If you’re seeking a rewarding career in a high-growth field, now is a great time to become a registered nurse (RN). As an RN, you’ll play an essential role in promoting health and wellness, and help improve the quality of life of everyone from infants to the elderly. There are currently more open positions than qualified candidates to fill them, so becoming a registered nurse means you’ll enjoy job security, high earnings and excellent advancement potential.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment of registered nurses to grow 15% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.1 Amid a rising demand for healthcare services, the opportunities for those who become a registered nurse will continue to grow as the baby boomer population reaches retirement age and the industry experiences new advances in medicine and expanded healthcare capabilities.
In addition, becoming an RN is the first step toward earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). These advanced nursing degrees position RNs to take on executive roles at hospitals and other organizations, as well as strengthening their earning power (please see accompanying graphic below).
What Do Registered Nurses Do?
When you become a registered nurse, your primary responsibilities will involve caring for patients, but your specific job duties will vary depending on your employer and specialization. RNs work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, outpatient facilities, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, dialysis centers, home healthcare agencies and physicians’ offices. They also work with diverse patient populations in specialized areas such as critical care, pediatrics, neonatology and gerontology.
Registered nurses assist physicians in providing treatment to patients suffering from various medical conditions. They may administer medication, monitor patient recovery and progress, and educate patients and their families on disease prevention and post-hospital treatment. RNs with advanced education may be responsible for performing patient diagnosis and case management. For some, becoming a registered nurse is the first step toward a career in healthcare administration or nursing education.
What Is the Average Registered Nurse Salary?
According to the BLS, the median annual income for registered nurses was $68,450 as of May 2016.2 The lowest 10% had salaries at or below $47,120. When you first become a registered nurse, your salary may fall in the lower to lower-middle range. However, your earnings can increase substantially with experience and advanced education. BLS findings showed that top 10% of registered nurses earned upwards of $102,990.
How Do I Become a Registered Nurse?
The first requirement in becoming a registered nurse is to obtain the proper education. There are several different paths that can lead to licensure as an RN. Aspiring RNs may earn a diploma, an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
The ADN route is the most common way to obtain licensure as a registered nurse, and usually involves a two-year program at a community or junior college. Diploma programs are available through hospitals, and typically last about three years.
What is the Difference Between RN and BSN?
Like bachelor’s programs in other fields, a BSN degree is awarded by a college or university and generally takes four years to complete. Some nursing experts consider ADN-trained RNs as technical-level nurses and BSN-trained RNs as professional-level. RNs with a BSN often have better job opportunities than those with only a diploma or ADN.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Registered Nurse?
Many nurses opt to earn an ADN to obtain an entry-level nursing job, which typically takes two years to complete, then use an employer’s tuition assistance program to enroll in an RN to BSN degree program. These types of accelerated BSN programs often accept transfer credits and may even grant credit for a valid RN license, allowing you to earn a BSN more quickly than in a traditional program. You may hear of an RN to BSN program being called a BSN completion program.
After obtaining the required education, you must pass a licensure exam before you can become a registered nurse. This is achieved by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Administered through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the NCLEX-RN exam tests your knowledge, understanding and competency in nursing. The exam is accepted in all 50 states and requires periodic renewal, for which RNs must complete continuing education courses. Because requirements vary by state, you should check with your State Board for details.
Once you become a registered nurse, you may wish to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. An MSN can lead to high-level positions in nursing administration, advanced practice or nursing education.
Online Nursing Degree Programs From Jacksonville University
Becoming a registered nurse can be the first step to a long and rewarding career in healthcare. To further expand your opportunities, consider earning an advanced nursing degree online from Jacksonville University. Named one of “America’s Best Colleges” for the seventh consecutive year by U.S. News & World Report, Jacksonville University offers an RN to BSN degree as well as MSN in Nursing Administration and MSN in Nursing Education degree programs on campus or online. The university is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and The Keigwin School of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, (visited January 30, 2018).
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, (visited January 30, 2018).