If you're tired of being stuck in a dead-end job -- but don't have the option of leaving the paid workforce for a few years while you seek a degree -- you may be wondering whether you have any educational options that won't require you to take out thousands of dollars in student loans, simply to ensure your regular bills are paid. Fortunately, many colleges now recognize the different needs of "nontraditional" students and have designed some educational programs to help these students achieve the same success as those who travel straight from high school to college. Read on to learn more about some of the nursing programs available for those who have busy schedules and tight budgets. 

Is a nursing career a good choice for you?

For those with the stamina to spend most of their working life standing, hoisting, or walking, a career in nursing can be a lucrative and highly rewarding path. Although colleges have done their part to try to stem the shortage of qualified and trained nurses, demand in this field is still predicted to grow much more quickly than for other jobs, and the median pay for a registered nurse was more than $65,000 per year in 2014. 

In addition, the long shifts required of many nurses can give you some flexibility when it comes to childcare arrangements. For example, you may opt to work evening shifts so that you can stay home with young children during the day and your spouse can stay home in the evenings, eliminating your daycare bill. Some nurses are also able to work fewer shifts per week for the same pay as their coworkers by taking on the less desirable weekend shifts.

Nursing is also an ideal career for those whose spouses have highly mobile jobs (such as career military). Because many parts of the country have a shortage of nurses, finding a job in your new location shouldn't be difficult -- even in a depressed labor market. 

How can you obtain your degree without leaving your job? 

To become a registered nurse (RN), you'll generally need at least a bachelor's degree. If you went straight from high school to the workforce, or have only an associate's degree, you should be able to complete your education while still holding down your regular job.

Night classes

Many top nursing colleges offer evening or weekend classes designed to be compatible with 9 to 5 workday schedules. Because these programs are often considered part-time, you'll generally pay a lower per-credit-hour tuition rate than you'd pay if enrolling full-time at a local college. You should still be able to complete your degree on your own schedule, accelerating classes during times you don't have much to do at work or dialing back if you've found yourself dealing with a number of other stressors.

Community colleges

If you're starting your educational career from scratch, obtaining an associate's degree from your local community college and then transferring to a nursing school is likely the most cost-effective option. Because of the national nursing shortage, many community colleges have focused heavily on their nursing programs, making them more competitive without increasing cost. By transferring to a nursing college before graduation, you'll be able to receive a "name brand" degree without paying the four-year price.

Online classes

For those who barely have enough time in their schedules to handle current obligations, online education can be ideal. Although you'll still need hands-on training for certain procedures and courses, you should be able to get most of your prerequisites (like anatomy classes) out of the way without sitting in a brick-and-mortar classroom.