Will going to a better-known nursing school affect my job prospects?

Chris O'Brien received her BSN from Auburn University and her Master's in Public Health degree from Emory University. With a background in cardiac care, home health, nursing research & education, and medical writing, she now enjoys the dual paths of being a freelance medical writer and yoga teacher in Decatur, GA.

This question is a little tricky. Here's why. Job prospects depend on several factors, some of which you can control and some you can't. For example, you can control the way you present yourself in an interview, but you can't control the availability of jobs. Job availability and the supply of qualified candidates to fill jobs are the key factors affecting your job prospects, but if we assume that those factors remain the same, then thinking about what school to attend can certainly affect your future.

Network=Net Worth

Attending a prestigious school with a good reputation may improve your professional network which will increase and improve your prospects, but you can also build a strong network by attending professional meetings and volunteering to serve in various nursing organizations, starting with your local or state level student nurses association. Who you know is important, but what you know matters too, at least when it comes to nursing because once your foot is in the door you'll need to prove and improve yourself over and over and over again.

Research Scholars, Research Dollars

Prestigious schools are more likely to attract faculty members who are actively involved in nursing research. This may not seem important when you're just getting started, but it can have a strong impact on your education because these scholars are the ones who are charting the future course of nursing. The research they do permeates a school in important ways ranging from greater educational opportunities to research-related jobs for students. Nursing research keeps a school dynamic and vital, and it brings in funding that helps to further improve a school's level of prestige and more importantly it improves educational/work opportunities for students.

I worked at Emory University Hospital and Emory University School of Nursing, both in Atlanta, GA, for many years. Eight of those years were spent working as a research project supervisor. During that time I had the opportunity to expose numerous students, from undergraduate to doctoral-level, to the exciting world of nursing research. In fact, it was through working in this capacity that I honed my skill as a medical writer. It's interesting how career points intersect over time, and your starting point can certainly influence the future path in important ways.

High Caliber Applicants and Graduates

Reputations of schools are subjective, so opinions may vary when it comes to a school's reputation. The caliber of a school's graduates is an important factor for nursing schools, and this is impacted by having higher admission standards at every level. If a school can be choosy and pick students with good grades, standardized test scores, and work/volunteer, or research experience then those graduates are likely to perform better in school and in the workforce. Makes sense, right?

It's all About You

Now, no matter what your past performance was like, the quality of the nursing education you get depends mostly on how you are now. So ask yourself, "What can I do to improve today so that I can apply to the best possible school and get started on the best possible career path"?