What kind of money can I expect to make as a nurse?

It depends on how long you want to go to school, what kind of nurse you want to be, and where you want to work.

A Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA, completes 75 hours of training at a technical school.

They are not actually nurses but help them take care of patients. CNAs are responsible for bringing food trays, changing the sheets, and helping patients bathe or walk, and they may take a patient’s vital signs.

Licensed Practical Nurses, or LPNs, complete 1-2 years of training at a technical school. They provide the basic monitoring and care of patients, with duties that may include taking blood pressure readings, giving shots, collecting samples for testing, and assisting patients who cannot bathe or feed themselves.

Note the overlap in the duties of a CNA and an LPN; LPNs may delegate some of their tasks to CNAs and supervise the work that CNAs do.

Registered Nurses, or RNs, may complete 2-4 years of school at either a technical school or university. RNs may create care plans for patients.

They administer medications, help the doctor run diagnostic tests, give the patient and the patient’s family instructions for continuing treatment at home, and may even be able to write prescriptions.

Because of the greater responsibility and higher skill set required of them, RNs make much more money on average than LPNs do.

In general, more time spent in nursing school correlates with a higher salary.

An RN with a 2-year Associate’s Degree in Nursing, or ADN, may start out with the same salary as an RN with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, or BSN, but the nurse with the BSN will probably have more opportunities for advancement and thus a greater lifetime earning potential than the nurse with the ADN.

Can you give specific numbers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNAs earned a median hourly wage of $11.48 in 2008.

Median wages for LPNs were $39,000 per year in 2008. LPNs earn bigger salaries working at nursing homes and home health care services than they do at general hospitals or private doctors’ offices.

Median wages for RNs were $62,000 per year in 2008, with bigger median salaries in hospitals and private doctors’ offices and lower median salaries in home health care services and nursing homes.

Is that good?

In the US, the median household income was about $50,000 per year in 2007. So, depending on your educational level and the annual wages of your other household members, you can probably expect to enjoy a middle-class lifestyle as a nurse.

For comparison, an average teacher a with four-year degree might start out with a salary of $33,000 per year, and a salaried real estate agent might make about $57,000 per year.

If you work under a primary care physician at a private practice, that doctor might be making about $186,000 per year.

It’s also important to note that the above salary figures for nurses do not include benefits. Nurses may receive health insurance, sick leave, retirement options, or other benefits in addition to salary.

How employable will I be with a degree in nursing?

A. The field of nursing is expected to grow quickly in the next decade.

In particular, because 28 percent of LPNs are employed by nursing homes and home-health services, these professionals will continue to enjoy a high demand for their skills as the “Baby Boomer” population ages and as ever-improving medical technology allows us all to live longer.

RNs can expect to see similar gains in the nursing home and home-health sectors, but for them, the the biggest job growth will occur in private practices.

This is because, as the practice of medicine becomes more technologically intensive, small doctors’ offices will need more highly skilled staff to run complicated machinery. The demand for RNs in private practice is expected to grow by 48 percent in the next 10 years.

Where can I find more information?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which provides detailed information about salary, training, nature of work, and growth outlook about all occupations in the US. You can access the Handbook online at www.bls.gov/oco/.

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