African-American nurse with a laptop

How to Become a Nurse Researcher

Duties, Responsibilities, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

African-American nurse with a laptop

There are a variety of nursing specialties that Registered Nurses (RNs) can pursue upon earning their license. Every nursing career has its own distinctive job responsibilities, work environments, and perks. There are also varying educational requirements depending on the position. In this article, we’ll take a look at the RNs that are finding new ways to save lives, Nurse Researchers.

Nurse Researchers are highly trained nurses that conduct scientific research into various aspects of healthcare. Nurse Researchers create and implement scientific studies to improve healthcare services and patient outcomes.

(Click here to see our full list of highest paying nursing careers)

For anyone looking to play a part in changing healthcare for the better, here’s a guide on how to become a Nurse Researcher. With this guide, you will understand the role of a Nurse Researcher, their job responsibilities, educational requirements, job outlook, and salary.

Nurse Researcher Definition

What is a Nurse Researcher?

A Nurse Researcher is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) that studies various aspects of healthcare and illness. It is their responsibility to apply the rigor of scientific research to discover new methods for improving healthcare services and outcomes.

Nurse Researchers have advanced training in scientific research and data collection in addition to their nursing training and certification.

Nurse Researcher: Job Description

What Does a Nurse Researcher Do?

As previously mentioned, Nurse Researchers design and implement scientific studies to improve healthcare services and patient outcomes. Their area of study within healthcare depends on their specialization and where they work. Some Nurse Researchers study diseases and illnesses, while others may study clinical trials to oversee a new treatment method or medication.

Nurse Researchers are also responsible for finding subjects that are best suited to participate in their studies. Upon completion of their study, it’s their responsibility to compile the data into a report to share with their immediate supervisors. Eventually, their research findings may also circulate to the larger healthcare community and public.

Nurse Researcher Jobs

Where Do Nurse Researchers Work?

Due to their high level of training and expertise, Nurse Researchers can work in a variety of healthcare settings. These include hospitals, research organizations, universities, and government agencies.

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of Nurse Researchers include:

  • Creating and implementing scientific research studies
  • Supervising and observing patient care, treatments, or procedures
  • Collecting and analyzing data and information throughout their study
  • Compiling research findings into a report
  • Presenting research outcomes to superiors
  • Presenting results at conferences, meetings, and other speaking engagements
  • Recruiting participants for studies

Nurse Researcher Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Researcher?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Nurse Researcher?

Like many of the highest-paid nursing jobs, Nurse Researchers must be prepared to dedicate around 6 to 8 years towards higher education. Employers also favor candidates with sufficient experience in conducting clinical research. For that reason, many Nurse Researchers begin their careers as Research Assistants to gain enough experience for this highly specialized role.

Here are the steps required to become a Nurse Researcher:

BSN sign on a stack of books with a stethoscope

1. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree

The first step to becoming a Nurse Researcher is earning your BSN or Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree. A BSN program will take about three to four years to complete unless you’ve already earned your associate’s degree in nursing (ADN). Students who’ve already earned their ADN can enroll in an RN-BSN program which can be completed in as little as 20 months.

If you are a Licensed Vocational Nurse with an associate’s degree in vocational nursing (ASVN), you can also earn your BSN degree through an advanced placement option (LVN to BSN). This accelerated nursing program allows you to skip the first year (three semesters) of the BSN program.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam

Once you’ve earned your BSN, you’ll have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to earn your nursing license. With the NCLEX, you’ll be certified to enter the workforce as a Registered Nurse (RN).

(Click here to learn more about the NCLEX-RN examination)

3. Earn a Master’s or Doctoral degree

Earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or doctorate degree from an accredited institution is required to become a Nurse Researcher. An MSN degree is the most common graduate degree earned by Nurse Researchers. You may also obtain your Ph.D. from an accredited institution. Depending on the type of research, some Nurse Researcher positions may require a Ph.D.. MSN degrees usually take about 18–24 months to complete, while doctorate degrees typically require 2–3 years of full-time education.

4. Gain experience working in clinical research

In order to be eligible for a Nurse Researcher certification exam, you’ll have to gain experience working as an RN in clinical research. The Society for Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) requires two years of practice as a full-time Registered Nurse conducting clinical research to be eligible for their exam.

The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) also requires a requisite number of hours of professional experience working as a Nurse Researcher prior to sitting for many of their exams.  

5. Pass the Nurse Researcher Certification exam

Upon receiving your Master’s or Doctorate degree and completing your eligibility requirements, you may be required to earn a research certification for the position you wish to obtain. The Society for Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) offers the Certified Clinical Research certification (CCRP).

The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) offers several certifications in clinical research as well.

The eligibility requirements for each certification vary by exam. It’s crucial that you determine which certification is best for the position you are applying for and the career path you’d like to take.

Nurse Researcher Salary

How Much Do Nurse Researchers Make?

Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report any specific data on income for Nurse Researchers. However, it does indicate the salary* range for Nurse Practitioners, which include Nurse Researchers. As of May 2021, Nurse Practitioners earned an average annual salary* of about $118,000. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $80,000 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $163,000.

Stethoscope next to money

Highest Paying Industries for Nurse Researchers

According to the BLS, these are the industries where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for Nurse Practitioners:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Home Health Care Services $64.03 $133,170
Psychiatric Hospitals $63.38 $131,830
Outpatient Care Centers $62.11 $129,190
General Hospitals $59.12 $122,960
Physicians’ Offices $55.23 $114,870

Highest Paying States for Nurse Researchers

According to the BLS, these are the states where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for Nurse Practitioners:

State  Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
California $72.99 $151,830
New Jersey $65.87 $137,010
New York $64.39 $133,940
Washington $62.90 $130,840
Massachusetts $62.28 $129,540

Highest Paying Cities for Nurse Researchers

According to the BLS, these are the cities where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for Nurse Practitioners:

City Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
San Jose, CA $95.13 $197,870
Napa, CA $88.80 $184,700
Fairfield, CA $86.72 $180,380
San Francisco, CA $85.18 $177,160
Yuba City, CA $76.57 $159,260
San Luis Obispo, CA $73.70 $153,300
Sacramento, CA $73.58 $153,050
Santa Rosa, CA $73.15 $152,150
Santa Cruz, CA $72.25 $150,280
Fresno, CA $71.04 $147,760

What is the Job Outlook for Nurse Researchers?

According to the BLS, the overall employment of Nurse Practitioners (including Nurse Researchers) is projected to grow 45% from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster than the average for all occupations (8%).

APRNs, such as Nurse Researchers, will be increasingly utilized in team-based models of care. They will also be needed to care for and research the large, aging baby-boom population.

Nurse Researcher Career

Are You Ready to Start Your Career as a Nurse Researcher?

Smiling nurse in a hospital hallway

Although the educational requirements may be extensive, the boost in salary* and job outlook make up for the lost time.

Nurse Researchers have the unique opportunity to improve our healthcare system and patient outcomes. The job is perfect for anyone who feels passionate about using scientific research to change the world. The work they do has the potential to affect millions of lives.

If you feel ready to begin your journey as a Nurse Researcher, you can start by earning your BSN degree at Provo College. Click here to learn more about our BSN program.