In emergency medical situations, time is of the essence, and transporting a patient by traditional means is no longer an option. Instead, the medical team must take to the air. EMTs and paramedics aren't the only staff on these air ambulances. Flight nurses commonly are on board too. These medical professionals train to administer medical care specifically on airlifted patients. But the additional time it requires to earn certification doesn’t always translate to higher pay.
In 2012, the average registered nurse earned $67,930 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those in the top 10 percent of earners made more than $94,720, while those in the bottom 10 percent made less than $45,040. But none of these figures reflect specialty. The University of Washington provides a clearer picture of what a flight nurse can expect for a salary. Based on two separate surveys, the median wage was somewhere between $66,560 and $70,500 as of 2011.
According to Discover Nursing, an extension of the Campaign for Nursing’s Future, flight nurses must first become registered nurses to get into the field. Three options exist to become an RN. You can earn a nursing diploma, associate degree in nursing or a bachelor's degree in nursing. From there, you must pass the national council licensure examination, or NCLEX-RN. Depending on the employer, you may then need to earn advanced certifications in emergency medical technician-basic, emergency medical technician-paramedic and certified flight registered nurse.
While the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing recommends two years of experience as a flight nurse before seeking certification, it isn’t a requirement. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with at least three to five years of experience in critical care. To improve your chances of employment, consider working in the critical care or emergency unit of a hospital or other medical facility before applying for certification as a CFRN or for a job as a transport nurse.
The BLS expects job opportunities for nurses to be excellent, with an employment growth of as much as 26 percent through 2020. This is almost twice as fast as the projected growth for all U.S. occupations, an estimated 14 percent. Those with at least a BSN should see the best prospects.