Nursing school or become a teacher?

  1. Hi everyone,

    Here is my question: If you knew someone who was trying to decide whether to go to school to become a nurse or a teacher, and they asked for your opinion, what advice would you give them?

    The reason I am asking this question: I am a teacher who is planning on leaving the field after three years (burnout, bureaucracy, 60-70 hour weeks during the school year all for the grand total salary of $36k). I know that no job is perfect, and certainly nursing has plenty of challenges. But my line of reasoning is that if I am going to work my buns off, be stressed out all the time, and not be supported properly by the powers that be, I need to be paid more money for it. Beginning LPNs in my city earn as much or more than beginning teachers who already have bachelor's and master's degrees!

    I was recently on the teachers.net chatboards, and someone there had posted the question that she was trying to decide whether to go to nursing school, or whether to become a teacher. She asked for advice and opinions.

    Overwhelmingly, the teachers said that if they had it to do over again, they would choose nursing rather than teaching.

    So I am curious to know how nurses would respond to the same question.

    Any and all feedback is welcome. Thanks!
    Last edit by busylady61 on Dec 3, '06
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  2. 36 Comments

  3. by   BSNtobe2009
    In a city like Orlando, just from years of reviewing salaries, it would surprise me if an LPN is making more than $36,000 a year to start. I used to live in a major city as well, and LPN's didn't even crack $30,000 for first year and new RN's didn't make that much above $36K as a new grad...you made it up in shift diffrentiation and overtime.

    You also have to look at the entire picture. You don't pay into social security, because it's a state job, and you have your pension. Your healthcare benefits are paid for you vs out of pocket. A school year is 9 months of working, plus you have your Fall Break, Spring Break, Thanksgiving and Christmas, along with other holidays like Labor Day, Martin Luther King Day, etc.

    You are currently making the equivilent to someone that makes $48,000 per year, if you worked year round at your same salary. When you calculate it over 9 months...that is $4,000 per month that you are ACTUALLY working.

    If you are wanting to be an RN, I say go for it, but don't quit your job to work as an LPN along with a new grad, because I will guarantee you, it will be a massive pay cut because you'll be paying into SS and have you pay your own healthcare premiums at a group discount along with short and long-term disability, most likely. I believe that is already included in most teacher's salaries.

    As a teacher, most states have the option of 20 year retirements at full benefits and I believe you also get supplemental healthcare in addition to medicare when you retire.....you don't get that with most hospitals anymore.

    Too many people don't factor in the benefits when they are looking from job to job, and the yearly salary doesn't give you the full picture.

    Have you thought about getting your LPN on a part-time basis and then doing home-health care during the summer months and occasionaly on the weekends? THAT would give you the best of both worlds.

    Another suggestion I would have is to apply to a private school. I have a close friend who did that as a last-ditch effort before leaving teaching and she said it was a WORLD of difference, BUT, again, the reason the private schools pay more is because they cannot compete with the state as far as benefits.

    I would check with your benefits department of the School Board before making any major decisions so you can compare apples to apples.
    Last edit by BSNtobe2009 on Dec 3, '06
  4. by   busylady61
    Interesting. Thank you for your response.

    It's true, I have thought about doing the LPN thing during summer vacations....

    However, regarding the salary, I am paying into Social Security. That's the little FICA deduction on our paychecks, right? I thought FICA meant Social Security/Medicare. I am having a deduction for that. I do get free medical insurance but I pay for my own long term disability. Upon retirement we get something like a $150 credit towards our monthly medical premium... which doesn't go far when the premiums are high. Overall, it is true that we have amazing benefits and perks.

    Also, I know of one local LPN who just graduated from tech school and she is earning more than I am. She works nights though in home health, so that must be the schedule differentiation you are referring to. I actually wouldn't mind working nights because it would allow me to go to school in the daytime for my master's.

    I guess my line of reasoning was that a senior nurse with a master's would make virtually double the income that a senior teacher does in my district.

    As I move on in years, I thought it would be nice to have the option of working part time and still pulling in a salary that is equal to or more than the salary of a full time teacher. $36k is just not cutting it for me anymore... my house expenses/mortgage/maintenance/car and everything. I feel I'm never going to start to get ahead until I start earning at least $10k a year more than I am now.... even if it means giving up those summer vacations, lol.
    Last edit by busylady61 on Dec 3, '06
  5. by   BSNtobe2009
    Quote from busylady61
    Interesting. Thank you for your response.

    It's true, I have thought about doing the LPN thing during summer vacations....

    However, regarding the salary, I am paying into Social Security. That's the little FICA deduction on our paychecks, right? I thought FICA meant Social Security/Medicare. I am having a deduction for that. I do get free medical insurance but I pay for my own long term disability. Upon retirement we get something like a $150 credit towards our monthly medical premium... which doesn't go far when the premiums are high. Overall, it is true that we have amazing benefits and perks.

    Also, I know of one local LPN who just graduated from tech school and she is earning more than I am. She works nights though in home health, so that must be the schedule differentiation you are referring to. I actually wouldn't mind working nights because it would allow me to go to school in the daytime for my master's.

    I guess my line of reasoning was that a senior nurse with a master's would make virtually double the income that a senior teacher does in my district.

    As I move on in years, I thought it would be nice to have the option of working part time and still pulling in a salary that is equal to or more than the salary of a full time teacher. $36k is just not cutting it for me anymore... my house expenses/mortgage/maintenance/car and everything. I feel I'm never going to start to get ahead until I start earning at least $10k a year more than I am now.... even if it means giving up those summer vacations, lol.
    Hmmmm...in alot of states teachers of public schools teachers don't pay into FICA, your state obviously does or you are very correct, it would not appear on your payroll.

    That's good that they are paying your short-term disability for you..you are more likely to use that.

    The only other concern I have is if the LPN is a W-2 or a 1099 employee of the home health that she is employed with, AND if she is receiving benefits. Shift diffrentiation is usually with hospitals, I can't remember if I have ever seen it on home healthcare paychecks or not.

    1099 means she is on contract and she has to pay her own taxes, social security, etc.

    W-2 can work 2 ways...you can either get a paycheck like any other employee with benefits, or the recent trend of hiring certain employees at a very high rate of pay, but they receive no health insurance or any other benefits at all..other than the fact taxes are taken out for them and FICA.
  6. by   busylady61
    I have heard discussions on some teacher forums --- that in some states, teachers only receive the pension upon retirement and not the Social Security benefits. I thought that was odd. Now I realize it's probably because they weren't paying the FICA all along, so that makes sense.

    You've raised a lot of good points that I hadn't considered. Thank you. I think I am still going to go for the LPN (while continuing teaching) just to preserve my sanity and feel more empowered about my earning potential. Perhaps I could do LPN work part time and juggle it with teaching. But it will also be nice to have a plan B.... because when I look ahead the next 20, 25 years, I honestly don't see how I can keep up with the pace of the classroom. This year I have a great group of students, but in public education it is always a crap shoot. One year you have angels, the next year you could have ESE kids throwing desks across the room and/or sexually abusing other students .... the horror stories abound.... anyway, thank you again for your input. I appreciate it.
  7. by   BSNtobe2009
    You are very welcome..I wish you luck!
  8. by   NaomieRN
    I am from Connecticut, in the town I live, the teachers get $40,000 a year with a Master's Degree. A new graduate nurse makes $62,000 in a lowest paying hospital for first shift. You have to weigh out benefits and other things before you decide. LPN starts with $24-27 per hour.
  9. by   busylady61
    Thanks futurenurse35.

    $62,000 for a beginning grad nurse? Wow...

    What is the first shift? Is that the daytime shift, traditional hours, 9-5 or something like that?
  10. by   NaomieRN
    7-3pm,
  11. by   busylady61
    That sounds like a dream schedule. Thanks!
  12. by   luv4nursing
    Just chiming in my .02:spin:

    Im an LPN in Orlando, and my income before taxes will be around 40-45k this year(I havent paid attention to my pay stub lately but last I checked it was already close to 40k). I make 16.50/hr. This was my first and only nursing job. No shift differencial in home health. I actually make on the low end bc Im lazy (lol). I could make more if I worked in a LTC facility but it wouldnt be worth it to me to work a million times harder and risk my license bc of the conditions. Also my agency pays $20/hr if u go to the group homes (peds) w/ 2-3 patient load, but I havent bc the regular nurses in the homes are territorial and catty and I just dont have the energy or patience to deal with that.

    I am w-2. I have friends who work for other agencies who are 1099 and they make $22-$24/hr. My agency offers benefits but they are expensive so I didnt take them. Its cheaper for me to have an individual insurance plan than to buy theirs. I havent really shopped around much, but I hear other agencies offer better packages than mine does. Ill be finished with my RN next December, so I figure I can bite the bullet wait one more year to get a good benefits package.


    I like the idea about teaching during the year and doing nursing in the summer. It would really raise your income a lot. You could still even have part of the summer off to travel or rest or whatever and work agency whenever you want....you could work as little or much as you want. I understand how you feel bc my best friend is a teacher and was just talking the other day about how she needs a way to make more money bc it isnt cutting it. She is considering nursing too but I told her dont do it for the money bc you will see you work for every penny and it wont even seem like enough for everything you do...plus she is very anti blood and guts so I totally can not see her in the medical field.

    I say go for it and big ups to you for looking at nursing as an option to increase your earning potential whether u do it on the side or you change careers. best of luck once again.
    Last edit by luv4nursing on Dec 4, '06
  13. by   busylady61
    Hi Luv4Nursing,
    Thanks for all of this great info because it is so reassuring to me as I continue to consider all the facets of this....

    The more I am hearing about LPN work the more encouraged I feel. I know that no job is perfect. I know that nursing is far from a perfect job. But... if I could earn $40k to $45k per year for an honest day's work and not take home bucket loads of papers every night to grade, I would think I had died and gone to heaven. Even now, as I type this, I am listening to my printer run off dozens of copies of things (with ink and paper I paid for) because my school is too cheap to get our copies back to us in a timely fashion. I mean, I'm only doing it because I care about my students and I want them to have proper materials, but still.

    Imagine me spending my downtime studying toward a second degree, rather than working for free on a bunch of paperwork... sounds like a no brainer to me.

    I would like to think that I could teach full time and nurse on the side, but honestly, my current job is so draining that I don't see how I would have any energy left over for nursing, except maybe during summer vacation.

    I've often had very stressful and fast paced jobs in the past, so if nursing is like that, it won't be anything new to me.... I have always been a work horse so in that regard I would definitely be prepared.

    It sounds like you have found a really nice niche, one that allows you to use your down time to continue studying and furthering your education. I hope one day soon I will be in your shoes. Thanks again for sharing all of this *great* info.

    Also, as far as your friend who is the teacher... if nursing is too much "blood and guts" for her, maybe there is something else in the medical field she might consider. I was originally thinking of going to Florida Hospital College for the occupational therapist assistant degree, but I couldn't do it because it's a daytime program.

    US News/World Report recently did a cover story on excellent careers for the future, and occupational therapy/physical therapy were two of the jobs that made the cut. They are different from nursing because they don't require so much scientific training and the patients tend to have a higher rate of success, according to the article. I may eventually consider becoming a nurse on an occupational therapy unit. Or who knows, I may go for a master's in physical therapy rather than a master's in nursing. The great thing about medical careers are that the possibilities are endless.

    Here is the link to the article: USNews.com: Money: Excellent careers for 2006
    Last edit by busylady61 on Dec 4, '06
  14. by   Epona
    hi busylady61. epona here. i had been hemming and hawing back and forth for a long time b/t teacher and nurse myself. i decided on being a nurse for the main reason that i have loved the medical field for a long time and already knew a decent amount about the discipline. i too come from another career. i start my bsn in jan. yeah!!!

    so i know how you feel. i have been there!! just follow your heart!

    best of luck to you!!!!

    happy holidays!!

    :holly2:

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