• Nurses’ responsibilities vary by specialization or unit, but most share more similarities than differences. Nurses provide and monitor patient care, educate patients and family members about health conditions, provide medications and treatments, give emotional support and advice to patients and their family members, and more. They also work with healthy people by providing preventative health care and wellness information.
  • From diploma to doctorate, the nursing field offers rewarding careers for nurses at every education level. Learn more about some of the most popular nursing careers below.

Licensed Practical Nurses

  • Licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses are entry-level nurses; which title they use is dictated more by geography than job function. They might feed or bathe patients, monitor patient vitals and check and apply bandages. Some states also permit practical nurses to administer certain medications.

Registered Nurses

  • Registered nurses are the most prevalent nurses in the profession and often serve as a fulcrum of patient care. They work with physicians and communicate with patients and their families. They engage in more sophisticated care than LPNs. Board certification allows RNs to become highly specialized in areas like critical care, oncology, geriatrics, neurology and other key health disciplines. RNs must also be licensed to practice, a process that requires that they complete an accredited nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses, or NCLEX-RN.

Neonatal Nurses

  • Neonatal nurses are typically RNs who are certified to care for infants born prematurely or with other health complications. Neonatal nurses may also calm anxious parents, explain conditions and procedures and teach families how to care for their babies upon discharge. Some neonatal nurses offer lactation support to moms visiting and feeding patients in the intensive care nursery. Working with small and sometimes underdeveloped infants and newborns requires specialized skills, training and equipment. Because they are RNs, neonatal nurses must earn at least an associate degree in nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN.

Nurse Practitioners

  • As some of the most advanced nursing professionals, nurse practitioners make more decisions when it comes to exams, treatments and next steps. They go beyond the reach of RNs and may work with physicians closely. Some states with large rural populations or shortages in primary care physician have even passed legislation allowing NPs to stand in for physicians in certain situations. Nurse practitioners typically earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or, increasingly, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). They also earn additional certifications in specialized disciplines such as critical care, family medicine and pediatrics.


  • Travel nurses
  • Nurse midwives
  • Nurse anesthetists
  • Case management nurses
  • Forensic nurses
  • Informatics nurse specialists
  • Legal nurses
  • Research nurses
  • School nurses
  • Corporate nurses
  • Agency nurses


  • Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will occur for a number of reasons.
  • Demand for healthcare services will increase because of the aging population, given that older people typically have more medical problems than younger people. Nurses also will be needed to educate and care for patients with various chronic conditions, such as arthritis, dementia, diabetes, and obesity.
  • Growth is also expected to be faster than average in outpatient care centers, where patients do not stay overnight, such as those which provide same-day chemotherapy, rehabilitation, and surgery. In addition, an increased number of procedures, as well as more sophisticated procedures previously done only in hospitals, are being performed in ambulatory care settings and physicians’ offices.


Dental Hygienists

  • Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventive dental care. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

  • Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, also called diagnostic imaging workers, operate special imaging equipment to create images or to conduct tests. The images and test results help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions.

EMTs and Paramedics

  • Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics care for the sick or injured in emergency medical settings. People's lives often depend on the quick reaction and competent care provided by these workers. EMTs and paramedics respond to emergency calls, performing medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities.

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

  • Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

  • Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, also referred to as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), coordinate patient care and may provide primary and specialty healthcare. The scope of practice varies from state to state.

Physician Assistants

  • Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers. They examine, diagnose, and treat patients.

Respiratory Therapists

  • Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema. Their patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning, or shock.

Social Workers

  • Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. Clinical social workers also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

Best Specialty Career Choices For Nurses

Certified Dialysis Nurse:

  • One of the fastest growing specialties, a certified dialysis nurse assists individuals who have severe problems with their kidneys.
  • How to Become One: To become a certified dialysis nurse, you will need 2000 hours of experience in caring for nephrology and dialysis patients over a period of two years. Fifteen hours of continuing education in nephrology, an RN license, and the capability to pass a certification test.
  • Salary: $63,500 a year.

Legal Nurse Consultant

  • A certified legal nurse consultant uses their expertise to consult on medical lawsuits, offering information about the healthcare system.
  • How to Become One: To become a legal nurse consultant, you will need a registered nurse license, but a BSN is not always required.
  • Salary: $62,100 a year.

Nurse Midwife

  • A nurse midwife delivers babies, as well as providing healthcare before, during and after the birth for both the mother and the child. They can conduct gynecological exams, prenatal and postnatal care, as well as family-planning information.
  • How to Become One:To become a nurse midwife, you will need a Master of Science in nursing, and a midwife-specialty program could help.
  • Salary: $79,000 a year.

Nurse Anesthetist

  • A nurse anesthetist helps to provide patients with anesthesia when they are being prepared for surgery, and can assist in caring for individuals during their time in the operating room.
  • How to Become One:A nurse anesthetist needs to gain two years of experience as a nurse with their BSN before enrolling in a MSN in nurse anesthesia program. A doctoral degree may also be required.
  • Salary:$154,300 a year.

Nurse Case Manager

  • A nurse care manager monitors the progress of patients, suggests alternative treatments and evaluates their care.
  • How to Become One:Some RN-MSN programs offer a case-management option.
  • Salary: $68,032 a year.

Nurse Educator

  • Nurse educators combine a passion for teaching with clinical expertise to design, evaluate, and implement education programs for nurses, teaching at schools, universities and colleges.
  • How to Become One:A nurse educator will need a doctoral or master’s degree in nursing.
  • Salary:$65,000 a year.

Nurse Practitioner

  • Nurse practitioners provide primary and specialty care, often working collaboratively with a doctor, although some states allow NPs their own clinics.
  • How to Become One:An RN license with at least an MSN degree.
  • Salary$94,000 a year.

Nurse Researcher

  • Nurse researchers create reports based on analysis and research gathered within the nursing field. They aim to improve medical and healthcare services.
  • How to Become One:Although a registered nurse with a BSN could get this job, those with an MSN or higher have a better chance obtaining the position.
  • Salary$90,000 a year.

Informatics Nurse

  • Informatics nurses provide data on healthcare to doctors, nurses, patients, and other healthcare providers, as well as providing training on updated applications.
  • How to Become One:At least a BSN, though many employers require an MSN in health informatics, quality management or healthcare management.
  • Salary$83,000 a year.

Endocrinology Pediatric Nurse

  • Pediatric nurses specializing in endocrinology help children suffering from diseases and disorders affecting the endocrine system, educating them, and their parents about sexual development and growth issues.
  • How to Become One:An RN license, two years of experience, and internships at pediatric-endocrinology locations.
  • Salary$81,000 a year.

Travel Nurse

  • Travel nurses provide healthcare services to medical facilities and hospitals that have a short term need.
  • How to Become One:An RN license, two years of nursing experience in one or more facilities, and a BSN.
  • Salary$70,000 + benefits and a housing allowance.

Chief Nursing Officer

  • Chief nursing officers provide strategic planning help, administrative leadership, and senior management expertise within various healthcare organizations.
  • How to Become One:Chief nursing officers must have an RN license and complete graduate programs in nursing.
  • SalaryBetween $90,000 and $134,000 a year.

Nursing Administrator

  • Nursing administrators provide management support and specialized human resource within medical facilities. They also recruit, train and hire staff, handling various business aspects within healthcare organizations.
  • How to Become One:Nursing experience combined with graduate level nursing degree.
  • SalaryBetween $79,000 and $99,000 a year.

Critical Care Nurse

  • Critical care nurses work in the intensive care unit of hospitals, and often work in a team to provide the best possible care.
  • How to Become One:A critical care nurse needs a BSN, plus additional training and continuous education in order to stay relevant in the field of critical care. They should have at least 2 years’ experience in critical care.
  • Salary$61,000 a year.

Diabetes Nurse

  • Diabetes nurses work with those who have diabetes, providing patient education, including fitness and nutrition information.
  • How to Become One:Become an RN then work in a facility specializing in diabetes. You will need a master of science in nursing and 500 hours working in a diabetic clinic.
  • Salary$75,000 a year.

Family Nurse Practitioner

  • A family nurse practitioner takes care of the majority of a person’s aches and pains throughout their lives. They examine patients, diagnose illnesses and prescribe treatments.
  • How to Become One:You will need a BSN and MSN in nursing and pass the RN examination.
  • Salary$94,407 a year.

Health Policy Nurse

  • Health policy nurses work with patients on a social level to create policies that will hopefully promote a healthier population, analyzing laws and suggesting new policies where necessary.
  • How to Become One:RN license, plus a BSN and MSN in nursing. You will need to perform a 10-week residency with an appropriate facility.
  • Salary$95,000 a year.

Medical Surgical Nurse

  • Medical surgical nurses perform numerous jobs, including caring for and monitoring adult patients, working with medications and assisting in surgeries.
  • How to Become One:RN license, two years of experience, plus 2000 hours working in a surgical nursing facility. You must then pass a credential exam.
  • Salary$75,000 a year.

Nurse Advocate

  • A nurse advocate provides a link between medical professionals, doctors and the patient, explaining and exploring alternative treatment options with the patient and family.
  • How to Become One:RN license followed by a BSN. After some experience in a hospital, you will need continued education in financial and social matters relating to healthcare.
  • Salary$57,000 a year.

Nurse Attorney

  • Since few attorneys have medical knowledge of nurses, nurse attorneys are typically in high demand, and work in various settings, including hospital legal departments and litigation firms.
  • How to Become One: BSN and RN, followed by three years of education at a law school, after which you will take your bar exam.
  • Salary$110,000 a year.

Pain Management Nurse

  • A pain management nurse examines patients and helps to determine the cause of the pain, before consulting with other nurses and doctors to decide upon the correct course of treatment.
  • How to Become One:BSN and RN license, alongside a great deal of experience. You will need to have worked full time as an RN for two years before taking a certification exam, and have 2000 hours of experience in pain management nursing.
  • Salary$78,000 a year.

Perianesthesia Nurse

  • A perianesthesia nurse works with people who are beginning to come out of anesthesia.
  • How to Become One:Similarly to a pain management nurse, you will need an RN and BSN, alongside a lot of experience. Your electives in nursing should focus on perianesthesia and anesthesia, and if possible you should work for around 1800 hours in a perianesthesia setting before taking your certification exam.
  • Salary$79,000 a year.

Psychiatric Nurse

  • Psychiatric nurses use experience and knowledge in mental health to help their patients deal with mental illnesses, helping them to avoid disability, social isolation and other issues.
  • How to Become One:A Bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited college. If you are planning to diagnose or prescribe medications, you will need a master’s degree or higher.
  • Salary$93,500 a year.

Trauma Nurse

  • Trauma nurses work in emergency rooms and urgent care centers.
  • How to Become One:RN license, and two years of emergency room experience to apply for a certification.
  • Salary$66,307 a year.

Orthopedic Nurse

  • Orthopedic nurses offer care for patients suffering from musculoskeletal ailments such as joint replacement and arthritis.
  • How to Become One:RN license and BSN in nursing.
  • Salary$81,000 a year.

Neonatal Nurse

  • A neonatal nurse works with babies that arrive prematurely, typically within intensive care.
  • How to Become One:At least a BSN, many require an MSN and you should have specialized training or experience dealing with neonate patients.
  • Salary$65,000 a year.

Pediatric Nurse

  • Pediatric nurses work with children in an intensive care or clinical setting, providing specialized care to young patients.
  • How to Become One:At least a BSN, although many have a MSN. You should also have specialized experience and training working with children.
  • Salary$65,000 a year.

Geriatric Nurse

  • Geriatric nurses work with elderly patients within a nursing home or hospital, dealing with the particular challenges that these patients have, such as dementia, arthritis and heart or lung problems.
  • How to Become One:RN and BSN, plus experience working with elderly patients.
  • Salary$65,000 a year.

Public Health Nurse

  • Public health nurses care for an entire society of people, generally focusing on preventative medicine, educating patients about health issues and how to improve their health
  • How to Become One:RN and BSN, plus experience as a regular nurse. You may also earn your MSN.
  • Salary$66,000 a year.

Oncology Nurse

  • An oncology nurse provides specialist care for cancer patients in a clinical care center, home, or hospital, administering chemotherapy and other treatments.
  • How to Become One:BSN, and experience working as a nurse for several years. You may then earn a certification oncology nursing.
  • Salary$68,000 a year.

Clinical Nurse

  • A clinical nurse treats and diagnosis patients with serious health conditions in a hospital or clinic setting.
  • How to Become One:BSN and MSN, plus specialized clinical nurse training.
  • Salary$67,000 a year.

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