What is a Registered Nurse

Registered nurses (also known as Licensed Registered Nurse, Hospital Registered Nurse, Community Registered Nurse, or simply RN) are health professionals with a Bachelor’s of Science, who helps patients maintain good health and prevent illness. The scope of practice for a registered nurse is fairly extensive. Their responsibilities include observation, assessment and monitoring of patient symptoms, from the day the patient arrives at the hospital ward to the day they leave. They may also administer injections and medications, or even assisting physicians during diagnosis or treatment procedures.

Registered nurses are responsible for the direct supervision of licensed practical nurses, nursing aides, nursing assistants, and home care aides. As an essential part of a healthcare team, they directly interact with physicians, pharmacists, and other health care practitioners on a daily basis to provide patients with continuity of care. In addition, registered nurses educate and provide emotional support to patients and their families. Because of their abundance and ease of accessibility, registered nurses plays one of the most important roles in the delivery of a holistic and integrated approach to patient health care. For more info on how to become a registered nurse, please visit our registered nurse job description page.

Where do RNs Work

According to US Labor of Statistics, over 50% of registered nurses work in local or private hospitals. Others may work in physician offices, pharmaceutical companies, research laboratories, nursing care facilities, government agencies, correctional facilities. Their roles may include researchers, healthcare consultants, nurse educators, public policy advisors, hospital administrators, and salespeople for pharmaceutical companies.

Work Schedule

Registered nurses working in hospitals and long term care facilities tend to work long hours and are often expected to work evenings and overnight shifts. Twelve hour shifts are the most common among nurses, in fact, many actually prefer these shifts as it allows them to have more days off in a row. However, unusually long shifts do put a tremendous amount of stress and physical strains on these individuals. In contrast, registered nurses working in physician offices and schools generally work during normal business hours.

How Much does a Registered Nurse Make

The average annual registered nurse salary is $68,910. The average salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and dividing that value by the total number of employees. There is significant deviation in the annual wages of registered nurses. The lowest 10% of  registered nurse salaries are less than $45,630. The top 10% of registered nurse salaries reach more than $96,320.

Registered Nurse Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$68,910 per year
$33.13 per hour
Top 10% Salary$96,320 per year
$46.31 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$45,630 per year
$21.94 per hour
Number of Jobs, 20132,661,890

Registered Nurse Job Outlook and Prospects

Job opportunities for registered nurses in the next decade are expected to be among the top of all health care professions. There are currently over 2,711,500 registered nurses employed in the United States with an expected growth of approximately 19%, they will see as many as 526,800 new jobs by 2022. This represents by far the largest number of employment opportunities in any healthcare professions. Even with such a staggering amount of positions occupied, employers in parts of the United States are still having difficulty attracting and maintaining enough registered nurses at their facilities. With a steady rise in aging baby boomers, the demand for registered nurses will continue to outweigh the lagging supply. Consequently, new graduates of this profession should face no obstacles in obtaining a job.

Jobs in nursing are surprisingly recession-proof. Statistics shows that during recession, the general population actually gets more sick because they have less money to take better care of themselves due to wage cuts and unemployment. Negative impact on health and well-being is directly correlated with having lower incomes, job loss and even in more severe cases, homelessness. When an individual becomes really ill, they have to go to the hospital and thereby requiring the services of nurses.

What affects a Registered Nurse’s Salary

Registered nurses are essential to the proper assessment of patient health needs and potential problems that may be encountered throughout treatment. Additionally, registered nurses implement care plans that ensures the correct execution of all treatment as dictated by a physician. Over the past 3 years alone, there have been over 50,000 new jobs created. This has been associated with subsequent pay increases, making registered nursing a highly desirable profession.

Of course, there are multiple factors that can affect salary fluctuations. Some of these influential components include education and experience, industry, and location.

Education and Experience

Education has a large impact on salary, as there are many different ways in which individuals can receive the proper training to become a registered nurse. According to recent studies, nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (four year program) outperforms nurses who only possess an Associate’s Degree (two year program) in both annual income and job opportunities. There are over 2.7 million registered nurses in the United States alone. With such a high supply of nurses, many choose to differentiate themselves from others by obtaining advanced degrees and certifications. In fact, more employers are now looking for registered nurses with at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing before hiring especially if one is seeking the roles of a head nurse, clinical nurse manager or nurse anesthetist.


Over half of all registered nurses are employed in general medical and surgical hospitals, meaning that these concentrated industries are often filled by those who have an associate’s degree or have been licensed through a diploma program. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree working in industries like transit and ground passenger transportation, the Federal Executive Branch, or personal care services can expect to earn more with salaries beginning at $73,000 each year and ranging upwards of $87,000 and more.


The top paying areas for registered nurses are in highly populated, coastal states including California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. This is likely because there are many more healthcare facilities located in these areas, necessitating more registered nurses with various skillsets to populate hospitals, physician’s offices, and other related facilities.

Relatedly, the top paying metropolitan areas for registered nurses are all in California, offering experienced nurses salaries ranging upwards of $120,000 and more. Additionally, almost all of the highest paying nonmetropolitan areas are also in California, suggesting that larger states in need of more skilled registered nurses are also those that will pay the most money to employees. However, one must note that California also has one of the highest standards of living in United States. Consequently, higher salaries are reflected to compensate the increase cost of necessities such as housing, groceries, transportation, utilities and health care.