Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, coordinate patient care and they may provide primary and specialty health care. Some APRNs are also known as Clinical Nurse Specialists. The scope of practice varies from state to state.

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Profession overview

See below for typical tasks and duties of registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses.

Registered nurses typically do the following:

Advanced practice registered nurses typically do the following:

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook

Is nursing a possible career for you?

Do you have the following qualities? If so, a nursing career may be a good fit.

Registered nurse

Advanced practice registered nurse

Professional education

Degrees offered 

There are a wide range of degrees offered within nursing. 

For NU students, the most appropriate degree programs are ones that are commonly known as “second degree nursing programs or accelerated nursing programs” that offer either an accelerated Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) for applicants who have earned a non-nursing Bachelors degree (many times this masters may be referred to as a generalist MSN).

If you are first year student and you wish to pursue a traditional BSN pathway, you would need to transfer to an undergraduate institution that offers the BSN.

Years of study 

Programs range from 11 to 18 months for an accelerated bachelor’s to typically three years for a graduate masters entry level program (some programs may switch from full-time to part-time status during those three years).

Licensure required

In all states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, registered nurses must have a nursing license. To become licensed, nurses must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and Clinical Nurse Specialists must have a master degree and some pathways may require additional certification.

Choosing a nursing program

Factors to consider when choosing a nursing program:

Some U.S. nursing institutions give preference to in-state (resident) students. Private nursing institutions may offer out-of-state and international applicants a greater number of positions within the program as compared to state-supported, public institutions.