The Pros and Cons of Nursing (page 2)

Updated on Dec 8, 2010

Opportunities for Career Advancement

Advancement opportunities abound. LPNs can become charge nurses, particularly in long-term care facilities. However, most advancement opportunities exist for RNs. You can climb the administration ladder and become a nurse manager or supervisor, often without additional education. You can also pursue a graduate degree to move to the top of the heap and become a director of nursing or you can choose to become an advanced practice nurse. Advanced practice nursing requires a master's degree at this point, but the American Association of Colleges of Nursing raised the bar, and the doctor of nursing practice will be the required degree in 2015. You can also choose to become a nurse educator, which also requires additional education if you wish this to be your full-time career.

But advancement does not always mean moving up; you can also make lateral moves. Your nursing license allows you to move among nursing specialties. Six months to a year of acute care experience is often enough to get a job in critical care or emergency nursing. You can also literally move. Nurses who work with nurse-for-hire agencies can hospital shop and work at various locations, often making good money and getting to work the hours of their choosing. If that's not enough movement, you can become a travel nurse, which allows you to work at your own pace and make your own decisions. Travel nursing also allows you to work in your own hometown or hundreds of miles away.

Travel nursing was listed as one of the Top Five Hot Careers in Nursing by in January 2009. The other four were military nursing, forensic nursing, legal nurse consulting, and surgical nursing. As the demand for nurses rises, so does the realization of how nurses fit into less typical settings.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the median annual earnings of LPNs at $36,550 in May 2006, with the middle 50% of LPNs earning between $31,080 and $43, 640. The highest 10% earned more than $50,480, while the lowest 10% earned $26,380. Median salaries per job location in May 2006 were:

employment services $42,110
nurse care facilities $38,320
home healthcare agencies $37,880
hospitals $35,000
physician offices $32,710

The Advance for LPNs 2008 LPN Salary Survey broke down salaries by state. Alaskan LPNs made top dollar at $29 per hour, but the survey creators advised that there were only four respondents from Alaska. LPNs in the Northeast fared best, with Connecticut LPNs earning as much as $25.28 per hour. States with the lowest hour rates included Alabama ($16.93), Nebraska ($15.75), North Dakota ($15.00), and Idaho ($14.67).

The U.S. Census Bureau's 2006 National Survey shows that RNs can earn about $15,000 more per year than LPNs. According to Allnursing, LPNs with 15 years until retirement can earn an additional $25,000 if they simply invest another 12 months in completing an online LPN-to-RN program.

For RNs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports median annual earnings of $57,280 in May 2006. The middle 50% of RNs earned between $47,710 and $69,850, while the top 10% earned more than $83,440, and the bottom 10%, less than $40, 250. Median RN salaries per job location in May 2006 were:

employment services $64,260
nurse case facilities $58,550
home healthcare agencies $54,190
hospitals $53,800
physician offices $52,490

The Advance Salary Survey 2008 listed the average RN nursing salary at $56,785. Not all states participated, but of those that did, California had the highest state average at $71,474, followed by New York ($63,132) and Delaware ($61,679). The states with the lowest salaries were Alabama ($47,688), Maine ($46,127), and Tennessee ($43,820).

Advanced degrees mean higher salaries that vary per practice type. Advance for Nurse Practitioners 2007 National Salary Survey showed that the average NP salary was $81,397. Pay Scale Inc. had average salaries for nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists. Nurse midwives who were in practice for less than a year earned an average $57,767 and those who practiced 10 to 19 years earned $48,000 (yes, the more experienced ones earned less). Nurse anesthetists earn the most with those practicing less than one year earning an average of $113,728 and those in practice for 20 years or more earning $141,578.

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