If you’re seeking a career that’s challenging, yet also rewarding and people-focused, then nursing is the ideal choice. Many people view nursing as the simple job of looking after people who are sick, but in reality, there are many different kinds of nursing roles available. So there’s bound to be a job that utilizes your unique skills and talents.
What kind of nursing jobs are there?
Once you’ve become a registered nurse, there’s a host of ways to specialize. You can work in a specific medical field, such as pediatrics, surgical, medical or geriatrics. Then you can complete further studies to gain higher level qualifications that hone your specialist skills more finely. You could take on a specific role such as a midwife, an anesthetist, or a community nurse. Or you may prefer to focus on an academic or research-based career. The range is vast.
Where can I work as a nurse?
As well as working in public or private facilities like hospitals and medical centers, nurses are needed throughout the community, in schools, residential nursing homes and general medical practices. Some nurses enter the military, or work in commercial settings like health insurance companies and in the workplace. See our article on top hospitals ranked by U.S. News and World Report.
How do I train as a nurse?
There are several layers to nursing training.
Some students begin with a preliminary course, which qualifies them to work under the direction of a Registered Nurse (RN). There aren’t usually minimum educational requirements to enroll on this kind of course, so they’re ideal for those with few formal qualifications.
These roles include:
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
- Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)
- Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
This level of nursing includes tasks such as basic nursing care (e.g. helping patients to wash, assisting with toileting and feeding, routine patient monitoring and wound dressing). Training lasts for one year and LPNs and CNAs must take an exam to get certified. Conversion courses for upgrading to RN status are possible once certification is complete. The average salary at this level is around $39k.
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
Training for an ADN take between 15 months and two years. There are pre-requisite educational requirements prior to enrollment. Candidates will treat patients and carry out a wide range of tasks, as well as providing support to relatives.
ADNs must pass a national licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN (see below), before they’re allowed to practice. The average wage for an ADN is $62.5k.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
The BSN training is a degree level course, usually lasting four years. However, accelerated options are possible for candidates who already have a bachelor’s degree, that usually take between 12 and 18 months to complete. This course combines a high level of academic study in the classroom with practical experience of nursing.
Some BSN programs include a clinical residency to enable students to transition more easily into role of staff nurse, and you may be able to study abroad for part of the course to widen your experience. Advanced nursing positions usually require BSN qualification as a minimum standard.
Starting salaries are similar to those with ADN and LPN qualifications, but the career prospects are much greater.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
Once a nurse has gained BSN status, studying at master’s degree level is possible. These courses prepares you to learn about advanced nursing disciplines and give you a greater depth of knowledge in a specialist area. Roles at this level include Nurse Practitioner (NP), and Nurse Educator (NE). Average salaries with MSN status are around $81k.
Doctorate in Nursing
This doctorate is the highest possible qualification in nursing. At this level you can continue to practice at an advanced level or go into research. Every field of medicine is open to you, depending on your area of speciality.
There are four specialisms within the qualification:
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) – focuses on leadership within a clinical setting
- Doctor of Nursing (ND) – focusing on the development of advanced specialist skills
- Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc) – Research & investigative skills
- Doctor of Nursing Philosophy (PhD) – focused on academic research and inquiry
A doctorate qualification takes between three and five years to complete, and requires 25 credit hours of study beyond MSN. Once qualified, the salary range is$198k – $231k, with the average salary around $214k
National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)
Qualified nurses must also pass the NCLEX before being licensed them to practice. This is a computerized elective test which is focuses on analysis and application of knowledge rather than simple recall of facts.
Candidates answer a minimum of 75 questions up to a maximum of 265. The automated system assesses the difficulty of the previous question and correct answers before selecting the next question, stopping when half are answered correctly. The average pass rate is 90%, although students whose mother tongue is not English have a lower pass rate. Your training will include preparing you to take the NCLEX exam.
What skills do you need to be a nurse?
Some skills needed for the job are unique to the specific role. For example, a surgical nurse will need to know how to dress wounds and have a good understanding of post-operative care procedures.
However, there are some skills and qualities that are essential for any nursing role.
- Love of people – most nursing roles are centered on caring for people
- Empathy – sick people are vulnerable, so it’s important to understand how they may be feeling
- Open-minded – everyone is entitled to an equal level of care and consideration
- Resilience – dealing with sick, injured or dying people and their families requires resilience and the ability to work under stress
- Competence – mistakes can be costly and cause unnecessary suffering, so it’s important to be competent in your role
- Listening & communicating – you need to be able to listen to patients’ needs and concerns and respond sensitively
- Good critical thinking and organizational skills – nursing often demands complicated procedures and routines
- Stamina and fitness – nursing is demanding, involving long hours, working overnight, and physical strength to move and lift patients
You will also need in-depth knowledge and understanding of issues such as:
- Patient safety
- Good working practices
- Correct procedures for monitoring and nursing tasks
- Clinical skills e.g. basic or advanced life support skills, specific skills related to your specialism
What are the different nursing roles?
There are over 100 different nursing roles you can consider, ranging from a general nurse to a highly trained expert.
Here are details on some of the more popular options.
As the name suggests, a general nurse can work in a number of settings, giving general nursing care to patients. Paysa.com gives the following statistics:
Gender: Female 77%, male 10%, 13% are undisclosed.
Ethic makeup: Asian (2%), Black (1%), Hispanic (5%), Native American (<1%), White (62%), Undisclosed (29%)
Salary: Salary range is $51.2k – $92.2k. Average salary – $71k
Qualifications required: ADN or BSN
To be a Nurse Practitioner, you must undertake further training, specializing in one area and gaining additional skills. For example, you can become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, a Family Nurse Practitioner, or focus on a specific medical field such as surgery.
A NP can prescribe medication, make a diagnosis, examine patients and recommend treatment. In 20 states they have “full practice authority”, meaning they can work without the supervision of a doctor.
Gender: Male 10%, female 79%, 11% undisclosed
Ethnic makeup: Asian & Hispanic 3%, Black <1%, Native American <1%. White 65%
Salary: Range – $78.2k – $128k. Average salary – $102K
Qualifications required: BSN + MSN, plus Advanced Practice Registered Nurse qualification in your specialist area
A Nurse Educator is an expert practitioner, often with a specialism, who teaches trainees and other nurses. This could involved working in classrooms and in clinical settings. Responsibilities usually include assessing student progress and designing curriculums, as well as teaching. Many NEs combine this role with their own nursing career.
Gender: Male 13%, female 74%, undisclosed 13%
Ethnic makeup: Asian 2%, Black <1%, Hispanic 4%, White 62%
Salary: Range – $62.8k – $112k. Average $87k
Qualifications required: BSN, MSN or PhD
Other roles at this level
Other roles at this level include:
- Pain Management Nurse – specializes in managing pain, especially in palliative care settings
- Nurse Researcher – selects and supports patients in clinical trials
- Nurse Reviewer – manages patient reviews and discharges, and ensures the treatment pathway is appropriate and cost-effective
- Nurse Manager – skilled in healthcare management
- Midwife – cares for expectant mothers, manages childbirth and monitors newborns and mothers after birth
A Nurse Anesthetist is a highly skilled professional who has specialized in anesthesia, and is one of the best paid roles in nursing. NAs can administer anesthesia and other medicines, manage post-operative patient monitoring, care for trauma patients needing anesthesia. In some rural areas, NAs are the sole provider of medical care in all hospitals.
Gender: Male 25%, female 67%, undisclosed 8%
Ethnic makeup: Asian 3%, Black 1%, Hispanic 2%, White 69%, undisclosed 24%
Salary: Range – $68.3k – $198k. Average $130k. Tends to be higher in urban areas.
Qualifications required: BSN + MSN, APRN, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) which takes 2-4 years study
Doctorate in Nursing
Nurses who have gained a doctorate qualification can expect the highest salaries, commensurate with their level of academic achievement and experience.
How many nurses work in the US?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has detailed information about the nursing profession.
There are 2,824,641 RNs working in the US, of which 90.9% are female.There are 690,038 LPNs working in the US, of which 92.4% are female.
Where are the most nursing jobs located in the US?
The five states with the highest number of nurses are:
- New York and surrounding area
The states with the highest concentration of nursing jobs relative to the rest of the US are:
- West Virginia
- South Dakota
- Rhode Island
For nursing jobs in metropolitan areas, the density is heavily weighted on the eastern side of the US, with the New York area having the highest concentration of jobs. The lowest concentration in urban areas occur in the north and mid west regions, such as Montana, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota.
What is the racial and ethnic diversity of nurses?
Minority Nurses states that the self-identified ethnic makeup of RNs is:
- Black or African American: 9.9% (279,600)
- Asian: 8.3% (234,400)
- Hispanic or Latino: 4.8% (135,600)
- American Indian or Alaskan Native: 0.4% (11,300)
The Pacific region has the greatest number of minority nurses at 30.5%, with the majority being Asians (16% of the total nursing population). Other popular locations for Asian nurses are the Middle Atlantic and West South Central areas.
The areas with the largest numbers of black nurses are South Atlantic, West South Central and East South Central.
Hispanic and Latino nurses are most commonly located in West South Central, Pacific and Mountain.
Why become a nurse?
It’s hard to think of another career that offers such a wide range of fields and specializations and levels of qualification. A career in nursing also requires a wide diversity of skills. Whether you’re looking for a people-facing job, academic study, or research opportunities, nursing offers you the chance to take your career in an almost infinite number of directions.
Paysa.com can provide you with a wealth of information about career paths and opportunities, relevant qualifications, and information about salaries and pay scales. You can tailor the information to your individual circumstances, giving you a powerful tool for discovering more about nursing as a career. So why not sign up at Paysa.com today and find out what nursing can offer you?