Two-year schools and four-year schools offer programs that prepare students for the exam they must pass to become a registered nurse.
The median pay for a registered nurse was $64,690 last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
BLS notes that registered nurses work in a variety of settings: hospitals, physicians’ offices, home health-care services, nursing care facilities, correctional facilities, schools, summer camps and the military.
Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow by 26 percent, or 712,000 workers, from 2010 to 2020. That compares to a projected 14.3 percent expansion of the overall work force during that span.
Although there are occupations that are projected to grow more on a percentage basis, registered nurses rank No. 1 in the absolute number of jobs that are expected to be added – followed by retail salespersons (707,000) and home-health aides (706,000).
Many experts project that the demand for registered nurses will outstrip the supply.
But competition to get into nursing programs is getting stiffer.
“In 2007, when jobs were plentiful, students thought they had more opportunities” outside nursing, said Stephen Scott, president of Wake Technical Community College.
At UNC, which this year has 152 nursing slots – down 25 percent from last year due to budget cuts – the nursing school has about four applications for each opening.
Wake Tech has 275 nursing slots but about 1,000 students in its pre-nursing program, up from as low as 500 several years ago. Durham Technical Community College, which has 150 nursing slots, reports that the ranks of its pre-nursing students have swelled from 461 in 2007 to 651 today.
Staff writers David Ranii and Tori Stilwell