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The Nurse Career

Nursing is poised to change the face of health care as never before. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports employment among RNs will grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2008. Demand for quality nurses continues to escalate. Yet many students don't realize the opportunities that await them.

Nursing practice areas
Hospital nursing is just one of the many areas where nurses practice. Examples of other practice settings include home care, private practice, public health, extended care centers, clinics, offices, schools, military service, corporations, health-related industries, hospice, occupational settings, and health and wellness centers.

Nursing specialty areas
Like few others, the profession of nursing offers a wide variety of specialties. From pediatrics to geriatrics, nursing's impact is felt across the lifespan. Here is a sampling of specialty areas from which you can choose:

  • Ambulatory care
  • Burn care
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Emergency
  • Geriatrics
  • Home care
  • Intensive care unit (cardiovascular, medical, neonatal and surgical)
  • Medical telemetry
  • Mother/baby care
  • Oncology
  • Operating room
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatric nursing
  • Recovery
  • Rehabilitation
  • Renal (diabetes and dialysis)
  • Research
  • School nursing

    Professional pathways
    Nursing is no longer confined to the bedside. Today's nurses can now be found in professional venues once thought impossible. Nurses influence legislation, change health care delivery systems, write and publish, educate about disease prevention and health promotion, and participate on boards of directors. Here are some of the professional paths nursing can lead to:

  • Private ventures
  • Collaborative practice
  • Alternative care
  • Teaching
  • Community care
  • Journalism
  • Business
  • Sales and marketing
  • Law
  • Informatics

    Nursing Salaries
    Financial compensation for nurses varies according to geographic location, type of nursing, years of experience and level of education. Starting salaries for entry level staff nurses range from $30,000 to $45,000 per year, plus additional pay for evening, night and weekend shifts. Benefit packages often include health insurance, vacation, holiday pay, college tuition reimbursement, childcare, flexible scheduling and pension plans. Clinical Nurse Specialists and nurses with advanced degrees make considerably higher salaries.

    FAQs about nursing careers

    How do I apply to nursing school?
    Students interested in finding out more about nursing school should start by visiting or These sites offer links to nursing schools on-line. Nursing school requires a high school diploma and a sound academic standing in English, algebra, chemistry, biology and psychology. An understanding of computers and technology is a great asset. Leadership and organizational skills are equally important. You will do well in nursing if you can combine these skills and characteristics with a commitment to easing human suffering and a capacity to respond quickly in emergency situations. Getting along with people and good communications skills also are important since nurses relate to people from all backgrounds.

    What is nursing school like?
    Students interested in studying nursing should apply to several state-approved and accredited schools of nursing. The nursing courses include classroom instruction and supervised clinical hands-on experience in health care settings. Students need good study habits and the ability to analyze and think through problems to be successful in nursing school. At the end of the nursing program, graduates must pass the state board licensure examination to become licensed as a registered nurse.

    What are the educational pathways to becoming a Registered Nurse?
    RNs must first graduate from a nursing program to be eligible to take the nurse licensure examination. There are more than 1,500 nursing programs in the U.S. Three types of nursing programs prepare you to assume different roles once you graduate:

    Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN)
    This is a four-year program, offered at colleges and universities. BSN graduates are prepared for leadership, management, and more independent nursing roles. Advancement opportunities are greatest for the BSN graduate. A BSN is required for advancement into a master's degree in nursing program. You can also enter nursing with an associate degree or a diploma.

    Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
    This is a two-year program (after pre-nursing courses are completed) offered at community and junior colleges. Some hospital schools of nursing, colleges and universities also offer ADN degrees.

    Hospital Diploma
    This is a two- to three-year nursing program based in hospital settings. Many diploma schools are affiliated with junior colleges where students take basic sciences and English requirements.