Working as a nurse who provides patient care is the most obvious career path for a graduate of a nursing degree program. However, there are many different types of nurses, as well as some alternative careers for nurses that you might not think of right off the bat. Read on to learn more about the surprisingly numerous kinds of jobs you can do with a nursing degree.
The type of nursing job that is most prevalent across the U.S. health care industry is registered nurse (RN). These are the professional nurses who work in hospitals, doctors’ offices and other medical facilities, caring for patients directly and, often, supervising other care providers and less experienced RNs. Registered nurses work in every specialty and subspecialty you could imagine, including emergency, trauma, surgery, pediatrics, geriatrics, rehabilitation, oncology, addiction and behavioral health.
Registered nurses need an education and a license. Associate’s degrees in nursing (ADNs), diplomas and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees can all prepare students for a career as an RN. No matter which path you choose to your career as a registered nurse, you will complete core classes in science and the principles of nursing as well as clinical experience requirements that offer the opportunity to gain experience working with real patients.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there are close to 3 million RNs in America – and that number is expected to grow by 15 percent by 2026.
Advanced Practiced Registered Nurse
If you enjoy your work as an RN but you want to do more, becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) could be your calling. APRNs start with the education, license and experience of an RN and pursue an advanced degree and, ultimately, an additional license.
Advanced practice registered nurses provide direct patient care. Most states allow APRNs to perform roles that would otherwise require a physician, including ordering tests, diagnosing medical conditions and prescribing medications and treatments. Nurse practitioners are the most well-known example of APRNs, but these highly educated nurses also work as nurse midwives or nurse anesthetists.
If you want to be an APRN, you will need a minimum of two to three years of study beyond your BSN degree. Currently, most advanced practice registered nurses enter the occupation with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, according to the BLS. However, that could change at some point in the future. Due to recommendations from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing that APRNs have a doctoral degree, some schools are restructuring their programs to offer practice-based Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees rather than MSN degrees.
APRNs enjoy a high median salary of $110,930 and an excellent job outlook, with the BLS anticipating a 31 percent increase in career opportunities over a decade.
If you want to combine your calling to care for patients as a nurse with a love of working with children, then you might want to pursue a career as a school nurse. The nurses employed by public and private schools are licensed RNs who focus on improving student health. In some states, school nurses may need to be licensed by the Department of Education as well as the state nursing board.
If you want to become a school nurse, then you should start working toward your RN credentials. Once you have experience as a registered nurse, you can enroll in a school nurse certification program. Most school nurse certification programs are considered graduate or post-baccalaureate programs of study and can range from as few as 10 credits to 22 credits or more. When applying to a school nurse certificate program, you should expect to complete hundreds of hours of internship or practicum experience working in a school setting.
Just three percent of RNs work in educational settings, according to the BLS.
Who exactly is teaching all of these aspiring nurses as they work toward credentials like RN and APRN licenses and specializations such as school nursing? That job belongs to nurse educators, the instructors found in nursing schools and in teaching hospitals who train the next generation of nurses. Nurse educators instruct students both in the classroom and in clinical settings.
Typically, nurse educators are expected to be highly educated themselves. If you would like to teach nursing students, then you should look into an advanced degree program like a Master of Science in Nursing degree.
A lack of qualified nurse educators is one of the main reasons why nursing school is so competitive.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of opportunities for graduates of nursing school. Depending on your passion, you can take your nursing education in just about any direction, from patient care to technology to management.