Career Choice: Critical Care Nurses

Career Choice: Critical Care Nurses
  • Type: Career Type
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    Nurses may specialize in different medical areas including critical care.

    Critical care nurses are licensed professional nurses who are tasked with helping individuals with life-threatening problems.


They work with acutely and critical ill patents and their families to receive optimal care according to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.


Critical care nurses are tasked with assessing patients’ pain levels or sedation requirements. These nurses monitor patients for changes in their condition and set up monitoring equipment and devices to accomplish their tasks.

Nurses may administer medications orally, intravenously, by injection, or by using other means. They evaluate patient condition, prioritize care, document patient history and progress, and advocate for patients on behalf of them personally and/or their families. These nurses also conduct pulmonary assessments and administer blood and blood products. They work with other medical professionals including registered nurses and doctors.


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of all critical care nurses have an associate degree. The other half possess at least a bachelor’s degree; five percent have a master’s degree.

To become a registered nurse, an individual must earn a diploma from a nursing school, an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Nurses must pass a national licensing exam. Other requirements are determined by each state’s Board of Nursing. Although nursing programs may offer exposure to critical care, orientation and speciality education is usually provided by the employer.

Critical care nurses have a concern for others, and are expected to manage stress, pay strong attention to detail, be dependable and cooperate with others. Nurses must be adaptable, flexible, honest, ethical, and possess self control. Oral comprehension and expression, inductive and deductive reasoning, written comprehension, and information ordering are among their important abilities.


The average salary for nurses was $65,470 as of 2012 according to the BLS. Pay ranged from $45,000 for those in the 10th percentile to $94,700 to nurses in the 90th percentile. Nurses in the 25th percentile averaged $53,700 per year while those in the 50th percentile earned $65,500 per year on average. Those in the 75th percentile could expect to earn $78,700 per year on average as of 2012.

The highest average salaries by state in 2012 were paid in California where nurses earned $91,300 per year. Hawaii at $85,200, Alaska at $80,600, Massachusetts at $79,500 and Oregon at $78,800 followed.

On the bottom end of the state spectrum, salaries were lowest in South Dakota where nurses earned $50,400 per year on average. Iowa at $51,700, West Virginia at 52,900, North Dakota at $53,300, Alabama at $54,100 followed.

Job Outlook

Job growth for all nurses including critical care nurses is expected to continue to grow sharply. An aging and expanding population, new health care rules, and increased responsibilities for nurses who can handle some doctor duties will fuel this increase.

The BLS projects that from 2010 to 2020, the number of nurses employed will increase by 26 percent, nearly double the rate for all jobs. Indeed, the BLS estimates that there will be more than 120,000 job openings per year through 2020.

By 2020, the BLS estimates that more than 3.4 million individuals will be employed as nurses. Currently, the ranks of critical care nurses number more than 500,000 professionals with further growth expected to parallel the overall employment trend for all nurses. Critical care nurses work nearly exclusively in hospitals across the nation.


Summary Report for: 29-1141.03 – Critical Care Nurses

US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurses

See AlsoCareer Choice: RN With an MBA


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Categories: Career Planning