Sections

Registered Nurse (RN) Career Guide

A career as a nurse is a sociable and rewarding career one offers a fairly high salary and many opportunities. The demand for nurses is expected to increase, creating many jobs and encouraging nurses to specialize in an area that interests them. Nurses need to complete either a a bachelors of science in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or an associate of science in nursing (ASN) degree. The completion of any of these qualifies aspiring nurses for entry-level positions as a staff nurse. However, a bachelor’s degree program is usually necessary for more career progression.

Every nurse was drawn to nursing because of a desire to care, to serve, or to help.

Christina Feist-Heilmeier, RN

Registered Nurse (RN) Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Registered Nurse (RN) Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Registered Nurse (RN) field.
IDJob TitleGenderAgeEarningsCity & StateDate
33812Case ManagerMale44 None SetPearland, TX01/01/2010
33752Registered NurseFemale42 $49,920Springfield, PA01/01/2010
33706Registered NurseFemale44 $65,000Covington, LA01/01/2010
33710Registered NurseFemale37 $75,000Winston Salem, NC01/01/2010
33610Registered NurseFemale53 $70,000East Marion, NY01/01/2010

Overview

What a registered nurse actually does

Registered nurses provide and coordinate patient care, educate the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their families. Registered nurses work in hospitals, clinics, schools, assisted living facilities, homes and more. Registered nurses also tend to specialize in a specific area. These areas include cardiac care, midwifery, family practice, geriatrics and emergency nursing. Regardless of where they work or what area the specialize in, registered nurses can expect to have the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Maintaining accurate and complete health care records and reports
  • Administering medications to patients and monitoring the patient closely afterward to check for reactions or side effects
  • Recording patients progress and medical information
  • Ordering medical diagnostic and clinical tests for patients when needed
  • Monitoring, reporting, and recording symptoms or changes in patient conditions
  • Assessing, implementing, planning, or evaluating patient nursing care plans by working with healthcare team members.
  • Modifying patient health treatment plans as indicated by patient conditions and responses
  • Maintaining continuing education and licensing requirements
  • Reporting any issues that arose during each shift

Why they are needed

Nurses are essential for a smooth running health care system. They have lots of responsibility and play a vital role in ensuring patients are cared for to the highest standards. Without registered nurses, patients would not receive the attention, care and observation that many of them need to recover and feel safe.

Pros and cons of a career as a registered nurse

Pros:

  • It is a very rewarding career, as you spend your job helping other people to feel better
  • There are lots of diverse opportunities as nurses can specialize in many different areas and have lots of progression opportunities
  • Registered nurses in high demand, meaning there are lots of jobs available
  • Nurses always have the opportunity to learn new things and advance their skills

Cons:

  • It is a very physically demanding job as nurses are on their feet all day and have to lift heavy objects
  • Nurses may have to work shifts, and often these shifts are long. On top of this, nurses may also have to work evenings and weekends
  • There is a lot of responsibility, stress and pressure as a nurse. This may lead to emotional burnout
  • Nurses are at risk as they are exposed to diseases and viruses
  • Nurses will sometimes have to work with difficult and challenging patients

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

This growth is expected as the demand for healthcare services will increase because of the aging population, who will be need to be educated on chronic conditions, such as arthritis, dementia, diabetes, and obesity. The increasing pressure on hospitals to discharge patients as soon as possible is likely to result in more people being admitted to long-term care facilities and outpatient care centers and in greater need for healthcare at home.

In addition, because many older people prefer to be treated at home or in residential care facilities, registered nurses will be in demand in those settings. Finally, growth is also expected to be faster than average in outpatient care centers, such as those that provide same-day chemotherapy, rehabilitation, and surgery.

Career paths

To become a registered nurse, you will need to complete one of the following nursing programmes: a bachelors of science in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or an associate of science in nursing (ASN) degree. Diploma programs are typically offered by hospitals or medical centers and all programs include supervised clinical experience.

Generally, licensed graduates of any of the three types of education programs (bachelor’s, associate’s, or diploma) qualify for entry-level positions as a staff nurse. However, a bachelor’s degree program usually includes additional education in physical and social sciences, communication, leadership, and critical thinking and is therefore often necessary for career progression.

Some registered nurses, who originally achieved an ADN, ASN, or diploma, sometimes go back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree through an RN-to-BSN program. Some registered nurses may also go on to achieve a master’s degree programs in nursing, as this gives them more career progression opportunities.

After completing the required education, registered nurses must have a nursing license issue by the state in which they work. To get this license, nurse graduates in all states must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and pass a criminal background check. For more information on the NCLEX-RN and a list of state boards of nursing, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. In addition, registered nursing positions may require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS), or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification.

To become specialized, nurses can get a voluntary certification through professional associations in the specific areas, such as ambulatory care, gerontology, or pediatrics.

The overall job opportunities for all registered nurses are expected to be good. However, there will be competition for jobs in some areas of the country. Generally, registered nurses who have a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN) will have better job prospects than those without one.

Example Job Titles for Registered Nurse (RN)

Below is a list of common job titles in the Registered Nurse (RN) field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a registered nurse in the United States was $73,300 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,080 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $111,220 per year.

The top industries were the government, where the median annual salary was $79,790, hospitals where the median annual salary was $75,030, ambulatory healthcare services where the median annual salary was $70,330, nursing and residential care facilities where the median annual salary is $66,250 and finally educational services where the median annual salary is $63,690.

Autonomy and Flexibility

To begin with, nurses may have to closely follow the instructions of more senior healthcare professionals. However, as registered nurses develop more skills and become more competent, they get more responsibility and their autonomy and flexibility increases.

Locations and commute

Although job outlook for nurses are considered very good, there is thought to be more competition for jobs in some areas, compared to others.

According to Zippia, the best states to be a registered nurse, based on salary and number of jobs available are:

  1. New Mexico, where the average annual salary is $75,193
  2. New York, where the average annual salary is $85,043
  3. Oregon, where the average annual salary is $85,617
  4. California, where the average annual salary is $107,725
  5. Nevada, where the average annual salary is $87,689

The worst states, according to Zippia, were North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Florida and Iowa.

Work environment

The largest employers of registered nurses in the United States were hospitals, which employed 60% of all nurses. Ambulatory healthcare services employed 18% of all nurses, nursing and residential care facilities employed 7%, the government 5% and educational services 3%.

Registered nurses must be physically fit, as they may spend a lot of time walking, bending, stretching, and standing and they are vulnerable to back injuries because they often must lift and move patients. As registered nurses are likely to be in close contact with people who have infectious diseases, they must follow strict guidelines to guard against diseases and other dangers, such as accidental needle sticks and exposure to radiation or to chemicals used in creating a sterile environment.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Registered Nurse (RN) careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Registered Nurse (RN) career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Registered Nurse (RN).

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

On the Myers-Briggs type indicator, registered nurses are likely to be an ESFJ type. This is because they are gregarious, warm, welcoming and highly organized. On top of this, ESFJ’s have a genuine interest in providing for others and taking care of them, which are important characteristics for a nurse.

Accomplishment and mastery

Once qualified, nurses can quickly advance into more senior positions. Therefore, they will accomplish and master new skills and responsibilities very quickly.

Meaning and contribution

There is incredibly high meaning and contribution to the work of a nurse as they play a crucial role in the healthcare setting. Nurses work to improve and aid the lives of many, making their work incredibly meaningful to many.

Life fit

Nurses who work in hospitals and nursing care facilities usually work in shifts, meaning they may have to work nights, weekends, and holidays. They may also have to be on call, which means that they are on duty and must be available to work on short notice. However, nurses who work in offices, schools, and other places that do not provide 24-hour care are more likely to have regular business hours, giving a nursing career in these areas a better life fit.

Who will thrive in this career?

Those who are passionate about helping others are likely to succeed as nurses, as the entire career is centred around being compassionate and empathetic. Similarly, those who enjoy social interaction and working in times are likely to thrive as a nurse. Finally, if you are organized, diligent and don’t mind working long, and often antisocial hours, you are likely to thrive as a registered nurse.

Who will struggle in this career?

It goes without saying that those who don’t like blood or injury will struggle as a registered nurse… it is not a career for the faint hearted! On top of this, those who prefer to work with little social interaction, who would rather work normal 9-5 hours and who aren’t physically fit enough to walk around all day may struggle as a registered nurse.

Requirements

Skills and talents

As well as physical stamina, registered nurses also need skills such as:

  • Written and verbal communication skills, as nurses will have to keep patient records up to date and communicate ideas and plans with patients and coworkers
  • Critical thinking, as registered nurses must assess the health of patients and come up with solutions to problems
  • Compassion and empathy, as nurses must be caring and understanding when working with patients
  • Attention to detail, as nurses must ensure that patients get the correct treatments and medicines at the right time
  • Organizational skills, as registered nurses often work with multiple patients so will need the ability to coordinate numerous treatment plans

Education

To become a registered nurse, you will need to complete one of the following nursing programmes: a bachelors of science in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or an associate of science in nursing (ASN) degree. Diploma programs are typically offered by hospitals or medical centers and all programs include supervised clinical experience.

Generally, licensed graduates of any of the three types of education programs (bachelor’s, associate’s, or diploma) qualify for entry-level positions as a staff nurse. However, a bachelor’s degree program usually includes additional education in physical and social sciences, communication, leadership, and critical thinking and is often necessary for more career progression and administrative positions, research, consulting, and teaching.

Some registered nurses, who originally achieved an ADN, ASN, or diploma, sometimes go back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree through an RN-to-BSN program. Some registered nurses may also go on to achieve a master’s degree programs in nursing, as this gives them more career progression opportunities.

Certifications

After completing the required education, registered nurses must have a nursing license issue by the state in which they work. To get this license, nurse graduates in all states must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and pass a criminal background check. For more information on the NCLEX-RN and a list of state boards of nursing, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. In addition, registered nursing positions may require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS), or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification.

To become specialized, nurses can get a voluntary certification through professional associations in the specific areas, such as ambulatory care, gerontology, or pediatrics.

How to Become

Summary

A career as a nurse is a sociable and rewarding career one offers a fairly high salary and many opportunities. The demand for nurses is expected to increase, creating many jobs and encouraging nurses to specialize in an area that suits them.

Immediate action

If becoming a nurse sounds appealing to you, consider choosing high school diplomas in biology or anatomy and decide which nursing programme you would like to take.

Education and learning

Nurses need to complete one of the following nursing programmes: a bachelors of science in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or an associate of science in nursing (ASN) degree. The completion of any of these qualifies aspiring nurses for entry-level positions as a staff nurse. However, a bachelor’s degree program is usually necessary for more career progression.

Skill development

Nurse learn many of their skills on the job and throughout their career.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Registered Nurse (RN) careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

IDJob TitleGenderAgeEarningsCity & StateDate
33812Case ManagerMale44 None SetPearland, TX01/01/2010
33752Registered NurseFemale42 $49,920Springfield, PA01/01/2010
33706Registered NurseFemale44 $65,000Covington, LA01/01/2010
33710Registered NurseFemale37 $75,000Winston Salem, NC01/01/2010
33610Registered NurseFemale53 $70,000East Marion, NY01/01/2010

Resources