What Do Research Nurses Do?

Posted by Shanna Shafer on Apr 28, 2015 11:29:00 AM

What Do Research Nurses Do?



Research is what drives the nursing field forward, determines evidence-based care standards, and helps nurses provide better care to patients all over the country. If you want to use your passion for nursing to advance nursing research, download a copy of our Nurse Salary Guide to learn about what research nurses do, and what they can earn in this nursing specialty.

Roles/Other Potential Roles

In the field of research nursing, nurses tend to have a fairly independent role, as well as autonomy. Depending on how much education you have, you may take on a prominent role in leading and directing research, or you may simply be responsible for compiling and interpreting data. Your research may be directed by your sponsoring educational institution or those pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers or other entities who may fund your research.

Responsibilities/Demands of the Job

The responsibilities you take on as a research nurse depend largely upon the research goals and priorities of your employer. You may determine what subjects need to be studied, come up with research goals, and create research proposals that align with the expectations of your institution. You may also carry out research by finding participants, designing studies, and collecting data from these research studies. Upon the completion of research studies, you may be expected to create reports that outline the data, figure out how it fits into the scope of the original study, and draw the appropriate conclusions from your data.


Research nurses may specialize in any type of nursing. In fact, completing specialized training in an area of nursing may help you design more efficient and relevant research studies for that field. You may go into research nursing with prior experience in NICU nursing, pediatric nursing, emergency care, wound care, obstetrics, or other fields.


A career in research nursing can have quite a few requirements, so spend some time getting familiar with what employers expect before you dedicate yourself to a career in this field. You may need a Bachelor's degree in nursing, although some employers do require a Master's degree with an emphasis in nursing research. Though you won't be working in nursing practice, you may still have to keep your RN license valid. To reach the pinnacle of possibilities in nursing research, you will want to earn your PhD, as most advanced nursing researchers are required to have completed this level of education.


You should plan on completing at least a Bachelor's degree in nursing to start in the field of nursing research. If you want to advance your work in research from collecting data to being more involved with designing studies, you will need a Master's degree in nursing, and eventually a PhD. Most graduate schools encourage you to focus on nursing research while earning your MSN, giving you practical experience in the field. As you move on to Doctoral studies, you will receive intensive instruction regarding all aspects of the research process. Contact the schools listed on our site to learn more about which educational routes may best suit your needs.


Specialized licensing is not typically required for research nurses. However, many employers do expect you to maintain your RN license so that you can keep your practical skill set up-to-date. If you do maintain a nursing license, it will be awarded by your state's Board of Nursing. You may need to pass a practical test and the NCLEX-RN, initially, and meet continuing education requirements annually.

Salary Range

If you go into the field of research nursing, you may find that salaries vary considerably between institutions. Our Nurse Salary Guide can help you learn more about what research nurses in your state earn and show you how this specialty compares to your other options.

Get 200 Nursing Salaries Guide

Job Outlook for 2014 and Beyond

Overall, the job outlook for registered nurses is promising. In the period from 2012 to 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 19% increase in RN jobs.

Career Path

You may need to gain relevant hands-on work experience as a registered nurse before you can begin working in research. This experience may help you design more helpful research for nurses. Most any nursing position can help qualify you for entering the field of nursing research, and many nurses find their interests and research topics come from the areas of practice in which experience is gained.

Associations and Organizations


There are many ways you can make your mark in the field of nursing. If you want to delve into research, check out the Nurse Salary Guide and our school listings to learn more about this career path.

Topics: Career in Nursing