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What would the year 2013 be like for nurses? How can nurses be more competitive? And what's the job outlook in general?

These and many more questions often nag at current and prospective nurses. Why not, the US economy is headed for a fiscal cliff and along with it another recession. Taxes will increase and so will the unemployment rate.

If you're a nurse in Landau scrubs or any practical uniform or are studying to be one, no impending danger awaits you in 2013. Now more than ever, healthcare jobs are growing at an alarming rate. By 2018, the healthcare market is expected to employ about 3.2 million new positions. More than half a million of these go to nursing professionals according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why nursing is the best field

You're in the right place at the right time if you're a nurse. You're in demand as the Boomer Generation ages and needs to be taken care of by nursing professionals. Nursing is one of the few fields expected to grow in the coming years. Significant employment growth is projected at more than 22 percent.

Where exactly are the high-paying jobs?

According to Change Strategists, a California-based organization that offers guidance amid emergent changes, travel nursing is one area of potential career growth for nurses. It's an emerging field ideal for individuals who value flexibility and experience.

There's also demand for public health nurses as government jobs lost when the economy hit bottom are making a comeback in the years ahead. There is, however, a shift from treatment to education and care. Public health nurses are expected to focus on health prevention and promotion.

Demand for nurses with highly-skilled degrees

A report from the Institute of Medicine's revealed the importance of additional nursing education and predicted that 80 percent of nurses in the country will hold baccalaureate degrees by 2020.

That more and more nurses are getting a BSN degree means fierce competition. This especially makes it more difficult for nurses with an associate degree to land a job. Employees themselves emphasize the need of having at least a BSN. They also tend to hire nurses with graduate degrees for higher positions that require leadership and management skills.

The long and short of it is to advance your education as far as possible if you want more opportunities and fast career growth.

Nursing is one of the most demanding professions but it can be very rewarding too. Average annual median salary for nurses was up 10 percent in 2010. Add to this momentum of growth the rising number of private organizations that recognize the need of strengthening the nursing profession.

The federal government has also repeated its commitment to attract highly skilled nurses by pledging $82 million in awards through the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration. Twenty-seven million dollars will go to the Nursing Scholarship Program while $55.3 million is allotted for the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program.

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