Registered nurses are the largest occupation in the health care industry, holding about 2.6 million jobs in 2008. Hospitals are the major employer, making up 60 percent of nursing jobs. About 8 percent of nurses work in physicians’ offices; 5 percent work in home health care; 5 percent work in nursing homes; and about 3 percent work for employment agencies. The rest work mostly in government, social assistance and schools.
The future looks excellent for job opportunities for registered nurses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor estimates that about 581,500 new jobs will be created for nurses by the year 2018. Hundreds of thousands of additional job openings will result from experienced nurses leaving the profession during that same time.
The growth rate of employment is expected to be much faster than average for all occupations, as much as 22 percent from 2008 to 2018. Technological advances in patient care and an increased emphasis on preventive care are the driving factors.
Jobs in physicians’ offices are projected to grow by 48 percent over the decade in question. There may be more competition for these jobs, though, because the working hours and environments are generally preferable to those in a hospital setting.
In-hospital jobs will still see significant growth (17 percent), but not as much, partly due to more procedures being done in outpatient facilities. The aging population will also require more nurses in long-term care facilities and in home health care.
In some parts of the country, employers in 2008 were reporting it was difficult for them to attract and retain enough RNs, mostly because of an aging work force and not enough younger workers available.
RNs with a bachelor’s degree will generally have better job prospects than those without a BSN. The advanced practice specialties (nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives) will see a high demand in the coming years, especially in rural area and inner cities.