Jobs in the health care field are on the rise all over the country, and registered nursing is one of the biggest gainers of all. Here's some info about how traditional and online schools in nursing can help you prepare for a health care career with real potential.

Registered nurses (RNs) occupy one of the most important health care practitioner careers on the market today. They work to provide basic care and emotional support to patients while collecting information for medical records and dispensing insight about health conditions and how they might be effectively managed.

Depending on the facility where they work, registered nurses may have a wide variety of specific responsibilities that they perform during their regular routine. Here's a list of some of the more common duties that aspiring registered nurses can expect to perform on the job:

  • Recording and maintaining accurate reports about patient symptoms and vital signs
  • Delivering medications by a variety of methods and monitoring patients for side effects
  • Coordinating with doctors and other members of health care staff to plan and implement care
  • Preparing patients for examinations or on-site steps to treatment
  • Educating patients and their families about any at-home portions of a treatment plan

To fill the growing demand for registered nurses in clinical facilities and hospitals, traditional and online nursing schools offer a range of paths to education and training. Check out the details of the registered nursing profession and see if a career in nursing might be right for you.

How Much do Registered Nurses Make?

The salary you can expect as a registered nurse tends to depend on a number of factors, from your amount of experience on the job to the geographical region where you find employment. Here are five states in the U.S. where state average registered nurse salary figures were reported to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as being well above the nationwide annual median of $66,640 for 2014:

  • California: $98,400
  • Hawaii: $88,230
  • Massachusetts: $85,770
  • Alaska: $85,740
  • Oregon: $82,940

While it's certainly true that the largest percentage of registered nurses work in hospitals or doctors' offices, those who find employment in other industries may be able to command higher salaries than their counterparts in conventional settings. Here's a list of industries where registered nurses enjoyed above-average mean pay in 2014, according to the BLS:

  • Insurance and employee benefit funds: $82,030
  • Federal executive branch: $80,510
  • Management of companies and enterprises: $76,090
  • Oil and gas extraction: $75,590
  • Specialty hospitals, except psychiatric and substance abuse: $74,590

Naturally, some of the industries listed above employ larger numbers of nurses than others. While around 72,000 RNs worked in a federal government capacity in 2014, there were only fifty RNs each employed in the employee benefit fund and oil and gas industries.

Occupational Requirements and Job Types for Registered Nurses

Campus-based and online schools in nursing offer three distinct paths by which aspiring registered nurses can qualify for employment:

  • The most comprehensive educational program for RNs is the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, which can be earned at junior colleges, community colleges and universities from coast to coast. Online schools in nursing may offer BSN programs entirely in the virtual classroom, for members of the health care profession who have undergone the hands-on aspects of nurse training in another educational program.
  • An associate degree program in nursing is a common option for nurses who want to get started in the profession relatively quickly while also setting the stage for career advancement via continued education at a later date. These degree programs include a few general education courses and are typically completed in 2-3 years of study.
  • Programs offered at hospitals or career training centers typically lead to a nursing diploma, which requires very little if any core academic coursework. Graduates of nursing diploma programs can often earn a BSN online from schools in nursing that offer one, especially after earning the perspective gained by a few years' experience on the job.

Here's a list of skills and abilities that are commonly conducive to success as a registered nurse, according to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET):

  • Clinical techniques
  • Medical terminology
  • Customer and personal service skills
  • Active listening
  • Social perceptiveness
  • Critical thinking
  • Judgment and decision making
  • Reading comprehension
  • Biology

There were more than 2,650,000 registered nurses employed in May 2014, and more than 1,500,000 of them worked in general medical and surgical hospitals. Nurses are often required to spend long hours on their feet and interact with people to a significant degree. Approximately 20 percent of RNs worked part time in 2012.

What's the Job Outlook Like for Registered Nurses?

Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 19 percent by 2022, according to the BLS. With the large number of nurses already working at the time of the job forecast, however, the 19 percent increase is projected to lead to as many as 526,800 new jobs in the field.

In some states, growth in registered nurse careers is projected to take place at an even faster rate. Here are the five fastest-growing states for RN jobs, according to sources of labor market information based in each individual state:

  1. Utah: 31.4 percent growth
  2. Texas: 28.2 percent growth
  3. Idaho: 26.4 percent growth
  4. Colorado: 26.2 percent growth
  5. Arizona: 25.6 percent growth

Job prospects are expected to be good across the board for trained RNs, although candidates with BSN degrees are expected to have a wider variety of opportunities than those without them. Extensive work experience may serve to substitute for a bachelor's level education in some cases.

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1. Registered Nurses, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed August 20, 2015: Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Registered-nurses.htm; Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm;
2. Registered Nurses, Occupational Information Network, accessed August 20, 2015, http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/29-1141.00
3. Registered Nurses, Employment Trends by Occupation Across States, Career InfoNet, accessed August 20, 2015, http://www.careerinfonet.org/carout3.asp?optstatus=101000000&id=1&nodeid=2&soccode=291141&stfips=01&jobfam=29&menuMode=&order=Percent
4. Bachelor of Science Nursing (RN to BSN), Western Governors University, accessed August 20, 2015, http://www.wgu.edu/online_health_professions_degrees/bachelor_science_nursing