With the economy continuing to struggle and no relief in sight, more adults are going back to school than any time before. Community colleges in particular are seeing substantial increases in enrollment as adults look for specific training to give them an edge in a competitive workforce.
Many adults see returning to college not as a job enhancement, but as complete career do-over. There are not many programs in a community college that can promise strong pay and reliable employment for years to come.
Considering our aging population it’s not surprising that nursing is one of these top programs. The health care workforce is woefully inadequate and shortages are projected to reach 250,000 by 2020. In 2011 the Federal government awarded more than $71 million in grants to expand nursing education and training and the Recovery Act for Health Professionals continues to pump millions into healthcare programs. For many adults it’s a perfect time to change careers.
The programs found in local community colleges will lead to either becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Registered Nurse (RN). Some community colleges have programs where an RN has a bridge or pathway to earning a Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree at a four-year university. Many hospitals are giving preference to hiring RN’s with a BSN, especially for manager roles.
In the Chicago area most LPN’s will find a starting salary between $18 and $21 per hour. Admission counselors tell how many people in LPN programs are also Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA).
These people tend to work in a nursing home or hospital while attending school and already have a job lined up when they graduate. Since their employers already know their work habits they usually earn at the top of the LPN pay grade.
Notable Chicago area community colleges that offer an LPN program include but are not limited to:
RN’s that attended a community college will have an associate degree. Many places, especially hospitals, are looking for experienced RN’s or those that hold a BSN. Hospitals have a reputation as one of the better work environments, which makes working there more competitive.
Starting salaries for a recently graduated RN at a hospital ranges from $26 to $29 per hour. Nursing homes are a very popular first job with starting salaries from $25 to $28 per hour. Once again, many students are working their way through nursing school. It’s common to find LPN’s that are studying to become an RN. These people will usually have a job lined up prior to graduation.
Notable community colleges that offer an RN program:
- Wilbur Wright
It’s important to remember that not all nursing programs are the same. They will teach very similar courses to enable students to pass NCLEX exams, but prerequisites, the length of the program and tuition can be dramatically different.
Some of the more affordable community college nursing programs will have an enrollment waiting list up to 18 months, while more expensive programs will often have openings available for the next semester. Anyone considering a nursing program should take the time necessary to weigh all the differences and enroll in the school that fits their lifestyle.