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Certified Nurse Job Duties and Education Requirements

Certified nurses require significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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A certified nurse works as part of a team with physicians and other specialists to provide patient care, and may also supervise lower level nurses. A career as a certified nurse will require a bachelor's degree at a minimum, and likely some graduate training in their specialty. The following outlines the educational requirements and job outlook for a certified nurse.

Essential Information

Certified nurses usually provide care in advanced nursing specialties, performing a range of tasks from patient assessment and medication administration to processing and analyzing diagnostic reports. Some specialties involve a particular function, such as anesthesia nursing, while others involve a particular patient population, such as mental health nursing.

These certifications usually require a bachelor's degree in nursing as well as practical experience. Most specialized areas of nursing call for graduate studies and training. Several professional organizations offer certifications to specialty nurses.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in nursing; graduate certificate or graduate degree in specialty area may be required
Other Requirements Registered nursing license, professional certification in specialty area
Projected Job Growth (for all registered nurses) 16% from 2014-24*
Average Salary (for all registered nurses) $67,490 in 2015*

Sources: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Certified Nurse Job Duties

A certified nurse typically works in a specialized area of nursing care defined by patient population, treatment type, body system or a specific health condition. There are a variety of nursing certifications offered by a range of organizations, including the American Nurse Credentialing Center and the National League for Nursing.

Some certified nurse job duties are very specific, such as anesthesia administration or surgical assistance, while others include a broader array of responsibilities. Job duties for nurses certified as nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists or other advanced practice nurses involve examining patients, making diagnoses, providing treatment and managing long-term care plans. Other nurses certified in education, public health or administration teach and manage students, community members or healthcare professionals.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Clinical Nursing
  • Critical Care Nursing
  • Direct-Entry Midwifery - LM, CPM
  • Licensed Vocational Nurse Training
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Neonatal Nursing
  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Assistant or Patient Care Assistant
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Practitioner or Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Administration
  • Nursing for Adults and Seniors
  • Nursing Science
  • Occupational Health Nursing
  • Operating Room and Surgical Nursing
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Public Health Nurse or Community Nurse
  • Registered Nurse

Education Requirements

While education requirements for nursing certifications vary, nearly all require that candidates are currently registered nurses. To become a registered nurse (RN), students must complete at least a diploma or associate's degree program in nursing and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) certification exam.

Becoming a certified nurse, however, generally requires that candidates hold a bachelor's degree in nursing or a post-graduate credential in a nursing specialty. Bachelor's degree programs in nursing can be completed in four years and provide a health science foundation as well as comprehensive training in a range of nursing duties. Doctoral degrees, master's degrees and post-graduate certificates are more focused, offering in-depth study and clinical experience in areas, such as anesthesia, public health, clinical care or midwifery.

Beyond holding a degree, some nursing certifications may require candidates to complete a minimum number of continuing education credits. These courses may teach nurses to use new technology and information systems or provide updated training on current topics, such as infection control, genetics or diabetes.

A certified nurse works in a specialized area of care. They provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients about various health issues, and provide advice and support to patients and their families. A certified nurse will need to earn a minimum of a bachelor's degree in nursing, and will likely need to pursue graduate training for their chosen area of specialty.

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