to study part-time. This extends the length of time you’re in the program but can make it a much more manageable experience. 

Prioritize self-care

When we’re feeling overwhelmed and busy, self-care is often the first thing we neglect. Living this way, however, is not sustainable. You need to develop practices that give you space to relax, de-stress, and get adequate sleep. Many have found, for instance, that going for a daily run helps with all three of these at once.

Working full-time as a student at USD

At the University of San Diego School of Nursing, we seek to provide rigorous training that also allows for a healthy balance between school, work, and other responsibilities. It is because of this that many nurses successfully earn their advanced degrees at USD while working full-time.


One of our recent MSN graduates, Nicole Rumpf, found our program a great fit for someone working full-time.“As a nurse who worked through the program, the part-time school option was very beneficial for me. USD staff helped me to ensure that I was maintaining enough units to keep my scholarships, while also staying on track in the program. Classes are often one full day or two half days a week during weekdays. Clinicals are often one day a week. It works well for clinical nurse schedules…”


Jon Gurrola, earning his MSN in Executive Nurse Leadership, agrees:


“I'm a huge fan of the ENL program schedule. We have class one day a week, and as a full-time nurse, it makes a huge difference. I'm easily able to schedule my shifts or vacations around that one day of class…The faculty is also very mindful that students have job responsibilities, and I've felt that courses are developed in a way that is very manageable year-round.”


Want to explore your options for earning your graduate degree while reaping the benefits of continuing to work?

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