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How to Become a Nurse Researcher

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

Woman working in a laboratory

Our comprehensive guide offers a deeper look into one of the highest paid nursing jobs in the United States, the Nurse Researcher.

(Click here to see our full list of top paying nursing jobs).

Nurse Researchers provide a highly specialized service in the field of healthcare. This group of nurses are highly capable professionals who perform scientific research at an advanced level. They typically begin their careers as Registered Nurses who work as research assistants or clinical research coordinators, either in a hospital or lab.

As they advance their careers, Nurse Researchers can eventually contribute to or develop their own scientific studies. They spend much of their time analyzing data, presenting their findings, and sometimes publishing their results.

The data they collect can save lives and help other healthcare workers.

Continue reading to learn more about the requirements, responsibilities, training, and average salaries of Nurse Researchers.

Nurse Researcher Definition

What Is a Nurse Researcher?

The role of a Nurse Researcher can be defined as a graduate-level Registered Nurse (RN) who conducts scientific research to advance the fields of nursing and general healthcare.

They often craft their own studies to seek out and analyze data before reporting the results. This highly specialized category of nursing requires additional training in the tools and research methodologies used to perform scientific research. The data they amass can be used to save the lives of countless patients.

Nurse Researcher Requirements

How to Become a Nurse Researcher

There are various paths you can follow to pursue a career as a Nurse Researcher. Like most nursing specialties, your experience, location, and goals will dictate your academic journey.

At a minimum, aspiring Nurse Researchers must earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

Although it may not be required, it is advised that you seek a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. A master’s degree can help you prepare for the rigors of scientific research by acquiring greater proficiency in statistics, clinical trials, and other advanced research methods.

For this reason, some Nurse Researchers will go on to earn their Ph.D. to nurture and further reinforce these skills.

Nurse Researcher Job Requirements

The skills criteria for a Nurse Researcher position may vary based on location and employer. Many Nurse Research jobs, however, will likely require the following qualifications:

  1. MSN degree and valid Registered Nursing (RN) license
  2. Experience conducting clinical research, including enrolling patients in research studies, implementing research protocol, and presenting findings
  3. High attention to detail is required for collecting and analyzing data
  4. Strong written and verbal communication skills for interacting with patients and reporting research findings
  5. Experience in grant writing a plus

Traits for Success

Becoming a Nurse Researcher may be a great fit for you If…

  • You value evidence-based practice
  • You are interested in education and research
  • You feel passionate about improving patient outcomes
  • You excel at data collection and analysis
  • You can write articles and research reports
  • You are willing to facilitate and accept change

Nurse Researcher Duties & Responsibilities

What Does a Nurse Researcher Do?

Nurse Researchers examine many aspects of the healthcare field with the goal of improving patient outcomes. In addition to their training and RN license, Nurse Researchers possess expert knowledge of informatics, scientific research, and data collection & analysis.

The job duties of a Nurse Researcher typically include the following responsibilities:

  • Designing and implementing research studies
  • Observing patient care, treatment, and procedures
  • Collecting and analyzing data
  • Reporting findings of research
  • Presenting research studies in meetings, conferences, and other speaking engagements
  • Writing grant applications to secure funding for studies
  • Writing research articles in professional journals and other publications
  • Assisting in the recruitment of participants for studies and providing direct patient care for participants

Where Do Nurse Researchers Work?

Nurse Researchers fill a specialized category of nursing. They can find work in a variety of places, including the following healthcare settings:

  • Medical research organizations
  • Research laboratories
  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Universities
  • Pharmaceutical companies

Nurse Researcher Hours

Most Nurse Researchers work regular business hours.

However, as with most jobs in the nursing profession, they may also be required to work the occasional weekend, evening, or holiday shift.

At times, Nurse Researchers may work longer hours to complete a time-sensitive study or research project.

Nurse Researcher’s Uniform

A Nurse Researcher’s uniform will largely depend on their employer and workplace setting.

Many Nurse Researchers will follow a professional dress code and will usually wear a lab coat while interfacing with patients or while handling lab samples.

Some may also wear goggles, gloves, and other safety gear while researching in their labs or examination rooms.

Nurse Researcher Education

What Training Is Required to Become a Nurse Researcher?

To become a Nurse Researcher, you must obtain an RN license and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

However, the majority of Nurse Researchers also hold an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.

Nurse Researchers should receive specialized training in informatics, data collection, and scientific research. It’s also beneficial for them to learn how to write grant proposals, research reports, and scholarly articles.

Some Nurse Researchers choose to further their academic journeys by earning their Ph.D. in order to conduct research in specialized niches or advanced topics.

For aspiring Nurse Researchers who have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree but would like to earn an MSN degree, some schools offer a Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN), allowing them direct entry into a Master’s program.

Minimum Steps to Become a Nurse Researcher

  • Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing
  • Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN certification exam to become a licensed Registered Nurse
  • Step 3: Earn your graduate degree in nursing
  • Step 4: (Optional) Seek and maintain certification

Nurse Researcher Training

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To know what to expect during a Nurse Researcher program, you can review the curriculum of a typical master’s degree in nursing, especially since the majority of Nurse Researchers hold either a master’s or doctoral degree.

MSN Prerequisites

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is designed to build upon the education your receive during your undergraduate studies. Therefore, MSN applicants are usually required to fulfill some prerequisite requirements.

To be accepted into most MSN programs, candidates are required to submit several standard application materials, such as academic transcripts, GRE scores, personal essays, and letters of recommendation.

General advanced-practice courses during a master’s program may include the following topics:

  • Health promotion and maintenance
  • Advanced pathophysiology
  • Advanced health assessment
  • Pharmacology for advanced practice nurses 

Nurse Researcher School Cost

As previously mentioned, most aspiring Nurse Researchers will earn a master’s degree while pursuing this career path.

Tuition fees for a master’s degree in nursing are typically scheduled per credit hour, ranging anywhere from $500 to $1,000 (or more) per credit.

Here are some additional considerations to keep in mind before you decide to pursue an MSN degree:

  • Tuition costs do not always include expenses like books, program fees, or other mandatory fees
  • Most schools offer some form of financial aid
  • While you will likely accumulate student debt, the average Nurse Researcher earns an average salary of about $85,000 per year (Salary.com)

Nurse Researcher Certification

Some Nurse Researcher positions may require their applicants to hold additional certifications in their field.

One example is the Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP) certification, which is offered by the Society for Clinical Research Associates. To be eligible for this certification, you must have at least two years of experience working in clinical research.

The Association of Clinical Research Professionals also offers various certifications in clinical research:

  • The Clinical Research Associate Certification
  • The Clinical Research Coordinator Certification
  • The Association of Clinical Research Professionals – Certified Professional Credential

While these certifications may have varying eligibility standards, they usually require numerous hours of professional experience in clinical research and an active RN license.

To learn more, you can find lots of helpful information from the following organizations:

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Researcher?

Becoming a Nurse Researcher could take anywhere from three to seven years, depending on your level of nursing education and prior experience.

For example, a BSN degree could take about three to four years to complete for someone who is just starting out.

Current RNs, however, can fast-track their BSN training by enrolling in an RN-to-BSN program, which can take as little as 12 months to complete.

The time it takes to earn your master’s degree (MSN) from an accredited program also depends on your starting point. If you already have your bachelor’s degree (be it a nursing or a non-nursing concentration), you can earn your MSN degree in about two years.

In some states, or for some employers, you may be required to obtain certification before landing a job. Many certifications will require some years of clinical experience to be eligible.

Nurse Researcher’s Salary

How Much Does a Nurse Researcher Make?

The average salary of a Nurse Researcher is $84,465 per year. They can earn anywhere from $67,000 to over $100,000 per year.

Ultimately, a Nurse Researcher’s annual pay depends on factors like location, employer, experience, and bonuses (Salary.com).

Nurse Researcher Job Outlook

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide statistics for Nurse Researchers, they have predicted overall growth for both Registered Nurses and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses.

According to the BLS, the employment of APRNs is expected to increase by 26 percent by 2028. In addition, the employment of RNs is projected to increase by 12 percent by 2028.

One of the factors contributing to these projections is the growing emphasis on preventive care in our nation’s healthcare system.

Furthermore, many states are changing their laws to grant Advanced Practices Registered Nurses greater authority and autonomy to perform more primary healthcare services.

As stated by RegisteredNursing.org, healthcare research is a growing field, so the career outlook is bright for RNs interested in pursuing an advanced degree and a career in research.”

Why Pursue a Career as a Nurse Researcher

Man on a laptop

Nurse Researchers dedicate their lives to advancing the science of nursing and patient care.

Moreover, their contributions to research and data analysis save countless lives and improve multiple facets of our healthcare system.

In addition to helping others, Nurse Researchers have a bright career outlook and are among the highest-paid nurses in America.

You can learn how to save lives and instigate change in the field of healthcare.

If you’re an aspiring nurse but don’t know where to begin, you can earn your BSN degree or enroll in one of several nursing programs at Unitek College.