Careers and Outcomes - Nursing - Montana Tech

Nursing Careers, Placement and Outcomes

  • According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the nursing profession is the nation’s largest health care profession, with more than 3.1 million registered nurses nationwide.   Registered nurses make up one of the largest segments of the workforce in the U.S. and are among the highest paying profession in healthcare.  Over half of Registered Nurses are employed in general medical-surgical hospitals and earn salaries as high as $66,700 annually.
  • Most health care involves some form of care by nurses.  This is true in hospitals, clinics, public health offices, community health centers, health maintenance organizations, long term health care, home health care, and hospice to name a few.   In 1980, 66% of employed RNs worked in hospitals.  This declined to 62.2% as RNs found employment in the variety of roles listed above.
  • Nurses should not be viewed as an “assistant” to the physician but as someone who works collaboratively with physicians. Nursing operates independent of, but within, medicine. There are currently four times more nurses in the U.S. as physicians. Nurse’s roles range from direct patient care and case management; input into nursing practice standards, development of quality assurance procedures, and directing complex nursing care systems. In addition, a nurse’s scope includes advanced degrees as certified nurse midwives, certified registered nurse anesthetists, as well as specializing care in cardiac, oncology, neonatal, neurological, and obstetrical/gynecological nurse and other advanced specialties.
  • The primary pathway to becoming a professional nurse (registered nurse) is through a four year bachelor’s degree program. This earns the student a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or BSN. Other routes to becoming an RN include the three year Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree or a three year hospital training program, known as a diploma program. However the number of diploma programs has declined over recent years. Currently, less than 10 percent of all basic nursing education programs are hospital-based diploma programs, as nursing education has shifted from hospital based to educational institution-based.
  • To meet the complex demands in today’s healthcare, the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice recommends that at least two-thirds of the nursing workforce hold a baccalaureate degree or higher.  This recommendation has increased the number of nurses advancing their degree.  In 1980, nearly 55 percent of employed RNs held a diploma in nursing as their highest degree, 22 percent had a bachelor’s degree, and 18 percent had an associate’s degree.  By 2008, 13.9 percent had a diploma degree as their highest level of education, 36.8 percent had a bachelor’s degree, and 36.1 percent held an associate’s degree.    In 2012, 22,531 RNs with either a diploma or associate’s degree, graduated from BSN programs.
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nursing has shown the largest job growth from 2008-2018.  It is projected that more than 581,500 new RN jobs will be created through 2018.  Projections also indicate by 2025, the U.S. nursing shortage will grow to more than 260,000 registered nurses and the demand for RNs in hospitals will increase by 36% by 2020.
  • There are three major educational paths to professional nursing: Associate degree in nursing (ADN/ASRN/ASN), bachelor of science (or arts) degree in nursing (BSN), and diploma. ADN/ASRN/Nursing Programs, offered by community colleges, junior colleges and traditional 4-year colleges and universities take about 2 or 3 years. About half of all RN programs in 1998 were at the ADN/ASRN/ASN level. BSN programs, offered by colleges and universities, take 4 or 5 years. Diploma programs, given in hospitals, last 2 to 3 years. Only a small number of programs, about 4 percent, offer diploma level degrees. All graduates take the same national licensing exam and generally, graduates of any of the three program types qualify for entry-level positions as staff nurses. In 1998, there were over 2,200 entry-level RN programs in the United States.
  • There is an even wider variety of educational paths for practical nursing. Almost 6 out of 10 practical nursing programs are offered at technical or vocational schools, while 3 out of 10 are in community and junior colleges. Others are in high schools, hospitals, and colleges and universities. Educational programs vary in length from 1 to 2 years. In 1998, approximately 1,100 state-approved programs in the United States provided practical nursing training.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2011). American Association of Colleges of Nursing/ Nursing Fact Sheet. Retrieved at