The Introduction to the Health Care Professions course at Community College of Philadelphia is packed with aspiring nurses. There’s the man in his mid-20s who returned to school after years of working low-wage food service jobs. The young woman with glasses who graduated five years ago from a local Catholic high school. The teen who has always loved working with children. The 22-year-old who just earned her GED and wants to follow her two sisters into nursing.

To a person, these students say they want to become nurses to care for others. But they’re also aware that nursing carries the promise of a financially secure future.

Roughly a third of all the jobs the U.S. economy is expected to add over the next decade are in the field of health care and social assistance. The share of Americans ages 65 and older is on track to double by 2060. As the population grays, nurses are poised to become, in the words of the economist Paul Krugman, “the prototypical worker of the 21st century.” Many jobs materializing in health care, such as home health care aides, will pay very little. But a few years of college education can yield big dividends.

Registered nurses, who typically hold two- or four-year degrees in the field and pass a national licensure exam, earn a median of $68,450. In Philadelphia, a medical hub that boasts more than 20 hospitals within 10 miles of the community college’s campus, registered nurses are paid an average of $72,082.

Read more at NBC News