Description of a Typical Nurse Job

Nursing is a profession within the healthcare industry that focuses on providing care for individuals and families. Nurses help people maintain a healthy life through assessing, evaluating and implementing care to patients. Work within the nursing profession varies drastically from general practice to highly specialized fields. Nursing practice is the act of providing such care to all individuals in the community.

Education Levels

The level of education attained will determine at what level you can practice nursing as a career.

Diploma in Nursing – Hospital based diploma program that takes about three years to complete.

Associates Degree in Nursing – The most common first step of nursing education. Takes two years to complete at a college and is known as a AND.

BSN – Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a four-year program of both classroom education and hands-on practice.

License Exam – After completing any of the three education levels listed above you can test to be licensed by passing the NCLEX-RN, which is the test required to be a registered nurse (RN)

Graduate nursing opportunities – Included are a Master of Science in Nursing and a Doctorate in Nursing. These usually take six – eight years to compete, respectively.

Nursing Board Certifications – These voluntary exams are offered by the board to those who would like to prove knowledge of a specific specialty and be recognized for it.

Levels of Practice

General Practice

There are three types of nurses that fall under the general category of nursing, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Registered Nurse and Clinical Nurse Leader. All three categories have different education requirements but are not considered specialized. They all deal with an array of patients and treatments.

  • A Clinical Nurse Specialist (LPN) needs only to complete an accredited nursing program and pass a state board to practice. They must work under physicians.
  • A Registered Nurse (RN) is one who has graduated from college and passed the national nursing license exam.
  • A Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) is the most advanced and is an individual that has a master’s degree in the science of nursing.

Advanced Practice Nurse (APN)

An APN is a nurse that has advanced knowledge, education, experience and skill set. They are educationally past the post-graduate level and have taken their dedication to the next level.

APNs have four categories of specialization:

All APNs can work as general nurses or as specialized nurses.


There is no shortage of specialties to choose from within the nursing practice. In fact, there are over 50 different specialties you can consider when you want to take your career or passion to the next level. All specialized nurses must hold at least a master’s degree or possibly a doctorate to be considered a specialist. A specialist will usually start as becoming a general registered nurse and then choose to follow a specialty from there. There is usually a minimum of six years education to be specialized, although sometimes eight to ten years is needed.

Some of the most common specialties are:

  • Intensive care, Hospice
  • Nursery
  • Psychiatric
  • Labor and delivery and
  • Surgical
  • …but there are many more to choose from.

Practice Settings

A nurse can work in many different settings, from hospitals, schools, home visits, small private offices, labs, courtrooms and everything in between, depending on the type of nurse you are.


There is a huge range in the earning potential of nurses and it largely depends on your education level and specialty but, the state you live in will have an impact on it as well. Earning potential will increase with education as well as the more highly specialized that you are. The average nurse’s salary is $55,000 a year. The lowest 10% make roughly $40,000 annually and the top 10% is earning $100,000 annually.

Top 5 Paying Nursing Specialties

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Researcher
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Pediatric Endocrinology Nurse


Learn More: Typical Nurse Salary Ranges