How to Become a Nurse in Pennsylvania

Becoming a nurse in Pennsylvania
Becoming a nurse in Pennsylvania

If you are thinking about switching careers, you may be wondering about how to become a nurse in Pennsylvania. Nursing can be a fantastic career choice for people who want to contribute to the health of their community and support patients on their lifelong journeys through health and sickness.

You might have already given some thought about why you would like to change careers. Maybe your current role isn’t as satisfying as you want it to be. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be in a science-related field. Or maybe you’re impressed with the work you have seen nurses do—especially during the pandemic.

No matter the reasons pushing you forward, read on to learn more about why being a nurse in Pennsylvania might be a great choice for you. 


There is a nursing shortage in Pennsylvania

As we have all heard in the news, nurses and other health care workers have been burdened by the pandemic. This has prompted some of them to leave positions, either to protect family members from possible infection or because the overwhelming patient load has pushed them into an early retirement.

This has made an existing nursing shortage even worse. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, HealthyMePA, a hospital association in Pennsylvania, estimated there would be a nursing shortage of 4,000 positions in the state by 2030.

One response to these staffing issues has been the Patient Safety Act, which is supported by the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association. The proposed legislation would limit the number of patients that could be assigned to a single nurse, a measure designed to ensure patient safety and lower readmission rates while also promoting nurse retention. 


Now is a great time to become a nurse in Pennsylvania 

Important considerations for any career choice are job opportunities and salary, and nursing is no different. 

Job opportunities for nurses in Pennsylvania are plentiful, no matter what region you live in. If you run a search for “nursing jobs in Pennsylvania,” thousands of listings will pop up. Some employers will be looking for experienced or specialist nurses (such as operating room RN or endoscopic RN), but some are welcoming new nursing graduates as well. Some employers are even looking for nurses who can work remotely—so opportunities abound.

There are currently somewhere in the neighborhood of 147,000 registered nurses working in Pennsylvania, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). State employment projections collated by the Projections Management Partnership predict a growth rate of 12.5% for the period between 2018–2028, an average of 10,510 job openings per year.


RN salaries in in Pennsylvania

The mean annual salary for Pennsylvania RNs is $74,170, which is a little lower than the national mean of $80,010, but salaries vary widely based on location and experience. For example, here are some figures for mean annual salaries in the five top-paying Pennsylvania cities from the BLS:

  1. Reading – $81,980
  2. Philadelphia/Camden/Wilmington (PA-NJ-DE) – $79,980
  3. Chambersburg/Waynesboro – $78,590
  4. Harrisburg/Carlisle – $76,580
  5. Lebanon – $74,390


Matching different nursing roles with different educational degrees

“Nursing” is a very big umbrella term that covers a wide range of skills and responsibilities. If you are thinking of entering the field, though, here is a quick guide to the typical roles first-time nurses can fulfill.

A licensed practical nurse (LPN) can enter the field after a one-year certificate program that covers physiology, anatomy, medications and basic hands-on skills. LPNs work with registered nurses and other professionals to provide frontline patient care, such as taking vital signs, administering medications, keeping patient records and communicating care instructions to patients and family members.

A registered nurse (RN) usually enters the field after completing a longer program of education. Here are some options:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a two-year program 
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can be achieved after a four-year program of study or through an accelerated program that takes about 16 months if you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field

Most employers now prefer the BSN degree for RNs because of the depth of academic preparation and leadership training incorporated into the best programs. In addition, studies have shown that BSN-educated nurses deliver better patient outcomes. 


Steps to become an RN in Pennsylvania

In broad terms, there are three major steps to become an RN—getting a degree, passing a licensure exam and applying to the state board of nursing for a license.

The educational institution will inform the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing that the graduate has successfully completed the approved program of study. The Board of Nursing will contact the graduate to let them know if they are eligible to take the National Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to be licensed to practice. The exam is given about one month after graduation. Applicants with a passing score must then submit an application with the following items:

  • Application form and fee
  • Proof of completion of Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting course
  • Criminal history check
  • Educational transcripts
  • NCLEX-RN exam results 


Advantages of an accelerated BSN program

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, you can apply to an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. Because you have already completed the general education requirements with your first bachelor’s degree, you can concentrate on nursing science and complete the degree more quickly—sometimes in under two years. This lets you move swiftly into your new, second career.


Advantages of choosing an online ABSN from Marymount University

The online ABSN program from Marymount University has been designed to fully prepare students for a new career as a registered nurse. Academic coursework is offered online, allowing you to learn while remaining at your home base. Hands-on skills are taught through an on-campus residency and clinical rotations that are arranged at no cost by the University’s placement service. Throughout the program, students will engage with fellow students and faculty, and Learn with Purpose.

The ABSN program is organized around these pillars:

  • The Introduction to Nursing builds foundational knowledge in nursing science, theory and evidence-informed practice
  • Clinical Care focuses on care for patients across the lifespan with acute and chronic illnesses
  • Community-Specific Health explores cultural and social determinants that influence the health of patients and their families
  • Research and Clinical Reasoning teaches you how to evaluate evidence to support care decisions

Marymount University’s online nursing programs are fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and are ranked among the Best Colleges for Veterans and Best Regional Universities by U.S. News & World Report. Fast-track your path to becoming an RN with our ABSN.