Jump to content

Nursing vs. Teaching for Major


Hello, everyone!

So, I am at a loss... I'm currently enrolled in a community college, and will be transfering to a four year school soon. However, I am not sure what I want my major to be- I am torn between nursing and teaching!

I love children, and the thought of being able to help them learn and grow as individuals warms my heart... however, I feel as though I wouldn't really be making a difference. Which is what has lead me to consider nursing.

My grandmother was a nurse for thirty some years, and I've grown up with her telling me stories about the profession- I've always been fascinated with it. She tells me I have just the right mix of compassion, responsibility, and dedication to make it as a nurse... but to be honest, I'm just concerned that I'm not intelligent enough to learn everything that is needed in nursing.

So, my question is... for someone who really isn't THAT great at math or science (but can study their behind off in a pinch) what is better in my situation- teaching or nursing? Which is also the better field to get into?

I figure if I want to be a nurse enough, I will make it happen- I'm just afraid that I won't be able to 'hack' it.

Thank you so much for your time! :)

classicdame, MSN, EdD

Specializes in Hospital Education Coordinator.

I had the same reservations. Nursing IS teaching. Nurses teach patients, families, each other, general public---

I worked as a teacher before returning to nursing school and becoming an RN. Both have their pros and cons. In most states, you can teach without a degree in education. However, you can't be a nurse without a degree in nursing. So, if you get a BSN, you can easily get a teaching certificate and become a teacher. You may want to check with the Board of Education in your state and see what the requirements are.


Specializes in mental health, military nursing. Has 8 years experience.

Honestly, you could be happy in both jobs. Maybe you should look at practicalities.

With teaching, you usually have to anchor yourself in a school district, and most teachers stay in one place until they retire. Is flexibility important? You won't find that teaching in a primary/secondary education environment.

Also, what jobs are available in your area? I know that some hospitals are laying off nurses or not hiring new grads - are you willing to move for work?

Whispera, MSN, RN

Specializes in psych, addictions, hospice, education.

I have degrees in both teaching and nursing, and have done both jobs. I feel I've made a difference in both jobs. I've found that nursing is less stressful than teaching elementary school was for me. I taught in an inner city school and the discipline problems were very difficult. Getting into a nursing field you love and/or feel you do well will make it more joyful than working in one that you don't find interesting and at-least somewhat challenging. Now I teach nursing, as one of my jobs. That seems to work!

In teaching you'll have to take science courses, and don't assume the curriculum will be less difficult than what's required to get a nursing degree. It's just different.

In my state you can't get a teaching license just because you have a degree. There's a test on topic-area to be taken. It reminded me of the NCLEX in its difficulty.

Another thing to consider is that nurses generally make more money than teachers do, at least in the early years of working...


Specializes in NICU.

My first degree is in El. Ed. It's hard to advise you on this, because ultimately you are the person that is responsible for deciding which path is right for you. I come from a family full of teachers and nurses. I always felt drawn towards being a nurse, but being terrified of needles and sticking people with things when I was making initial career decisions when I was younger, I chose to get my teaching degree. There are similarities in the two, especially the teaching aspect, and dealing with difficult (and the occasional wonderful) child/parent/administrator or patient/parent/administrator, but enough differences that I wasn't happy in teaching. I realized that teaching wasn't for me during my student teaching semester. I finished my degree, got over my problem with sticking people with things, and enrolled in a nursing program. I'm one of the freaks that really LOVED nursing school, especially the clinicals. I'm so glad that I chose nursing in the end.

As for the science and math required, you never know if you can handle it until you try, and to be honest, I feel that none of it is outside the reachable realm of someone who is determined to learn it. You will find a way, whether through just studying or seeking a tutor if you need one. LOL....that's the teacher in me speaking now, btw ;)

I am currently a teacher and want to get out of teaching and become a nurse. I have been teaching for six years now and cring at the thought of doing this for 24 more years (my plan is to retire after 30 years). I have read many good and bad things about nuring but the bad doesn't seem to out weigh the good when compaired to teaching. The reason I went into teaching is because my mother wanted to be a teacher but never became one. My mother "drilled" my and my sister with great things about being a teacher but never talked about the bad because she was never one. So because me and my sister was brain washed into being teachers we both became teachers not knowing anything else to be:confused:. I hate to change careers at 30 but after reading some of the post about people changing careers at 50 I don't feel so bad.

But to each it's own, some people love teaching I'm just not one of them!

Nuring field here I come!!!!:nurse:

I've been a teacher in the public schools for about ten years before going back for my nursing degree. In order to be a teacher you need many, many undergrad credits. With schools always on eternal budget cuts the only way you can keep from having your job axed is by being able to to teach computers one year, English the next and try to get in as much of the classes you actually enjoy teaching. Teaching pay is typically bad. It always seemed for me that either the child was bad or the parents were bad. The administrators that I have had are all bad. They (administrators) all seem to be the teachers that only went into teaching so they could make a quick switch to administration, so they would not need to do anything all day long.

The last year that I taught, I actually got in trouble for trying to get the kids to learn 10 polyatomic ions for their chemistry test. Then the students on the next test were incapable of passing a test on periodic table trends. There were four trends I wanted them to know, two went to Florine as the highest and two went to the oppisite end of the periodic table. I spent two weeks going over this with them. The majority failed. The Principal called me into his office because one of the parents had a daughter that got a B on the test and was not happy. The Principal admitted the student was a B student anyhow, then proceeded to write me up because I was not teaching the students. I explained to him in 5 minutes what I had spent 2 weeks explaining to the kids, then had him(a former history teacher) take the test. He said he never took chemistry, but could not understand why the kids failed. (I still got written up)

One nice thing that I discovered after leaving teaching. The evening are a great time to relax and enjoy the family. My son does not need to fight to get my attention at night. I don't have stacks of papers to correct and I no longer need to plan whats going to happen tomorrow to several weeks from now.

Summers off for teachers is never the truth. 95% of the teachers I new always had to work over the summer to have any spending money. The bulk of their teaching salary goes to student loans and living expenses(none left over for play). For those times in the summer when your not working your second job you will need to be paying for classes, out of your own pocket, so you can keep your teaching certificate.

I still have 3 semesters till I am done with my nursing degree. I think having time off to relax is the greatest joy of leaving teaching.

Oh.. If you were thinking about becoming an elementary teacher, I've over heard Principals talking, they say "Elementary teachers are a dime a dozen." It sounds like that is true in most states.

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 44 years experience.

Obviously, the people you will find on this website are the people who are nurses (not teachers) ... or people who didn't like teaching and switched to nursing. So you are not really going to get an unbiased view of teaching compared to teaching.

I don't doubt that teaching has it's bad side -- every career does. But I will say something good about teaching:

My sister is only slightly older that I am. She became a 2nd grade teacher and I became a nurse. She taught 2nd grade for 30 years in a small town public school system and retired at the age of 52 -- with a pension paid by the taxpayers that pays her 60% of her maximum salary per year for the rest of her life, adjusted annually for inflation. She now substitutes very part time to make up the salary difference. When she turns 62, she will start receiving Social Security in addition to her 60% pension. Had she waited until age 57 to retire, her pension would have paid 80% of her maximum salary for the rest of her life.

As a nurse, I have no pension -- only the money I have saved out of my paychecks which have been a little higher than hers. But then, I never had the summer's off like she has always had. Also, the taxpayers paid for her 100% of her graduate school. I did win some scholarships and got some government help ... but paid for much of my grad school out of my pocket.

So ... here I am at age 55, working full time and planning to continue working full time for another 7-10 years. She semi-retired at 52 and spends the winters on Florida golf courses and summers on Pennsylavania ones. Yes, my paychecks are a little bigger than hers ... but her retirement benefits (and other benefits more generous than mine ever were) more than make up for it.

Of course, not all teachers work for the public school system and are part of a collective bargaining unit. Some work for private schools that pay less and have worse benefits. Some work in high schools and are afraid for their physical safety. Some work in terrible neighborhoods. She worked in a nice little town and taught 2nd grade. Neither the school nor the town is luxurious ... but she has done very well for herself as a teacher.

Teaching does not pay as well as nursing, hands down. However, you get way fewer breaks with nursing. I did not spend my summers working when I was a teacher, but I didn't have two kids then, either (just one). Public school teaching is really stressful and teachers have very little power or influence to change anything. College teaching is MUCH better. My husband has done both and is very happy with college. I'm considering going into college teaching as a nursing instructor because I miss working with students, and I miss all those vacations, quite frankly. I also hate being on call. However I will be taking a very significant pay cut if I go that route. But I'm looking to retirement down the road, and I would have a pension with teaching. I'll be working until I die if I stay in nursing.....crappy retirement and benefits. Retirement and benefits are MUCH better in teaching. Both jobs have their good and bad points.

I wouldn't agree with getting more breaks as a teacher. As a teacher there are very few breaks. If you do not spend your prep period with all the prep and replying to emails that are called for in the job, you will be spending the bulk of your night working on this material. I will admit, I am a bit biased because I did not like what I saw going on in the schools and could do very little to change it. I know of several former nurses that have become teachers and enjoy themselves immensely. One thing to say about breaks, as a nurse you at least get a half hour, as a teacher the longest lunch I got was 20 minutes and I had to chase students out of the room as soon as the bell rang to get that.

I had to pay for my MA classes and all the other classes that I had to take in order to remain certified. So don't count on the school paying for that.

Teaching pros. Possibly getting summers off, if you are able to find a teaching job that pays well enough and you don't have to take certification classes. Those ah...ha.. moments that you get from students when they learn something new. Working with Kids, and possibly help them through difficult times in there lives. Having a student thank you for showing them, they could do more than they ever imagined. Being in charge of what you do everyday. Having every holiday off that your kids get off. Every weekend off.

Teaching Cons. Low pay. Summers taking classes. Unsafe work environments(Several teachers have tried suing their school districts for unsafe work environments, the courts threw them out). Unable to voice your opinion about anything. Being stuck working with an administrator that has vastly different ideas of what is good for the school depending on if he is talking to parents or teachers. 20 minutes or less for lunch. Long hours correcting papers and preparing for the following days. Tedious record keeping of each child's behavior and grade keeping. Never having time to truly connect to students. People tend to have no respect for the importance of education.

Nursing pros. You get to work with people, and possibly help them through the most difficult times in their lives. Three day work week. Higher pay. Once you get off work, you are off of work. You could save someones life. People tend to show respect.

Nursing cons. Long hours on your feet. Knowing that you are very likely to hurt your back while working with patients. Highest sexual harassment rate of any profession. Never having time to connect with patients. Work with other people's urine and feces and vomit. Day can become routine or very challenging(positive or negative). Working weekends and holidays.

The things I have noticed is the reason that people get into either profession is to help other people and make a difference in those people's lives. That is the reason I have chosen each as a profession. I enjoyed my time as a teacher, but I did not like what went on in many of the schools I saw. I chose to change careers. I have not started nursing but have enjoyed my classes and enjoy the thought that I will have my nights and days off again.

Good luck, let us know what you choose.

can I ask what were the things you did not like about teaching?

Can I ask what you didn't like about teaching? What made you change your field?

What things that I do not like about teaching.

Well first there were the parents. The parents either told their kids that's school was NOT important, and that you'll never use anything you learn in school. Or the parents would miss quote studies and argue that you were a bad teacher because you weren't performing the way that they believe this study showed that you should be. And if you were to pull out the study that they're quoting to show them that this study was actually showing something very different, they would get rather upset. I've had parents come into my room very upset that their child has done poorly on a test, when they ask me why that is I tell them “well your son or daughter told me prior to the test, they had chosen not to study the night before.” And somehow it ends up being my fault that they are in unable to accomplish a decent score on the test. 1 year I had a group of parents go to the principal because of number of students had done poorly on the test. When I heard about this, I explained to my helper student what it was that we had covered in the weeks prior to the test. This particular school district allowed students to come in during their study hall to help teachers out. My helper student this year happened to be a freshman in the test that I'd given was in a junior level class. After about 10 minutes of instruction I gave her the test and she passed it with flying colors. But the principal called me down to his office to discuss this particular test. I told him that I had given it to my helper student and she got every single question correct. I also explained that this is usually the easiest test that I give all year(since I had been teaching chemistry for 10 years at this point). I also explained to him, that a student “C”student(the principal had proclaimed this student to be only a “C” student) had proclaimed that it was the easiest test he never taken. The “C” student managed to pass the test with an “A”. I explained to the principal, who used to be a social social studies teacher, the material as I had to my helper student. Then I gave him the test he looked at the test and proclaimed that it does appear to be quite simple. There was another point, were a parent had emailed me 13 times from 3:30 in the afternoon, after I had left for the day, till 8:30 the next morning. The final email was sent to both myself in the principal stating that she had been emailing me at least a dozen times and that I refused to answer any emails. I explained to the principle that at the beginning of the year he had told all the teachers that 48 hours up to a week was considered acceptable time period for returning emails to parents. He agreed with me and then proceeded to put me on an improvement plan.

This brings me to the next topic of way I got out of teaching the principals. This particular Principal had put me on an improvement plan, which basically had me reading extra books on top of my already rigorous schedule. I had 7 prep periods to prepare for each day, most of which were upper level senior and AP classes. This put me under a great amount of stress. I had spoken to him earlier in the year about the stress I was feeling. In my 10 years of teaching I saw very few principals who were adequately trained to do their job. Most of the principals that I was under seem to be in it just for the paycheck, and only cared about looking good in front of the parents. At the end of this particular school year, I typed a 9 page letter to the school board describing all the indiscretions and things that I felt the principal fell short on.

Next in line for the reasons that I got out of teaching is actually the entire reason that I went into teaching, the kids. When I first got into teaching there was maybe 10 in about 120 students that would complain that the class was boring. My final year of teaching there was probably at least one if not more in the classroom of 25 to 30 students that would complain that the class is boring. I often contribute this to video gaming. In one class I even had a student who would interrupt the class and ask why he wasn't able to play Halo. If I refuse to call on him I would hear from his parents that night about why I wasn't calling on him when he had that he had to ask questions about the class. In this of course brought on a vicious circle because the principal would get called in on it from time to time as well.

The pay is yet another reason that I got out of teaching. I would often be in the classroom at 7 o'clock in the morning preparing labs. And finally leave for the day at 7 p.m. When I would go home to visit my family. I typically put in at least a 60 hour week and my work didn't end when I left the school. All this work was done on salary. You don't get paid extra for putting in extra hours which makes it hard to stay motivated. And you do not get paid for the overtime, but you are also the lowest paid college educated person in the state.

But you get the summers off. Was often a comment that I heard when I announced that I was getting out of teaching. This to a degree is true. Very few teachers including myself actually have the summers off. Most of the teachers I know either work in the summer in order to catch up on bills or to try and get ahead so they can afford a vacation. On the summers that you are not working you're more than likely going to be picking up extra classes in order to renew your teaching certificate. And you of course you're the one that's going to be paying for those classes.

These are just a few of the reasons that I got out of teaching. And as a side note now that I am nursing I am making more money and working fewer days a year than I did when I was teaching. And if I do spend extra days there I get paid the overtime. And when I come home I don't have to worry about work anymore, I get to actually spend time with my family.

As a side note, I like people and I like science. When I was in college the first time I was debating between nursing and teaching. Now that I have done both I have met people in each field that have switched... I know more stories of teachers who have been taken out of teaching by students and their parents. One of my friends was teaching middle school math and was having a hard time keeping up with where she was supposed to be at for the year. She was doing everything the district had asked and expected her to do. One of the students was upset with her and reported to the principal that she had yelled at him and hit him with a ruler. One of his friends was questioned and verified the story. She was let go the next day. I only found out about it because the kid was temporarily enrolled in the school I was teaching at. He had been temporarily kicked out of his school for his behavior. He confessed all kinds of misdeeds to me.

Another person I know was let go with no explanation as to why. She had taught for the school system for 11 years, never been on an improvement plan and never written up. She was called into the office and told it was her last day. The only thing she can figure out is that one of the parents was upset and went to the superintendent. It was a private catholic school. And the parents were wealthy contributors to the school. My friend had done the right thing by placing the 2 highest math students into a gifted math program that school had. The wealthy parents were upset because their child did not qualify(he would have been in the upper 2/3rds of the class).

Thank you for your feedback. I am glad that you found a career that works the best for you :) I really appreciate the honest feedback. You have made me rethink my decision about teaching. I am working at a teacher assistant now and it isn't going very well.

Nurse acewa

Has 1 years experience.

Thank you everyone for all of your feedback on this issue. To understand the pros and cons of both careers is not easy and you have made it much more clear. I would not be able to tolerate all of the injustices perpetrated by angry parents because their little Johnny did not earn something and they want it anyway not to mention the politics of dealing with parents/administrators/principals. There are politics in nursing but not so much as in teaching. Thanks again to all who posted.

I have an Elementary Education degree...always wanted to be a nurse, but my university didn't offer a nursing degree and so I majored in Education instead (I realize now, I should have just transferrered). Anyway, I'm now 35 and back in school for my prereqs before applying to nursing school. One pro that I would consider with regard to nursing vs teaching - it is easy to work part-time and still maintain your position/status as a nurse. In other words, if you're an RN and you drop from full time to part time, you don't get demoted (for lack of a better word) to a CNA etc. This isn't true in education. If you want part-time in education, you're looking at subbing (crummy pay and almost zero respect), or possibly being a para (similar situation). You could always sub with your nursing degree (in my state, you just need 60 college credit hours completed to sub - it doesn't matter what they are in) if you want to be close to the kids once in a while.