Few industries in the U.S. grant as many job opportunities as the field of healthcare. Within the healthcare industry, the nursing profession provides jobs for millions of people, and projections for nursing careers continue to be favorable. In 2016, the nursing profession included nearly three million jobs, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected this number would increase by 15% by 2026.
In addition to providing ample career opportunities, nursing generally provides healthy, stable salaries. According to PayScale, when nurses first enter the profession after earning an online nursing degree, they make an annual median salary of $57,113. By the time nurses reach the middle of their careers, their median annual salary grows to around $63,000. Finally, late-career registered nurses earn a median yearly salary of around $70,000.
Nurses sometimes choose to specialize in a certain area of medicine. A specialization, such as anesthesiology or orthopedics, allows them to earn even more than their peers, often providing a six-figure salary. In order to to pursue one of these specialized fields, many nurses return to nursing colleges in Massachusetts to earn a master's degree. Additionally, after spending a few years working in the field, some nurses decide they want to teach and train nursing students. If individuals opt for this route, they often enroll in a nursing school in Massachusetts to pursue a doctoral degree.
How to Become a Nurse in Massachusetts
Students all over the country go through similar processes to obtain their online nursing degrees. However, nurses in different states or those with different specializations/licenses may follow slightly different paths. For example, students attending nursing schools online in Massachusetts must account for different licensing costs and procedures depending on the type of licensing exam(s) they need to take.
1. Choose the Path That's Right for You
To become a registered nurses, you must hold at least an associate degree, although many nurses prefer to complete a bachelor's degree at a nursing school in Massachusetts; this more advanced degree typically leads to better job opportunities and higher pay. If you want to go further and become an advanced nurse, you should pursue a license for a nursing specialization, a master's degree, or both. Additionally, if you want to stay in the classroom to train nursing students, you should consider enrolling in a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program. However, you needn't continue directly into a master's or doctoral program; many individuals opt to practice nursing for a few years before continuing their education.
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
Earning an online degree at a nursing school in Massachusetts varies somewhat from a campus-based experience, although many similarities still exist. To earn an online nursing degree, you'll take several required biology and anatomy courses through your school's online platform. However, you'll still need to spend time in a hospital, clinic, or other healthcare facility to earn practical clinical experience under the guidance of professional nurses. Some programs also require you to complete a fellowship or internship. The length of time needed to complete an online nursing program in Massachusetts depends on what type of degree you pursue. For example, associate and master's degrees take approximately two years to finish, while a bachelor's degree generally requires four years of study. You can also find accelerated nursing programs in Massachusetts.
3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
After graduating with your degree, you must also pass the national examination for registered nurses, such as the NCLEX-RN exam, to become an RN. Although your degree helps prepare you for this exam, you may want to spend at least another month studying on your own for a couple hours a day. Once you pass the exam and earn your license, you can assume work as an RN.
Nursing Licensure in Massachusetts
To earn a nursing license after completing your online nursing degree, you must apply to take a qualification exam from the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing. Every practicing registered nurse must gain licensure by passing this test. Although you can sit for the NCLEX-RN exam once you've earned an associate degree, nurses generally make more money if they also earn a bachelor's degree. Additionally, if you want to pursue a specialization and increase your earning potential further, you should consider enrolling in a master's or doctoral program.
The NCLEX-RN exam costs $200, consists of 75-265 questions, and must be completed within six hours. Students typically spend the month prior to their testing day studying to prepare for the exam.
The Nurse Licensure Compact consists a group of states that allows nurses to work across state lines without changing their licensure; however, nursing schools in Massachusetts do not currently belong to this compact. Therefore, nurses registered to practice in Massachusetts should determine how qualifications vary in other states if they plan on pursuing work elsewhere.
State Requirements By Nursing Type
In Massachusetts, you can become a registered nurse by exam or by reciprocity.
To receive your license by exam, you must first hold at least a diploma in nursing from a board-approved nurse training program. Community colleges and vocational schools throughout the state offer nurse training, and you can view a list of all approved programs here. Earning an associate or bachelor's degree from an accredited institution also satisfies this education requirement.
After you complete your training, you must then take the NCLEX-RN. This exam features adaptive questioning, meaning your answers to early questions affect the nature and number of questions you receive later. The exam consists of 75-265 questions. While most questions provide multiple choices to choose from, some may ask you to fill in a blank, properly order a series of items, or identify a specific part of an image. Topics covered include the treatment of respiratory diseases, the administration of medicine to patients, the development of a fetus, and crisis intervention. You have up to six hours to complete the exam, and registration costs $200.
If you pass the NCLEX-RN and a criminal background check, you can formally apply for licensure. The state board of nursing charges a $230 application fee, and RNs must renew their license every two years.
If you already hold a license as an RN in another state, you can apply for a Massachusetts license through reciprocity. To qualify, your state must require its licensed nurses to complete an accredited training program and pass the NCLEX-RN. Out-of-state applicants also pay the $230 application fee.
Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) in Massachusetts must receive state certification as a nurse aide in order to practice.
To gain this certification, you must first complete a nurse aide training program approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Many high schools, community colleges, and private health organizations throughout the state offer these programs, and you can review a full list here. However, individuals who have worked in a long-term care facility and received substantial training in this area can sometimes waive this requirement.
Prospective nurse aides must then pass the Massachusetts Nurse Aide Competency Exam, administered by the American Red Cross. The exam consist of two parts and assesses your knowledge and clinical skills. The knowledge portion covers topics related to basic nursing care, restorative services, and the care of the cognitively impaired. Alternatively, the skills portion requires you to complete certain tasks under the supervision of an instructional nurse, such as bathing a resident or gathering the correct supplies for inserting a catheter. In total, the exam takes 2-3 hours and costs $100.
If you pass the exam, the Department of Public Health will list you on its registry of certified nurse aides within three weeks. You must renew your certification every two years, although there is no fee for initial certification or renewal.
Applicants who have served as certified nursing assistants in other states can also join the registry through reciprocity. The American Red Cross processes all reciprocity applications, usually within 15 days.
To become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in Massachusetts, you must meet roughly the same eligibility requirements as RN candidates. To begin, you must hold at least a diploma in nursing from a board-approved nurse training program. As with all types of nursing licenses in the state, you must also submit to a criminal background check.
If you meet these requirements, you can sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). Like the NCLEX-RN, the NCLEX-PN features adaptive questioning, with test takers answering 75-265 questions over the course of approximately six hours. Questions cover subjects such as birth abnormalities, ethical issues in nursing, signs and symptoms of pregnancy complications, and organic mental disorders. The exam, administered by Pearson, costs $200.
After passing the NCLEX-PN, you must pay a $230 application fee to receive your initial license, and the board requires all nurses to renew their licenses every two years. To qualify for renewal, you need to complete at least 15 contact hours of continuing education every two years. Acceptable continuing-education programs may include home study courses, planned clinical experiences, online training programs, and some lectures. The board does not maintain a list of approved programs, and LPNs must determine if their chosen method of continuing education meets regulatory requirements.
If you currently work as an LPN in another state, you can receive a Massachusetts license through reciprocity. You must submit proof of your license and the results of your NCLEX-PN. In addition, you must pay a $230 application fee.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) working in the state of Massachusetts must hold authorization as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). To receive APRN authorization, you must first earn at least a master's degree in nursing from an accredited institution. Additionally, during your graduate studies, you must complete coursework in pathophysiology, advanced physical assessment, and pharmacotherapeutics. Finally, you must hold a current RN license.
After meeting these requirements, you can apply for national certification. The state board of nursing recognizes the following certification organizations for nurse practitioners: the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the National Certification Corporation, the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Certification Corporation. Certification requirements vary depending on the organization you choose, but you generally need to pass an exam and pay a $300-$400 fee.
As part of your application to the board, you must submit proof of your RN license, transcripts from your graduate program, documentation proving your certification status, and the information needed to conduct a criminal background check. You must also pay a $150 authorization fee. NPs who wish to prescribe medicine as part of their practice must submit additional documentation and join a controlled substances monitoring program.
Out-of-state applicants must follow the same procedures as nurses working in Massachusetts. All NPs must renew their licenses every two years, completing 15 hours of continuing education and paying a $180 fee to do so.
Career Outlook for Nurses in Massachusetts
Many individuals who earn degrees from nursing schools in Massachusetts enjoy a bright career outlook; the BLS projects that the number of nursing jobs in the U.S. will rise by 15% from 2016 to 2026. Nurses often pursue different specializations across the healthcare field by earning licenses or advanced degrees; these specializations can set individuals apart from other job candidates, helping them secure more attractive careers.
As an example, nurses can specialize in anesthesiology and become certified registered nurse anesthetists. Nurse anesthetists earn one of the highest salaries for nurses in Massachusetts, averaging an annual wage of $166,490 in the state. Nurses can also consider other specializations and train to become nurse practitioners, who earn an annual mean wage of $117,860 in Massachusetts. Generally, specializations in nursing lead to significantly higher salaries.
Employment Data For RNs in Massachusetts
According to the BLS, just over 85,000 registered nurses worked in Massachusetts in 2016. Tese professionals earned an annual mean salary of $89,060 -- this value is significantly higher than both the average salary for all other occupations in the state and the median salary for RNs working across the country.
Nationally, the majority of RNs provide patient care in public and private hospitals, although roughly 25% work for smaller health centers or in home care settings. The remainder work for government agencies or educational organizations.
The BLS projects that roughly 438,000 new RN positions will be created between 2016 and 2026, mostly to meet the healthcare demands of an increasingly aging population. This 11% growth in employment -- significantly higher than the growth rate for all jobs in the U.S. -- suggests that RNs can look forward to strong job prospects. However, as more nurses join the labor market, a bachelor's degree or higher in nursing may help give you a competitive edge.
Most RNs in Massachusetts work in one of the state's metropolitan areas. Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, for example, employed more than 5,000 RNs in 2016. Nursing professionals who prefer to provide individual care in a home setting, however, can find opportunities throughout the state, including in rural areas.
Employment Data For CNAs in Massachusetts
In 2017, nearly 39,000 certified nursing assistants worked in Massachusetts. They earned an annual mean wage of $30,960, considerably lower than the average pay for all occupations in the state but roughly $3,000 more than the median salary for nursing assistants nationwide.
Across the country, approximately 75% of nursing assistants work in hospitals, nursing care facilities, and assisted living communities. Only 5% provide home healthcare services, due mostly to the fact that nursing assistants cannot operate with the same autonomy as RNs or other licensed nurses. The BLS projects that employment for nursing assistants will grow by 11% between 2016 and 2026, creating about 173,000 new positions.
If you hope to work as a CNA in Massachusetts, urban centers like Boston, Worcester, and Springfield tend to offer the most opportunities. However, the state does provide in-home healthcare services to elderly individuals, so government positions also exist in more rural areas.
Employment Data For NPs in Massachusetts
Nearly 6,200 nurse practitioners worked in Massachusetts in 2017, earning an annual mean wage of $117,860. NPs can command such high salaries because of the intense demand for highly-trained and autonomous healthcare professionals. According to the BLS, national employment for NPs is projected to increase by 36% between 2016 and 2026 -- more than five times the rate of growth for all occupations in the nation.
About 61% of nurse practitioners work in physicians' offices, even though they do not require the supervision of a licensed doctor to diagnose or treat many medical conditions. In Massachusetts, some NPs can even prescribe medication to their patients, further cementing their role as the primary providers of healthcare services to much of the public.
An additional 28% of NPs work in hospitals, meaning that most employment opportunities exist in cities and suburbs. However, medically underserved rural areas should also see an increase in demand for NPs. If you prefer to work in a less populated setting, you should consider applying to the NURSE Corps Scholarship Program, which provides financial aid in exchange for a commitment to work at a "critical shortage facility." Many of these facilities operate in rural areas across Massachusetts.
Biggest Hospitals in Massachusetts
Massachusetts contains several large, well-ranked hospitals, many of which operate out of Boston. These facilities employ tens of thousands of physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other healthcare workers, making them prime places for recent graduates and first-time job seekers to find employment. Hospitals also tend to offer internships and fellowships, allowing students pursuing online nursing degrees the opportunity to gain work experience before they secure their first full-time jobs.
- Massachusetts General Hospital: This hospital serves the eastern part of the state, including Boston and its suburbs. In 2015, Mass General employed nearly 22,000 workers, served an average of about 1,000 patients in operating beds every day, and earned a net patient service revenue of $2.45 billion.
- Brigham and Women's Hospital: Also based in Boston, this hospital aided an average of almost 800 patients in hospital beds every day in 2015. Brigham and Women's employs about 14,600 workers and boasts a net patient service revenue of $1.8 billion. The hospital also operates as a teaching hospital for Harvard medical students, making it an especially attractive place for young nurses to start their careers.
Additional Nursing Resources in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Nursing Association: The central aims of MNA revolve around unionization, labor policy, and influencing political decisions in healthcare. The association also provides multiple resources for nurses seeking to further their careers and continue their education.
- American Nurses Association Massachusetts: The Massachusetts chapter of ANA operates out of Boston. This organization hosts a career center with a job database and other career resources. It also offers support to nurses interested in furthering their licensure and credentials and provides scholarships for Massachusetts students. ANA Massachusetts advocates for healthcare policy and allows its members to join committees and participate in political advocacy.
- National Association for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Massachusetts: NAPNAP serves as a national organization for nurses who work with children. The association's website lists resources for professional pediatric nurses and student nurses. The organization also hosts dinners and lectures, allowing pediatric nurses to engage in networking.
- Massachusetts Coalition of Nurse Practitioners: This organization promotes professional development among nurse practitioners, establishes networks and coalitions between nurses and nursing organizations in Massachusetts, and advocates for healthcare policy affecting nurse practitioners in the state. The coalition also hosts several events per month throughout the state.
- Massachusetts Student Nurses' Association: This association specifically serves students attending nursing schools in Massachusetts; in fact, students even make up the association's board of directors. The Massachusetts chapter operates locations all over the state and provides scholarships and career resources for its members.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Massachusetts
The list below details the various online nursing degrees that students can earn at nursing schools in Massachusetts. This list includes only accredited programs and discusses several types of degree tracks at Massachusetts nursing schools, including associate degrees in nursing, online RN programs in Massachusetts, online RN-to-BSN programs in Massachusetts, online BSN programs in Massachusetts, online MSN programs in Massachusetts, and online doctoral programs in nursing.