A nurse is a licensed health care professional who cares for patients and assists doctors. Nurses work in a variety of health care settings and become registered after successfully obtaining at least an associate's degree in nursing and passing a state-administered nursing exam. With the growing demand for health care professionals, nurses can expect rewarding careers with above-average salaries and excellent fringe benefits.
Nurses' salaries vary depending on the type of nursing discipline they work in. Registered nurses are often compensated with hourly wages and overtime for working more than 40 years per week. Payscale reported the national average salary for registered nurses ranged from $22.06 to $30.73 per hour in December 2010. Overtime wages ranged from $30.79 to $45.72 per hour. Their total average pay was $46,591 to $66,695.
Many organizations, including state and federal government agencies, offer a sign-on bonus to attract nurses to their organizations. A sign-on bonus is offered to nurses who accept an employment offer and is often contingent upon a completion of service. To give an example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a $25,000 sign-on bonus for nurses who sign a four-year, active-duty agreement. These bonuses are often paid in increments or upon completion of the four-year agreement. Along with a sign-on bonus, employers offer nurses a yearly bonus based on individual performance and overall revenue. Payscale reported average bonuses ranged from $207 to $1,618 per year in December 2010.
Because of nursing shortages, many employers have developed work schedules to better meet the needs of the employer and their nursing staffs' personal lives. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported employment growth of 22 percent and a continuing shortage of nurses through 2025. This has led to educational programs and employers developing a variety of benefits for nurses, including schedules to allow them to work flexible schedules. Examples include working four 10-hour days to allow for three days off. Some employers offer additional compensation for nurses who work on weekends and holidays or flexible work schedules and rotating shifts.
Nurses who work directly for employers receive a variety of benefits, and some employers allow nurses to work on a contractual basis and receive higher wages rather than being an employee of the organization. Payscale reported 84 percent of nurses receive health benefits such as medical, dental and vision care. Along with health benefits, 33,371 nurses reported receiving paid time off and sick leave, retirement savings plans such as 401k and 403b, life and disability insurance, as well as education and certification reimbursement.