What Can You Do With a Nursing Degree? Explore Your Options.

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Nurse smiling at a patient with text "your options are endless"

If you’re looking for a meaningful career in a valued field, you should consider nursing. Registered nurses (RNs) are in high demand across the country. Nurse employment is expected to increase by 7 percent between 2019 and 2029. You may wonder, what can I do with a nursing degree?

A 2020 survey shows that approximately 54.8 percent of RNs in the U.S. practice in a hospital setting. That means that 45.2 percent work elsewhere. Let’s take a look at a few options for nursing beyond the bedside.

1. Home Health Nursing

A growing number of patients need ongoing care that may not require hospitalization. Their busy families increasingly turn to home health nurses to meet their needs. According to salary.com, the median income for a home health RN is $75,871 per year. These nurses provide a broad spectrum of care, including:

  • Administering medications, including IVs
  • Caring for wounds
  • Assessing vital signs
  • Providing physical evaluations
  • Drawing blood for laboratory testing
  • Helping with personal care such as bathing and toileting
  • Assisting with mobility
  • Collaborating with an interprofessional healthcare team to create a care plan

2. Informatics Nursing

Informatics nurses link the medical and technological aspects of nursing. These specialists help information technicians (IT) choose, implement and evaluate new technology to improve patient safety and care. Informatics nurses work in a variety of settings, including IT companies, nursing schools, patients’ homes, and long-term care centers. The average annual salary for an informatics nurse in the U.S. is $90,990.

3. Occupational Health Nursing

Occupational health nurses contribute medical insight in a business setting. They operate within the workplace to promote a safe and healthy environment. These nurses may provide health and wellness training, mental health assistance, documentation and treatment of company illnesses and injuries, and protection from environmental hazards. The average salary for an occupational health nurse in the U.S. is $68,575 per year.

4. School Nursing

School nurses work in elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as universities. Responsibilities may include conducting vision and hearing tests, providing direct patient care to sick or injured students, and promoting health and wellness through education. The average annual salary of a school nurse in the U.S. may be somewhat lower than that of other specialties ($51,626), but if you’re interested in a day-shift job with summers off, school nursing may be right for you.

5. Forensic Nursing

The best forensic nurses are detail-oriented and adept at problem-solving. These nurses work in many different settings, including psychiatric institutions, medical examiners’ offices, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities, and communities enduring a natural disaster.

Forensic nurses evaluate and collect forensic evidence from victims, including those who’ve suffered a sexual assault. They also may be called upon to testify in court concerning patients’ medical information or gathered evidence. The average salary for a forensic nurse in the U.S. is $73,985 per year.

6. Clinical Research Nurse

These nurses study various features of the health care system to improve patient outcomes. Clinical research nurses work in healthcare facilities, laboratories, medical research agencies, universities, and pharmaceutical companies, for example.

Their responsibilities might include recruiting study participants, collecting samples and assessing vital signs, planning and executing clinical procedures, and educating subjects. The average salary for a clinical research nurse in the U.S. is $88,240 per year.

7. Public Health Nursing

If you have a strong desire to help those in need, you might enjoy working as a public health nurse. These nurses frequently assist low-income residents in underserved communities. They reach out and connect with patients needing treatment, work to educate individuals about health risks (such as virus outbreaks), and give community members tools to improve their health. Public speaking and outreach skills are beneficial in this role. The average salary for a public health nurse in the U.S. is $63,800 per year.

nursing instructor working in lab with two nursing students

How Do I Become a Nurse?

Now that you have a sense of what you can do with a nursing degree, let’s look at what it takes to become a registered nurse.

BSN is Best.

If you want to become a registered nurse, it’s best to start by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), those who pursue a BSN build more than basic nursing skills. They learn to think critically, manage cases, promote health, and exhibit leadership. While it’s possible to become an RN with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), employers increasingly prefer BSN-educated nurses. In fact, a growing number of states (including New York) now require all registered nurses to earn a BSN within 10 years of initial licensure.

What if I already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree?

If you already hold a bachelor’s degree, the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio, Texas, will allow you to earn a BSN in as few as 16 months.

To become a professional nurse, you’ll need a strong academic foundation in nursing theory and a wealth of experiential learning. Our rigorous ABSN track comprises 62 credit hours of online coursework, hands-on skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations in top area healthcare facilities.

Whether you’re looking for a career change or you’ve recently earned a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, our ABSN track could be your quickest path to a rewarding new occupation. We offer three start dates per year — in January, May and August — so you can begin your education sooner.

Ace the NCLEX.

Once you have earned a BSN, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN®) to become a licensed, practicing nurse. The exam evaluates your knowledge, skills, and abilities — ensuring your readiness to safely and effectively practice as an entry-level nurse.

Find Out More

If you’d like to learn more about the ABSN track at UIW, contact us today. We’re excited to help you get started on your path toward a meaningful career in nursing.