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The case for going to nursing school, in one chart

This chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the 10 largest occupational groups in the United States, plotted against their mean annual pay — nurses are up there making $70,000 a year, and all the rest are way lower:

(Bureau of Labor Statistics)

As you can see, there are basically two outliers here. Retail sales personnel are way more common than any other kind of job, and registered nurses are far better-paid than any other commonly practiced occupation. And for people and communities thinking about the future, this is likely to be a pretty robust result. Nursing jobs aren't going to be outsourced to Asia, tomorrow's older population will need more nurses, and technological advances will likely let nurses and other mid-skill medical professionals shoulder more of the load of overall health-care provision.

Hospitals are the factories of the modern economy, and nurses are the modern-day equivalent of the well-paid middle-class factory worker. It's a difficult job that requires commitment, discipline, and hard work, but it's not a winner-take-all superstar economy, and there are lots of positions available.

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