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Discover an Exciting Nursing Career in the Army, Air Force or Navy

Around the world, nurses are an integral part of the healthcare system, and it is impossible to imagine a functioning hospital, clinic or private practice without them. While most people equate nursing careers with civilian life, the reality is that nurses are also a vital part of the military. Whether working in American-based military hospitals designed to treat wounded soldiers or overseas with active units, nursing in the military can be an exciting and lucrative opportunity for the right type of person.

Since this is not a career choice to be taken lightly, use this guide to learn more about the life of a military nurse, what military organizations hire nurses, what kind of education is necessary, what salaries are typical in this field and more.

Quick Facts: Nursing Industry
Median Pay:   $105,256 per year | $51 per hour
Entry-Level Education:   Associate's degree
Work Experience:   None
Number of Jobs, 2014:   2,915,000

Nursing Occupations:

  • Registered nurses$66,640
  • Nurse anesthetists$153,780
  • Nurse practitioners$95,350

Becoming a Nurse: Explore Your Options

The term nurse brings to a mind a particular image for a lot of people, but it might surprise you to learn that there are literally dozens of different kinds of nurses that you can become, and each requires a different kind of training and education. One of the most popular career choices is that of the registered nurse, which requires a minimum of an associate's degree and a challenging exam in order to become fully licensed and registered.

Nursing assistants and orderlies, on the other hand, don't require a college education and only need to become certified in their state before they are eligible for employment. At the higher level of nursing, positions such as that of nurse practitioner and nurse anesthetist pay incredibly well, but they do require a master's degree in addition to an undergraduate education. If one or more of these careers sounds like the right fit for you, it is possible to turn a nursing job into a military career through the Navy, Air Force or Army.

Working as a Navy Nurse

To become a nurse in the Navy, there are a few qualifications you must meet. These include being a citizen of the United States, being between the ages of 18 and 41, being licensed to practice nursing in at least one state, being willing to serve for a minimum of three years and being able to pass a medical physical exam. Navy nurses may work in a variety of different environments, as the Navy boasts more than 250 medical facilities located all around the world. There are even opportunities for nurses to work aboard Navy ships, should that be something you are interested in pursuing.

Working as an Air Force Nurse

Like every branch of the United States military, the Air Force requires thousands of nurses to care for wounded soldiers and monitor the health of employees around the world. Even for those who are not yet certified nurses, the Air Force offers the opportunity to enroll in the military and then pursue a graduate degree in a specific field like nurse midwifery, public health, flight nurse practitioner, community health nurse and perinatal clinical nurse specialist. Air Force nurses work in a number of different capacities, and just some of the nursing careers you might be able to pursue, as listed on the Air Force website, include that of:

  • Critical Care Nurse
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse
  • Medical Surgical Nurse
  • Pediatric Nurse
  • Operating Room Nurse

Working as an Army Nurse

Just a few perks of working as an Army nurse include repayment of up to $120,000 of student loans, which can rack up quickly in nursing school, immediate sign-on bonuses of up to $30,000, a salary competitive with that of the civilian workforce and fantastic medical benefits for you as well as your family. Army Nurses may work in American Army hospitals stateside, and in this capacity the job might be the same as what you could expect at any other public hospital in the country. However, some nurses in the Army have the opportunity to go overseas and explore the world while pursuing their dream career.

Characteristics of Successful Military Nurses

In many ways, civilian nurses and military nurses require the same key traits for a successful career. Whether in an emergency room setting, at the surgical table or in an overseas military hospital that treats soldiers wounded in action, the very best nurses will be able to react quickly in times of great stress and make split-second decisions with confidence. The most successful nurses in the Army, Navy and Air Force are also flexible, and they can handle the stress of long shifts and rapidly-changing schedules. Finally, nurses should be compassionate and patient, and they should feel comfortable communicating with their patients as well as with fellow staff wherever they work.

Typical Nursing Salaries Across the Board

Each of the military branches listed above has a specific pay scale for nurses, but the salaries tend to be similar to what is offered in the civilian healthcare industry. Nurses with the least amount of formal education, such as nursing assistants or nursing orderlies, tend to make median annual salaries of $24,420, according to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With a minimum of an associate degree and often a bachelor's degree, registered nurses can typically expect to earn around $65,470 each year, according to the BLS. Nurses that have earned a master's degree, such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners are able to command the highest median salaries with averages of $96,460 each year.

Estimated Job Growth in Nursing as a Whole

Thinking ahead is key to job security, and it is something that any aspiring nurse should think about when contemplating their future. Fortunately, nursing is one of the fastest growing careers in the entire country. Over the next decade, the BLS predicts a 31 percent growth for nurse practitioners, a 21 percent jump for nursing assistants and a 19 percent increase for registered nurses.

Becoming a nurse is a fulfilling and fascinating career, and it can easily be combined with military service for the right candidate. Learn more about advancing your nursing degree.