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CAREER GUIDE Career Guide - RN Careers (RN to BSN)

WGU degree programs correspond with careers that promise continued growth. Start on your path today.

Career guide: registered nurses (RNs).

There are a lot of reasons the demand for nursing professionals is skyrocketing and just as many reasons for a caring individual to consider a career in this rewarding field. With an aging baby boomer population, an increase in health issues such as diabetes and obesity, and growing rates of chronic conditions, the long-term prognosis for well-trained, educated registered nurses (RNs) is excellent.

So how can you make it happen and where should you begin? First, ask yourself if you have some of the following qualities which are common among successful RNs: sharp critical-thinking skills that will enable you to assess a patient's condition and determine the necessary corrective actions to take, compassion, emotional stability, attention to detail, and a tendency to be well organized. For some, polished speaking skills play a role in their RN careers. If some of these qualities describe you and your personality, you might be an ideal candidate for a future as an RN. You'll be prepared to make a positive contribution to your community and help the people who live in it.

Job listing growth 2016–2026.

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RN career opportunities.

Once you have completed your B.S. in Nursing you will have the knowledge and extensive clinical experience to drive your nursing career in a number of rewarding directions. You'll be in demand as an RN, because you'll be prepared to preserve, promote, improve, and maintain the health and well-being of individuals and families in your community. Here are just a few of the dozens of career paths open to qualified nursing professionals:

Positions in the field.

  • Staff RN
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Flight RN
  • Forensic RN
  • Nurse educator
  • Ambulatory care RN
  • Long-term care RN
  • Pediatric RN
  • Nurse practitioner
  • School RN
  • Occupational health RN
“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

RN job market forecast.

Nursing careers are on the rise. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), growth of the U.S. nursing workforce has outpaced growth of the population over the past decade, and one-third of the nursing workforce is nearing typical retirement age. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this means more than a million new RNs will be needed by 2022 to meet demand.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of registered nurses to grow 15% from 2016 to 2026, and generally those with at least a bachelor's of science in nursing will have better job prospects than those without one.

Job growth 2016–2026.

Work environment.

Registered nurses can work in a variety of settings, from schools and residential care facilities to doctor's offices and hospital emergency rooms. It's a diverse career path offering you opportunities to choose the roles, responsibilities, and environments that are interesting to you. Generally speaking, a registered nurse works 40 hours each week, often working four ten-hour shifts. At facilities that handle emergency cases or are always open, this can require working nights and/or weekends, depending on your shift. About 1 in 5 nurses choose to work part time.

Professional organizations.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of professional organizations dedicated to nursing careers. A few are listed below, and many can provide relevant information on the nursing programs and nursing colleges that might be right for you.

Job search resources.

There are more than 3.1 million registered nurses in the United States, and the demand for dedicated nurses with up-to-date knowledge and credentials continues to grow. Take a look at some of the current open positions for qualified nursing professionals, and think about pursuing your Bachelor of Science in Nursing at an institution committed to developing BSN nurses with a program that is sustainable, scalable, and nationally relevant.

Salary stats.

A nurse’s salary varies depending on experience and specialization. Once you begin your career, you may also choose to further your education by taking nursing courses and earning additional certifications that can make you even more valuable in an ever-evolving industry. Generally speaking, the median annual wage for registered nurses was $70,000 in May 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Average salary of jobs with related titles.


Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their families. Most RNs work in conjunction with physicians or other healthcare professionals, and many specialize in a particular area, such as pediatric oncology nurses, who work with young cancer patients.

There are a number of paths you can take to find a rewarding career as an RN, but education plays a key role in all of them. Some RNs start by earning their diploma from an approved nursing program, while others pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), but it is increasingly common for employers to seek candidates who have earned their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing states that "to meet the more complex demands of today's healthcare environment, the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice has recommended that at least two-thirds of the basic nurse workforce hold baccalaureate or higher degrees in nursing." A quality BSN degree will have a curriculum designed to help you become a confident, caring, and competent professional nurse, trained to meet emerging healthcare needs of diverse populations.

Next Start Date

Jun 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 (RN to BSN). 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!