Nurse researchers are scientists who study various aspects of health, illness and health care. By designing and implementing scientific studies, they look for ways to improve health, health care services and health care outcomes.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 19% growth rate for nurse researchers between the year 2012 and 2022, a faster than average rate compared many other careers.
Nurse researchers identify research questions, design and conduct scientific studies, collect and analyze data and report their findings. They often rely on grants to fund their work, which requires writing grant proposals and meeting certain reporting requirements. Many teach in academic or clinical settings and often write articles and research reports for nursing, medical and other professional journals and publications. Nurse researchers often partner with scientists in other fields, such as pharmacy, nutrition, medicine and engineering, to better address complex questions and problems.
Nurse researchers may begin their research careers in positions such as research assistant, clinical data coordinator and clinical research monitor.
The title of principle investigator reflects the most senior research role and greatest responsibility and accountability associated with a research study.
Studies conducted by these dedicated researchers are uncovering such things as new and better ways to:
The results of nursing research help build the knowledge base and provide the evidence to guide interventions by nurses and other health care workers. For example, nursing research is improving prenatal care, patient recovery after heart transplant and pain management for cancer and other patients.
Nurse researchers work in a number of different places, from health care facilities and universities to research organizations and laboratories. Private companies and nonprofit organizations focused on health care issues also hire nurse researchers.
Because research studies are often individually funded projects, nurse researchers may move from project to project, working for a specific time period until the grant money ends. The nurse researcher must then seek other funded studies or employment opportunities.
The work of conducting research studies, especially collecting and tabulating data, can involve a lot of repetitive activity and rote data entry. But it can be exciting and rewarding to contribute to research that results in new ways to improve health care delivery.
Nurse researchers write competitive grant applications, report study results and prepare journal articles so good writing skills are essential. They also may present at conferences and meetings, describing their research, its findings and methodology.
Outlook and Salary Range
The average salary for a nurse researcher is $95,000. In addition to research activities, nurse researchers with advanced degrees can supplement their income by writing books, teaching, consulting and speaking at conferences and other events.
About a Career as a Nurse Researcher
A Curious Mind: Patients, providers, and communities find healing thanks to the nurses who ask "why?"
How to Become a Nurse Researcher
Nurse Researcher: A career, not just a job
Nursing research: Nurses know best
About Health Care Careers
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reviewed this career profile.
Twenty Years Later: What I Know Now That I Wish I Had Known Then
Part 2: How to Attend College Without Going into Too Much Debt
Part 1: How to Attend College Without Going into Too Much Debt
Criminal Background Check? But, I’m Not A Criminal!
Part 1: Accreditation Matters
Interprofessional Healthcare Education Means Better Patient Care
Applying for Financial Aid (Part II)
Why Diversity Matters in the Health Professions
Start preparing for your health career in high school
Reconciliation Act of 2010 Includes Significant Student Aid Provisions
Healthcare Reform 101
Keep Past Mistakes from Limiting Your Future Health Care Career
Making a Major Decision
Three Things to Look for in a Pre-health Enrichment Program
Top 10 Reasons to Pursue a Health Career Now
Nurse scientists arrive at their research careers in a number of ways, although all of them have doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees. Traditionally, registered nurses would work for a few years before going back to school to get advanced degrees and begin work as a nurse researcher. However, that meant that their research careers started much later in life, often when they were in their mid-fifties. Today, nurses enter Ph.D. programs soon after getting their degree and becoming registered nurses.
Search for funding opportunities related to this career
Search for enrichment programs related to this career
Search for academic degree and certificate programs related to this career
Last updated: February 5, 2016
©2012 American Dental Education Association