Trying to choose Nursing or Counseling


Hi :typing

Well I've been lurking here for a bit. Here's where I am currently am and why I'm on allnurses.

I'm a mom of 3, was a paralegal for many years and have been self employed doing transcription the last several years. My husband's work is good (when it is available and it's never local). So I need a stable career.

I am currently trying to decide whether to pursue nursing with the end goal of becoming a nurse practitioner or pursuing a career in counseling, both require master degrees (although the much talked about DNP is looming).

I can obtain a BSN from a private local school in a bit over two years as I already have some college (but of course there is a price tag involved). I can do the masters portion at a local public university. I can obtain an undergrad in psych locally or even online and the masters locally.

I started looking into becoming a nurse after I found out how little I would probably make as a counselor (although the education would end up costing me less) and someone told me about becoming a psych/mental health NP although if going the NP route I could see myself doing FNP as well.

I don't want to be a hospital bedside RN as my husband works out of state and I don't think the schedule would be a good fit for me.

I have done some volunteering and will do more but this has been in outpatient facilities, which I like.

Has anyone gone through a BSN program knowing that they didn't really want to be what one may consider a "traditional" hospital bedside nurse? I've read that many who go straight through school to the NP find they can't get work because they didn't do a year as a traditional RN (I would hate to be in school debt to find this to be the case). I think highly of RNs I just don't think the majority of roles there would be the best fit for me and my family.

I need to make up my mind and commit to school one way or the other pretty soon.

Thanks for reading and I'd appreciate input. :bow:


38,333 Posts

:spnngwlcm: For the job opportunities and overall career opportunities (pay), nursing is the better choice. Dr. Phil (who has some background in counseling, after all), told Octomom in their interview yesterday that after she obtains her master's degree and gets credentialed to go into counseling, she can expect a starting salary of about $35,000 to $43,000 a year. Low for a master's degree if you ask me. And that is if one can find employment. I knew someone who got their MFCC license and spent time living in their car and has never had a substantial job for a substantial length of time. Just better all the way around to go into nursing. The psych NP role would give one the same job opportunities as a traditional counselor with probably more salary and room for advancement. One of my classmates went straight from the BSN program to the MSN program with absolutely no work experience in health care. Don't know what their career objective was, if they had one. Anyway, good luck. Sounds as if you have almost made your decision. Be sure to check out the various student forums on the board.

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Silverdragon102, BSN

1 Article; 39,477 Posts

Specializes in Medical and general practice now LTC. Has 35 years experience.


I think nursing regardless on where you work can have times where things step out of line and things run over.


27 Posts

I am in the same situation...I don't know if I should get into nursing or counseling. Im leaning towards nursing, but I don't really want to wait 2 or 3 years to actually get into a program because I could have obtained a masters in counseling in the meantime (o I graduate with a bachelos this year, so i want to jump right into something else.) . I don't want to make the wrong decision, so I spend alot of time weighing my options, but all in all I want to do nusing. I would say do nursing there are alot of options and also the pay from what I have heard is alot better than a counselors if that means anything to you.

Thanks for sharing PTYME. I'm heading the nursing route as well. As caliotter said if counseling is still an interest you can look into becoming a psychiatric mental health NP.


27 Posts

Yes, i have though about the psychiatric mental health nurse, but I think I would like to work in the Labor and delivery or neonatal more... but right now my main focus is just getting into a program!.... but figuringitout09...where are you at in your nursing journey???


42 Posts

Specializes in psyche, dialysis, community health. Has 7 years experience.

I'd highly recommend psyche nursing. It's what I do. It's my second career too. There's a LOT of counseling, exploration, behavior mod involved in psyche. I started out wanting to do counseling. After a few years nursing, I discovered that I really enjoy the med-surg part of my job as well. Being good at the med/surg part also builds trust with your patients. They will actually come to me for counseling because they like the way I did a dressing change or explained their meds or assessed something that got them the treatment they sought, etc. It's time consuming and sometimes frustrating when I'm slammed. But ultimately it's very rewarding.

Just being able to listen patiently, like counselors do, is unbelievably therapeutic in almost any facet of medicine you go into. And should you ever need to, you have other skills to fall back on. When cutbacks hit (they will). That's comforting.

Good luck! We need you!



2 Posts

I am currently an LPN working on a BSN. However, my ultimate goal is to be a counselor. EVERYONE I have spoken to tells me I should pursue a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner license instead.

BUT WHY??? I know the money is less, but counseling is what I really want to do. Would I be able to take the time for counseling as an NP? And if I did decide to do the nursing, how do I become a Psych NP? Do I get an FNP license and then specialize in mental health nursing, or how does that work?

Thanks for the info!!!:nurse:


14,633 Posts

Would I be able to take the time for counseling as an NP? And if I did decide to do the nursing, how do I become a Psych NP? Do I get an FNP license and then specialize in mental health nursing, or how does that work?

Thanks for the info!!!:nurse:

Time for counseling would depend on your employer and position. Many employers hire psych NPs mainly to do med management -- seeing people for 15" appointments to write Rxs. Other psych NPs (in private practice, for instance) have lots of control over how much time they choose to spend with clients. However, it's important to be aware that you get paid a lot more (by third-party reimbursers) for writing Rxs than you do for therapy. This is why most psychiatrists spend their time writing Rxs and hire lower-paid LPCs and SWs to do therapy. Psychiatrists and psych NPs are not really cost-effective as therapists.

Psych NP is an entirely separate specialty than FNP -- you would need to complete a psych NP graduate program. Plenty of schools offer them now. You would also need to decide whether you wanted to see adults or kids, because these are two separate psych NP specializations (and, in many states, you can't just decide later you feel like seeing the other age group, also -- state BON regs limit your scope of practice to the group you were educated and certified to treat (adults or kids).

Best wishes!


2 Posts

Thanks for the info Elkpark. I understand that there is a big salary difference between counselors and NPs, and also that it is harder to find a job as a counselor. So, I will probably do more research on the NP program. I am in TN, and the only schools close by offer FNP programs vs. psych NP programs. That may be an obstacle. For now I will finish the BSN. Your post was very helpful.


19 Posts

Has 31 years experience.

Hi figuringitout09

Just my two-halfpenny worth - I have been a nurse for many years in Mental Health. I trained back in the 80's and went straight into psychiatry and have been happily MH nursing for the last 31 years.

My rationale for your decision is this - if you get to be a nurse (and yes, you may have to do some bedside nursing - to get there) you can always get into counselling roles and do training and that will benefit you as a nurse. (And who knows, nursing opens so MANY, MANY doors - you may even find something along the way that appeals more...?)

However, on the other hand, if you go into counselling you can't be a nurse. And you won't have the same opportunities that you might get as a nurse.

I'm more passionate about nursing now than I was 31 years ago when I started. It may mean a sacrifice or two in the interim - but in the long run I say go for the nursing qual.

Good luck.