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Nursing Overview

Overview

For more information on careers in this field, see the list on the right. For salary ranges, schooling requirements and more, check out the Career Explorer.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nursing is among the top 10 occupations with the largest job growth.

Nurses promote health, prevent disease and help patients cope with illness. They have a unique scope of practice and can practice independently, although they also collaborate with all members of the health care team to provide the care needed by each patient as an individual. Nurses are hands-on health professionals who provide focused and highly personalized care. The field has a wide range of career opportunities, ranging from entry-level practitioner to doctoral-level researcher.

Nurses also serve as advocates for patients, families and communities. They develop and manage nursing care plans, instruct patients and their families in proper care and help individuals and groups take steps to improve or maintain their health.

Although an entry-level nurse can find a job with a three-year RN degree, there is a growing national movement to require all nurses to hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. An increasing number of nursing schools are offering accelerated bachelor's and master's degree programs. There also are a growing number of RN-to-Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and MSN-to-doctoral programs, designed to meet the increasing demand for more highly skilled nurses in the workforce.

Once you are a professional nurse, you might choose to focus on a particular specialty.  There are numerous specialty options -- each of which has its own education/certification requirements and related professional network or organization.  These include:

An excellent source of information about careers in nursing is DiscoverNursing.com.

The Graduate Nursing Student Academy (GNSA) is a free membership opportunity with resources to help meet the professional development needs of graduate nursing students. The GNSA’s mission is to help prepare students for future careers as faculty members, researchers, advanced practice registered nurses, policy experts, healthcare administrators and other roles in nursing leadership. Membership is open to students in master’s and doctoral programs affiliated with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Note: This overview has been reviewed and approved by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.