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How Much Do Nurses Make

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Becoming a Nurse: Education and Opportunities

Careers in nursing are often chosen by working mothers, and for good reason. This profession offers the satisfaction of providing health care to others while also offering significant job opportunities and earnings potential. Education to become a nurse takes two to four years to complete, and many nurses are able to opt for schedules that can accommodate the needs of their families.

Job Description

Nursing is an allied health profession that provides care and support to patients. As a registered nurse, your job duties will vary according to the setting in which you work, but will often include:

  • Interviewing patients about their concerns, taking vital signs and assessing a patient's condition
  • Performing tests, administering treatments and providing drugs under a physician's direction
  • Monitoring patients who are in the hospital or nursing homes
  • Providing education to patients and their families
  • Assisting physicians during medical procedures, such as surgery

Education Requirements

To become a registered nurse, you will need to complete an educational program and then pass a licensing exam. In the United States, you will have the option of completing one of three types of educational programs:

  • Nursing diploma: Some hospitals and medical centers offer nursing diploma programs. These generally take three years to complete.
  • Associate's degree: An associate's degree in nursing (ADN) takes about two years of full-time study to complete. These programs are often available through junior and community colleges. 
  • Bachelor's degree: A bachelor's degree in nursing science (BSN) takes about four years of full-time study to complete. Many colleges and universities offer BSN programs, which include additional liberal arts and sciences coursework along with nursing-specific curriculum.

The Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that graduates of these programs who pass their licensing exams often begin their careers as entry-level nurses in hospitals. However, some hospitals may prefer to hire nurses with a BSN over those with a diploma or ADN. Holding a BSN may make career advancement easier: If you eventually want to become an advanced practice nurse (nurse practitioner, nurse midwife or nurse anesthetist), want to teach nursing or move into executive management, being able to enter a master's level program will be easier if you have an undergraduate degree.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for registered nurses in the United States was $75,330 as of 2021. This means that 50 percent of RNs earned more than $75,330, and the other half made less. The top 10percent of earners earned more than $116,230, and the lowest 10 percent made less than $53,410.


The BLS notes that the majority of registered nurses, 61 percent, work in hospitals. The rest work in doctor's offices, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, schools and as home health nurses. If you work in a hospital, and many nurses do just that, particularly when they first enter the profession, you can expect shift work, and your shifts may take place over weekends and evenings. Nurses who work in doctor's offices or schools are more likely to work daytime hours during the week.

Years of Experience

Nurses can expect to make more money as they gain job experience. A survey by showed the following correlation between years of experience and earnings:

  • 0-5 years: $55,000 
  • 5-10 years: $63,000 
  • 10-20 years: $68,000 
  • 20+ years: $71,000

Job Growth Trend

The BLS anticipates job growth for RNs to grow by 9 percent from 2020 to 2030. An aging population, along with a need to control health care costs, will contribute to the demand for nurses. It should be noted, however, that your job opportunities may be affected by your location. There may be significant competition for entry-level jobs, and nurses with higher levels of formal education, as well as professional certifications may be able to command the best salaries.


Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.

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