going to nursing school at 40

Becoming a Nurse Later in Life: A Guide for Adult Learners

Despite popular belief, it is extremely common for a person to change their career multiple times throughout their working life. In fact, with the rise of online learning and flexible degree programs, it’s easier than ever to earn a new degree and pursue a new career.

As an example, the nursing field is seeing this dynamic play out more and more commonly. While many pursue this career right out of high school, our world also sees people go to nursing school in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and even 60s.

The rise in the age of non-traditional nursing students shows that there is no official age limit to becoming a nurse, and it is never too late.

Let’s discuss how adult learners interested in nursing can pursue this rewarding profession, why now is a perfect time, and tips they can use when becoming a nurse later in life.

“Am I Too Old to Become a Nurse?”

This question is asked by adult learners all the time, and the answer is simply no. It’s never too late to change your life and career to something you will love and be rewarded by.

In fact, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) reports that the median age of RNs was 46 in 2022, and 47.2% of registered nurses (RNs) reported a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) as the degree that qualified them for their first U.S. nursing license.

And many schools’ student bodies support and reflect this trend as well. For example, seventy-one percent of Goodwin University’s student body is over the age of twenty-five, and the median age of students is twenty-nine.

Furthermore, as healthcare employers increasingly seek out nurses with at least bachelor’s degrees, many mid-career registered nurses (RNs) also return to nursing school.

These statistics show that nursing schools are not solely filled with twenty-year-old nursing students but are comprised of people of all ages. And returning to school as an adult learner has many benefits.

Five Benefits of Going Back to School as an Adult

Individuals who choose to become nurses later in life benefit from prior professional experience, certainty in this new career path, and a greater understanding of who they are and what they need to personally succeed in school as adult learners.

1. Prior Professional Experience

Adult learners who change careers bring many transferable job skills like communication, teamwork, and critical thinking no matter what industry or field they were working in previously.

They also have likely learned how to negotiate, look at a situation from all points of view, and listen to and understand others. This wisdom gained in their previous career and life experience only benefits them as they pursue nursing school.

2. Certainty in a New Career Path

Older individuals are often more confident in their career choices and goals, and this certainty often leads to greater motivation to succeed in school and future jobs.

Many younger nurses struggle to commit to their programs and careers fully. Adult learners, on the other hand, have passion, a purpose, and a timeline, ensuring that they get their education without wasting time or money.

3. Personal Knowledge of Who They Are

While we are always learning and growing, adult learners have a stronger sense of self and identity than younger students. Chances are they have more set values and confidence in themselves and what they want from life.

Additionally, adult learners know what they need to do to succeed in school. Where younger students can get distracted by socializing with friends and learning time management, adult learners already know how to focus on their studies and prioritize tasks.

They are ready and prepared to tackle any challenges that come their way because of their rich life experience.

4. Higher Income and Career Advancement Opportunities

Though it does depend on previous professional experience, individuals pursuing a new career as a nurse often benefit from a higher starting salary and various developmental and growth opportunities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses make a median annual wage of $77,600, with the highest ten percent earning more than $120,250.

5. Adult Learners Want to Learn

Many adult learners who have already had successful careers choose to return to the classroom because they know the value of education and enjoy learning.

They are excited about their new education and have no problem paying attention, taking notes, studying, and putting in the work to succeed in the classroom and in their new career.

Do We Need More Nurses?

Absolutely. As the global population ages, healthcare costs rise, and the need for home, hospice, and same-day healthcare centers rises, so too does the need for qualified, skilled, and passionate nurses.

The BLS projects employment of registered nurses to grow six percent by 2031, with about 203,200 openings projected each year. And many of these openings are expected to result from needing to replace workers retiring.

It’s never been a better time to pursue a career as a nurse, and with various flexible nursing school degree programs, it’s now more possible than ever for adult learners to do so.

Going Back to School as an Adult Nursing Student

Though training is needed to become a nurse, many flexible programs and options are available to fit students’ lives and goals. And many adult learners are relieved to learn that they do not need any prior nursing experience or healthcare education to pursue this new career.

Step 1: Which Nursing Program is Best?

Enrolling in nursing school starts with enrolling in the program best fit for a student’s educational level and nursing career goals.

Common programs include:

  • Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN): These part-time or full-time programs allow students to become registered nurses. Students can often complete the degree in twenty months part-time or even less if enrolled full-time.
  • Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN): These programs are ideal for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing major. Full-time students can complete these programs in as few as sixteen months, meaning they can get licensed as registered nurses and work in the field quickly. This accelerated program is one of the most popular and common choices for adult learners looking to become nurses later in life.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): Typically a four-year degree, this degree, like the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing, enables graduates to pursue a career as a registered nurse and have more career opportunities than someone with an associate’s degree.


Not sure which Nursing program will fit your needs? Check out our ASN and ABSN Get Started Guides to learn more and explore your options!


Step 2: Meet the Prerequisites and Requirements for Admission

Admission requirements will vary depending on the program and school.

Upon determining which program they want to pursue, adult learners should do their research and make sure they meet all the prerequisites and requirements for their desired school and program.

At Goodwin University, our accelerated nursing program requires the following:

  • Goodwin University application
  • Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program application
  • Pre-admission examination
  • A minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Prerequisite courses in chemistry, lifespan development, and statistics with a minimum grade of a “C”
  • Prerequisite courses in biology or anatomy and physiology I and II and biology – microbiology with a minimum grade of “C+”

Step 3: Find Scholarships and Research Financial Aid

First-time students and adult learners should research and explore the scholarships, grants, and financial aid options available.

This includes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), school and program scholarships, federal and private loans, and even specific nursing scholarships.

Step 4: Start Nursing School and Your Exciting New Career as a Nurse

Upon determining and being accepted into the best program for a student’s needs and goals, it’s time to enroll and start taking the next steps to an exciting new career as a nurse.

Nursing school is challenging, physically demanding, and time-consuming, but young and adult learners alike are capable as long as they stay focused and prepared and ask for help when needed.

Plus, with flexible full- and part-time programs, students can earn their degree on a timeline that works for them and their schedule. If you want to become a nurse later in life, contact us to learn about our numerous nursing degree options, including our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

It’s never too late to pursue your dream career. We’re ready when you are!