How to Become an Ambulatory Care Nurse:
The Definitive Guide

When we think of nurses, we typically think of those wonderful people who give us shots, fix our cuts, and maybe give us some medicine every once in a while.

The fact is, nurses do so much more than that, and an Ambulatory Care Nurse is one of those specialties in nursing that deserves respect.

An Ambulatory Care Nurse is someone who works in a clinic, outpatient facility or doctor’s office to treat patients with acute or chronic illnesses.

What is an Ambulatory Care Nurse?

If you are looking for a career with a variety of work, seeing different faces every day, and helping people with chronic illnesses, then an Ambulatory Care Nurse may be your calling.

These nurses are responsible for taking care of several different patients either in a doctor’s office setting, a clinic, or an outpatient center.

An Ambulatory Care Nurse also has the ability to treat certain illnesses and types of patients like pediatric or geriatric.

A large part of this job consists of pain management and helping patients with a number of health issues.


Due to the fact that there are several different types of patients that an Ambulatory Care Nurse may see on a regular basis, the duties can change by the minute.

However, it’s typical that Ambulatory Care Nurses will run into tasks like:

  • Evaluating patients health
  • Take and monitor vitals
  • Assistant in managing health care
  • Coordinate other health services
  • Treat and assist patients with illnesses and injuries
  • Discuss and evaluate symptoms
  • Provide education to family


The average Ambulatory Care Nurse in the United States will make typically around $71,000 a year.

This salary can vary based on several different factors.

These factors can include but are not limited to, the experience of the Ambulatory Care Nurse, the certifications, and the amount of time in the field.

Ambulatory Care Nurses that are just beginning their career can expect to make around $63,000 a year.

While those that have the experience, certifications, and knowledge in the field can make upwards of $81,000 a year.

Other factors that may contribute to the variation in salary can include the location of work and the population of the city that you work in.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $77,460


Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$94,820
New Hampshire$73,880
New Jersey$84,280
New Mexico$73,300
New York$87,840
North Carolina$66,440
North Dakota$66,290
Rhode Island$82,310
South Carolina$64,840
South Dakota$59,540
West Virginia$63,220
Puerto Rico$35,040
Virgin Islands$68,500

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $113,240.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $113,240
Hawaii - $104,060
District of Columbia - $94,820
Massachusetts - $93,160
Oregon - $92,960
* Employment conditions in your area may vary. * Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.

How to Become an Ambulatory Care Nurse

Step 1Obtain a Diploma or GED

Before you are able to enter into a nursing program, you will need to have a few prerequisites covered.

These include gaining your high school diploma or GED.

Then, you’ll want to make sure that you have all of your science class prerequisites settled so that you have the knowledge to begin college-level classes.

You’ll need satisfactory SAT scores or ACT scores and at least a 2.0 GPA when you graduate.

Once you have all of these pieces together, you can then apply for a program.

Step 2Earn an Associates Degree

The next step to take in your venture into nursing is to begin a program.

There are hundreds of programs around the country, including online, but you will need to make sure that the school you are applying to is accredited in the state that you want to work.

In order to become an Ambulatory Care Nurse, you will need to have an Associates of Science in Nursing.

Most community colleges and universities offer this program, and it can typically take from two to three years to complete.

In a nursing program, you will learn to use technical skills used in primary care, attributes of critical thinking, how to be professional along with the opportunity to learn skills to care for patients of all ages with a variety of symptoms.

Some of the classes that you can expect to take in a nursing program include:

  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • English
  • Psychology
  • Communications

As well as more specific classes like:

  • Foundations in Nursing
  • Nursing Care for Adults
  • Behavioral Health
  • Pharmacology

Another important factor to keep in mind is that you will need to buy supplies in order to attend nursing school.

Some of the supplies can be expensive, but there may be a financial assistant at your school.

These supplies include:

  • Stethoscope, which can range from $35-$500
  • White shoes
  • Penlight
  • Uniform-typically 2-3, which can cost around $200
  • Textbooks
  • School and clinical location parking permits

There is a high demand in the nursing program field, so the school that you would like to attend may have a waitlist.

Some schools even require that you work on internships and volunteering while on the waitlist.

Before you apply to a school, decide if this is something that interests you.

Step 3Take Licensing Exam

After you complete your Associate of Science in Nursing degree, you’ll need to take the NCLEX-RN exam.

The NCLEX exam also called the National Council Licensing Exam is a state-regulated test that every state regulatory board uses to determine if a person is ready to be licensed as a registered nurse.

There are two types of exams that are available.

One is the NCLEX-RN exam, and the other is the NCLEX-PN exam, which is for those interested in becoming practical or vocational nurses.

In order to become an Ambulatory Care Nurse, you’ll need to take the NCLEX-RN exam.

To be eligible for this exam, you’ll need to apply for licensing through your state’s Board of Nursing.

After you apply for the license, you can then start registering for the test.

Once you receive your authorization to test through email, you will be ready to begin the exam.

The NCLEX can cost around $200, this is something that will need to be paid when you register for the exam.

Some of the topics that will be covered in the NCLEX exam include:

  • Management of Coordinated Care
  • Basic Care and Comfort
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • Psychosocial Integrity
  • Physiological Adaptation
  • Reduction of Risk Potential

The exam typically has between 85 and 200 questions and is taken on a computer.

As a registered nurse, you’ll have around 6 hours to complete the test, however, the tests are computer-adaptive.

This means that it can access your level of ability instantly, each time you get a question wrong the next question will be slightly easier and so on.

The passing rate for the NCLEX-RN exam is 85%.

Step 4Obtain an Ambulatory Care Nurse Certification

This is the last step in your quest to become an Ambulatory Care Nurse.

After you get certified, you’re ready to work!

Keep in mind that in order to take the Ambulatory Care Nurse certification exam, you’ll need to have fulfilled all your requirements.

These include:

  • Holding an active RN license
  • Have two years of experience as a nurse
  • Have a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in ambulatory nursing
  • 30 hours of continued education

The certification can cost around $400 to apply for.

With this certification, you’ll need to take an exam.

Some of the information that the exam will cover includes:

  • Clinical Practice
  • Communication
  • Professionalism
  • Legal and Regulatory Systems

There are 175 questions on the exam, of these, only 150 are scored.

The exam can take up to 3 hours to complete.


In order to become an Ambulatory Care Nurse, you will at least have to obtain an Associate of Science in Nursing.

It is possible to obtain a Bachelors’s or Master’s degree in nursing as well.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing can allow you promotions and other job opportunities, and a Masters can open even more doors like Advanced Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Nurse Specialist.

However, the higher degrees are not required as certification will allow you to work as an Ambulatory Care Nurse.

Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to do to obtain an Associate of Science in Nursing.

To begin with, you’ll need to have a diploma from a high school or your GED.

You’ll also need to make sure that you’ve maintained a 2.0 GPA in high school, and that you have all of your science courses met.

It’s important to also have a clean background check, volunteer experience, and satisfactory SAT/ACT scores in order to be accepted into a program.

This type of career path can take around two to three years to complete.

Typically, the courses that you will take in a nursing degree program will have to do with a basic understanding of a patient’s health needs, as well as give you hands-on experience in the field.

Some of the classes that you might take in this program include:

  • Microbiology
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Psychology
  • Pharmacology

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, you’ll find even more science and math classes within your program.

Many programs will require that you have some type of experience before they send you out into the real world.

This means that you’ll need to have a certain number of hours in clinical work.

Clinical work allows you to apply what you learn in the classroom in a work setting and will be the cornerstone in preparing you for your career.

Another great factor about an Associates of Science in Nursing is that it is possible to go to school online.

There are various online colleges that have nursing programs, although it is important to make sure that you will be able to work in the state that you want with the degree you’ll earn.

Video About The Career

Licensing and Certification

In order to become an Ambulatory Care Nurse, you’ll need to first become a registered nurse.

This is something that you should do as soon as you finish your nursing program, as you’ll need experience in nursing in order to become an Ambulatory Care Nurse.

We will discuss the Ambulatory Care Nurse certification in this section.

The first thing you’ll want to remember is that you’ll need at least two years of experience as an Ambulatory Care Nurse before you can apply for this certification.

There are some other requirements that you’ll need to fulfill:

  • Be an active registered nurse
  • Practiced at least two years as an RN
  • 30 hours of continued education

The certification includes an exam that is 175 questions, but only 150 of them are scored.

50% of the exam will be about clinical work and will access your skills in:

  • Medication Management
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Disease process
  • Triage
  • Nursing Diagnosis

22% of the test is on communication.

Some of the skills you’ll be tested on include:

  • Interpersonal skills and customer service
  • Cultural Competency
  • Communication Barriers

The professional role takes up 6% of the exam.

With this part of the exam, you’ll be tested on:

  • Professional Development and Leadership
  • Ethics and Advocacy
  • Scientific Research

Systems, legal, and education take up the last 22% of the test.

Some of the information that you’ll need to know for this section include:

  • Operations
  • Reimbursement
  • Fiscal Management
  • Teaching and Learning Principles
  • Consumer Relations
  • Health Promotion

There is a lot of information covered in the exam, but it is all so very important.

With this exam, you either pass or fail, there are no grades.

If it so happens that you do not pass the exam, you will be able to register again in 60 days.

You will not be able to test more than three times in one year.

If you need to retest, you will be required to pay the $400 fee again.

Certification Example:

Ambulatory Care Nurse Certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 2-4 Years

In order to become an Ambulatory Care Nurse, you will need to have at least two years of experience as an RN.

Typically, the advice is to work as an Ambulatory Care Nurse for experience before you become certified.

However, many people also work in hospitals, clinics, and other settings to gain experience.

If you plan to take the exam to become a certified Ambulatory Care Nurse, it will be another two years beyond the two years it took to earn your Associates.

Popular Degree Programs

Job Outlook

There will always be a demand for caring individuals who want to help others in the medical field.

This means that if you are looking to begin a career as a nurse, you will not have to worry about finding employment any time soon.

The career of an Ambulatory Care Nurse is predicted to grow around 12 percent in the next ten years.

The baby boomer generation is growing old, which means more people are going to need registered nurses to care for them.

Also, the use of home nurses and nursing homes has created a greater need for nurses.

* The numbers are based on the job outlook for registered nurses in general and include ambulatory care nurses but are not exclusive to them.

Employment Growth Projection: 12%


That's a higher than average projected growth of 371,500 jobs.

Should You Become an Ambulatory Care Nurse?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

Most Ambulatory Care Nurses find that their jobs are less stressful because they work in places like doctor’s offices and clinics rather than hospitals.

Due to the fact that doctor’s offices and clinics typically have 9-5 hours, Ambulatory Care Nurses have regular working hours.

The ability to work with a variety of patients with different symptoms also provides a bit of excitement in the job.

Though the job is challenging, it provides a great career for people who enjoy taking care of others.

Average Salary

Average Salary: High

The average salary for an Ambulatory Care Nurse is around $71,000.

When you first start out as an Ambulatory Care Nurse, you can expect to make a little less, around $63,000.

After gaining experience in the field and earning certifications or specializations, Ambulatory Care Nurses can expect to make over $81,000 a year.

Depending on where you work, you can make more or less than average.

Nurses that work in smaller towns will likely make less money than those that work in large cities.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

The great thing (and sad thing) about nursing is that it will always be needed.

There are two million nursing jobs in the United States as of today, and that number will grow in the next ten years.

As the baby boomer population grows older, the use of nurses has become more prominent.

Illnesses and diseases have also become easier to manage with medical care, and nurses are the perfect people to take care of those who are hurting or sick.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 2-4 Years

In order to work as an Ambulatory Care Nurse, you will need to obtain an Associates of Science in Nursing.

This type of degree can take around two years to obtain.

After you gain your nursing degree, it’s time to get certified.

You’ll need to take an exam and pass it in order to become a registered nurse.

Then, depending on which specialty you decide to go into, you may need certifications.

As an Ambulatory Care Nurse, you’ll need to have around two years of experience.

So, all in all, the education for an Ambulatory Care Nurse can take around four years to complete.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Some of the skills that you will need to be knowledgeable in order to become an Ambulatory Care Nurse include:

  • Knowledge of illness and symptoms
  • Understanding of diagnosis and management of illness/injury
  • Have experience working in triage
  • Organization skills
  • Communication skills
  • Keeping up in a fast-paced environment
  • Ability to work with a diverse population
  • Ability to function as a member of a team
  • Customer service skills (bedside manner)

It’s important that you love working as a nurse, as people’s lives can sometimes be in your hands.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the average salary of an Ambulatory Care Nurse?

The average salary in the United States for an Ambulatory Care Nurse is around $71,000 a year.

Depending on where you work, whether that’s a big city or a small town, can determine how much money you make.

Higher populations mean more people are sick, unfortunately, and will require an Ambulatory Care Nurse more often.

Nurses that have worked in the field for some time can make around $81,000 a year.

While nurses just starting out can expect around $63,000 a year.

Q. How long does it take to become an Ambulatory Care Nurse?

The good thing about being an Ambulatory Care Nurse is that you don’t need to earn a Bachelors’s degree.

All you need is an Associates’s degree, which can take from two to three years to complete.

Then, you’ll need to make sure you register as a nurse (this can take as little as a few months).

Finally, after two years of nursing experience, you’ll be able to apply for certification as an Ambulatory Care Nurse.

So all in all, it can take from 4-5 years to begin working as an Ambulatory Care Nurse.

Q. What does an Ambulatory Care Nurse do?

An Ambulatory Care Nurse is someone who works in a doctor’s office, clinic, or outpatient facility in order to provide patients with incredible health care.

These nurses will work with patients who have chronic illnesses, like Diabetes, to people who have infections like Sinusitis.

The role of an Ambulatory Care Nurse is to give patients treatment and medication for illnesses.

Q. What is the demand for Ambulatory Care Nurses?

There will always be a high demand for nurses.

So much so that some schools even have waiting lists before you can even start your program!

The career is expected to rise around 20% within the next ten years, this means a lot for nurses as the jobs keep opening up.

The demand will continue to grow as the baby boomer population grows older as well.

Q. How much does it cost to become an Ambulatory Care Nurse?

The cost of your education really depends on where you go to school.

Most universities require that you pay around $5,000 to $10,000 to earn an Associates degree.

Plus, you’ll need to purchase supplies like stethoscopes, shoes, books etc. This can run you another $1,000-$2,000.

After you complete your program, you’ll need to become registered.

This can cost around $500.

After that, you’ll need to become certified as an Ambulatory Care Nurse.

The exam for this costs around $300.

Typically, it will cost from $8,000-$20,000 depending on where you go to school and what certifications you achieve.

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