How to Become a Registered Nurse
Registered Nurse Careers & Degrees

Working as a registered nurse can be very rewarding.

You’ll have an important role in improving and maintaining your patient’s health and wellbeing.

If you enjoy working closely with people, are a good problem solver, and are interested in medicine and health then becoming a registered nurse may be right for you.

The demand for nurses is set to increase over the next 10 years, so those who are qualified can expect excellent employment prospects.

Nursing is a career that offers a lot of variety.

Some nurses work in hospitals and offer critical care, provide support to doctors in clinics, while some may specialize in education.

If you want a career that offers you a lot of options for professional development further down the road, then you might like to become a registered nurse.

Education Requirements to Become a Registered Nurse

While nursing is rewarding, you will also face many challenges during your career.

You may confront situations that others could find difficult to stomach, see your patients in pain, and not always be able to help them.

If you feel that you could find these situations difficult, then it’s a good idea to spend some time in a hospital.

See if you can do some work experience and get a better feel for the industry.

If you’re still in high school, and you would like to become a registered nurse, taking subjects in health, science, and English is a good start.

You’ll need to make good grades so as to get a place in college.

There are a few educational pathways to become a registered nurse.

The first way is to complete a two year associate’s degree at community college.

While this is the shortest way to qualify, it may also limit you as to career progression.

If you want to work in a large hospital, you may need to undergo more education.

A bachelor of science with a major in nursing is your next choice.

This takes roughly four years to complete and will give you a broader knowledge base.

This degree will be highly regarded amongst your potential employers.

For those who already have a bachelor’s degree in a different field, there are a few nursing masters’ degrees around that will allow you to enter this career field as well.

Regardless of your education choices, you will need to pass the NCLEX exam to become a registered nurse.

Registered Nurse Job Description

A registered nurse is the main communicator with a patient when they are in the health care system.

Many nurses have an area in which they specialize in.

For instance, a nurse may work in an ER and have a detailed knowledge of emergency treatments.

On the other end of the scale, they could work in a cosmetic surgery clinic, and have lots of experience and expertise in that niche.

One of the great things about nursing is that there can be many paths you choose to follow once you are qualified.

Here are some of the tasks a registered nurse might complete in a day:

  • Admit new patients for treatment
  • Perform initial assessment
  • Taking a medical history
  • Communicating with patients and families
  • Communicating with doctors and other medical staff
  • Administering medication
  • Taking vital signs
  • Monitoring a patients progress
  • Providing a patient with health information

Registered Nurse Salary and Career Path

60% of registered nurses work in hospitals, and this is where most people start their careers.

Working in a hospital allows you to complete a wide range of tasks and gain experience on the job.

Some are promoted to positions with more responsibility.

Others will go in to work in other settings, such as clinics, day surgery centers, colleges, or even schools.

Some similar roles that a registered nurse may move onto include:

When you become a registered nurse, you can look forward to working in an industry which is growing much faster than the average rate.

This means that there is plenty of opportunities around for those wanting to enter the field.

An entry level nurse could expect to earn about $50,000 a year, while the median salary is $62,000 a year.

The top 10% of nurses in the field can be paid over $90,000 a year.

If you are looking for a career in health care that allows you to work closely with patients then you might enjoy nursing.

While some education is required, employment is currently very strong and looks to continue that way into the future.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$77,460
$52K
$60K
$77K
$90K
$111K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$60,230
Alaska$90,500
Arizona$78,330
Arkansas$61,330
California$113,240
Colorado$76,230
Connecticut$83,440
Delaware$74,100
District of Columbia$94,820
Florida$67,610
Georgia$69,590
Hawaii$104,060
Idaho$69,480
Illinois$73,510
Indiana$66,560
Iowa$60,590
Kansas$62,450
Kentucky$63,750
Louisiana$65,850
Maine$69,760
Maryland$77,910
Massachusetts$93,160
Michigan$73,200
Minnesota$80,130
Mississippi$59,750
Missouri$64,160
Montana$69,340
Nebraska$66,640
Nevada$88,380
New Hampshire$73,880
New Jersey$84,280
New Mexico$73,300
New York$87,840
North Carolina$66,440
North Dakota$66,290
Ohio$68,220
Oklahoma$64,800
Oregon$92,960
Pennsylvania$71,410
Rhode Island$82,310
South Carolina$64,840
South Dakota$59,540
Tennessee$62,570
Texas$74,540
Utah$67,970
Vermont$70,240
Virginia$71,870
Washington$86,170
West Virginia$63,220
Wisconsin$72,610
Wyoming$68,690
Guam$58,070
Puerto Rico$35,040
Virgin Islands$68,500

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $113,240.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $113,240
Hawaii - $104,060
District of Columbia - $94,820
Massachusetts - $93,160
Oregon - $92,960
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Registered Nurses, OCC Code 29-1141, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a registered nurse?

A registered nurse is a healthcare professional who has graduated from nursing school and holds a state license.

As a registered nurse, you will monitor and record changes in your patients’ conditions, administer medication and keep patients under observation for side effects; you will keep your patients’ health care records up to date, assist physicians with their duties, and communicate with your patients’ families.

There are various areas of specialization for registered nurses.

You can be an addiction nurse learning how to deal with patients that try to overcome an alcohol or drug addiction.

You can be a cardiovascular nurse and in this capacity, you will learn about heart conditions and how to care for patients who underwent heart surgery.

You can specialize as a geriatric nurse if you like to work with elderly patients or as a pediatric nurse if you prefer to provide healthcare for children.

These are only a few of the areas of specialization available to you as a registered nurse.

Registered nurses work in a variety of healthcare settings: hospitals, surgery centers, nursing homes, physicians’ offices, rehabilitation centers, dialysis centers, military, and correctional facilities.

Because many patients require 24-hour observation registered nurses usually work in shifts.

QuestionHow much does a registered nurse make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for registered nurses was $71,730 in May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary based on a wide range of factors, some nurses make less than $50,000, while others earn more than $100,000 a year.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a registered nurse?

Registered nurses need at least an associate’s degree or diploma in nursing; tuition costs vary widely depending on the school and the program you choose.

If you choose to earn an associate degree, the average cost for tuition is between $8,000 and $40,000 depending on the school.

If you choose to complete a nursing diploma program the cost range from $5,000 to $25,000 a year.

For a 4-year bachelor’s degree program, your cost will be between $10,000 and $40,000 a year.

You have to take into account that the more education you get the chances to get a good job will improve.

QuestionWhat is the demand for registered nurses?

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

Registered nurses who specialize in working with the elderly will have better job prospects.

Additional job opportunities will also be available for nurses who are willing to relocate to underserved areas.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a registered nurse?

There are three paths to become a registered nurse: an associate degree in nursing, a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a diploma from an approved nursing program.

An associate’s degree program at a community college usually takes around 2 years to complete.

Approved nursing programs can be found in hospitals or other medical centers and usually take 3 years to complete.

Bachelor’s degree programs are also available at many colleges and universities and take 4 years to complete.

All routes will also help you gain clinical experience under supervision.

After you get your degree you will also need a nursing license; for this, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

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