Even though there are more registered nurses (RNs) in the health care field than any other single occupation, there still is a nursing shortage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are many paths to becoming an RN. Some people start as an LPN and advance from there. Others take a short associated degree certification course, while others choose a Bachelor's Degree in nursing. No matter what path you choose or why you become an RN, you'll have to consider some positive and negative aspects of working in this field.
Disadvantage: Study Time
RNs take longer to train than licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Some LPN programs last for only a year, while RN programs range from two to four years. Students wishing to enter the field as quickly as possible should chose an LPN degree rather than an RN degree. RNs have more responsibilities, so the courses are typically more challenging as well.
Advantage: Job Outlook
There simply aren't enough nurses to fill the demand for them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As baby boomers experience an increased need for nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and hospital care, the demand for nurses will increase. The BLS estimates that openings for nursing positions will grow by 22 percent, which is better than for most other positions. RNs will likely have no trouble finding employment upon graduation.
Disadvantage: Odd Hours
Nurses work long, odd hours--especially new nurses. It's common for nurses to work 12 to 18-hour shifts, and to work overnight, and on weekends and holidays. If no additional nurses can be found to cover a nursing shift, the nurse on duty may have to stay on for an even longer shift. People never stop getting sick or injured, so nurses must always be ready to care for them.
RNs have an especially broad range of skills, work long hours and literally have people's lives in their hands. Because of this, they are paid well. The BLS estimated that in 2008, the average nurse made $62,450. Some nurses made much more, topping out at $92,240. Even the lowest paid nurses still brought in $43,410. Increased financial aid for nurses and special nursing loans backed by the federal government give RNs a financial leg-up so they can afford their studies.