Charge Nurse Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of becoming a charge nurse? Read on to learn about job duties, salary data and education requirements. Get examples of job descriptions from real employers to see if this career is right for you.
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What Are the Pros and Cons of Becoming a Charge Nurse?

A charge nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who has advanced to a supervisory role. The following are some pros and cons of working in this field.

Pros of Becoming a Charge Nurse
Opportunity to help people*
Good salary (charge nurses earned a median salary of $78,205 as of Sept. 2015)**
Above-average employment rate (19% growth expected between 2012 and 2022)*
Can get this job without a graduate degree*

Cons of Becoming a Charge Nurse
Time spent standing, walking and moving patients could lead to injuries*
Shifts could include nights, weekends and holidays*
Work environments can be stressful*
24-hour shifts may be required*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Salary.com

Essential Job Info

Job Duties

A charge nurse runs a particular unit within a hospital, clinic, doctor's office or ambulatory care center. In this position, you would supervise nursing staff, establish work schedules, plan budgets and maintain patient records. You could be in charge of delegating responsibilities to other nurses and administrative staff on a particular shift.

Because charge nurses are also registered nurses, they may perform standard nursing duties, especially in smaller organizations where staff members need to take on many responsibilities. To that end, your daily job duties might include performing basic medical procedures, preparing patients for exams, talking to patients about health and performing administrative tasks.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to Salary.com, charge nurses earned a median salary of approximately $78,000 as of Sept. 2015, with the top-paid charge nurses taking home $95,000 per year or more. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an expected 19% increase in jobs for RNs in general between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov), due in part to an aging population that will need increasing medical care. Job prospects were expected to be excellent overall, especially in physicians' offices and outpatient care centers. You could experience even greater career prospects if you have at least a bachelor's degree in nursing.

Requirements

Education and Experience

To work as a charge nurse, you need to have about five years of clinical experience as an RN. While you can get a job as a registered nurse with a diploma or associate's degree, many employers prefer candidates who have bachelor's degrees. Some Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs are accelerated programs designed for RNs who already hold an associate's degree and want to continue their education.

Licensure

You need a license to work as a registered nurse. After earning your diploma, associate's degree or BSN from an accredited nursing program, you'll need to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), which is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Depending on the state in which you wish to work, there may be additional licensing requirements.

Job Postings

Employers of charge nurses sometimes look for those with backgrounds in particular types of nursing. If you do apply to jobs in a specific field, you may be required to have a relevant certification or demonstrable experience. The following examples of real job postings from April 2012 will give you an idea of what employers might be looking for.

  • A charge nurse was needed to supervise nursing shifts at a geriatric healthcare facility in Washington. Duties included ensuring the integrity of patient documents and having a strong sense of ethics. At least 1-2 years of experience was required.
  • A charge nurse was needed in a long-term care facility in Texas. Primary responsibilities included monitoring residents and providing treatments. You needed a nursing license and at least a year of experience to be eligible for this position.
  • A rehabilitation center needed a charge nurse to provide care to residents at a 124-bed facility in Austin, Texas. Other duties included administering medications and treatments, assessing patients and helping to develop care plans. A nursing license and one year of experience were required.

How to Stand Out

One way to stand out is to earn a more advanced degree. If you have an ASN, you could pursue a BSN, and if you have a BSN, you could pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). According to the BLS, nurses with bachelor's degrees could qualify for a wider variety of career opportunities, including administrative positions. A master's degree could qualify you for advanced practice nursing positions.

You could also join a professional organization or earn voluntary certification. For example, you could become a member of the American Nurses Association (ANA), which offers continuing education opportunities and conferences. If you'd like to earn voluntary certification in a specialty to prove your skill and expertise, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers certification in a variety of specialties, including ambulatory care, home-health, pediatric and surgical nursing.

Alternative Careers

Dental Hygienist

If you want to work in a medical field, but don't want to work in a hospital, consider pursuing a career as a dental hygienist. These professionals clean teeth, perform dental examinations and educate patients about preventative dental care. Dental hygienists enjoyed a median salary of about $69,000 as of May 2011, according to the BLS. You can get this job with an associate's degree or certificate in dental hygiene and a license. If you want to teach or perform research, bachelor's and master's degree programs are also available. The BLS reported that employment in this field was expected to grow by 38% between 2010 and 2020, which was greater than projected employment growth for the registered nursing field.

Physician Assistant

If you want to do more advanced medical work, you could work as a physician assistant (PA). In this position, you'll work under the direction of a doctor or surgeon. However, you'd have many of the same duties that a doctor would, such as performing physical exams, making diagnoses and providing treatment. The BLS indicates that PAs made a median salary of about $89,000 as of 2011. To be admitted to a program, you need to have previous experience working in a health profession, such as emergency medical technology or medical assisting. Physician assistant programs usually result in a master's degree or graduate certificate.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Walden University

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      • MS in Nursing (from BSN) - Psychiatric & Mental Health Nursing
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    2. Grand Canyon University

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    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
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    4. Purdue University Global

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    5. Fortis College

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      • Associate Degree in Nursing
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    6. Independence University

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      • Nursing (RN completion to BS) (RN req.)
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      • Doctor of Nursing Practice in Visionary Leadership
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      • HS Diploma
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    9. Keiser University

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    Bachelor's
      • RN to BSN
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    10. Herzing University

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Featured Schools

Walden University

  • MS in Nursing (from BSN) - Psychiatric & Mental Health Nursing
  • MS in Nursing (from RN) - Psychiatric & Mental Health Nursing
  • MSN-BSN, Nurse Executive with Health Policy

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
  • MS in Nursing: Public Health (Bridge)
  • BS in Health Care Administration

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The George Washington University

  • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
  • MSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences

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Purdue University Global

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • Accelerated BSN to MSN
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
  • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate

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Fortis College

  • Associate Degree in Nursing

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Independence University

  • Nursing Administration (MS)
  • Nursing Education (MS)
  • Nursing (RN completion to BS) (RN req.)

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Colorado Christian University

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice in Visionary Leadership

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Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

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