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Why you should consider a degree in nursing as an international student

interstride logo by Interstride
December 27, 2023

International students interested in health or medical professions in the US may want to consider nursing. Nurses work directly with patients on a daily basis and can have a positive impact on their lives. Job prospects for qualified nurses in the US are promising and most positions only require a bachelor’s degree. Whether you want to remain in the US after graduation, return to your home country, or travel the world, there are many benefits of studying nursing.

Why you should consider nursing

International students should consider a career in nursing because qualified nurses in the US are well-paid and in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for registered nurses (RN) is $81,220 per year. The employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 6% from 2022-2032, which is more than the average across all US occupations. For some types of nurses, such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, the projected job growth over the next decade is as high as 38%!

2023 research from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing shows there is a huge shortage of nurses in the workforce. They found this shortage is due to high workloads and burnout caused partly by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the shortage is expected to continue. For international students, this represents a possible pathway to stay in the US long-term after graduation. Employers are more likely to sponsor a work visa or permanent residency because your skills are so in demand. As a registered nurse with at least a bachelor’s degree, you could qualify for an H-1B visa or an EB-3 green card. If your goal is to return to your home country after graduation or work elsewhere, the skills you learn in nursing school in the US are also transferable to other countries.

What degree to study for

Medical school in the US is only at the graduate level, but you can do nursing school as an undergraduate or graduate international student. Here are the nursing degree options:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (for those who already have a bachelor’s degree but in a different field)
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  • Direct-Entry Master of Science in Nursing (for those who have a bachelor’s degree in a different field)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

To work as a nurse in the US, you will need at least an ADN. Then, you will need to apply for an RN license and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) before you can begin working. These are the same requirements that domestic nursing students must fulfill. 

If you want to work in management or teaching in the field of nursing, an advanced degree might make you a more attractive candidate. Current international students and graduates can get a new student visa and extend the amount of time they can remain legally in the US by enrolling in an advanced nursing degree program. Also, the higher the nursing degree you earn, the more you’ll be eligible to take licensing exams for advanced nursing fields and positions with higher pay.

Best nursing schools in the US for international students

The best nursing school for you will depend on your personal preferences as well as academic and career goals. Many US colleges and universities of varying types, sizes, and costs have nursing programs. Majoring in nursing as an undergraduate student means you will still get the US college experience while also preparing you for a fast-paced medical career. 

Some schools have separate pages on their websites for international students interested in nursing programs. This shows that these programs cater toward international students and you will likely be well supported there. Some examples include:

Check out US News and World Report’s College Rankings for a full list of nursing schools for undergraduate college in the US.

What you can do with a degree in nursing in the US

More than half of employed nurses in the US work in hospitals. There are many specialized positions for hospital nurses including but not limited to:

  • ICU (intensive care unit)
  • Pediatrics
  • Obstetrics
  • Oncology

Outside of hospitals, nurses may work in physician’s offices, clinics, hospice facilities, or surgery facilities. To advance your career even further, you could get into management as a nurse manager, nurse administrator, or healthcare manager. Data from the BLS shows that the number of US jobs for these positions is going to increase by 28% over the next ten years, and the median annual salary is over $100,000. Generally, you will need some on-the-ground nursing experience before you qualify for these management positions. You could also pursue related fields such as public health or public policy. 

Final thoughts on nursing degrees for international students

Earning a degree in nursing is a smart choice for international students interested in the medical field. Nursing positions are in demand and do not require as much schooling as other medical professions. Over 800 US colleges and universities offer nursing majors to undergraduate students. Visit Interstride Scholarships Finder to find nursing scholarships for international students in the US.