Aside from the privilege of providing quality care for people in need, nurses may enjoy an expansive array of potential career possibilities. They might find work in a variety of settings and capacities, and they may have the opportunity to work with people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.
Most nurses start their careers as Registered Nurses, or RNs. People who want to work as RNs must first earn an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in nursing and then become registered to practice. To pursue other nursing career paths, such as Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwife, or Nurse Anesthetists, RNs must also earn specialized graduate-level education. With graduate-level education, RNs might pursue roles in leadership, management, and research teams.
To work in advanced positions in nursing, RNs must become advanced-practice nurses with graduate-level education. They typically must also develop a particular specialization through a combination of graduate work and on-the-job experience. They might specialize in areas such as community, neonatal, or geriatric health; acute, critical, or rehabilitative care; or adult, women’s, or pediatric health and care. These and many other specialization options enable nurses with master’s degrees to work in areas about which they’re passionate.1
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. BLS) in 2012, California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania reported the highest employment levels in the nursing occupation2. The top paying states for Registered Nurses include California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Alaska, and Oregon2. While these are some of the most high-employment level and top-paying states in the country, nursing is an occupation with high anticipated job growth throughout the country. In fact, the U.S. BLS predicts that employment will grow for licensed practical and vocational nurses by 25% between 2012 and 20223.
While RNs with associate’s or bachelor’s degrees might enjoy good salary and high employment levels, depending on where they work, some professionals might opt to earn a graduate degree. Nurses who earn a graduate degree might choose to pursue careers as a Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Midwife, or Nurse Practitioner. Nurse Anesthetists provide anesthetics to patients in surgical and other medical settings, Nurse Midwives provide counseling and care to pregnant women from pre-conception through postpartum, and Nurse Practitioners provide care to people throughout the span of life. According to the BLS, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwifes, and Nurse Practitioners most commonly work in physicians’ offices; local, state, and private hospitals; outpatient care centers; colleges, universities, and professional schools; and other health practitioners’ offices4. Nurse Anesthetists earned a 2012 median annual wage of $148,160, Nurse Midwifes earned a median annual wage of $89,600, and Nurse Practitioners earned a median annual wage of $89,9605.