Pros / Registered nurses can work in a nursing care facilities, nonprofit clinics and schools in addition to the usual medical workplaces.
Cons / This health care job may require swing or graveyard shifts, and you may have to work weekends and holidays.
Verdict / Registered nurses have the highest demand of any medical career on our review. It has a wide variety of workplace opportunities and a solid salary, but you don't have as much control over your schedule as you would with other careers.
Registered nurses have the widest available job opportunities, both in terms of available positions and in the places they can work. Scheduling and work environment vary considerably, so there's a high chance you can find a niche of this medical job that you enjoy. The registered nursing medical career gets our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for offering high job availability and decent pay without extensive schooling.
The average salary ranges for registered nurses place it among the highest paying medical jobs. The salary figures we list are taken from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and represent a range of what you can expect. Other factors that influence your salary include prior experience you have in the medical field, your education level, any specializations you have, the city you work in and your employer. The more experience and education you have on your resume, the higher salary you can expect to receive.
The type of payment also varies according to your workplace. Registered nurses working in assisted living facilities and hospitals are paid on a salary basis. Nurses working for home health care and hospice companies, however, usually are paid per patient visit.
Education and Opportunities
At minimum, becoming a registered nurse requires an associate degree, which typically takes at least two years to complete. You can find numerous accredited programs that offer associate and bachelor's degrees. Requirements for acceptance into each program vary from school to school, and like many careers in medicine, the best programs are highly competitive and have limited slots. You generally need a high school diploma or equivalent, and you need to take prerequisite courses in classes like human anatomy, physiology and nutrition in order to apply to many programs.
There are over 2.7 million people working as registered nurses in the United States. Of all the careers we reviewed, this is by far the most. Within the next decade, more than 400,000 new registered nursing jobs are expected to open up, by far the most of any health care job we reviewed. Registered nurses have a higher percentage of job growth than the national average for other occupations as determined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are many specializations, advanced degrees and titles available as you progress through the field. You can continue on to get your bachelor's degree in nursing. Many universities offer specialization programs for health administration, and you can also enter programs to become a nurse midwife or nurse anesthetist. You can also choose to continue to a doctorate degree and become a nurse practitioner.
Available jobs are dependent on the amount of experience and schooling you have as a registered nurse. Many jobs now require at least a bachelor's degree in nursing and some work experience in the medical field.
As a registered nurse, you can find work in numerous workplace environments. Most nurses work in state, local and private hospitals. Within the hospitals, there are countless nursing opportunities. You can work in the surgical room, the emergency department or any number of the specialty departments and floors, such as cardiac care or labor and delivery. You're required to pass a state licensure exam to receive your registered nursing license and to be able to practice in the state you live in. You must renew your license every few years, and requirements for becoming licensed and renewing the license vary from state to state.
You can also find registered nursing work in nursing care facilities, such as assisted living facilities and nursing homes. There is also the option to work in-home health care and hospice, which often requires you to travel from patient to patient to provide and oversee care. Many registered nurses are also employed at clinics and private practice offices for doctors and other health care workers. There are also opportunities for registered nurses to work as consultants or on freelance basis.
Less common options for registered nurses include working for the government and for various corporations as a consultant. You can also work as a nurse for school districts, in correctional facilities or for county health offices. Some registered nurses return to programs and universities to teach classes.
Some nurses work on teams with other nurses and health care providers, such as with nursing assistants, physicians and social workers. Many times, nurses work on their own providing care to patients. For example, home health care nurses usually go alone to a patient's residence to provide care.
Registered nurses can find jobs to fit almost any schedule. Most workplaces require nursing staff 24 hours a day, every day of the year. This means that there's a high chance you have to work some or most holidays, and the shifts include day and graveyard shifts. Shift length varies from a couple hours to twelve or more hours a day, depending on where you work.
You can also find jobs to fit full-time, part-time and on-call schedules. Some jobs, such as in-home health care, let you plan your schedule according to your patients' needs.
Registered nurses are typically responsible for administering medication to patients. Sometimes, this requires you to do basic math to determine correct medication amounts, so you need excellent basic math skills to make sure you aren't giving your patient incorrect doses.
Registered nursing is one of the best choices for a career in medicine because it has the most projected openings and a wide variety of workplace opportunities. You can find work to fit almost any schedule, although you might have to work during some holidays. With one of the highest amount of workers nationwide among medical careers, you can find registered nursing jobs in a variety of workplace environments, such as hospitals, nursing care facilities, schools and corporations. Your educational and work background influence what jobs are available to you, but you can also count on many job advancement opportunities.