Your Medical Options

What you can do with a nursing degree

African American nurse smiling while holding medical chart

(Image: Thinkstock)

As professionals are re-evaluating job options, healthcare remains one of the leading growth areas—with nursing offering versatility and job security. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nursing is the nation’s largest healthcare profession. Of all licensed registered nurses (RNs), 84.8% are employed in nursing.

Pam McCullough, director of the nursing program at Stratford University’s Woodbridge, Virginia, campus, says that a wide variety of opportunities are available for professionals with nursing credentials. “You can change your job and stay in nursing,” she explains. “You can work three years on a pediatric floor and three years on the intensive care open-heart floor, and they’re totally different jobs, but you’re still building the career.” But work doesn’t have to be confined to bedside care.

Administration: McCullough suggests looking at management and administrative positions in hospitals, medical centers, homecare agencies, and hospices. She says there are also opportunities at health and insurance companies. “The nurse is helpful because they have to know the disease process or the extent of injury, or determine the degree of disability.”

Health Educator: In this area nurses could position themselves to educate the public. “She or he can teach in the community, [such as in] churches and community centers, teaching patients about understanding medication, lifestyle changes, or dietary changes.”

Health Writer: Forums for writers may include health magazines, trade publications, blogs, health-related companies, books, and journals. McCullough says studying at the doctorate level and attaining a doctorate of nursing practice, or DNP, could increase the opportunity to become a media medical expert. “Nurse practitioners focus on health promotion and maintenance of wellness. So being a health educator and providing information to the public is very much what a nurse practitioner does.”

School Nurse: These professionals maintain the health of students in school, managing everything from allergies to illness to accidents. “School nurses are often very, very busy. There’s often just one nurse in the school.” Schools used to accept licensed practical nurse (LPN) credentials, but now most school nurses are required to be RNs, says McCullough.

Teaching: Instructing nursing students is another option for those who prefer a non-medical environment. At that level, McCullough says, a master’s degree is required.

NURSING NOTES

  • According to Pam McCullough, there are now two doctorate options for nurses: DNP for hands-on clinical and a Ph.D., which is better suited for those interested in research.
  • The average age of the RN population in the United States is 47 years, according to the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration.
  • The average annual salary for an RN with a graduate degree is $87,363.
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) have the highest earnings of all employed nurses, averaging $154,221 annually.

 

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