Interested in becoming a nurse?

Nurses are healthcare professionals who care for the disabled, elderly, injured and sick. They are qualified to perform a variety of tasks in many different settings. In general, nurses may do things like dress patients’ wounds, record people’s medical histories, help perform diagnostic tests and administer treatment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2010-2011 Occupational Handbook (BLS).


What types of nurses are there?

For the most part, nurses can be put in one of two categories: registered nurses and licensed practical or licensed vocational nurses. However, under these two groups there are several types of professionals.

There are many career paths that registered nurses can choose. For example, some may decide to specialize in a type of treatment or a work setting, according to the BLS. These professionals include ambulatory care, emergency, critical care, home healthcare, infusion, long-term care, rehabilitation and transplant nurses. Other registered nurses specialize in a certain disease or condition. For instance, some professionals become addictions, developmental disabilities, diabetes management, genetics or HIV/AIDS nurses.

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses also have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings under the direction of physicians and registered nurses. For example, these professionals may be employed in nursing care facilities, doctors’ offices or home healthcare. Other individuals earn credentials that allow them to specialize in subjects such as gerontology, IV therapy, pharmacology and long-term care.


What type of degree is required to become a nurse?

The education requirements for nurses ultimately depend on the exact job title they want to hold. For example, individuals who want to become registered nurses can either earn a diploma, an Associate’s Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree in the subject. However, a Bachelor’s Degree or higher is generally required for these professionals to hold teaching, consulting, research or administrative jobs, the BLS states.

Typically, Associate’s Degree programs take about two to three years to complete, while Bachelor’s courses of study require four years. Both of these programs generally include courses such as anatomy, physiology, chemistry and nutrition as well as supervised clinical experience in healthcare facilities.

A Master’s Degree may also be useful for some registered nurses as it will allow them to become advanced practice nurses and hold management positions. These programs take about two years to complete.

Individuals who wish to become licensed practical or licensed vocation nurses typically need to complete a one-year program. These courses of study are offered at many community and junior colleges across the country.

All nurses are also required to pass a national licensing examination after they graduate from an approved program, the BLS reports. This test is called the National Council Licensure Examination. However, individual states may have additional eligibility requirements for licensure.


What will the future of the industry look like?

Individuals who decide to earn a degree in nursing may see many jobs in the future. According to the BLS, employment opportunities for registered nurses are expected to increase by about 22 percent over the next seven years. Similarly, jobs for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses are predicted to grow by 21 percent.


How much do nurses typically make?

The exact salaries that nurses make typically depends on their job title and the facility in which they work. Another factor that may impact nurses’ salaries is the credentials in which they hold, with professionals who have advanced degrees usually earning more than those who do not.

In general, registered nurses earn between $40,128 and $79,783 per year, according to PayScale’s 2011 National Pay Data. Licensed practical nurses typically make between $27,196 and $51,807, while licensed vocational nurses earn between $18,295 and $59,314 annually.


*Source Reference: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.