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Nursing Salaries and Careers

Nurse Image
Profession Overview

Nurses treat, educate, and help to emotionally support patients and their families. People considering going into nursing should have a strong interest in medical, health care, and science fields, as well as the desire to care for people, and the ability to be sympathetic and emotional with their patients when necessary.

Nurses work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private doctors' offices, outpatient care facilities, clinics, schools, correctional facilities, summer camps, and often in disadvantaged areas around the globe. More than half of all nursing jobs are located in hospitals.

As a nurse you can also focus on a variety of different specialties:

Addiction Nurses - These nurses specialize in working with patients who are overcoming addictions to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and other substances and behaviors.
Critical Care Nurses - They treat patients in hospital's intensive care units, providing care to those that need the closest monitoring and very specialized care.
Genetics Nurses - This type of nurse works with patients who have or are at risk for having genetic disorders and diseases like cancer, diabetes, and cystic fibrosis. They help people prepare and plan for the possibility of these diseases will affect their families.
Neonatology Nurses - These nurses provide care for newborn babies.
Rehabilitation Nurses - This type of nurse treats patients who have short term, long term, and permanent physical disabilities to help them to overcome and manage their limitations.
Advanced Practice Nurses - These nurses give care to patients and in most states are licensed to prescribe medicine. They are divided into 4 major categories that each require advanced training and education:
Nurses treat, educate, and help to emotionally support patients and their families. People considering going into nursing should have a strong interest in medical, health care, and science fields, as well as the desire to care for people, and the ability to be sympathetic and emotional with their patients when necessary.

Nurses work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private doctors' offices, outpatient care facilities, clinics, schools, correctional facilities, summer camps, and often in disadvantaged areas around the globe. More than half of all nursing jobs are located in hospitals.

As a nurse you can also focus on a variety of different specialties:

Addiction Nurses - These nurses specialize in working with patients who are overcoming addictions to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and other substances and behaviors.
Critical Care Nurses - They treat patients in hospital's intensive care units, providing care to those that need the closest monitoring and very specialized care.
Genetics Nurses - This type of nurse works with patients who have or are at risk for having genetic disorders and diseases like cancer, diabetes, and cystic fibrosis. They help people prepare and plan for the possibility of these diseases will affect their families.
Neonatology Nurses - These nurses provide care for newborn babies.
Rehabilitation Nurses - This type of nurse treats patients who have short term, long term, and permanent physical disabilities to help them to overcome and manage their limitations.
Advanced Practice Nurses - These nurses give care to patients and in most states are licensed to prescribe medicine. They are divided into 4 major categories that each require advanced training and education:
  1. Clinical Nurse Specialists - They provide patient care within a specific specialty. They generally also function in an administrative role and manage other nurses.
  2. Nurse Anesthetists - This type of nurse administers anesthesia during surgery and provides pre and post anesthesia education and care to patients.
  3. Nurse-Midwives - These nurses provide care to women with low risk pregnancies before, during, and after childbirth. They perform gynecological exams and help patients with family planning as well.
  4. Nurse Practitioners - They give primary or specialty care to patients and generally work under a physician in a hospital or office, prescribing medication, diagnosing, and administering treatment.

Nursing is presently the largest health care occupation in the United States, with over 2.6 million jobs. Nursing also has a positive outlook for increased future employment, with a faster than average projected job growth over the next 10 years. Check out the "Nursing Job Market" section for more information.

To become a nurse, you'll need to enroll in an educational program at least a year in length; this type of certificate program will qualify you to be a licensed vocational or practical nurse. In order to start your career as a registered nurse, you'll need to get a more advanced degree, and you even have the option to continue on to pursue a graduate degree in nursing. As you obtain these more advanced degrees and certifications, your salary as a nurse will generally also increase, as will your responsibilities and knowledge.

Nursing Salaries*

Median Salary for Nursing Bar Chart

According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses made a median salary of $64,000 annually, or $31.10 per hour, in 2010. The bottom 10 percent of RNs made an average of $44,190 annually, or $21.24 per hour, and the top 90 percent made an average of $95,130 annually , or 45.74 per hour.

California employs the largest number or nurses in the country (240,030); RNs also average the highest salary there ($87,480). 176,330 nurses are employed in Texas, making an average of $66,180, and 169,710 nurses work in New York, making an average of $74,000 annually.

Registered Nurses typically also receive health care benefits, and some also have education benefits, bonuses, and child care provided by their employers.

The median salary for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses was roughly $40,000 per year. The bottom 10 percent of LPNs and LVNs made less than $29,680 in 2010, and the top 10 percent brought home more than $56,000.

The median annual earnings for nursing aides was about $24,000 in 2010, with the bottom 10 percent making less than $17,790 and the top 10 percent making more than $34,580.

*The median salary is the midpoint of all the salaries, the point at which half of nursing professionals earn more than that figure and half of them earn less.

Nursing Job Market

Registered Nursing is expected to be an excellent field for employment in terms of job opportunities. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of RNs is predicted to add nearly 712,000 jobs (an increase of 26 percent) between 2010 and 2020. This growth is significantly faster than the average projected employment growth of all occupations, at 14 percent. Growth of nursing employment is expected to occur because of the continually increasing importance placed on preventative care, as well as technological health care advances, which allow a larger number of patients and types of disorders to be treated, and the increasing number of elderly people, who are likely to need nursing care.

There is currently a shortage of nurse educators at colleges, universities, and other educational facilities and this deficiency will only increase as the existing faculty continues to age and retire. Nurse educators are and will continue to be in high demand.

Job Market for Nursing Pie Chart

Nursing Degrees and Programs

There are a variety of different degrees you can go to school for to have a career in nursing. Check out how long it’ll take to complete each degree and the different jobs you’ll qualify for in the chart below:

Degree Type

Length of Program

Program Setting

Qualified Jobs After Graduation

Certificate in Nursing 1 year Technical schools and community colleges Licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses, nursing aid, certified nursing assistant
Diploma in Nursing 3 years Hospitals Registered nurse
Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) 2-3 years Junior colleges, community colleges, career schools Registered nurse
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) 4 years Universities, colleges, career schools Registered nurse
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Variable, 6+ years, minus any previous nursing education Universities Nurse educators, managers
Doctor of Nursing Practice ( DNP) Variable, 6+ years, minus any previous nursing education Universities Nurse practitioner, certified registered nurse anesthetist, certified nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist
All potential RNs are also required to pass a national licensing exam (the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN) when they graduate from an approved nursing program in order to obtain their nursing licenses.