Career Opportunities for Nurses

Many nursing specialties are in demand.
Many nursing specialties are in demand.

There are many career opportunities for nurses and the number of nurses needed is only projected to increase as the population ages. Nurses are in demand in a variety of specialties and work settings, so if you have a nursing degree, chances are you will be able to find a position suited to your skills and interests.

Nurses Are In Demand

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Labor, reports that registered nursing is the largest health career occupation, with over 2 million jobs for registered nurses (RNs) in the United States. About 25 percent of RNs work part time.

Employment of RNs is expected to increase over 20 percent through 2014. The growth is projected to come from new job openings at new general and specialized hospitals as well as the need to replace nurses who leave full time employment to work part time, retire or to make career changes. There is currently a nursing shortage, both at the RN level as well as at the nursing assistant and nursing aide levels.

About three out of every five nursing jobs are in the inpatient and outpatient departments of hospitals. The remaining nursing jobs are in:

  • Physicians' offices
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Home health care
  • Employment services
  • Government agencies
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Social service agencies
  • Education - both public and private schools, colleges and universities

Career Opportunities for Nurses

In general, RNs are responsible for treating and educating patients while providing advice and support to family members. Specifically, RNs record medical histories and symptoms, administer medications and treatments and help with patient follow-up and rehabilitation.Certified vocational nurses, nursing assistants and nursing aides back up the nurses by providing basic patient care and monitoring.

Types of Patient Care RN Positions

  • Ambulatory Care Nurses: These nurses treat patients outside of the hospital setting, either in physician's offices or clinics.
  • Critical Care Nurses: These nurses work in hospitals in the critical care or intensive care units. They work with patients who have pulmonary, respiratory or cardiac failure.
  • Emergency Room or Trauma Nurses: These nurses treat patients with life-threatening conditions such as accidents, strokes and heart attacks. They work in hospital emergency rooms or as flight nurses on medical helicopters.
  • Holistic Nurses: These nurses treat a patient's mental and spiritual health in addition to their physical health. They provide care in massage, acupuncture, biofeedback and aroma therapy.
  • Home Health Care Nurses: These nurses provide at-home care for patients who are recovering from accidents, surgery and childbirth.
  • Hospice Nurses: These nurses provide care for terminally ill patients outside of hospitals.
  • Infusion Nurses: These nurses provide injections to administer medications, blood and other fluids into patients' veins.
  • Long-term Care Nurses: Long term care nurses provide medical services to patients with chronic physical or mental disorders
  • Medical-surgical Nurses: These nurses provide basic medical care to a wide variety of patients in both in-patient and out-patient settings.
  • Occupational Health Nurses: These nurses specialize in providing treatment for job-related injuries and illnesses. They also help employers detect potential health hazards.
  • Perianesthesia Nurses: These nurses provide pre and post operative care to surgical patients who receive anesthesia.
  • Perioperative Nurses: These nurses help surgeons by handing them instruments, control bleeding and suturing incisions.
  • Psychiatric Nurses: These nurses treat patients with personality and mood disorders.
  • Radiologic Nurses: These nurses provide care to patients who are undergoing diagnostic radiation procedures such as ultrasounds and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Many of these positions have an 8 AM to 5 PM schedule and do not require weekend work or on-call duty.
  • Rehabilitation Nurses: These nurses care for patients with temporary and permanent disabilities.
  • Transplant Nurses: These nurses care for both transplant recipients and donors.

Other Types of Positions for RNs

  • Nursing Management: Nursing knowledge combined with management skills are key to nursing career titles such as Nursing Supervisor or Head of Nursing.
  • Care Facility Management: Nursing knowledge and experience is always in demand in patient facilities such as ambulatory, acute, home-based and chronic care centers.
  • Health Planning: Hospitals, managed care companies, insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers employ RNs for health planning, consulting, policy development and quality assurance.
  • Research and Teaching: There is always a need for nurses to support ongoing teaching and research efforts.

Geographically-driven Opportunities

Population growth in the west and southwest is creating the need for more healthcare facilities and more nurses to staff them. As the population ages, the need for assisted living and managed care facilities will increase - all of which will need nurses to care for patients and manage health care programs.

Nursing Salary Ranges
Salary Range
Nursing Assistant $21,127 to 29,658
Licensed Practical Nurse $31,741 to 44,098
Staff RN - Nursing Home $45,713 to 58,264
Staff RN - Nurse $48,724 to 68,742
Staff RN - Emergency Room $49,064 to 70,546
Staff RN - Oncology $49,197 to 69,663
Nursing Supervisor $61,900 to 86,236
Nurse Practitioner $66,400 to 90,180
Nursing Anesthetist $118,581 to 156,589
Head of Nursing $111,724 to 219,935

Nursing Salaries

According to, salaries for nursing positions range from about $21,000 for a nursing assistant to over $200,000 for the Head of Nursing at a large hospital complex. The amount of salary is directly related to the amount of risk and responsibility that comes with the specific job.

Education and Certification Requirements

Technical schools and junior colleges are the two major paths to receive the training necessary for nursing support positions such as Nursing Assistant and Licensed Practical Nurse.

There are three major paths to becoming an RN:

  • A bachelor's degree
  • An associate degree
  • A diploma from an approved nursing program

Many RNs go on to receive an advanced degree and certifications so that they can accept increased responsibility, more income and additional career opportunities.

Finding Nursing Jobs

There are a number of ways to search for nursing job openings. If you're finishing your nursing degree, talk with a career counselor at your school to see if he or she knows of any nursing placement agencies in the area you would like to work. Many nurses work through an agency that contracts to provide staffing for a hospital or other patient care facility. Many hospitals are interested in directly recruiting new nurses just finishing school, so you may be able to set up a number of interviews through your school's career center.

You may also want to join a professional nursing organization within the field of practice you would like to work. This will provide you with the opportunity to network with other nurses and learn about new opportunities at a variety of hospitals and work settings.

In addition to agencies and networking, you can always take your job search online to a variety of job boards. Job sites like Indeed and Simply Hired are a good place to start, but you can also search nursing-specific sites and the websites of the hospital or nursing facility in which you would like to work.

Online Search Sites

Is Nursing a Career for You?

Nursing is a challenging occupation that demands technical skills and compassion in difficult situations. The hours can be long and the pay for many assignments can be lower than jobs in other industries which require the same amount of training. But for many men and women, nursing is the ideal career path. Take a career test or talk with a nurse to see if nursing meets your career needs. Career opportunities for nurses continue to increase in a variety of specialties and levels of responsibility.

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Career Opportunities for Nurses