Registered Nurse: Job Description & Career Requirements

Registered nurses perform basic medical exams, assist doctors during medical procedures and monitor patients' progress, among other duties. Read on to explore the career paths toward registered nursing.

Career Definition of a Registered Nurse

Registered nurses are employed with hospitals, physicians' offices, nursing homes, clinics and other medical facilities. They can work as general care nurses who assist doctors or, with additional training, as advanced nurse practitioners or specialized nurses in fields like oncology, pediatrics or midwifery. Registered nurses often work fluctuating schedules and may be required to be 'on call.'

Education Associate's degree or diploma in nursing at minimum, with opportunity to advance with Bachelor of Science or Master of Science in Nursing
Job Skills Physical fitness and stamina, plus emotional strength and caring nature
Average Salary (2015)* $71,000
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 16% increase

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Registered nurses must have at least a diploma or an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) from an accredited nursing program. Because chances for advancement increase with education, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) will offer more opportunities, and some hospitals require RNs to hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Nurses also must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to obtain their state-level RN license. Registered nurses must continue their education throughout their careers to keep up with advancements in medicine, health care and technology, and some states require RNs to take classes or renew their licenses every five to six years.

Required Skills

The physical and emotional demands of registered nursing can be tolling. RNs must be prepared to care for chronically or critically ill patients, some of whom may require 24-hour supervision. RNs also must stay on their feet for hours at a time.

Career and Economic Outlook

In 2015, the BLS indicated there were approximately 2.7 million nurses working in health care, and survey data predicted a 16% increase in nursing jobs between 2014 and 2024, making it a faster-growing career field than average. The annual income of nurses averaged $71,000 in 2015, according to the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

Other options in this career field include:

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)

These nurses must complete programs lasting approximately a year and obtain licensing. They provide basic care to patients under the supervision of doctors and registered nurses. Faster than average employment growth of 16% was anticipated by the BLS for the 2014-2024 decade. The BLS reported an average annual income in 2015 of $44,030.

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists earn an associate's degree in dental hygiene and state licensing in order to seek employment. From 2014-2024, the BLS predicted faster than average job growth of 19% for these workers who examine patients' teeth for oral disease, clean teeth and provide patient education pertaining to oral health. As of May 2015, dental hygienists earned $72,720 per year on average, according to the BLS.

Search Degrees, Careers, or Schools