What is a Registered Nurse (RN)?

How to Become a Registered Nurse

Happy young female nurse holding file while consulting with doctor in clinic
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A registered nurse (RN) is one of many different types of nurses. A registered nurse is a nurse who has completed at least an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN) and has successfully passed the NCLEX-RN certification exam.

After becoming an RN, some nurses go on to become an advanced practice RN (APRN) such as a Clinical Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) or other more highly specialized role.

RNs can work in a medical office or a hospital, in a variety of medical specialties and areas.

RN Duties

Duties of a registered nurse vary depending upon where they work but often include providing direct care to patients, assisting physicians in medical procedures, offering guidance to family members, and leading public health education campaigns. RNs may also operate medical monitoring equipment and administer medications. With concentrated training or certifications, RNs can focus on a medical specialty, such as geriatric, pediatric, neonatal, surgical, or emergency care.

How Much Do Registered Nurses Earn, on Average?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average starting pay for an RN is $32.04 per hour, which equates to an annual salary of about $66,640.

The top 10 percent of registered nurses earned over $98,880 annually, according to the BLS. Additionally, government jobs for RNs typically pay the highest salaries, with an average pay scale of about $70,540, while physicians' offices pay the least, averaging $59,550 per year.

Hospitals, which employ about 61 percent of all registered nurses, pay an average of $68,490 per year for RNs, and home health care jobs pay $63,810 annually, on average.

For more information on different types of nurses including registered nurses, see the nursing career profile.

Job Outlook

There are 2.751 million registered nurses in the United States' healthcare workforce as of 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This makes RNs the largest sub-set of the nursing workforce. By 2024, the number of RNs is projected to be 3.19 million, represented a projected future growth of 16 percent, which is considered "much faster than average" as compared to job growth across all employment sectors.

Several reasons for this growth exist, including an aging population, wider healthcare availability through the Affordable Care Act, and the fact that one-third of registered nurses currently working are nearing retirement. Nurses will be needed to educate patients on chronic health problems, such as arthritis, obesity, and dementia. It is expected that the increased demand for registered nurses will come from facilities other than hospitals, such as outpatient and long-term care centers.

According to the BLS, "Job opportunities should be good because of the need to replace workers who retire over the coming decade and because of the growing number of people with access to healthcare services." However, in general, the RNs who obtained a bachelor's degree will have more opportunities than those with an associate's degree.

Source

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Registered Nurses. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm.

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