Which is a Better Career Path – Nursing or Psychology?

When choosing a career, it is important to think carefully about the life-long decision you are about to make. If you like science, especially the human sciences, then choosing a career in either nursing or psychology might be the right career path for you. But which one to choose? Without having worked in either field, how do you know which one you might like better? You’ve probably taken courses in both human biology and psychology, and chances are that you’ve liked them both. So would nursing, which is more concerned with the human body, or psychology, which is more concerned with the human mind, be the better career for you? Let’s weigh the pros and cons of each and see if one makes more sense for you than the other.

Nurse or Psychologist?

Nurses are primarily dedicated to the physical well being of their patients. They work first to prevent illnesses in the body, and then to maintain and even optimize its health. Some of the care they provide is very basic, such as taking a health history or treating a minor wound. At a more advanced level, nurses interpret information for their patients and advise them as to what actions might be taken. You can find more information on what nurses do at the website for the American Nurses Association:

Those pursuing career paths in applied psychological science are primarily concerned with human behavior in its many variations. A clinical psychologist or other mental health care provider, assesses and treats mental illness and abnormal behaviors in patients. Using information obtained from the patient, a clinician assists the patient in identifying the sometimes complex behavioral issues that they are experiencing. Those with a degree in psychology are not limited, however, to the mental health care field. There many interesting career opportunities for those with a degree in psychology in business, communications, government, engineering and many other fields. You can find more information on careers in psychology at the American Psychology Association website. Here is a collection of essays on a wide variety of careers in psychology: http://www.apa.org/science/resources/careers/index.aspx

How Much Education Will You Need?

If you choose nursing you will be able to get started much sooner. You can start out as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) with just one year of schooling. The next step up the career ladder is becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) which typically requires two years of education. From there, another two years of study can lead to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN). Obtaining a Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN) can lead to a career as a nurse practitioner, one who is responsible for diagnosing basic illnesses and prescribing some medicines to treat them.

For a career in psychology, the minimum requirement is a four year Bachelor of Science (B.S.) program, with advanced degrees highly recommended. If you decide to practice as a mental health care provider, you will need to obtain at least a Master’s degree (M.S.) in psychology. An academic career as a professor or research scientist in psychology requires a doctorate level education.