Want to earn healthy profits? There are close to 3 million nurses in the U.S., says Diana Mason, registered nurse, Ph.D., and editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Nursing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the middle half of all registered nurses earned between $47,710 and $69,850 in 2006, and the highest-paid 10 percent made more than $83,440.
Nurses are highly educated and trained. Licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, must go through a course of study that lasts nine months to two years. Registered nurses, or RNs, typically have associate or bachelor's degrees in nursing, though there are a few master's degree entry programs for people with undergraduate degrees in other fields.
Some RNs go on for master's degrees to become clinical specialists, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives or nurse anesthetists; others continue on for a Ph.D. These are usually academics and researchers, although nurse executives are increasingly acquiring Ph.Ds.
Ninety percent of nurses are women. "But that's starting to change, and it will continue to change as wages go up and as this economy gets tougher because as the economy worsens, it's the nursing bedside jobs that are probably the least in jeopardy," says Mason. This means that more men will be attracted to nursing because of the high wages and stability.
The average age of a nurse is about 46, and that number is going up. "We're not bringing as many new nurses in, and that's not because they don't want to," says Maureen Markey, assistant director of marketing at the American Nurses Association. "There's a backlog in people trying to get into nursing schools, but there's a lack of educators. So we're not getting as many younger people in and out of schools, and thus the nursing population is aging."
In 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about three out of five nurses worked in hospitals, and about one in five worked part time.