Jobs for Nursing Students: 22 Ways to Make Money, Learn Extra Skills, and Gain Useful Experience
Are you worried about the cost of becoming a nurse? Fear not. Many great jobs for nursing students can help you pay for school. Plus, whether you work in the healthcare sector or another industry, a job can help you acquire transferable skills that will aid in your success when you finally begin your career as a nurse.
That's good news, because college can be expensive. A lot of students find that even if they receive financial aid, they still need at least a part-time job in order to pay for everything. In fact, about seven out of 10 students work while they're in college.1 And nursing students are no different, regardless of whether they're just starting out or upgrading their nursing credentials.
This article will help you discover several good jobs for nursing students. You'll see employment options in the medical sector that can provide relevant experience. You'll learn about jobs outside of healthcare that may fit well with a busy nursing school schedule. And you'll discover why getting a little extra training (beyond your nursing program) can pay off. Plus, you'll read six great tips on balancing work and school.
- 6 healthcare jobs for nursing students that don't require extra schooling
- 8 jobs outside of healthcare that are good for nursing students
- 8 good jobs that require some extra training
- How to balance work and nursing school: 6 useful tips
Unless otherwise noted, the wages in this article are based on estimated hourly earnings as of May 2018.3
6 Healthcare Jobs for Nursing Students That Don't Require Extra Schooling
Do you want to get a head start on your nursing career? Nursing students can get jobs in healthcare-related fields, even while they're still completing their studies. Plus, working in the health and wellness sector can be an excellent complement to a nursing program. After all, in many medical settings, you can observe what nurses do firsthand. And having exposure to different fields in medicine might help you decide on a particular nursing specialty.
Here are some other advantages of working in a healthcare role as a nursing student:
- It can give you an edge when the time comes to apply for actual nursing jobs. Think about it: Having medical experience looks great on your resume. And meeting other workers in a setting like a hospital can lead to good job referrals. (You can apply for nursing jobs before you graduate from nursing school, so making connections while you're still a student can help you stand out and get your foot in the door.)
- You might be able to get some financial assistance that extends beyond your wages. That's because, as you are probably aware, there's a shortage of qualified nurses, which is expected to continue. (The number of jobs for registered nurses is predicted to grow by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. And the demand for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses is also expected to remain strong.2)
In order to meet this anticipated need, hospitals are taking more steps to encourage people to pursue nursing careers. As a result, some hospitals pay for nursing school through tuition-reimbursement programs for their staff members. In these programs, staff members commit to working as nurses at a hospital after graduation in return for the hospital reimbursing part of their nursing school tuition.
- Many healthcare jobs offer night and weekend shifts that can fit around a busy school schedule. After all, medicine is a 24/7 world.
So the healthcare sector offers many great jobs for nursing students. While in school, you can gain valuable experience in jobs like the ones below. And you can often work in these jobs with just a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Some of these options are also good jobs for pre-nursing students who want to see what healthcare work is like before applying to nursing programs.
1. Psychiatric Aide
Do you have an interest in mental health? Working as a psychiatric aide can give you some insight into the rewards and challenges of assisting patients who are experiencing mental health issues. The work centers on helping clients with the tasks of daily living. For example, the duties can include:
- Assisting with bathing, dressing, and other personal care tasks
- Participating in group activities
- Cleaning facilities
- Serving meals and helping patients eat
- Helping restrain violent patients
Some aides in this field help people who have intellectual disabilities or assist residents of rehab facilities who are overcoming addictions.
To become a psychiatric aide, you typically need a high school diploma followed by some on-the-job training. During this training, you are supervised by more experienced aides as well as other staff members. Depending on your employer, it takes from a few days to several months to become a psychiatric aide who can work without close supervision.
- Median hourly pay—$14.03
Would you like to play a meaningful role in helping people with disabilities or illnesses adapt to the challenges of daily life?
Occupational therapy aides perform many tasks that support occupational therapy work, such as clerical duties, equipment maintenance, and activity setup. They work under the supervision of occupational therapists or occupational therapy assistants.
To work as an occupational therapy aide, you usually need a high school diploma and on-the-job training. However, some vocational colleges offer short programs that can give you an edge in the job market.
You may also need CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and BLS (basic life support) certification. (Having these certifications is necessary for your nursing career as well.)
- Median hourly pay—$13.54
Patients in healthcare facilities often have mobility challenges, so someone must transport them if they need procedures or tests done in various areas of a facility. A transporter in a hospital is called an orderly. People in this role can also be responsible for cleaning rooms and stocking supplies (in other words, keeping a healthcare facility "orderly").
You become an orderly through on-the-job training, so this is a good position if you want to help patients without having to complete a formal program. In some facilities, you need to complete CPR training.
- Median hourly pay—$13.49
4. Dietetic Technician
In this job, you can make sure that patients in hospitals or care homes get the nutritious food they need. As a dietetic technician (also known as a dietary aide), you could help prepare food and serve it to patients. And while performing these important tasks, you could learn how even short interactions can make a patient's day better.
Many dietary aides are trained on the job, so you might not need any special training to get started. However, getting some formal training in nutrition can certainly help. And some employers look for food-safety certification.
- Median hourly pay—$13.05
Would you like to play a role in helping patients gain mobility as they recover from injuries and illnesses? Physical therapy aides help physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. Their duties can include:
- Making sure everything is in place for a physical therapy session
- Cleaning up
- Assisting patients with basic tasks
- Keeping offices well-supplied and clean
- Performing administrative duties such as scheduling and billing
In general, you need a high school diploma to work as physical therapy aide, as well as some on-the-job training. But some vocational schools offer short programs that can give you an edge when approaching potential employers.
- Median hourly pay—$12.62
Would you like to help seniors or people with disabilities live independently? Home health aides assist people who live at home. That includes doing things like:
- Buying groceries and preparing meals
- Helping clients with bathing or other personal care tasks
- Accompanying clients to appointments
- Doing housekeeping and laundry for clients
In some states, home health aides can also administer medication and give basic medical care.
Working as a home health aide can help you develop the interpersonal skills you'll need in nursing, since home health aides often have very close relationships with their clients. It's also a good opportunity to do healthcare work outside of a typical medical setting.
Certification requirements vary by state and the kind of work you do. In some regions, on-the-job training is all you need. Other regions require that home health aides complete a short certified training program.
This is one of the most in-demand occupations out there, with the number of new jobs expected to increase by 47 percent from 2016 to 2026.2 So if you want a job with plenty of opportunities, working as a home health aide during nursing school could be worth pursuing.
- Median hourly pay—$11.63
8 Jobs Outside of Healthcare That Are Good for Nursing Students
Some students prefer jobs that enable them to take a break from the world of healthcare. After all, between clinical hours, classroom time, and studying, the process of becoming a nurse can feel like full immersion in the medical system. A job that takes place somewhere else can be refreshing.
Plus, it's important to remember that becoming a nurse isn't just about learning clinical skills. Soft, transferable skills are also essential. They include the ability to connect with all kinds of people and act calmly under pressure. In other words, a lot of jobs that are good for nursing school students are positions in which you can acquire the transferable skills you need to succeed as a nurse. And that can happen in many jobs outside of healthcare.
However, some positions are better suited to the demands of nursing school than others. Although a lot depends on your personal situation, some of the best jobs for nursing students offer:
- Flexibility—As a nursing student, your schedule can be unpredictable. For example, you might have to work different shifts during your clinical hours. So having a job with flexible shifts can be a huge bonus.
- Low stress—Some people thrive on stress. But nursing students are often under enough pressure in their programs that they don't need any more stress at their jobs. For students in nursing school, doing work that offers a mental and emotional break can help them stay focused when it's time to study.
- Good pay—If you're working while going to school, your main motivation is likely the money. Since you will be graduating and entering the job market soon, how much money you earn is often the most important factor in a job.
The following jobs can fit well with the demands of nursing school. And many of them can help you acquire some of the transferable skills you need to work as a nurse.
If flexible hours are a priority for you in a job, tutoring can be a good option. Having a school subject in which you excel can focus your tutoring. You could also teach younger students several subjects. But you don't have to limit yourself to academic material. For example, seniors sometimes hire technology tutors to help them learn how to use things like social media or email.
You can set your own rates if you work independently (i.e., not for a school or tutoring service). Doing some market research can help you keep your rates competitive.
- Median hourly pay—$17.644
2. Retail Salesperson
Retail positions are often good side jobs for nurses who are still in school, since flexible shifts are common. Working in retail can also provide opportunities to meet people from all walks of life—not unlike working as a nurse. And you might get an employee discount, which is always a good thing for cash-strapped students.
- Median hourly pay—$11.63
As a nursing student, you learn about the value of a clean environment. So why not help others maintain sanitary and attractive surroundings by working as a cleaner? You could be a private housekeeper or work for a large facility like a hospital or school.
And here's something else to think about: Cleaning can be very satisfying when you're stressed. So if you've been studying hard or working at a practicum, cleaning might be a good chance to see instant, gratifying results, blow off some stream, and do your work in peace.
- Median hourly pay—$11.43
4. Hotel or Motel Desk Clerk
Want to greet travelers and make sure they have pleasant experiences while staying at a hotel? Working in the hospitality industry can introduce you to people from all over the world.
Although hotels aren't exactly hospitals, both nurses and desk clerks must be friendly and accommodating, so the people skills you develop at a hotel can be valuable in your nursing career. You could also enjoy a bit of "down time" during quiet hours and get some studying done.
- Median hourly pay—$11.39
5. Childcare Worker
Are you good with children? You could organize fun activities for kids while getting a nice mental break from nursing textbooks. And you will gain experience working with young children, which is great to have if you're interested in pediatric nursing. As an added bonus, you might get some studying in while the children in your care are resting.
Requirements for working in childcare vary by place of employment. But in general, nursing students have good reputations as childcare workers, especially since they often have first aid and BLS certification. And many parents find it reassuring to hire nannies with medical backgrounds.
- Median hourly pay—$11.17
6. Restaurant Server
Food service positions are popular jobs for nursing school students. And it's easy to see why. Many restaurants offer flexible hours, often with evening and weekend shifts that can easily fit into a school schedule. Working as a server can also provide social interaction and a break from studying. However, serving jobs can be physically tiring and fast-paced. So whether or not being a server is a good fit for you might depend on what you're looking for in a job.
Food servers can encounter all kinds of people, and they need to keep their cool and remain polite even if a customer is rude. In other words, even though serving food and drinks might seem completely unrelated to nursing, you can learn skills that are handy to have once you're a nurse. You can also earn decent money. That's largely because many servers earn tips on top of their regular pay; restaurant patrons often tip between 15 to 20 percent of their bills.
- Median hourly pay—$10.47
7. Dog Walker or Pet Sitter
Do you need a change from helping people all day while you train to be a nurse? Why not take a break by helping animals? Dog walkers and pet sitters look after people's furry companions. If you're an animal lover, this can be fun and fulfilling work.
Pet sitters and dog walkers can work independently or sign up with services like Rover, which connect pet sitters to pet owners (think Airbnb for pets). Rates vary a lot by region, so do a bit of research before you decide what to charge. Also, consider taking some dog training classes.
- Wages vary a lot by region and the type of pets in your care. Rover says that part-time sitters using its matching service can average $900 a month.5
8. Odd-Jobs Helper
It's no secret that nursing students are busy. And having a packed schedule can make it difficult to find a job. But what if you could find one-time jobs that can be scheduled when you're available? TaskRabbit matches people who are looking to do odd jobs with people who need help with things like gardening, organizing closets, running errands, or household cleaning and repair.
In order to register as a "Tasker," you must meet the following criteria:
- Over 21 years of age
- Holder of a valid credit card and checking account
- Able to pass a background and criminal record check
- Reside in or near one of TaskRabbit's locations
- Have a smartphone (so you can access the app)
Once you're registered, you can set the hours you're available to work.
If you don't live in a TaskRabbit area, no worries. You can advertise your odd-jobs services on your own. It's often helpful to have a specialty, like installing new furniture or grocery shopping for senior citizens.
- You set your own rates. For Taskers, rates must fall within some guidelines. (TaskRabbit won't let you set a rate under minimum wage.) And 15 percent of what a customer pays you goes to TaskRabbit as a service fee. TaskRabbit says that Taskers earn $35 an hour, on average.6
8 Jobs That Require Some Extra Training
Some nursing students pursue formal training and certification in a separate field very early in their studies or even before they start nursing school. That way, they improve their ability to have a good, well-paying job while studying to become a nurse. And at a lot of schools, some of the credits you earn from such training can be applied to your nursing program. Or you may be able to do the extra training over a summer break or take classes in the evenings or on weekends. So your total time in school isn't necessarily extended all that much.
If you want to be a nurse, you're probably passionate about health. So why not teach others how to stay healthy and active? Personal trainers design workout plans that help their clients meet fitness goals. They also offer encouragement, instruction, and accountability—just like nurses do for their patients.
Several certifying agencies and educational paths are available. But as a nursing student, flexibility is probably a priority for you. So check out online programs or schools that offer evening or weekend classes.
Once you're eligible to work as a personal trainer, you can be self-employed or become an employee of a health club, rec center, or gym. You can also enjoy flexible hours and the satisfaction of helping others overcome obstacles on their path to better health.
- Median hourly pay—$19.15
Are you looking for a good break from the physical demands of nursing? Consider working as an administrative assistant. In this role, you perform the tasks that keep an office running smoothly, including filing documents, answering the phone, and preparing correspondence.
If you've finished high school and have basic word processing skills, you may already be qualified for some entry-level jobs. Or for positions with more responsibility, you can get training through an administrative assistant program. Some programs only take a few months to complete. If you take one over a summer break or before starting nursing school, you can open the door to a wide range of potential jobs that give you flexibility, good pay, and brief respites from the world of healthcare.
- Median hourly pay—$17.61
Phlebotomists draw blood from medical patients who need laboratory tests. Some of them also give blood transfusions or work with people who are donating blood.
If you feel a bit squeamish around needles and blood, working as a phlebotomist could be a good way to overcome those fears before launching your nursing career. And you'll gain some experience in reassuring people who are anxious about medical procedures.
You can often complete a phlebotomy program in less than eight months. Some programs are just two months long. That means you could finish a program during summer break or before you start nursing school. And some employers train phlebotomists on the job and only require a high school diploma.
For nursing students who want to work at a stable job while in school, phlebotomy can be a good choice. That's partly because phlebotomists have a bright job outlook: The number of jobs is expected to increase by 25 percent between 2016 and 2026.2
- Median hourly pay—$16.58
Are you interested in the fast pace of emergency medicine? Working as an emergency medical technician (EMT) can be great preparation. After all, some of the most important personality traits that are needed to be a nurse are decisiveness, calmness, and self-confidence. And you can certainly develop those qualities while working as an EMT. These quick-thinking professionals must remain focused while they deal with all kinds of accidents and medical traumas.
Different states have different regulations for EMTs, with most states having a few levels of EMT certification. In general, you need to complete a certified training program and then pass a national certification exam to work as an EMT. But many programs for entry-level certification can be completed in a just a few weeks or months. In fact, some students get EMT training before starting nursing school or over summer break after completing their first year.
As well, "bridge" programs are becoming more popular. These programs are designed to give people who are already working as EMTs shorter paths to nursing careers. A bridge program builds upon your existing knowledge, so you could receive some academic credits for your EMT training and work experience.
If you're interested in working as an EMT while in nursing school, consider participating in a "ride-along" program to learn more about the job. These programs give you a chance to ride along in an ambulance in order to witness EMT work firsthand.
- Median hourly pay—$16.50
Play an important role in helping patients receive compassionate, efficient care. As a medical assistant, you can learn how the healthcare industry works while performing many administrative and clinical duties, including:
- Taking patients' vital signs
- Helping with medical exams
- Preparing medical samples
- Updating and filing medical records
- Making appointments and doing other scheduling tasks
- Answering the phone and greeting patients
- Helping patients with billing and other payment issues
Within this occupation, you can find plenty of variety and opportunities for specialization. You can also enjoy job stability: Employment is expected to increase by 29 percent between 2016 and 2026. (That's much faster than the national average of seven percent.)2
Many medical office assistant programs can be completed in a matter of months. And some offices and facilities hire people with only a high school diploma and train them on the job. However, in some states, you need to complete an accredited program in order to do certain tasks.
In general, entry-level positions will require less training. So if you have basic computer skills, you may be qualified for some jobs already. For more advanced positions, check out online or flexible on-campus programs that enable you to learn the necessary skills on a schedule that fits with your nursing classes, such as in the evenings, on weekends, or over a summer break.
- Median hourly pay—$16.16
6. Psychiatric Technician
If you're interested in mental health but want more engaging responsibilities than those of a psychiatric aide, consider becoming a psychiatric technician. The main difference is that a technician's tasks are more therapeutic in nature.
Plus, technicians typically earn more than aides. (On average, psychiatric technicians earn $18.15 per hour, whereas a psychiatric aide makes $14.95 an hour. But technicians also invest more time and money into their education.)
Psychiatric technicians' duties can include:
- Creating reports about patients' progress and documenting any concerns
- Monitoring vital signs
- Leading group activities
- Administering medications and other treatments
- Restraining violent patients
- Helping patients with everyday tasks
Requirements for working as a psychiatric technician vary a bit by workplace. But earning a certificate in psychiatric technology is a good starting point, which doesn't take long to do. In fact, some programs can be completed in just a single semester. So you could complete the training you need prior to starting nursing school or even while completing some of your prerequisites or basic nursing courses.
Keep in mind that psychiatric technicians aren't counselors. The qualifications you need to become a counselor are generally at least a bachelor's degree in a counseling discipline, as well as any certification or licensure required by your state. But psychiatric technicians play a vital role in helping patients deal with mental health issues.
- Median hourly pay—$15.80
Working as a nursing assistant (also called a nursing aide or certified nursing assistant in some states) is one of the most popular jobs for nursing school students. In fact, because of the relatively short training period for this occupation, some people opt to become nursing assistants before starting a nursing program. Others complete the training during a summer break. (As an added bonus, some of the material overlaps with what you learn in nursing school, so you may be able to apply the credits you earn toward your nursing program. Or you may be able to take an exam to become a certified nursing assistant after your first year of nursing school.)
Plus, as a nursing assistant, you can experience nursing culture in a way that can't be taught in a classroom. This job can also be a great way to explore different nursing specialties. For example, if you think a role in geriatric nursing might be your long-term goal, you could apply for nursing home jobs. For students who want to work with children, a nursing assistant job in a pediatric ward could be a good start.
Many people who work as nursing assistants go on to have careers as licensed practical or vocational nurses or registered nurses. But this occupation has its own rewards. As a nursing assistant, you get to spend a lot of time with patients and develop close bonds. In fact, nursing assistants are often the medical professionals that patients have the most contact with.
So working as a nursing assistant can help you develop a warm bedside manner and the interpersonal skills that you'll use in your career as a nurse. It can also help you learn important skills related to patient care.
To become a nursing assistant, you typically need to complete a nursing assistant or patient care technician program. These programs usually don't take very long; many can be finished in three months or less. After graduating from a program, you must pass your state's licensing exam. Alternatively, in some states, you may qualify to take the certifying exam after completing the first year of a registered nursing program.
- Median hourly pay—$13.72
Working as a lifeguard can help you develop the ability to remain calm and focused in a crisis. That's good preparation for many nursing jobs, especially those in emergency medicine.
To become a certified lifeguard, you must complete a lifeguarding course through an organization like the Red Cross or the American Lifeguard Association. Strong swimmers can typically complete these courses in a short amount of time. For example, the Red Cross certification course takes about 25 hours of in-person training (and training is usually scheduled on evenings or weekends, so it can easily fit around your other commitments).
Investing in this certification can pay off; many pools, beaches, and aquatic centers have a shortage of qualified lifeguards. And for a student nurse, summer jobs like lifeguarding can be a great way to make some money without disrupting the academic year.
- Median hourly pay—$10.77
How to Balance Work and Nursing School: 6 Useful Tips
The process of becoming a nurse can be intense. So is it truly realistic to have a job at the same time? Many nursing students do successfully balance work and school. But your answer to that question really depends on you—and your particular job. Just keep this in mind: Plenty of students have completed nursing school while working.
Still, most nursing students agree that nursing school can be challenging. Here are six tips for maintaining balance when you have a busy schedule:
1. Create an effective time-management system.
Whether they work at full-time jobs while going to school or balance coursework with part-time jobs, for nursing students, good time-management is essential. When your schedule is packed, it's even more important to plan your days carefully. Here are a few simple suggestions:
- Set aside regular times to review what's coming up in your academic and work schedules. Some students like to take a little time every Sunday night to plan for the week ahead.
- Avoid surprises by noting important dates well in advance. At the start of a semester, make notes about key events like exams, clinical hours, and deadlines.
- Find an "off-the-shelf" time-management system that works for you. Nursing students often rely on tools like wall calendars, smartphone apps, or day planners. You don't necessarily need a high-tech system, and it might take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you.
- When you're feeling as if your schedule is too packed, try to break down your tasks into manageable chunks. You'll feel less overwhelmed if your "to-do" list calls for reading one chapter of a book at a time than if it calls for reading the entire book.
2. Keep your eyes on the finish line.
Remember: Nursing school does not go on forever. You are on a path to finish your education and move on to a fulfilling, stable job as a nurse. When you feel overwhelmed, remember your goals and remind yourself that the challenge of balancing nursing school and a job is temporary. The reward at the end will arrive sooner than you think.
3. Be realistic.
As you can see from the examples above, you can work and go to nursing school. But it won't necessarily always be easy. If you're struggling or experiencing signs of burnout, consider solutions that can make your schedule more manageable.
Maybe you can explore financial aid options like student loans that make it possible to cut back on your hours of work. Or maybe online programs would be better for you and your lifestyle. You could also take a seasonal approach and focus solely on school during the academic year, then investigate summer jobs for nursing students in order to make money over the summer break.
In other words, you can find many ways to balance work and school. So although you can work full-time and go to nursing school, don't forget that part-time options might be more realistic. For example, you can do a part-time nursing degree program if your school offers it. Even if it takes longer for you to become a nurse, this kind of schedule could be a better choice if it helps you get through school.
If you're not sure which kind of schedule is best for you, be sure to talk to an advisor at your school.
Above all, be realistic when it comes to your personal expectations. For example, resist the urge to compare yourself to other nursing students. Do the best you can and focus on your long-term nursing goals, not on what other students are doing.
4. Look after your health.
As a nursing student, you know the importance of having a healthy diet and getting enough rest. But people who work in care professions like nursing tend to put everyone else's needs ahead of their own. So prioritize your self-care. Get enough sleep. Eat regular, balanced meals. Develop a fitness routine.
Taking some time for yourself now will pay off in the long run when you are caring for others. Plus, by looking after your health, you're acting as a good role model for your patients.
5. Set priorities.
Knowing how to prioritize is an important skill for nurses to possess. And working while you're in school gives you plenty of opportunities to develop that skill.
One key to effective prioritization is good communication. If you're not sure what you should do first or how much time to spend on an assignment, talk to your nursing instructors. And make sure your employer has clear expectations about when you're available to work. Your teachers—and your employer—want you to succeed, so let them know when you need help.
6. Focus on the positive.
Yes, it can be challenging to work while you're in nursing school. But always remember that you're learning valuable skills both inside and outside the classroom. You're also reducing (or even eliminating) the amount of debt you may have to pay off when you graduate.
So when times feel tough, give yourself a pat on the back. After all, you're working toward a brighter future for yourself. As a nursing student, you are getting closer every day to a well-paying career that is filled with opportunities to do gratifying work that helps others.
Take Action on Your Career Plans
Now that you've learned about some great jobs for nursing students, you might be ready to find a job of your own. Perhaps you need more training to get started. Or maybe you want to learn more about nursing school options. Whatever your goals are, the next step is easy. To find educational programs in your area, just enter your zip code into the search tool below!
1 The Atlantic, "At Universities, More Students Are Working Full-Time," website last visited on May 6, 2019.
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, website last visited on May 6, 2019.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on May 6, 2019.
4 PayScale, website last visited on May 14, 2019.
5 New York Post, "Meet the people making $3,300 a month pet-sitting for strangers," website last visited on May 6, 2019.
6 TaskRabbit, TaskRabbit Fast Facts, website last visited on May 6, 2019.