Registered Nurse Career

nurse-500Registered nurses are currently the largest healthcare-related occupation. At least 2.6 million people in the U.S. are nurses who treat patients, provide education regarding medical conditions, and provide emotional support and advice to family members of patients.

Nurses are responsible for recording the symptoms and medical histories of patients, assisting with diagnostic tests and analysis, operating medical machinery, administering medications and treatment, and helping with the rehabilitation and follow-up care of patients.

In the course of patient care, they establish or contribute to a care plan. Specific duties are usually determined by the patient population or work setting in which the nurse specializes.

Registered Nurse Snapshot

It is estimated that 59% of all registered nurses work in hospitals. Some nurses work in patients’ homes, schools, physician’s offices, and community centers. Nurses should expect to spend most of their day walking or standing and may need to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

Further details on a career as a registered nurse follow below (statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Onet Online):


is the average earnings for registered nurses per year.


increase in employment between 2014 and 2024.


have an Associate’s degree, 23% have a Bachelor’s.

Registered Nurse Education

Nurses commonly complete an Associates degree or Bachelor’s degree in nursing. Once the degree has been achieved, individuals must obtain their nursing license by passing a national licensing examination (commonly referred to as the NCLEX).

Registered Nurse Job Duties

Nurses treat patients in many different settings such as hospitals, physician’s offices, patient’s homes, and school environments. Due to advances in the field of medicine, the nursing profession is experiencing heavy growth and fields of specialization continue to increase. Often nurses specialize in one of many health areas; nutrition, pediatrics, pre-natal, etc.

Registered Nurse Salaries

On the low end, registered nurses earn $46,360 per year while on the higher end of the pay scale, registered nurses are earning over $101,630 per year. As a registered nurse you may need to work nights, weekends, and holidays and/or you may need to be on-call.

Registered Nurse Job Outlook

According to the, employment for registered nurses is expected to increase by 16% between 2014 and 2024 which is much faster than the average occupation. While the number of new nurses has increased, the aging population and better health insurance options continue to fuel the faster than average growth for the field of nursing.

Registered Nurse Career

Find out the ideal skill set and abilities required to have the most success as a registered nurse:

Nurse Skill Set:Required Abilities:Tools Used by Nurses:Typical Work Activities:
•Active Listening
•Social Perceptiveness
•Service Orientation
•Oral Comprehension
•Oral Expression
•Problem Sensitivity
•Deductive Reasoning
•Inductive Reasoning
•Monitoring Units or Accessories
•Electrosurgical equipment
•Flexible endoscopes
•Assisting & Caring for Others
•Documenting/Recording Information
•Getting Information
•Making Decisions & Solving Problems

Registered Nurse Career Insights

The following nurses were kind enough to grant us interviews providing invaluable nursing career insights. Reading these insights is the best way to determine if the nursing industry is a good fit for you.

Jessica Glaze Cox, RN, BSN at

Jessica Glaze Cox, RN, BSN at
Registered Nurse for 5 years

Why did you decide to get into the nursing profession?

I was always interested in healthcare from a young age, so I chose nursing as my profession because it combined science and technology with art… the art of nursing! As a nurse, you influence people’s lives for the better, offering care and compassion at their most vulnerable moments.

How did you get into the profession?

I studied pre-nursing at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) for two years, and I then enrolled at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). After taking another year of prerequisite courses, I was accepted into the School of Nursing. After two years of courses and clinical training, I received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

What do you like best about being a nurse?

The flexibility! After working as a Registered Nurse in the clinical setting for a few years, I decided to pursue the management aspect of nursing. I have grown professionally and my skills have developed since then, but I will always have the flexibility to return to the clinical setting, or even pursue another avenue of nursing.

What skills are most important for the profession?

An interest in science and healthcare is certainly important, but more than that, a nurse must have compassion, patience, and great communication and listening skills.

What is the most challenging thing about being a nurse?

The most challenging aspect of nursing is dealing with emotionally charged situations, and managing the stress that comes with those situations. Nurses play an integral role in helping patients and families cope with crises.

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing this profession?

I would encourage aspiring nursing students to get some clinical experience during the summer, whether it be an externship or volunteer work. Working in the clinical setting will help validate your decision to become a nurse. I would also encourage current nursing students to develop good study habits, get organized, and purchase an NCLEX review book upon taking your boards!

Eileen F. Sollars | Nurse

Eileen F. Sollars | Nurse
Nurse for 35 years

Why did you decide to get into the nursing profession?

As a child I knew I wanted to be a nurse.

How did you get into the profession?

When I graduated from high school I took a job as a nursing assistant in a Convalescent hospital. I figured it was the lowest point on the nursing totem pole and if I could love that then I was a nurse at heart not a CPA like my parent were pushing for. The pay was minimal wage ($1.65/hr back then). Then went to a community college for 3 semester to sit the LVN boards (LPN to the rest of the country) earned $5.00/hr and thought I was hot spit then.. Worked for 8 years then went back to school for my AND with allowed me to sit the RN boards. That was 2 years of work. Presently doing on-line course work to earn my BSN degree.

What do you like best about the nursing profession?

Well after 35 years I’m still nursing, still at the bedside taking care of patients. I have had administrational positions but I love bedside nursing the best.

What skills are most important for the profession?

A caring and discerning heart, a quick wit and the ability to not take yourself so seriously.

What is the most challenging thing about being a nurse?

The most challenging thing is the changing regulations from OSHA, Medicare and all the governing bodies. It seems every few years we have to change our practice and then later on we go back to what we used to do. I not saying regulations are not good for the industry but to reinvent the wheel every 5-10 years wastes good resources.

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing this profession?

Now a day’s I’m not sure I would pass a beginners nursing program. Everything they have to learn NOW I’ve had the luxury of learning as it has come along. So my hat goes off to you and wish you good luck. But I want to say that while nursing and the Allied arts are coming up as the touchstone professions of the day remember there is a person attached to all the learning that you need to apply your lessons for. The machine and gadgets seem like fun to play with but there is a frightened, sick person attached to them. Speak with the heart beside the brain.

Nick Angelis, CRNA, MSN | Author of How to Succeed in Anesthesia School (And RN, PA, or Med School)

Nick Angelis, CRNA, MSN | Author of How to Succeed in Anesthesia School (And RN, PA, or Med School)

Nursing and Nurse Anesthesia for 10 years and 3 years, respectively

Why did you decide to get into the nursing and nurse anesthesia professions?

At age 5 I wanted to be a clown, but my dad told me they don’t have strong unions. I liked both science and communication, so I decided that nursing was the perfect blend of those skills, with the ultimate goal of becoming a nurse anesthetist. As an anesthesia provider I knew I’d have much more control over the decision-making aspects of patient care rather than relying on physicians for interventions not related to nursing diagnoses.

How did you get into the profession?

I started as a nurse technician. I was spectacularly deficient in the common sense department those days, so my time at the bottom of the career totem pole helped me get used to healthcare culture and procedures. I received my BSN from Youngstown State in four years and worked for Cleveland Clinic in their specialized cardiothoracic ICUs. I further prepared for anesthesia school by doing contract work in different specialties and hospitals. This stretched my abilities even more than taking care of patients after cardiac surgery did, as one day I would have two patients in a trauma ICU and the next I might have ten patients on a medical floor. With these combined experiences I entered anesthesia school and graduated with my MSN in 2010 from the University of Akron.

What do you like best about being a nurse?

I liked the problem solving aspect of nursing, when I would gather my fellow nurses and talk to physicians and pharmacists to figure out complex patient symptoms or laboratory data. In anesthesia, my favorite aspect is pharmacology and using my experience and knowledge to keep patients comfortable and safe. The ability to correct problems immediately in anesthesia is an added bonus.

What skills are most important for the profession?

Prioritization and efficiency are underrated in their relationship to patient care and safety. In nursing, the ability to communicate clearly and respectfully to patients and other healthcare professionals is paramount. Especially as a nurse anesthetist, part of communication is knowing your limits when deciding the best course of actions. The most conservative and “safest” option or the easiest and least invasive option all have their place, but critical thinking is the skill leading to the best decisions for individual patients.

What is the most challenging thing about being in the profession?

In nursing, relying on physicians and other healthcare providers and staying on top of everything going on with all of your patients is sometimes impossible. In those cases, you simply have to decide what won’t get done–my patient in room 103 is probably still waiting for his orange juice. In anesthesia, realizing that you are the only one who can save an apneic patient from certain death is a harrowing but also lonely experience. There are so many different techniques in anesthesia that evaluating what would have worked better can be difficult.

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing this profession?

Save all your money and live as frugally as you can. Your dreams will be limited by your student loans, so sacrifice now instead of later. However, don’t get caught up by all the drama swirling health care professions. It’s a difficult road, but removing everything not nursing or nurse anesthesia related and spazzing out over tests and papers will make your scholastic adventures much more grueling than they need to be.

Related Careers

Registered nurses perform various duties and may specialize in a wide array of areas. For this reason many other occupations in healthcare overlap with nursing. Some related careers that entail working under the supervision of a medical professional include physician assistants, licensed practical and vocational nurses, and dental hygienists.

A physician assistant practices medicine under physician and surgeon supervision. A licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse cares for patients under the direction of registered nurses and physicians. Dental hygienists remove tooth deposits, provide preventative dental care, and educate patients on proper oral hygiene.

What Do Related Careers Pay?