Want a secure, lucrative job? Well, helloooo, nurse!

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Although I usually pack a book (or a couple of books) for my rides on the subway, I sometimes like to put the book down and take a peek at the other passengers and their books. While the tastes of my fellow riders tend toward romance novels, action adventure tomes, and "literary" fiction, a very large percentage are usually toting textbooks. When I used to ride the 2 line, which runs near Columbia University, Barnard, NYU, and a few other colleges, it seemed like everyone on the train was studying for one class or another.

While there are generally a couple of people working their way toward degrees in law, social work, business, and other professions, the vast majority of the students that I see on the train are trying to get into health care. I almost feel like the dozens of medical students should somehow compare schedules and meet together on the train to quiz each other and trade notes. Just by looking over their shoulders, I've been able to pick up a wealth of information about bones, veins, muscles, and how some people don't like having bald strangers looking over their shoulders. Someday, I'm sure that I'll be able to put that knowledge to use.

It's not hard to figure out why all these people are working on getting degrees in nursing. There is a nationwide nursing shortfall of between 8% and 10%, and that's only going to increase as a large proportion of current nurses retire over the next five to ten years. Nationally, the average age of nurses is 47, indicating that there is considerable room for promotion for anyone currently entering the profession!
While more and more nurses retire, the number of people that need them is exploding. In January of 2006, amid much fanfare, the first of the Baby Boomers turned 60. As this gargantuan demographic spike becomes increasingly elderly, there is every reason to assume that they will continue to expect the same level of care that they have received all their lives. As the baby boom lasted from 1946 to roughly 1965, and as the Baby Boomers seem to have no intention of going softly into that sweet goodnight, it is likely that caring for the needs of the elderly will be a secure, high-paying profession well into the foreseeable future. In fact, nursing is expected to have a 23% job growth over the next decade, making it the fastest-growing career in the country.

Nursing salaries are definitely keeping pace with the increasing need. According to Allied Physicians, registered nurses in the U.S. have a median base salary of $39,000. After three years, the median RN salary rises to $47,000, and it goes up from there. According to Salary.com, the median salary for a staff nurse is close to $60,000. For nurses with further education or more specialization, the salaries can be much higher, often moving into six figures.

Also, nursing offers mobility. Unlike most other professions, trained nurses can pick up stakes, move on, and generally be guaranteed of having a job wherever they land. Part of this is due to the nationwide certification that goes with nursing, part is due to the severe nursing shortage, and part is due to the number of companies that have cropped up to temporarily staff nurses at hospitals across the country.

Nursing has, traditionally, been dominated by women, and 94% of nurses are still female. However, the profession is open to both genders, and ever-increasing numbers of men are going into nursing as the salaries and demand continue to increase. If you're looking for a job that promises excitement, travel, continuing education, and excellent pay, it would be hard to do better than nursing!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He isn't going into nursing because he can't stand the sight of blood. More specifically, he won't be able to stand the sight of the blood that will be spilt when he bashes some whiny, aging boomer over the head with a bedpan.

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