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Why Choose Nursing?

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Are you leaning toward a career in health care? Are you researching degrees that can prepare you to work as a registered nurse (RN)? Careers in nursing are ideal for students interested in working in a well-paying field that offers stability, expansive job opportunities, and room for professional advancement. Whether you’re just starting your educational journey or you’re a practicing nurse interested in pursuing an advanced education, you have numerous career paths to choose from. From school nursing, to travel nursing, to working as an RN in a group medical practice, to becoming a nurse practitioner, nurses make a real difference in the lives of the patients they care for.

What do nurses do?

Nurses play a critical role in health care delivery. In addition to taking vitals, such as temperature and blood pressure, they chart patient records, administer medications, and serve as liaisons between patients and physicians. Their exact duties can vary widely depending on where they work; whether they hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP); and the patient populations they work with. However, common daily duties include the following:


  • Providing preoperative and postoperative care
  • Monitoring patients’ conditions
  • Assessing patients’ needs
  • Providing emotional support to patients and their families
  • Providing immediate medical care in emergency situations
  • Assisting doctors during examinations and, in some cases, during surgical procedures
  • Educating patients about healthy lifestyle choices, such as exercising, limiting fatty foods and alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Supervising licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) and nursing assistants
  • Ordering diagnostic tests
  • Maintaining patients’ health records

Common work environments for nurses

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of 2020, the largest employers of nurses were state, local, and private hospitals (61%); ambulatory health care services (18%); nursing and residential care facilities (6%); governmental institutions (5%); and state, local, and private schools (3%). Ambulatory care services include environments such as outpatient care centers, home health care agencies, and physician’s offices.


Some nurses, such as those who work in large school districts, travel nurses, and RNs who work for community care clinics, may need to travel to work with patients. Others, such as those who work in hospitals and doctor’s offices, are more likely to provide on-site services.


Work schedules for nurses can vary widely. For example, RNs in school districts and private practice groups most often work Monday through Friday during standard business hours. On the other hand, professionals who work in facilities that provide 24-hour care, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice centers, may work nights, weekends, and holidays. Additionally, some nurses may need to be on call, available to pick up shifts on short notice as needed.

Nursing job outlook

Why choose nursing? BLS data shows that employment of RNs is projected to grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030, with 194,500 job openings for RNs expected to become available each year in that reporting period. Various factors will drive these openings, such as the wave of retiring nurses who are baby boomers, increased health care needs in the aging U.S. population, and the need to replace nurses who choose other career paths.


Job growth is expected to be strong for facilities that provide long-term rehabilitation, such as centers that help head injury patients, patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and individuals recovering from stroke. Faster-than-average job growth is also projected for outpatient care centers where patients aren’t required to stay overnight, such as outpatient surgical care centers, kidney dialysis centers, and same-day chemotherapy treatment clinics.

Common nursing salary ranges

The BLS reports that the median annual wage for RNs was $75,330 as of May 2020; earners in the top 10th percentile reported annual salaries of more than $116,230. Salary ranges can vary based on factors such as geographical location, whether a nurse works full time or pro re nata (PRN; Latin for “as needed”), the facility, experience, and education level.


For example, the BLS reports that the mean annual wage for nurses in California was $120,560, and the mean annual wage for RNs in Pennsylvania was $74,170 as of May 2020. During the same reporting period, RNs in government institutions reported a median annual wage of $84,490, and RNs in nursing and residential care facilities reported earnings of $68,450.


Educational attainment also plays a role in earnings potential. According to October 2021 data from PayScale, RNs who’ve earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) reported a median annual salary of approximately $87,000, whereas RNs with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) reported a median annual salary of approximately $97,000.

Fundamental skills nurses need to be successful

If you’re interested in a career in nursing, whether you’re drawn to working in a hospital, as a travel nurse, or as a nurse practitioner, you’ll be well served by developing various skills and aptitudes, including critical thinking, compassion, organization, patience, and physical stamina.


  • Critical thinking. RNs, especially those working in advanced and managerial roles, must understand how to quickly assess changes in patient health. If action needs to be taken, or if another medical professional or specialist needs to be brought in, they must be prepared to take corrective action.
  • Compassion. Individuals seeking health care services are often not feeling well and can face difficult diagnoses. Nurses should be kind, empathic, and caring.
  • Organization. Nurses often see multiple patients during a shift, each with their own specific health care needs. RNs must be detail oriented and highly organized.
  • Patience. An RN’s to-do list can shift rapidly, and depending on the facility, a nurse may work in high-stress situations. Professionals who choose this career path should be levelheaded and patient.
  • Physical stamina. Nurses working in hospitals, eldercare facilities, and clinics that provide overnight care often need to lift patients, get them out of bed, and help them walk. In some environments, RNs may be on their feet for most, if not all, of their shifts, often requiring considerable physical stamina.

How to choose the right nursing program

An important first step toward a career in nursing is to select the right nursing program, and aspiring nurses have various on-campus and online programs to choose from. The program that works best for you will largely depend on your career goals and your educational background.

RN to BSN programs

If you’ve completed an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), an RN to BSN program may be the best choice for continuing your education. Students who opt for this type of program have already taken basic nursing courses, and the coursework in an RN to BSN program often includes classes such as community-based nursing, nursing theory, and advanced health assessment. Students applying to RN to BSN programs must hold a diploma or an associate's degree from an accredited nursing program, have a minimum GPA or quality point average (QPA), and have a current RN license.

BSN programs

A BSN program is an undergraduate nursing degree program designed to prepare aspiring RNs to begin their nursing careers. Coursework includes both entry-level material (anatomy, physiology, introduction to chemistry) and advanced material (health assessment, clinical pharmacology, nursing care practices). Students applying to BSN programs must hold a high school diploma and have a minimum GPA or QPA. Transfer students who’ve already completed some college coursework must also meet GPA/QPA eligibility requirements.

BSN to MSN programs

BSN to MSN programs are designed for RNs who’ve already completed a baccalaureate degree. While BSN programs are broadly focused and include credit hour requirements that aren’t directly linked to nursing, such as writing, psychology, or other arts and humanities courses, MSN programs focus specifically on concepts central to nursing. Courses may include nursing theory, advanced clinical pharmacology, and concepts in nurse leadership. Additionally, some BSN to MSN programs allow students to specialize in a particular area, such as family health, women’s health, or psychiatric mental health. Upon completion of this type of MSN program, graduates can work as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). To apply to a BSN to MSN program, applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing, meet minimum GPA/QPA requirements, and have a current RN license.

BSN to DNP programs

BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs are also designed to prepare nurses with baccalaureate degrees to work as APRNs. Similar to coursework in an MSN program, coursework in a BSN to DNP program is designed to prepare licensed nurses with the knowledge and skills needed to advance in their careers, and students can also choose to specialize in a specific area of practice, such as adult gerontology, pediatrics, and women’s health. However, whereas MSN programs prepare students for advanced and managerial roles, DNP programs provide students with advanced understanding of health care practice and theory. To apply to a BSN to DNP program, applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing, meet minimum GPA/QPA requirements, and have a current RN license.

Benefits of choosing an online nursing program

If you’re determining how to choose the right nursing program, a key consideration is whether to attend an on-campus or online program. Numerous benefits are associated with an online degree. Online students aren’t limited by geography, meaning they can apply to a college or university whether it’s located 10, 500, or 1,500 miles away.


Online students also have the flexibility to learn on their own schedule. Since they don’t need to budget time to drive to and from campus, many students find that they’re more productive. They can review class lectures and study materials during their lunch break, after dinner, or while their children are doing their homework. Coursework can be completed from anywhere they have a Wi-Fi connection.


Online degree programs also allow students to continue their education while working full time and managing family obligations. Students can choose a part-time, full-time, or accelerated program and complete their degree on a timeline that works best for them.

Why become a nurse? Career options that might interest you

The health care field is constantly evolving, and nursing is changing along with it. The training that aspiring RNs must complete has also evolved over time, shifting in focus from basic care to intensive educational, testing, and licensing requirements.


Consequently, nursing has transformed into a dynamic field with multiple career options. The following are just a few of the professional pathways that licensed RNs can pursue:

Telehealth nursing: Work from anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection

Telemedicine has been around since the late 1960s, but its use expanded vastly during the coronavirus pandemic. Today, nurse practitioners can meet with clients using non-public-facing platforms, such as Messenger, Zoom, and FaceTime. The benefits of telehealth nursing are expansive. It not only offers patients in remote areas greater access to primary care providers because office visits aren’t required, but also saves both patients and caregivers enormous amounts of time.

Travel nursing/PRN nursing: Work and travel at the same time

If you’re interested in what nurses do and like to travel, PRN and travel nursing allow RNs to accept short-term assignments throughout the U.S. Not only do they choose their desired location but also stipulate how much they want to work, how much time they’ll have off, and how long they’d like to stay in a particular assignment. Other PRN and travel nursing perks include scrub reimbursement, moving reimbursements, and the potential for enhanced earnings.

Increased options for specialization: Choose the career path that interests you

If you’re interested in becoming an APRN and aspire to work as a nurse practitioner, you can choose from numerous specialization areas. Examples include adult gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP), family nurse practitioner (FNP), pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP), psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), and women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP).


  • Adult gerontology nurse practitioner. AGNPs specialize in treating older adolescents, young adults, and patients of advanced age. Professionals in this field often focus on providing primary or acute care.
  • Family nurse practitioner. FNPs are trained to care for patients of all ages, including babies, children, adolescents, young adults, and geriatric populations.
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner. Upon graduation from an MSN or DNP program with a PNP specialization, graduates are trained with the knowledge and skills needed to care for patients from birth through young adulthood.
  • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. PMHMPs are APRNs who specialize in diagnosing and caring for patients seeking help for mental health disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, eating disorders, and depression.
  • Women’s health nurse practitioner: WHNPs are trained to provide well-woman examinations, gynecological and breast examinations, sexually transmitted disease (STD) screenings, fertility evaluations, pregnancy care, and menopausal care.

Earn your degree and become a licensed nurse

A nursing career is exciting, rewarding, and dynamic, and it can be ideal for students looking for a field that’s meaningful, stable, and pays well. Demand for skilled nurses will be robust for the foreseeable future. Whether you’re currently working as an LVN, you’d like to go back to school and shift careers, or you’re a licensed RN interested in pursuing advanced or managerial roles, you have numerous paths to choose from. Understanding your goals and where your interests lie can help you take your next step with confidence. No matter the degree program you’re interested in, we can help you find your path forward.


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