Registered Nurse (RN)

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Lindsay Smith
Last updated at September 15, 2021

A Registered Nurse (RN) is one of the most popular nursing roles in healthcare. And now more than ever, RNs are in demand. If you're already a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), becoming an RN can provide you with better opportunities and a higher salary.

What is a Registered Nurse?

Registered nurses can assume a broad assortment of roles across patient care. In a clinical environment, RNs are responsible for administering medication, collaborating with medical doctors (MDs), monitoring symptoms and medical equipment, recording patient history, and much more. Some RNs are even responsible for overseeing other healthcare staff including CNAs and LPNs.

What do Registered Nurses do?

  • Administer medicatation.
  • Perform patient diagnostics.
  • Assist doctors with surgeries and other medical procedures.
  • Work with physicians to prepare and execute treatment plans.
  • Educate patients on diet and lifestyle changes for improving quality of life.

How Much Does a Registered Nurse Make?

When it comes to earning opportunities, an RN could earn anywhere from $52,000 to $111,000, depending on experience and the workplace environment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites that an R.N. can earn an average salary of $77,000.

If the nurses are working in specialty hospitals, they tend to earn more than working in a public or private health care facility or hospital. RN's also got higher salaries in individual metropolitan states when compared to other cities in the U.S.

With enough experience, an RN can also become a charge nurse and earn a higher average salary.

What is the Difference Between an RN and LPN? 

Licensed practical nurses are often confused with registered nurses. While both of them serve important roles in delivering patient care, their educational requirements and responsibilities within the clinical environment are different.

When it comes to educational requirements, becoming an LPN does not require a degree. Nevertheless, LPNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to earn the credentials.

Oftentimes LPNs will return to school to obtain their Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in order to become a registered nurse. There are special LPN to RN courses that one can pursue while working as an LPN.

As for responsibilities, LPNs report to RNs and perform basic duties. These duties include taking vital signs, assisting with tests, administering medication, filling out medical records, and helping patients with daily activities like eating and getting dressed.

RNs are responsible for managing LPNs, coordinating patient care, administer medication, performing diagnostic tests, and working with the patient's doctor regarding progress and next steps with the treatment plan.

The median annual salary for an LPN is $47,050 and $71,730 for an RN.

Learn more about the differences in scope of practice between LVNs and RNs.

Where Do RNs Work?

RNs can be found working in just about every kind of healthcare facility as well as educational institutions and community centers. Registered nurses can be employed in procedure centers, community clinics, doctor's offices, hospitals, and nursing homes as well as schools and large companies.

RNs can even be found delivering care in a mobile capacity to homebound patients or remote communities or may serve as subject matter experts to academic and for-profit organizations.

What is the Projected Career Growth for Registered Nurses?

The career growth for RNs is expected to be around 12% in the next 7-8 years. That's good. Good for job availability, career growth, and pay.

The growth rate is much higher than some of the other nursing profiles in the industry. With the expected average, the registered nurses' profile will be one of the most demanded and required job profiles in the healthcare sector. 

How do I Become an RN?

It is important to understand the type of degree required to become a registered nurse. To be clear, there is no such thing as a “Registered Nursing Degree”. To become an RN a person must have completed an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or obtained a diploma from an approved nursing program.

ADNs and diploma programs usually take two to three years to complete. BSNs usually take four years. All nursing programs include courses in social, behavioral, and physical science in addition to clinical experience in various workplaces.

Regardless of the program chosen, aspiring nurses must also have taken and passed the NCLEX exam in order to earn his/her RN credentials.

To get started, check out our guide on How to Become a Nurse.

You'll want to find nursing schools near you and request information about the program in which you are interested. Once you've received the information, take into consideration the institution's graduation rate, cost, proximity to your home or work, and word of mouth before making your decision to apply.

After becoming a registered nurse, you can gain more skills and practical hours. These skills can help you pursue certifications that allow you to advance your career into specialties that may be of interest to you and offer better pay or a happier workplace environment.

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How Long Does it Take to Become an RN?

ADNs and diploma programs usually take two to three years to complete. BSNs usually take four years.

What are the Requirements for Nursing School?

In order to apply for a nursing program, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED. Some schools will accept students with a GPA of 2.5, while others require a 3.0. Typically the more sought after the school, the higher the GPA requirements.

Do I Have to Pass a Test to Get into Nursing School?

Nursing school applicants frequently are required to take the National League of Nursing Pre-Admission Exam (PAX) or the Nursing Entrance Test (NET). Institutions use your test results to better understand your abilities to communicate, think critically, and comprehend different subjects.

Some schools will have specific ACT or SAT requirements. However, many of these schools are making these submissions optional and relying on the NET or PAX.

Is it Possible to Study Online and are There Any Grants?

Online classes and degree programs are becoming more popular and universally accepted. Particularly since the discovery of COVID-19, not only has demand for registered nurses skyrocketed but face-to-face institutions have been forced to deliver courses online.

Even though nursing is a high-touch, hands-on role, most coursework can be completed online. When it comes time for clinical training, that must then be completed in a healthcare setting.

When it comes to financial aid, students can typically obtain loans, scholarships, and grants from various accredited colleges.

Can You Bridge From CNA to RN?

Advancing from CNA to RN is a smart investment in your future. Not only can it be incredibly rewarding, but you can also expect to almost triple your average salary. While there is no CNA to RN bridge program, if you want to advance from CNA to RN, you can get there by obtaining your Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).