At age 45, would you start an RN program? Honest advice please

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by Possible Career Changer Possible Career Changer Member Pre-Student

Specializes in no nursing experience, potential career changer.


Hello everyone,

Can I please get honest advice from current RNs, please? My name is Daniel and I will be 45 years old soon. My background is in business. I have a BS in Business with no RN prerequisite courses. I am considering a career change to become a nurse. It is something that has always interested me. The current epidemic has given me an even higher appreciation for nurses and the work they do. I would not be pursuing this career for the "hero" status. It's not about how other people would perceive me. I genuinely have an interest in the nursing profession and the thought of helping people in need seems so satisfying to me.

I live in Los Angeles. The waitlists for nursing prerequisite courses at local community colleges are horrendous, I am told, not to mention the waitlists to be accepted into the actual RN program. At age 44, soon to be 45, I don't have time to waste. I have looked into a couple options and I would like to please get current RNs honest assessments.

Option #1: the second bachelor's BSN program at National University in Los Angeles. Time duration is about 39 months NOT including 9 prereq courses I would need to take before even applying to the program. Cost of the program NOT including the 9 prereq's is about $66,000. At least one prereq course I would have to take at National University, not at a community college, and the cost for that course alone is like $1,700 (I know Cal State LA and Cal State Northridge also have second bachelor's BSN programs, but since the acceptance rate is so low - around 10% at Cal State LA - I am not even seriously considering these two schools. My undergrad GPA was 3.14 cumulative. Not bad, but not outstanding either.)

Option #2: the ADN program at American Career College in Los Angeles. The advantage of this program would be the relatively short time to completion. I would be able to complete the program AND all the prerequisite courses in only 20 months. However, the cost is ... ugh ... $74,000. Short time to completion but expensive. Also, I have noticed the handful of RNs I know who work for Cedars Sinai and UCLA Ronald Reagan all have BSNs; so does this mean a new grad with an ADN from American Career College has little chance to be hired by those two big-name, prestige hospitals? Or any hospital in LA? Or is it just a coincidence that the four or five people I know who are RNs at those two hospitals just happen to all have BSNs? Going into debt for an ADN and landing a fulfilling job is one thing, going into debt for an ADN and then having to beg my current employer for my current job back would be a living nightmare. I already paid off my loans for my BS in Business degree, so I know what it's like to have student loan debt. 

Option #3 - slug it out in community college waitlist hell at age 44 and finish .... ever at all? 

Option #4 - the LVN route. LVN programs in Los Angeles are around $30,000 and time to completion is 13 months. Thirteen months and then I could start working as a nurse. However, is it really practical to say "I am going to work full time in a new career as an LVN AND go to school to become an RN AND have some semblance of a life?" Thoughts? Please be honest. Also, as RNs, do you look at LVNs and think, "Why didn't you just go for your RN in the first place, are you dumb or lazy or something?" Is that at least partially accurate or way off-base?

Is there another option I am not aware of? I love the idea of helping people in need, hence the desire to seriously consider becoming a nurse. However, could you honestly say if you were me, at 44 going on 45, with a non-nursing background, you would pursue a nursing career given the extreme amount of cost and time involved? Not to mention living expenses in Southern California! Please do not sugar-coat your responses. I am in need of honest, brutally honest advice from people who know. The "follow your heart" advice I have already heard. I am in need of an honest assessment based on practicality, time and money. Thank you in advance for your time and your candor. Thank you also for the important work all of you are doing. 




Has 6 years experience. 1 Article; 257 Posts

Your options all sound too expensive to me. BUT- you are living in a state that has some of the highest RN wages in the country. And you may have financial resources that make the  tutition payments you quoted doable for you.

I would do it if I were 45 because I would have 20 more working years, at least.

As far as practicality- will you be able to live properly while you are in school? Do you have support or will you be working to pay your bills? Do you have kids, and if so, who will care for them when you are spending your extra time in school? If you have to take out loans, will you have enough left over (when you are working as  an RN) after you pay your bills to make the payments?

If there are truly no cheaper options, go for it.Of the choices you mention, the 2nd degree BSN sounds best. It's long, but I think it gives the best ROI.

Possible Career Changer

Possible Career Changer

Specializes in no nursing experience, potential career changer. 19 Posts

Thank you for your reply, TAKOO01. I appreciate you taking the time to give me some insight, especially on the options I mentioned. I do have some savings that would help cover some - not all - of my living expenses for a few months. I don't have kids. 

Possible Career Changer

Possible Career Changer

Specializes in no nursing experience, potential career changer. 19 Posts

If anyone else has any insight or advice, please let me know. Thanks in advance!

Jedrnurse, BSN, RN

Specializes in school nurse. Has 30 years experience. 2,776 Posts

Don't pay those tuition prices! This site is replete with posts from people with excessive school debt (along with some reporting poor job prospects as well). I would recommend looking at all the community colleges/state universities in your state for online versions of the pre-reqs. (Lab classes don't work too well that way but certainly psych and math classes are common enough.)

LPN training can be awesome, but you may not want to take that detour. Honestly, I recommend CNA training before jumping into nursing if you've not had any healthcare job exposure at this point. (Also, you'll find yourself more at ease during clinicals).

That would get you started, anyway...

Possible Career Changer

Possible Career Changer

Specializes in no nursing experience, potential career changer. 19 Posts


Thank you for taking the time to offer your advice. I hadn't thought about CNA training; I will look into that. 



61 Posts

Hello Daniel, 

I don't think it is too late. California is notorious for its competitive nursing programs. The quickest route is doing an accelerated nursing program. I graduated from UC Berkeley but went out of state for my nursing degree at Duke (full scholarship). Schools in Oregon, Nevada, North Carolina, pretty much everywhere aside from CA, NY/C, MA are manageable to get into even without perfect grades.

If you are looking to stay in CA, look into schools like CSU Stanislaus, CSU San Bernardino, CSULA as they are among the cheapest ABSN programs.  

I am from the Bay Area but landed a job about 5 months before graduation in the medical ICU, and so did all of my classmates. Out of state schools are also way cheaper! University of Miami's ABSN is about 40k when I checked last year.

Research the schools you are interested in and ask if they take the online versions of the classes (most do as long as they are accredited).

For example, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing offers online prerequisites so you won't have to spend semester after semester waiting to meet the requirements for school.


Possible Career Changer

Possible Career Changer

Specializes in no nursing experience, potential career changer. 19 Posts


Thank you for your time and your advice. I hadn't thought about going out of state. I will check out the link you sent now. Congratulations on getting accepted to Duke. That's very impressive! 


Specializes in NICU. Has 7 years experience. 4,083 Posts

I started my ABSN program at 46 and graduated a month short of my 48th birthday. My in-state tuition was around $20k ($5k/semester).

Possible Career Changer

Possible Career Changer

Specializes in no nursing experience, potential career changer. 19 Posts

NICU Guy, that's inspiring, thank you. I'm glad to know you did what I am considering doing. I wish I could find a $20k ABSN price tag in CA. 

0.9%NormalSarah, ADN, RN

Specializes in ICU. Has 3 years experience. 242 Posts

I was a second career nurse with a bachelor’s degree and still have a little student debt from that one ?. Basically I decided I have to do my nursing education as cheaply as possible. I opted to go the community college route. I busted my booty in those prereqs. Many of the community colleges operate on a points system for getting into the program, and you get points for things like certain healthcare experience, grades in the science prereqs, prior degrees, test scores, etc. I knew if I got a 4.0 science GPA and scored well on the TEAS, I’d be a good candidate to skip the wait list, so that was my goal.

I know people who went to those expensive schools in LA and they have a lot of debt. Granted we get paid well here in CA, but I still wouldn’t do it. And unfortunately you haven’t worked in a hospital so you could pay all that out for a career you end up disliking. I second the CNA route, but just know that training can be expensive depending on your area and you’ll get paid just about minimum wage at most places. It’s still excellent experience to see what’s to come. 

As for the large teaching hospitals, I know at UCLA you have to have a BSN to work acute care according to a professor of mine that works there. It might be the same at some of the others. In general you can find jobs as an ADN in CA, all of my classmates are working fine, but it’s a bit easier when you have a BSN. All things to consider. If you’re not married to CA, I’d get the heck out of here, but that’s for more reasons than nursing school. I myself am married to this state, so I had to stick it out and make it work. I wish you all the best. You could also get out of LA and into a different area of CA like a little north or inland and may have better options with a slightly more affordable cost of living. So many ways to do it, just gotta find what’s right for you!

Possible Career Changer

Possible Career Changer

Specializes in no nursing experience, potential career changer. 19 Posts

Hi 0.9%NormalSarah,

Thank you for taking the time to give your detailed advice, especially the community college and CNA input. I really appreciate the time you took to write all of it. People like you who started a second career as a RN inspire me.