FERRIS - Students at Ferris High School had the opportunity to think seriously about their future in the workforce while listening intently to representatives from the Baylor Health Care System during the school’s job fair this week.

“When you get out of high school, how many years do you intend to work?” asked Renee’ O’Daniel, a bariatric nurse for Baylor Medical Center at Waxahachie.

Someone answered “30 years,” but many of them had looks of dismay when O’Daniel corrected them and said they would be working an average of 60 years after they completed their education.

“People are living longer now - the population is aging and Baby Boomers (every U.S. citizen born from 1946-1964) will soon be getting ready to retire,” O’Daniel said, reassuring them that educational opportunities were available to them.

O’Daniel, who formerly worked in a steel mill, has been a nurse for Baylor since 1994 and Harvey Hoffman, a radiology technician for Baylor for 20 years, shared with students different possibilities available to them if they choose a career path with Baylor.

Hoffman noted the many technician fields available to them, including radiology, mammography, X-ray, MR and CT technicians. He also showed several X-ray samples indicating serious illnesses and gave students a brief overview of the body’s vital organs and bone structure.

“In a facility as small as Baylor hospital in Waxahachie, you can get your supervisor to cross-train you in other areas, which will broaden your fields of experience,” Hoffman told the students.

O’Daniel emphasized the career path and possible salary if they worked for Baylor.

“If you went to work for me today as a registered nurse, you would start out at about $20 an hour,” O’Daniel said, telling the students about the two day alternative work plan where they could work two 12-hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday, earning more than $34 an hour, which would give them a full-time salary while only working two days a week.

“The average mid-point salary for a newly licensed registered nurse in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is $50,357 per year, based on a 2,080 hour work year,” O’Daniel said.

She talked about the 15 Baylor facilities in the Metroplex area, saying that if employees become tired of one field in which they were working, they can transfer to another facility within the system after six months.

“Salaries for registered nurses are in the top five common professions today,” O’Daniel said, noting there are 149,950 registered nurses in the United States and noting there are only four other professions which have a higher salary structure: lawyers, engineers, computer programmers and accountants.

“As long as you are going to be working 60 years, your first career move should be the best one possible,” O’Daniel said. “Gov. Rick Perry has promised you an education and you might as well get prepared to do what you want to do in the workplace.”