Registered Nurses


Employment Prospects


Nearly 3.1 million registered nurses are employed in the United States. About 60 percent of registered nurses work in hospitals, 18 percent in ambulatory healthcare services, 7 percent in nursing and residential care facilities, 5 percent for the government, and 3 percent in educational services. The rest work in managed-care facilities, clinics, industry, private homes, schools, and camps. Some nurses work part time.

Starting Out

The only way to become a registered nurse is through completion of one of the three kinds of educational programs, plus passing the licensing examination. Registered nurses may apply for employment directly to hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies, temporary nursing agencies, companies, and government agencies that hire nurses. Jobs can also be obtained through college career services offices, by signing up with employment agencies specializing in placement of nursing personnel, or through the state employment office. Other sources of jobs include nurses' associations, professional journals, and newspaper want ads.

Advancement Prospects

Increasingly, administrative and supervisory positions in the nursing field go to nurses who have earned at least the bachelor of science degree in nursing. Nurses with many years of experience who are graduates of a diploma program may achieve supervisory positions, but requirements for such promotions have become more difficult in recent years and in many cases require at least the B.S.N. degree.

Nurses with bachelor's degrees are usually those who are hired as public health nurses. Nurses with master's degrees are often employed as clinical nurse specialists, faculty, instructors, supervisors, or administrators.

RNs can pursue graduate degrees to become advanced practice nurses, who have greater responsibilities and command higher salaries.

Tips for Entry

Visit the following Web sites for job listings:


Read The American Nurse and Online Journal of Issues in Nursing (both are available at to learn more about the field.

Join nursing associations to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities. Volunteer for association committees, special interest groups, and workgroups to raise your profile and make networking contacts.

Conduct information interviews with registered nurses and ask for advice on landing a job.