Pennsylvania nursing schools offer numerous opportunities for aspiring nurses to obtain the education they need to move into the ever-growing health care field. Nurses tend to be in high demand nationwide. In an August 2014 report from the American Nurses Association, the Keystone State was one of ten states expected to account for half the job growth of registered nurses from 2012 to 2022. Students who want to take advantage of that growth can get a good start through an online nursing school in Pennsylvania.
Online Nursing Programs in Pennsylvania
There are many paths to a nursing degree in Pennsylvania. Some of the nursing programs can be taken online through a hybrid approach: while classroom courses can be completed online, the clinical work can be completed in a hands-on environment.
- Licensed practical nurses (LPN) or licensed vocational nurses (LVN) must complete an approved education program that results in a diploma or certificate. These programs usually take about one year to complete, and then LPNs or LVNs work under the close supervision of registered nurses.
- Registered nurses (RN) have three options for reaching their career goal: They can earn a diploma from an approved nursing program, an associate degree, or a bachelor's degree. Medscape points out that nursing diploma programs are becoming rare as they are phased out in favor of the associate or bachelor's degree path. Students can opt for the two-year associate program or the four-year bachelor's degree program, both of which can also serve as stepping stones to higher degrees.
- Advanced practice nurses (APRN), such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, must take their education further. For them, they'll need to pursue the master's degree, which they would typically do after earning their registered nursing license.
Some choose to expand their career opportunities by earning the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) or the Ph.D. The state of Pennsylvania currently offers 37 schools that provide everything from the bachelor's degree to the Doctor of Nursing Practice or Ph.D., according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Online nursing schools in Pennsylvania are especially popular on the master's and doctoral levels, as they allow students to continue working in their current positions while increasing their educational attainment.
Nursing Career Outlook in Pennsylvania
The projected outlook for nurses across the nation is robust. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses nationwide are expected to see employment growth of 16 percent from 2014 to 2024. Licensed practical nurses may see growth of 16 percent, while advanced practice nurses are expected to see 31 percent growth during that same time period.
In Pennsylvania, Projections Central reports excellent job growth for nurses from 2014 to 2024:
- Licensed practical nurses: 9.3%
- Registered nurses: 14%
- Nurse anesthetists: 11%
- Nurse practitioners: 28%
Nursing can also be a lucrative career choice, depending on how far you choose to go in your education. Here's a look at some of the 2015 annual mean wages for nursing jobs available in Pennsylvania:
- Registered nurse: $67,550
- Licensed practical nurse: $44,570
- Nurse anesthetist: $152,850
- Nurse practitioner: $92,670
Aspiring nurses can improve their job prospects by advancing their education to earn a higher degree, or becoming certified in a wide variety of specialties. New health care professionals may also find good opportunities in facilities that are expected to show excellent hiring growth, such as outpatient centers, skilled nursing facilities and home health care.
Nursing Program Specializations
Nurses can choose to specialize in any number of areas within the profession. Certifications can help prove a nurse's extensive experience and knowledge in a particular area and make them much more valuable to potential employers. These certifications are accepted in hospitals, outpatient clinics and other medical care settings across the country, including those in Pennsylvania. Here are some of the ones offered through the American Nurses Credentialing Center:
- Ambulatory care nursing
- Cardiac-vascular nursing
- Forensic nursing - advanced
- Medical-surgical nursing
- Pain management nursing
- Psychiatric-mental health nursing
- Informatics nursing
Other credentials are available for nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists.
- Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016-17 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
- Registered Nurses, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016-17 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm1
- Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016-17 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm
- Long-Term Projections for Pennsylvania, 2014 to 2024, Projections Central, https://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
- May 2015 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Pennsylvania, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_pa.htm
- ANCC Certification Center, American Nurses Credentialing Center, http://www.nursecredentialing.org/certification.aspx
- Fast Facts; The Nursing Workforce of 2014: Growth, Salaries, Education, Demographics and Trends, American Nursing Association, August 2014, http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ThePracticeofProfessionalNursing/workforce/Fast-Facts-2014-Nursing-Workforce.pdf
- Member Program Directory, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, https://www.aacn.nche.edu/students/nursing-program-search
- "Overhauling Nursing Education," Medscape, January 28, 2011, Laura A. Stokowski, RN, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/736236_5