Empathic, responsive, and communicative individuals with a passion for health possess the demeanor to become successful nurses. This stable, rewarding career path also offers a strong growth profile; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 15% increase in the number of U.S. nursing jobs between 2016 and 2026. In addition, Florida's large baby boomer population leads to a particularly favorable career outlook for nurses in the state. According to the Florida Center for Nursing, nearly 10,000 new nursing positions were created in 2016 alone. This, combined with the more than 12,000 nursing job vacancies reported that year, puts qualified nurses in an excellent position to secure gainful employment.
The field of nursing in Florida offers many well-paid jobs to recent graduates with only a bachelor’s degrees. Candidates with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) can work in various settings, including at hospitals, emergency rooms, long-term care facilities, and home health service providers. Florida also features many vacancies for registered nurse (RN) positions that require advanced education, creating lucrative career opportunities for applicants who hold specialized master’s degrees.
Career Outlook for Nurses in Florida
In terms of its employment and wage outlooks, nursing in Florida performs well. The employment density of nurses in the state signals strong opportunity -- Florida houses 6.5% of the U.S. population but only 6.03% of its nurses. Annual median earnings fall below the national average for the profession, but so does Florida’s cost of living. Thus, Florida nurses earn competitive salaries and can access many job opportunities.
|Employment||Annual Median Wage|
Salaries for Nurses in Florida
Florida currently ranks fourth in the U.S. in terms of its number of nursing jobs, trailing only California, Texas, and New York. Nationwide, it ranks 32nd for nurses in terms of median annual earnings; however, major urban-rural and regional gaps in Florida’s geographic makeup explain a lot of this trend. Florida nurses make salaries that compare favorably to those earned by nurses in states with similar costs of living. The Sunshine State also offers year-round warm weather and excellent outdoor lifestyle opportunities, which appeal to many individuals.
The following table details Florida’s top-paying metro areas for nurses, as reported by the BLS.
|Area Name||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach||15,950||$69,010|
|Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach||54,350||$67,340|
|West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach||13,170||$66,520|
|Cape Coral-Fort Myers||5,550||$66,170|
Source: The BLS
Specialties for Nurses in Florida
In Florida, RNs and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) represent the most common roles for working professionals. However, these designations represent only a few of the many options available to degree holders.
Students should remain mindful of their planned career trajectories while working toward their nursing degrees, especially when considering master’s programs. Many advanced nursing degrees lead to highly specialized credentials, demonstrating a candidate’s concentrated training in a particular healthcare branch. For instance, nursing specialists work in fields like cardiac care, burn care, dermatology, and developmental disability. In other cases, workers go through intensive training related to the social aspects of nursing, which qualifies them to work in correctional facilities, with domestic violence survivors, and in Florida’s school and child welfare systems.
Given Florida’s annual influx of winter residents, the state also boasts many part-time and seasonal employment opportunities. Some nurses use these openings to supplement their primary incomes or accrue professional experience to help them earn specialized or advanced certification.
The list below describes some nursing career paths to consider, beyond the standard RN and LPN positions in Florida.
- Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners belong to a subset of nursing professionals known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). These professionals typically train at the master’s degree level in a particular field of medicine, like pediatric care or geriatrics, and perform some functions typically reserved for physicians, such as writing prescriptions.
Average Salary in New York: $91,550
- Nurse Anesthetist
Students preparing for this specialist career path engage in detailed study of anesthetics and anesthesiology techniques in various care settings. Nurse anesthetists work in hospitals and clinics, assisting with surgeries and other procedures that require local or general anesthesia.
Average Salary in New York: $65,735
- Emergency Room Nurse
Nursing students who plan to work in emergency rooms focus their studies on critical care and stabilizing patients suffering from life-threatening injuries. Emergency room nurses in Florida remain in high demand.
Average Salary in New York: $61,194
- Neonatal Nurse
This nursing specialization covers the intensive care at-risk newborn babies require during their first months of life. Neonatal nurses work in hospitals and home settings to preserve the health of premature babies and newborns with infections, heart problems, malformations, and other serious health conditions.
Average Salary in New York: $65,000
- Psychiatric Nurse
This nursing discipline requires an advanced understanding of psychiatry and psychology. Psychiatric nurses assess patients and help form care plans for individuals who require treatment for mental health conditions.
Average Salary in New York: $60,986
- Certified Nurse Midwife
Another type of APRN, certified nurse midwives possess specialized training in female reproductive health and the childbirth process. They work with patients in hospitals, birth centers, private clinics, and home birth settings.
Average Salary in New York: $81,250
How to Become a Nurse in Florida
Earn a Degree
The Florida Board of Nursing mandates that nurses hold at least an associate degree to qualify for licensure. Although earning a two-year degree can launch your career, employers increasingly prefer to hire candidates with at least a BSN. Students can also earn advanced degrees, such as a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice.
As with many other professions, advanced and specialist degrees can lead to career advancement, and some nursing specializations require graduate credentials. Candidates seeking a fast route into professional nursing typically earn undergraduate degrees, start working, and then reassess their academic/career plans as they gain experience. Some working nurses may also be able to enhance their academic credentials by taking advantage of tuition reimbursement programs through their employers.
Accreditation represents a very important consideration and signifies that a nursing program meets state requirements for licensure. Look for programs accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Graduates of nursing schools not recognized by at least one of these organizations may not qualify for professional certification in Florida.
Obtain a Nursing License
The Florida Board of Nursing offers two main certification options: licensing by examination and licensing by endorsement. A candidate must follow one of the following processes to become an RN or LPN in Florida.
By examination: Students typically need to graduate from an ACEN- or CCNE-accredited nursing education program, although earning an MSN in Florida gives candidates some flexibility with regard to accreditation requirements. Candidates must then submit electronic fingerprints -- collected by a recognized authority -- and pass a criminal background check before taking the rigorous standardized examination known as the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). As of February 2019, candidates pay $200 to sit for the NCLEX. Additionally, their application and licensing fee is $110.
By endorsement: Applicants must hold current, valid licenses to practice nursing in another U.S. state or federal jurisdiction. They may also qualify for licensure elsewhere in the U.S. by virtue of having passed the NCLEX. Additionally, aspiring Florida nurses can earn their endorsement by practicing nursing in another U.S. jurisdiction for at least two of the three years immediately preceding their application date; this last latter option is only available to candidates with no criminal history, no pending criminal charges, and no active or pending disciplinary actions on their nursing records. Nurses applying by endorsement must also submit their fingerprints, pass a criminal background check, and pay a $110 application fee.
Maintain and Renew Certification
The Florida Board of Nursing requires that licensed nurses renew their certifications every two years. Eligible professionals can usually renew their licenses online, unless their license has lapsed and become inactive. Legal requirements governing nursing in Florida also demand that nurses seeking to reactivate retired or inactive licenses meet the state’s continuing education guidelines, which vary depending on the type of nursing license. The renewals page on the nursing board's website offers detailed information about this process.
Resources for Nurses in Florida
Students pursuing a nursing education in Florida can join professional organizations to gain access to scholarly journals and specialized digital content for healthcare professionals. These resources broaden a student's understanding of nursing coursework and provide valuable insights into the job market and professional landscape. Aspiring nurses can started by browsing the following websites and visit BestColleges.com for a complete list of resources.
BioMed Central publishes this peer-reviewed, bimonthly medical journal, which offers comprehensive coverage of nursing education, training, practice, and research topics.
Top RN-to-BSN Programs in Florida
When choosing a Florida nursing school, prospective students should consider factors such as graduation rates, employment rates after graduation, class sizes, tuition costs, and available learning formats. For example, online learning offers increased flexibility to self-motivated and disciplined students. Additionally, accelerated programs, which expedite degree completion, may appeal to highly independent and motivated learners.
The following Florida-based RN-to-BSN programs offer FBN-endorsed accreditation and fare well when evaluated for key performance metrics.
Students pursuing JU's online RN-to-BSN program enjoy six annual start dates, flexible eight-week courses, and a fully asynchronous delivery format that requires no mandatory class sessions. The 120-credit degree includes a minimum of 30 credits of core nursing courses, along with electives covering topics such as global health promotion, holistic nursing, and palliative care strategies.
The program requires no campus visits, and JU permits nurses to complete professional practice projects locally, often at their place of employment. Offering part-time and full-time enrollment options, this flexible degree enables BSN candidates to earn their degree within 18 months.
Program applicants must possess a valid RN license along with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5. Active-duty service members, veterans, reservists, guardsmen, and their family members receive a 10% discount on online nursing tuition.
Florida Atlantic University
|Boca Raton, FL||
One of the top colleges for nursing in Florida, FAU hosts a highly flexible on-campus RN-to-BSN program that offers several completion options, enabling working nurses to complete their studies in 3-6 semesters, depending on course load.
Unlike many online nursing programs, FAU does not allow students to complete practicum experiences at their place of employment. Instead, candidates perform work at community sites that align with their professional interests, such as clinics, schools, community health facilities, and home healthcare agencies.
The college maintains a unique relationship with two Cherokee tribes in Oklahoma: the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the Cherokee Nation. Interested students can participate in FAU's transcultural practicum experience, gaining knowledge of Native American history and caregiving philosophies while building experience in health promotion. Students should note that the Oklahoma immersion experience requires participants to cover their own airfare and hotel accommodations.
Nova Southestern University
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||
Though based in Fort Lauderdale, NSU offers its BSN program online and at satellite campus locations around Florida, including Fort Myers and Miami. Students typically complete the 82-credit nursing curriculum in just over two years.
Enrollment in the program requires the completion of 39 credits of prerequisite courses, which include topics in nutrition, mathematics, physical sciences, and social sciences. The program's nursing courses cover general and specialized topics, such as anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, nursing research methodologies, and psychiatric/mental health nursing.
All candidates complete a six-credit practicum that combines program concepts with hands-on experience in an approved healthcare setting. These practicum experiences typically take place at hospitals near NSU's campus locations. The nursing curriculum prepares graduates for the industry-standard National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse.
University of West Florida
Serving around 12,000 students from its campus in Pensacola, UWF hosts a substantial online learning program that includes an RN-to-BSN degree. Designed for working nurses with an RN diploma or associate degree, UWF's online program offers an interdisciplinary approach to healthcare, emphasizing social, cultural, ethical, and political perspectives on nursing along with technical practice.
The fully online program requires a minimum of 32 credits of nursing major courses, including gerontological nursing, health education in the community, and essentials of evidence-based nursing practice. Candidates also complete 16 credits of upper-division electives that build specialized nursing skills.
For qualified students with a strong professional nursing background, the school offers an accelerated RN-to-MSN pathway that enables candidates to pursue their master's degree without completing a bachelor's.
University of Miami
|Coral Gables, FL||
Located just outside of Miami in Coral Gables, UM ranks among the top colleges for nursing in Florida, offering one of the oldest baccalaureate nursing programs in the state. The school's on-campus RN-to-BSN program emphasizes practical healthcare training, with 30 credits dedicated to advanced practice placement.
Nursing students benefit from the program's relationships with several major medical facilities, including the University of Miami Hospital and Jackson Memorial, a 1,567-bed teaching hospital based in inner-city Miami. The school also offers unique opportunities for hands-on learning at its on-campus Simulation Hospital, a healthcare education facility that includes an outpatient clinic, an intensive care unit, an emergency department, and several operating rooms.
Simulating medical care as well as home care and palliative care environments, the Simulation Hospital uses medical actors, mannequins, and standardized patients to replicate common nursing scenarios, such as diagnostics, trauma treatment, and neonatal care.
University of Central Florida
Based in Orlando, UCF is one of the largest colleges in the country by campus enrollment, with a student body of more than 66,000. The school hosts a major distance education system, which offers some of the top programs for nursing in Florida.
UCF's online RN-to-BSN serves the needs of professional nurses, with flexible enrollment options that enable candidates to complete their studies in 3-10 semesters. Students can also complete some courses on campus, either at the UCF main campus or in Melbourne at the college's Health First Education Center.
The program requires 59 credits of nursing courses, including a 27-credit nursing core, a 29-credit upper-division section, and a three-credit nursing elective. Students planning to pursue a master's in nursing may complete up to nine credits of graduate nursing courses as part of the BSN.
University of North Florida
A public college in Jacksonville, UNF serves more than 16,000 students through on-campus and distance programs, with an RN-to-BSN bridge pathway available in either format. Both programs offer flexibility for working students, with on-campus courses typically held just once a week.
Students explore general and specialized topics through a variety of campus, online, and hybrid course offerings, including perspectives in chronicity, women's health and pediatric nursing, and socialization to professional nursing. Students must complete professional practicum hours at health agencies in the Jacksonville area or within their own community. Nurses often fulfill this requirement by working in clinics, home care agencies, homeless shelters, and hospital outreach programs.
Both tracks take approximately one year to complete. The online track accepts registered nurses nationwide, while the on-campus track only accepts nurses from Florida. Professional RN experience is not required for applicants to the online track.
Palm Beach Atlantic University
|West Palm Beach, FL||
A small Christian college based in West Palm Beach, PBA primarily focuses on liberal arts education, but the school also offers a variety of professional programs, including a fully online RN-to-BSN.
Designed for working nurses, the program features full-time and part-time enrollment options and three yearly start dates in the fall, spring, and summer. The school requires candidates to complete 31 nursing credits along with general education requirements that cover biblical and academic topics. The BSN curriculum seamlessly transitions into PBA's master's and doctoral nursing degrees; students with a 3.5 GPA or higher receive guaranteed entry to the school's graduate nursing programs.
While the online track enables students to complete coursework without visiting campus, admission to the program is only open to nurses with a Florida RN license. State residents may qualify for up to $3,000 in financial aid.
University of South Florida
A major public research college based in Tampa, USF serves more than 50,000 students, offering one of the top online programs for nursing in Florida. The school's online RN-to-BSN features three focus areas: clinical excellence, patient/staff education, and leadership management.
The curriculum includes 30 major credits, with 15 credits of core nursing courses, six credits of focus courses, and nine credits of nursing electives. As part of the core curriculum, USF requires candidates to complete one practicum course, which most students perform at their place of employment.
Typically including an organizational culture assessment and an evidence-based patient education project, the practicum builds professional experience but does not require students to work with patients directly. Part-time students typically complete the nursing program in five semesters, while full-time students complete the program in three.
A Christian liberal arts college affiliated with the Assemblies of God, SEU serves around 7,000 students from its campus in Lakeland. The school's RN-to-BSN offers flexibility for working nurses, with multiple enrollment options that enable students to work at their own pace.
With a focus on patient safety principles, clinical prevention, and quality improvement, the program gives nurses the opportunity to improve their leadership and integrated research skills, developing their professional practice and improving their job prospects.
The nursing major requires 30 hours of core courses and covers topics including health assessment, nursing history, and community population health. All students must complete nine credits of religion courses that explore ethics, faith integration, and Christian theology. The school offers support for nursing students, including tutoring services, library resources, and academic success coaching.