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Employment outlook

Registered nurses practice in a collaborative health care team with physicians, allied health professionals, social service providers, clients/patients, and others in the healthcare environment. Registered Nurses are required to use decision-making skills, communication techniques, health teaching strategies, and delegation skills in assisting individuals who are experiencing health care problems to progress toward an optimal level of health and wellness.

Registered nurses repeatedly top the lists of high demand jobs, both locally and statewide.

Registered nurse
 Average hourly wage1
 Employment growth rate
 (long-term, estimated)

 Northwest Washington*
 $37.91  2.0% annually (2017-2027)
 Washington State*
 $41.55  2.1% annually (2017-2027)
 National**  $34.48  12% (2018-2028)

1Starting wages are generally lower.

Sources: *WA State Employment Security Department, August 2019; **Bureau of Labor Statistic.

Important note: A criminal history may legally bar you from working in certain environments or with specific populations. Some charges may not come with such explicit barriers, but they may keep you from getting an interview. How to navigate a criminal history is a challenging exercise. It takes open, persistent exploration. Contact Entry and Advising and ask for a planning appointment. This may be your first step in uncovering the impact a criminal background may have on your professional path.


Recent program graduates have been hired by local and regional employers, including:

  • Avamere Bellingham Healthcare
  • Bellingham Asthma & Allergy
  • Bellingham Healthcare and Rehab
  • Bellingham Retina Specialists
  • Christian Healthcare Center
  • Eden Home Health
  • Josephine Sunset Home
  • Life Care Center of Skagit Valley
  • Northwest Gastroenterology Clinic
  • Pacific Rim Outpatient Surgery Center
  • PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center
  • Providence Regional Medical Center
  • Shuksan Healthcare Center
  • Signature Home Health
  • Silverado Senior Living / Memory Care
  • Skagit Valley Hospital
  • St. Francis of Bellingham


Licensure is required in Washington State to practice as a registered nurse. Graduates of Whatcom’s nursing program earn an Associate in Nursing - Direct Transfer Agreement / Major Related Program (DTA/MRP) and are then eligible to take the National Council for Licensure Examination - Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN).

Requirements for licensure in Washington State include:

  • Completion of a state approved Nursing program
  • Official transcript
  • Proof of a passing NCLEX-RN score
  • Licensing application packet to the Nursing Commission

Be sure you are aware of the RN licensing requirements in the state where you intend to work. Click here for information from the Washington State Department of Health on licensing requirements, process, costs and continuing education.

Job placement rates

Graduation year
% employed as RN within 6 months
2014 92%
2015 94%
 2016   92% 
2017 93%
2018 100%

Sources: 2014-2016 - surveys of program alumni conducted approximately six months after graduation; 2017-2018 - alumni self-reporting directly to program.

Career advancement

Registered nurses who have graduated from a two-year program such as the program at Whatcom, and would like to continue their education by earning a Bachelor's of Science degree in Nursing (BSN) may consider an RN-to-BSN program.

Graduates of Whatcom's RN program are encouraged to pursue a bachelor of science degree in nursing through what is typically referred to as an RN-to-BSN or "completion" program. The student is able to complete the RN-to-BSN in one year after licensure. Programs include (as of June 2018):

Bellevue College
Columbia Basin College
Olympic College
Saint Martin's University
University of Washington
Washington State University
Wenatchee Valley College
Western Governors University
Western Washington University

Check the Washington Student Achievement Council website for updates.

Click here for a list of other nursing program options in Washington state.

There are three ways to be eligible to sit for RN boards: 1) complete a 3-year diploma program; 2) complete a 2-year degree program; 3) complete a 4-year degree program. Also, one can start as an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) and then complete either option 2 or 3.

Once one has obtained licensure, one progresses through degrees in a somewhat traditional manner. However, there are now many dual degree programs, e.g., RN (two year) to MSN (Masters of Science Nursing), or BSN to DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice). The master’s level preparation for ARNP (Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner) is being replaced with the DNP.  And, of course, there is still the traditional Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

There are career opportunities for advancement and pursuit of specialty interest in the following and other areas:

 Addiction Anesthetist  Cardiovascular Clinical Specialist 
 Critical Care  Genetics  Midwife  Neonatal 
 Nephrology Practitioner  Rehabilitation   

Further information on employment can be obtained from WCC's Career Center or by contacting the Washington State Nurses Association or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.