As one of the 50 Best Careers of 2011, this should have strong growth over the next decadeThe rundown:
From the squeal of a newborn facing the world for the first time to the final heartbeat tolling the end of a life—and all the flu shots, broken bones, mammograms, weigh-ins, and check-ups in between—nurses play a central role in the milestones and minutiae of most Americans' lives. As one of more than 2.6 million registered nurses, it may be your job to explain a prescription to a patient, start an intravenous drip, check and record vital signs, or provide care to a patient being transported by helicopter (as a transport nurse). Or you might treat patients with mood disorders as a mental health nurse. There are plenty of specialties. You could focus on the care of transplant patients and living donors as a transplant nurse, or even provide alternative health preparations and preventive care as a holistic nurse.
Nursing has flourished throughout the recession, compared with most other occupations. Job growth is expected to be much faster than average—the country is expected to add 582,000 new R.N. jobs by 2018, a growth rate of more than 22 percent, the Labor Department projects. The greatest growth within the profession will be in physicians' offices.
The median salary in 2009 was $63,750. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $44,000, while the highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $93,000.
As you gain experience, you may ascend the ladder into management roles such as unit manager or head nurse, and up into director or chief nurse positions. Many nurses choose to pursue master's degrees in advanced practice nursing specialties, such as a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist.
Variable but generally pretty high. You're likely to spend much of your time on your feet, caring for patients and assisting in operating rooms.
Sometimes high. Schedules can include a lot of graveyard shifts, weekends, and holidays. Caring for patients and their families and friends can be emotionally draining. Also prepare for the occasional ethical dilemma over treatment.
Education and preparation:
The most common path to an entry-level nursing job is a bachelor of science degree in nursing or an associate's degree. The two-year associate's degree is a quicker and more economical route, but many graduates of associate's programs eventually aim to complete a bachelor's degree for a more comprehensive nursing education. For people who have already earned a bachelor's degree in a different field, accelerated B.S.N. degree programs can last from 12 to 18 months.
Real advice from real people about landing a job as a registered nurse:
While clinical and technical nursing skills are a must-have, the skills that set the successful RN apart from the rest are not the ones learned in a textbook; they are human skills like the ability to work in a team, strong customer/patient service skills, and a demonstrated passion for your work. "Your managers want to know that you can be a positive contributor and a leader on the job with specific examples to demonstrate those skills, even if transferable from outside the industry," says Tamryn Hennessy, national director of career services at Rasmussen College, which operates nursing schools in five states and online. "Another tip for job-seeking registered nurses is to present a resume tailored for the healthcare industry that includes professional information such as continuing education, professional memberships, and clinical competencies like CPR and ACLS. Your future employer will appreciate it, and you will be a stand-out contender."