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CAREER GUIDE Bachelor of Science, Nursing (Prelicensure)

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Career guide: registered nurse.

It can be a tough job, but also one of the most rewarding careers you can pursue. Becoming a registered nurse not only requires specialized skills and training; it also takes a caring individual drawn to the profession by an innate sense of compassion for his or her fellow human beings. Nurses play a crucial role in the field of medicine. They provide and coordinate patient care, consult and collaborate with doctors and other healthcare professionals, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their families.

It’s possible to become a nurse with just an associate’s degree or a diploma from an approved nursing program, but in this day and age, more and more employers are seeking qualified RN candidates who have earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. For aspiring nurses who do not yet have their RN license, the right BSN program can provide preparation to sit for the NCLEX-RN licensing exam, the standardized test that must be passed to receive a license to practice nursing, while also delivering expanded knowledge and skills beyond the clinical aspects of nursing: a BSN-prepared nurse is well grounded in evidence-based practice, patient safety, technology integration, and healthcare systems and policy. A BSN also provides job security for nurses—particularly those whose hospitals have or are seeking “magnet status—and can result in a higher salary as well.

Job listing growth 2016–2026.

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Career opportunities.

Today’s highly rated nursing programs offer curriculums that include the relevant and current study of medical-surgical techniques (including critical care), psychiatric/mental health, pediatrics, obstetrics, and community health nursing. Competent nurses will also have a well-developed knowledge and understanding of evidence-based practice, research, leadership, nursing informatics, and professional nursing roles and values. It sounds like a lot to learn, and it is, but the field of nursing is rich in its diversity of roles and responsibilities, and once you have earned your BSN degree and passed your state board exam, it’ll be possible for you to choose a career path that tracks with your specific area of passion. In fact, many registered nurses choose to continue their education, earning additional certifications and/or an advanced degree that can qualify them for higher-paying, more-specialized careers.

Positions in the field.

  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist
  • General nurse practitioner
  • Gerontological nurse practitioner
  • Pain management nurse
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioner
  • Certified nurse midwife
  • Family nurse practitioner
  • Informatics nurse
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Nursing administrator
  • Nurse educator
  • Neonatal nurse
  • Critical care nurse
  • Health policy nurse
  • Medical-surgical nurse
“I hadn’t been in school for so long, but having the work experience from being a nurse, I not only did well, I actually loved it. The courses were practical, and everything made sense.” Keith Plant
B.S. Nursing, 2014

Job market forecast.

There’s good news for anyone studying to become a registered nurse. Because of America’s aging population, the ongoing changes of healthcare reform, and a dramatic increase in the number of outpatient and long-term care facilities, nurses are in demand across North America. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS also predicts registered nurses with a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN) will have better job prospects than those without one.

Job growth 2016–2026.

Work environment.

There are about 2.8 million registered nurses in the United States working in a diverse range of environments. From hospitals and doctors’ offices to schools and residential care facilities, nurses play a key role in the healthcare industry. As a nurse, you’ll have many options and the flexibility to work in a setting that appeals to your individual interest, schedule, and desired role within the healthcare community.

On a daily basis, you’ll be required to use your critical thinking skills to assess the needs of patients and determine how and when to take corrective action. The role can be physical if your job requires you to move patients and manipulate heavy equipment. If you work in a hospital, clinic, or 24/7 care facility, you’ll very likely work in shifts. Nights, weekends, and holidays are a possibility, depending on the direction your nursing career takes. No matter where you work, good communication skills are essential, because you’ll be interacting with patients, their families, physicians, and other healthcare professionals.

Professional organizations.

If you’re an RN with a BSN ready to advance your leadership skills for a career in nursing management, these organizations offer a wealth if information, resources, and support. leader and manager in a variety of nursing settings.

Job search resources.

Registered nurses are in demand, and RN salaries are on the rise. Find out how you can take advantage of this growing trend with the right education and training.

Salary stats.

It’s no surprise that RN salaries are on the rise, as the demand for nurses has risen dramatically along with our aging population. In May 2016, the median annual wage for registered nurses was $68,450, according to the BLS. Your salary as a nurse can vary based upon where you live, the type of facility where you work, your experience level, what shift you work, and any specialized skills you have. For example, ICU nurses tend to earn more than regular floor nurses.

Average salary of jobs with related titles.


Nursing is a career filled with compassion, with daily challenges and rewards that can lead to a lifetime of personal and professional fulfillment. Many of today’s most-successful registered nurses began with a respected BSN degree from an accredited institution. Are you up to the challenge? Do you have the calling? Are you destined to become part of the nursing community?

Next Start Date

May 1

Start the 1st of any month—as soon as you complete enrollment!


Your career’s next step: Earn a degree.

Ready to jump-start your career in nursing? The next step could be earning your B.S. Nursing (Prelicensure). Accredited, competency-based WGU offers this degree online for at a surprisingly affordable flat-rate tuition. Flexible enough for a working adult’s schedule with the option to accelerate, your degree may be closer than you think!