Many university graduates are having a tough time finding jobs in today's tough economy, but those with nursing degrees are encountering a receptive climate.

According to federal numbers, there are more than 3 million licensed registered nurses in the United States, and yet the demand for more is escalating.

University of Arizona nursing Professor Terry Badger says there are several factors contributing to the trend, including a quarter million retirements are expected in the next 10 to 15 years and the aging of millions of residents in the country will generally require more health care.

Badger, division director of community and systems health science at the UA College of Nursing and a nurse at the Arizona Cancer Center, says the prospects are good for new students, many of whom already have degrees in a variety of other fields and are participating in an accelerated degree program.

"This is our second year of having a master's entry to the profession of nursing program," Badger says. "We are the first in Arizona to have that, and in 15 months someone who has a degree in another field will become an entry-level nurse."

"And so we're really excited about it because they bring a wealth of experience and they are really a diverse group of students."

Badger says the current class includes a lawyer, a chiropractor and a retired police officer.

The university also has similar program in Phoenix, and that class has 18 students.