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Quick Facts on Registered Nurses (RNs)

  • Registered nurses (RNs), regardless of specialty or work setting, perform basic duties that include treating patients, educating patients and the public about various medical conditions, and providing advice and emotional support to patients’ family members.

  • RNs record patients’ medical histories and symptoms, help perform diagnostic tests and analyze results, operate medical machinery, administer treatment and medications, and help with patient follow-up and rehabilitation.

  • RNs continue to be the largest healthcare occupation--2.8 million jobs. This is slightly more than three times the number of physicians and surgeons at 877,000.

  • Women comprised 92 percent% of RNs in 2008.

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2008, 10 percent of all RNs were black, 8 percent were Asian, and 5 percent were of Hispanic origin.

  • The major educational paths to registered nursing are a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree, and a diploma from an approved nursing program.

  • In all States, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, students must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing examination, known as the NCLEX-RN, in order to obtain a nursing license.
  • About 3 out of 5 jobs as RNs are in hospitals.

  • Median weekly earnings of RNs are far above the $722 average for all occupations. Women employed as RNs in 2008 had median weekly earnings $1,011; for men, the figure was $1,168.

  • Between 2006 and 2016, RNs are projected to add the largest number of new jobs among all occupations -- 587,000. This increase in the demand for health care practitioners is primarily the result of a growing and aging population and medical advances that promote longer lives for our citizenry.

  • Overall job opportunities for RNs are expected to be excellent, but may vary by employment and geographic setting. Between the 2006-2016 period, employment of RNs is expected to grow at 23.4 percent -- much faster than the 10.4 percent growth average for all occupations.

  • BLS also projects that there will be 1.0 million total job openings for RNs due to growth and net replacements during the 2006-2016 period.

For more detailed information on the nature of work, work environment, education and training requirements, licensure and certification, other qualifications, and job outlook for registered nurses, view the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-2011 Edition.

Sources: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Earnings, 2008 Annual Averages, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-2009, and the Monthly Labor Review, November 2007, “Occupational employment projections to 2016.”Sources: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Earnings, 2008 Annual Averages, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-2009, and the Monthly Labor Review, November 2007, “Occupational employment projections to 2016.”