The current job market for nurses, especially registered nurses (RN) is very promising. With an expected 16% growth in employment through 2024, nursing is one of the fastest growing occupations according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While advanced nursing education may be optional, obtaining a BSN degree provides a distinct advantage when searching for a job. Many employers are now hiring new graduates with baccalaureate degrees, while those who hold associate degrees and diplomas are typically having a harder time finding employment.
Despite the optimistic job outlook, challenges remain for those who are looking to enter the nursing field. With a majority of employers giving preference to nursing candidates who hold bachelor’s degrees, there is a corresponding increase in interest in enrolling in bachelor’s degree programs. However, many would-be students are finding admissions difficult. Rising tuition costs and decreased availability of scholarship funds are also barriers to education for many.
Many states are addressing these issues by forming partnerships with universities, nursing programs and healthcare providers to attract and retain qualified faculty, construct or enhance clinical sites and teaching facilities and provide resources to students, including scholarship programs. Other states are directing funds towards web-based degree programs and K-12 programs that help prepare students with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in a nursing degree program and career.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of a successful job hunt. Joining a professional nurses’ association such as the American Nurses Association, a state nurses’ association or a specialty nursing association is an excellent place to start. Aside from keeping you up-to-date on emerging nursing issues, being an association member can give you valuable contacts to add to your network, such as other nurses and possibly even hiring managers. These contacts can inform you when positions open up or serve as a reference on a job application.
This can also be a good time to continue your education. Nurses with diplomas or associate degrees should explore RN to BSN degree completion programs and those who hold bachelor’s degrees can consider master’s degree in nursing programs.
You should also stay up-to-date on new medical technology, particularly as devices and computer-related systems proliferate and play larger roles in healthcare settings. You may also want to consider choosing a nursing specialty or a combination of specialties, such as emergency and trauma, geriatric, neonatal and obstetrical, pediatric or oncological nursing.
Finally, look for opportunities in growing markets. According to the BLS, California, Texas, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania have the highest employment rates for nurses as of May 2015. The Health Resources and Services Administration lists those same states, along with others such as South Dakota, West Virginia, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Massachusetts as areas that currently face shortages of qualified health professionals. These areas represent excellent opportunities for those seeking a career in nursing.