Home page

Registered Nurses

At a Glance

  • Work under the supervision of doctors
  • Work in hospitals, doctors' offices, nursing homes, and clinics
  • Keep detailed records
  • Usually wear a uniform and safety gear (i.e., masks and gloves)
  • May work days, nights, weekends, or holidays
  • Training usually lasts three to four years
  • Need a license

Career summary

Registered nurses care for patients who are ill or injured.

#No alternate titles CJ

Most registered nurses (RNs) work as part of a team that includes doctors and therapists. Registered nurses work in a variety of settings.

Hospital nurses

Hospital nurses observe patients and carry out medical treatments. They use computerized equipment to monitor patients' vital signs and record observations and other medical data in patients' charts. Nurses may write and manage patient care plans. They explain to patients how to continue treatment after they go home.

Office nurses

Office nurses prepare patients for exams and check vital signs. They assist doctors with exams when requested. They draw blood and give injections. Office nurses may also perform routine lab tests and office work.

Public health nurses

Public health nurses work in community settings to provide health care and first aid. They give shots and screenings such as blood pressure tests. Public health nurses develop and provide health education programs on topics such as nutrition and child care. In addition, they refer patients to community agencies and other health care providers

Nursing care facility nurses

Nursing care facility nurses manage the health care of residents. They write care plans and supervise licensed practical nurses (LPNs).

Home health nurses

Home health nurses provide prescribed nursing care to patients in their own homes. They also instruct patients and their families how to perform necessary procedures.

Additional specialties

Registered nurses can also specialize in:

With additional education, registered nurses can also work as nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to registered nurses.

Common work activities

Registered nurses perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, registered nurses:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Registered nurses frequently:

It is important for registered nurses to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for registered nurses to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Registered nurses need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a registered nurse, you typically need to:

Education after high school

There are three training options for registered nurses. One, you can earn an associate degree in nursing (AND). Community and two-year colleges offer these two-year programs. Two, you can earn a bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN). Colleges and universities offer these four-year programs. Three, you can earn a diploma. Hospitals offer these two to three year programs.

In general, graduates of any of the three types of programs qualify for entry-level positions. However, you must also pass national and state exams. Nurses who have a bachelor's degree have more options for jobs.

As a nursing student, you study anatomy, physiology, and chemistry. Near the end of training you complete a supervised work experience in a hospital. During your clinical work experience you work in several hospital departments, such as surgery, emergency, and pediatrics.

Work experience

You can volunteer in a nursing home or other medical setting to get experience.

On-the-job training

New registered nurses generally receive some training on the job. Training varies by employer, but often lasts up to six months.

Military training

Some branches of the military offer training in nursing specialties to people who are already licensed as a registered nurse. Training lasts 14 to 27 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers may prefer to hire registered nurses who have a BSN degree. Nursing supervisors are nearly always required to have a BSN degree.

Some employers will hire registered nurses who do not have any work experience. Other employers prefer to hire registered nurses who have one or two years of related work experience.

Employers prefer to hire registered nurses who have a strong desire to help others and a genuine concern for patients' welfare. Because work with the sick and injured can be stressful, employers look for nurses who are emotionally stable.

Some hospitals may require registered nurses to have Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ALCS) or Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) training. Employers also look for applicants who have good communication and critical thinking skills.


Obtaining a degree in a specialty area is helpful. Professionals in the field of nursing advise students to work vacations and holidays in health care facilities. Applicants with such experience often have an easier time obtaining work. Volunteer in a health care facility and observe a registered nurse at work to see what the job entails to see if you like this kind of work.

Costs to workers

Many registered nurses join professional associations, which have annual dues. Many must pay for their own malpractice insurance. Other costs vary depending on one's personal preference, including comfortable walking shoes and several uniforms. Additional expenses include continuing education classes to keep up to date with changes in the nursing profession and as a licensing renewal requirement.

#updated 11/24/15 lh


Registered nurses must be licensed by the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission. Requirements include:

Registered nurses must renew their license each year and complete 531 practice hours and 45 continuing education hours every three years. If licensed registered nurses have not yet enrolled in and completed the survey for the Nursys national database, they must do so when they renew their license.

For more information, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission (external link)

PO Box 47864
Olympia, WA 98504

Nurses who work in schools must also have an Educational Staff Associate Certificate from the State. For more information on certification, contact:

Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (external link)
Old Capitol Building
PO Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200

#Added requirement of enrollment in Nursys 11/29/17 as is new requirement starting 1/1/18 cj. Added suicide training, rest same as before, 3/18/19 cj.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Registered nurses working for public schools throughout the state have an average base salary of $48,941 per year.

#Updated OSPI wage from 2013/14 School District Personnel Summary report, 3/25/15 cj; updated 08.16 sd, OSPI 4/11/16 lh & 4/13/17, 3/18/19 cj. 

Registered nurses (SOC 29-1141)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $26.81 $32.09 $38.42 $47.11 $55.89
Monthly $4,646 $5,561 $6,658 $8,164 $9,686
Yearly $55,760 $66,740 $79,920 $97,990 $116,250
    Bellingham Hourly $22.24 $25.53 $28.09 $30.66 $36.00
Monthly $3,854 $4,424 $4,868 $5,313 $6,239
Yearly $46,259 $53,089 $58,436 $63,772 $74,868
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $28.27 $32.91 $38.42 $47.12 $56.94
Monthly $4,899 $5,703 $6,658 $8,166 $9,868
Yearly $58,814 $68,461 $79,919 $98,009 $118,450
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $21.11 $27.21 $31.54 $39.66 $46.75
Monthly $3,658 $4,715 $5,466 $6,873 $8,102
Yearly $43,916 $56,582 $65,612 $82,498 $97,230
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $27.52 $31.45 $36.62 $43.84 $52.75
Monthly $4,769 $5,450 $6,346 $7,597 $9,142
Yearly $57,243 $65,406 $76,155 $91,177 $109,717
    Longview Hourly $20.35 $22.58 $31.95 $40.21 $55.00
Monthly $3,527 $3,913 $5,537 $6,968 $9,532
Yearly $42,334 $46,958 $66,452 $83,641 $114,393
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $27.92 $32.81 $38.53 $47.17 $55.38
Monthly $4,839 $5,686 $6,677 $8,175 $9,597
Yearly $58,060 $68,252 $80,137 $98,116 $115,184
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $26.80 $30.58 $35.61 $41.42 $54.79
Monthly $4,644 $5,300 $6,171 $7,178 $9,495
Yearly $55,734 $63,618 $74,063 $86,144 $113,965
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $28.85 $34.24 $41.02 $49.49 $58.51
Monthly $5,000 $5,934 $7,109 $8,577 $10,140
Yearly $60,023 $71,205 $85,317 $102,926 $121,700
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $26.79 $32.16 $37.68 $45.73 $53.45
Monthly $4,643 $5,573 $6,530 $7,925 $9,263
Yearly $55,726 $66,891 $78,378 $95,132 $111,192
    Vancouver Hourly $33.18 $40.00 $46.08 $52.72 $60.28
Monthly $5,750 $6,932 $7,986 $9,136 $10,447
Yearly $69,007 $83,205 $95,845 $109,652 $125,396
    Walla Walla Hourly $25.97 $27.86 $30.98 $40.38 $49.97
Monthly $4,501 $4,828 $5,369 $6,998 $8,660
Yearly $54,024 $57,948 $64,449 $83,992 $103,931
    Wenatchee Hourly $28.38 $33.27 $38.60 $46.09 $51.51
Monthly $4,918 $5,766 $6,689 $7,987 $8,927
Yearly $59,020 $69,201 $80,299 $95,856 $107,138
    Yakima Hourly $27.11 $31.19 $36.12 $41.99 $48.30
Monthly $4,698 $5,405 $6,260 $7,277 $8,370
Yearly $56,396 $64,889 $75,122 $87,346 $100,458
United States Hourly $24.42 $28.25 $34.48 $42.47 $51.22
Monthly $4,232 $4,896 $5,975 $7,360 $8,876
Yearly $50,800 $58,770 $71,730 $88,350 $106,530

Wages vary by employer. For example, hospital nurses tend to earn more than nurses in doctors' offices.

Full-time registered nurses generally receive benefits. Typical benefits include paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Many employers also offer child care, education benefits, and bonuses.

Employment and outlook

Washington employment

According to licensing information from the State of Washington Department of Health at the time this career was updated, there were about 91,036 registered nurses licensed by the State. Some may live out of state.

#email from pdc@doh.gov 3/23/12 lh. Requested licensing data 5/16 & again 8/7/13 cj. Rec'd new data from Thomas Bolender (Thomas.Bolender@DOH.WA.GOV) 8/7/13 cj. Nursing commission 3/10/14 lh. Received licensing data from Thomas 3/25/15 cj. Sent email to nursing@doh.wa.gov for new data 3/6/17 cj; sent again 4/5/17 & rec'd data same day.

Washington outlook

#Between 2014 and 2024, it is estimated that there will be 1,061 openings annually due to new positions and 1,407 openings annually from workers leaving this career.

#Updated outlook 06.16 sd

In Washington, many factors affect the outlook for this occupation including changes in the health care system; the financial health of hospitals and other medical facilities; the demand for nursing services; geographic location; the supply of nursing school graduates and faculty; and the retirement of existing workers. A growing and aging population, which is likely to need more nursing care, has increased the demand for registered nurses with geriatric specialization.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Registered nurses (SOC 29-1141)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 57,712 22.5% 16.1% 5,835
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 2,196 26.3% 13.4% 242
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 1,855 17.2% 8.6% 164
    Benton and Franklin Counties 1,939 31.4% 15.0% 235
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 2,191 21.8% 11.9% 217
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 3,659 23.1% 15.2% 374
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 2,922 22.5% 14.1% 295
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 3,117 21.8% 14.6% 309
    King County 20,380 23.7% 19.6% 2,116
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 1,900 10.4% 13.8% 138
    Pierce County 7,854 25.2% 15.2% 841
    Snohomish County 4,652 24.0% 12.4% 484
    Spokane County 5,240 15.9% 13.9% 452
United States 3,059,800 12.1% 5.2% 210,400

National employment

Three out of five nurses work in hospitals.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for nurses will be very strong. The aging population contributes to some of this demand. New federal health care laws also means that more people will have access to health care. Patients are released from hospitals to rehabilitation centers and nursing homes. As a result, rapid growth is expected in home health care and nursing homes. At nursing homes, job growth is expected in units that provide specialized care such as long-term rehabilitation for stroke and head injury patients or treat Alzheimer’s patients.

Many procedures which once were performed only in hospitals are being performed in doctors' offices and in outpatient care centers. Employment is expected to grow faster than average in these places as health care in general expands.

Job prospects are best for those with a bachelor's degree in nursing. Job openings will occur as people retire from this occupation.

Other resources

Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (external link)
East Holly Avenue
Box 56
Pitman, NJ 08071-0056
American Nurses Association (external link)
8515 Georgia Avenue, Suite 400
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Clinical Nurse Leader Association (external link)
Explore Health Careers: Registered Nurse (RN) (external link)
Health Occupation Students of America (external link)
548 Silicon Drive, Suite 101
Southlake, TX 76092
Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (external link)
National Association for Home Care & Hospice (external link)
228 Seventh Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
National League for Nursing (external link)
The Watergate, 2600 Virginia Avenue NW
Eighth Floor
Washington, DC 20037
National Student Nurses' Association (external link)
45 Main Street, Suite 606
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Northwest Organization of Nurse Executives (external link)
4000 Kruse Way Place, Suite 2-100
Lake Oswego, OR 97035
Nursing (external link)
From Johnson & Johnson
Service Employees International Union (external link)
1800 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20036
Society of Trauma Nurses (external link)
446 East High Street, Suite 10 446 East High Street, Suite 10
Lexington, KY 40507
Washington Center for Nursing (external link)
1101 Andover Park West, Suite 105
Tukwila, WA 98188
Washington State Nurses Association (external link)
575 Andover Park West
Suite 101
Tukwila, WA 98188
Your Nursing Career: A look at the facts (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster