Registered Nurse Salary and Career Outlook
Registered nurses (RNs) currently constitute the largest healthcare occupation. The salary for an RN has been growing steadily and is forecast to continue to do so as demand for nursing staff increases. With 2.6 million jobs, they are in very high demand and are predicted to see a continuation of job growth over at least the next decade.
About 60 percent of RN jobs are in hospitals with the rest in other high-growth settings such as clinics, surgical centers, and long-term care facilities. The three typical educational paths to registered nursing are a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree, and a diploma from an approved nursing program. In some cases, a new nursing student can become a registered nurse in as little as 2 years. Advanced practice nurses, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners all need a master’s degree.
Overall job opportunities for registered nurses are expected to be excellent, but may vary by employment and geographic setting. Some employers report difficulty in attracting and retaining an adequate number of registered nurses. Employment of RNs is expected to grow much faster than the national average for other occupations and because the field is very large, 581,500 new jobs will result. This places nursing among the largest number of expected new jobs for any occupation in the United States. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of job openings will result from the need to replace experienced nurses who leave the occupation.
Although overall job opportunities are excellent for registered nurses, competition can be intense for the most sought after positions. Employers in certain job settings report difficulty in attracting and retaining an adequate number of RNs, primarily because of an aging RN workforce and a lack of younger workers to fill positions. Qualified applicants to nursing schools are being turned away because of a shortage of nursing faculty. This can make it somewhat difficult to get into some nursing school programs. The need for nursing faculty will only increase as many instructors near retirement.
Despite the slower employment growth in hospitals, job opportunities should still be excellent because of the relatively high turnover of hospital nurses. To attract and retain qualified nurses, hospitals may offer signing bonuses, family-friendly work schedules, or subsidized training. Although faster employment growth is projected in physicians’ offices and outpatient care centers, RNs may face greater competition for these positions because they generally offer regular working hours and more comfortable working environments. Generally, registered nurses with at least a bachelor’s degree will have better job prospects than those without a BSN. In addition, all four advanced practice specialties including clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, and nurse anesthetists will be in high demand, particularly in medically under-served areas such as inner cities and rural communities. Relative to physicians, these RNs increasingly serve as lower-cost primary care providers in many areas.
Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow by 22 percent from 2008 to 2018. This is as much as 7 times faster than current estimates for the average of all other occupations and is one of the top reasons to become an RN. Growth will be driven by technological advances in patient care, which permit a greater number of health problems to be treated and by an increasing emphasis on preventive care. In addition, the number of older people who are much more likely than younger people to need nursing care, is projected to grow rapidly over the next several years.
RN Salary – Registered Nurse Salary Survey
According to a recent salary survey, the median annual wages of registered nurses was $62,450 in May of 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $51,640 and $76,570. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $43,410, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $92,240. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of registered nurses in May, 2008 were:
- Employment services: $68,160
- General medical and surgical hospitals: $63,880
- Offices of physicians: $59,210
- Home health care services: $58,740
- Nursing care facilities: $57,060
Many employers offer flexible work schedules, child care, educational benefits, and bonuses. About 21 percent of registered nurses are union members or covered by union contract. Factors such as signing bonuses, paid time off, the availability of overtime (which often pays 1.5 times the base hourly wage), and performance bonuses will all impact the total RN salary and compensation package. Other variables such as the level of education completed, amount of experience, state cost of living, and local demand can also play a major role in determining a final salary number. The bottom line is that a registered nurse can have an excellent opportunity to earn a respectable salary provided that their experience and qualifications match up well with what an employer is looking for.