The healthcare industry in the United States is growing at a fast rate, with a dire need for medical professionals in all differing divisions.
If you’ve always loved the idea of making a true impact in your career by helping those that are sick and need you most, then getting a nursing degree just might be up your alley.
Why A Nursing Degree?
Registered nurses (RN) are in demand right now, thanks to many moving factors. First and foremost, an aging population means that more healthcare professionals are required to take care of patients as they get older; not to mention the fact that new technology is emerging at a fast rate where staff need to be trained on innovative ways of doing things in the healthcare industry. Lastly, there are plethora of current registered nurses on the cusp of retirement, leaving gaps in this sector that need to be filled!
Those hoping to dive into the field of nursing must graduate from an accredited program. This can include a nursing diploma or associate degree in nursing, where both take about two years to complete. Having said that, accelerated programs can help to shorten this time, so if you are interested in becoming an RN that much faster, these are worth looking into.
Then there’s the option of a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which can take four years to complete, with a full-time study workload. It’s important to note that this could be achieved in two years via an associate-to-bachelor’s Registered Nurse program; if you hold a bachelor’s degree already in another field, you can go to a school that provides “second degree” programs for nursing as well.
Some decide to go the route of a bachelor’s program as they complete general education classes as well as coursework that focuses on nursing. While similar classes are offered via a nursing diploma, with a bachelor’s degree spanning four years, the information received is more “in-depth” when it comes to skill and knowledge; more and more employers are staffing those registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree as such.
At the end of the day, while getting a nursing degree may be far more advantageous to one entering the nursing field in the U.S., these programs are ultimately built to help prepare students when it comes to the NCLEX-RN exam. After graduating, those who aspire to become a registered nurse need to enlist with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, and partake in their official examination. Those who move forward with get an Authorization to Test notification, and are given a time and date to sign up for this exam.
The test is done via a computer and has an average of 119 questions. The exam needs to be completed within a six-hour time frame, and students who do not pass the NCLEX-RN are asked to wait a minimum of 45 days before taking the test again. The average passing rate for this test across the U.S. is at approximately 70 to 75%.
It’s important to note that every state and territory within America, including District of Columbia, requires RNs to have a proper license prior to seeking employment. Decrees may differ state-by-state, and nursing students should contact their area’s nurse board after passing their NCLEX-RN test to ensure they have correctly completed all the steps involved when it comes to gaining access to this license. This may include a background check of some sort.
Average Salaries + Other Career Options
After all the hard work around successfully completing that nursing degree (or diploma) of sorts, passing the NCLEX-RN test, and taking all the steps needed to access a nursing license for employment, it’s time to look for a job!
The annual salary for an RN working in the U.S. for 2019 is currently at $73,500. This breaks down to a monthly salary of $6,129; $1,414 weekly; with RNs making about $35.36 hourly.
It’s important to note, RN salaries range from state to state, with registered nurses in California being the highest-paid at $102,700 annually, while Puerto Rico’s RNs work at the lowest salary with $34,630.
The interesting thing about gaining a degree in nursing is the opportunities it provides you in terms of field work. Sure, one could pursue a job as a registered nurse; however, the education you obtain from degree doesn’t limit you to that one job position. With a nursing degree you can become a RN, nurse anesthetists, a nursing midwife; head to a hospital, or take care of elderly in a retirement home. Should you decide to move forward with a bachelor’s nursing program degree, you further widen your career choices in this field by moving into nurse administration, consulting, advanced nursing, or find a role in research or teaching.
Lastly, for those that further pursuing a master’s degree in this field, one can become a nurse practitioner, or concentrate on a specialty within this area, expanding their horizons even more as it relates to this healthcare sector.