If nurses were lawyers

It’s interesting to contrast the markets for new lawyers and new nurses and how those markets are portrayed in the popular press. Casual observers and reporters are willing to take it for granted that there is a shortage of nurses and a need to train a lot more of them. Students are responding by applying to nursing schools en masse and nursing schools are boosting enrollments. Reports that 43 percent of new nurses are unable to obtain jobs in the profession are explained away as recession related or irrelevant to the “looming” long-term shortage.

Lawyers are different. When it’s reported that only a little more than half of new law graduates get a job as a lawyer within 9 months of graduation, the Wall Street Journal rightly refers to a “lawyer glut.” Prospective applicants are getting the message and law school applications are down 30 percent since peaking a decade ago. On the other hand, those in the law school business are not giving up so easily. Nineteen law schools have been accredited since 2000 and several more startups are in the works. If these schools were smart they would take a page from the playbook of the nursing schools and support research to show why more lawyers are needed.

I’m not saying that the prospects for nursing jobs are as bleak as that for lawyers. But I do advise prospective students for any professional school to take a good hard look at job prospects before taking on a pile of debt and devoting several years to further schooling.

February 4, 2013

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