Nursing is one of the largest health career fields in the United States – and it's still growing. In fact, between 2014 and 2024 growth in employment of registered nurses has been projected at over 16 percent by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means that hospitals, health clinics, residential treatment facilities, nursing centers, and home health organizations will be hiring nurses for a long time to come.
Nurses provide direct patient care for the ill and injured, administer medical procedures,teach about disease prevention, monitor vitals, collaborate with doctors, develop treatment plans and work as specialized members of teams of medical and healthcare professionals. Nurses may also work as patient advocates and public health specialists. Within the field of nursing, there are numerous specialties and seemingly limitless career opportunities.
Knowing that you want to become a nurse is good, but knowing what type of nurse you want to become is just as important. Determining ahead of time what type of nurse you want to become will help you choose the right educational path and achieve your career goals.
Entry-level nursing jobs can be obtained with a registered nurse degree, which usually take 2--3 years to complete, but most organizations prefer to fill nursing positions with applicants have earned four-year bachelor's degrees in nursing. Registered nurses interested in pursuing a master's degree can complete a registered nurse to master's in nursing (RN-MSN) program.
After completing a registered nurse program and become licensed, you can then pursue advanced training and education in one of many nursing specialties. Each nursing specialty program has different requirements.
Below you'll find a comprehensive guide to nursing careers and specialities. Take some time and read through each description to learn a little bit more about the various career opportunities in nursing.
Advanced Practice Nurse
Advanced practice nurses hold master’s degrees in nursing and can be employed as the following specialists: Nurse Practitioner (NP), Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM), Clinical Nurse Specialist, RN First Assistant, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), and Nurse Psychotherapist.
Ambulatory Care Nurse
Ambulatory care nurses treat patients in facilities outside of hospitals, and they provide any requested assistance to their families. These specialists spend a lot of time educating patients, assisting individuals struggling with chronic pain, and helping patients with serious illnesses and diseases live independently.
Camp nurses treat and assist children at summer camps or other organized group activities. Additionally, these specialists treat children with serious health problems, including HIV, cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, and other debilitating health conditions.
Cardiac Care Nurse
Cardiac care nurses specialize in heart problems and treating patients struggling with cardiac disease. Even though these specialists typically work in hospitals where heart surgery is performed, they frequently assist patients at home recovering from bypass surgery, pacemaker surgery, or an angioplasty. Additionally, they work with patients requiring medication or close monitoring.
Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse
Cardiac cath lab nurses assist doctors diagnosing heart problems and performing interventional treatments, such as valvuloplasties, angioplasties, and cardiac catheterizations. Additionally, these specialists assist cardiologists implanting cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), pacemakers, and other devices. Since technology is constantly changing, they must remain updated on new technologies and procedures.
Case Management Nurse
Nurses assigned case management duties organize and oversee long-term patient care, ensuring patients receive all necessary treatments and care. For example, case management nurses assigned cancer patients would be responsible for coordinating oncologist visits, radiation and surgical treatments, and post-treatment care. These nurses typically specialize in various areas, including pediatrics, oncology, cardiology, AIDS, chronic pain management, etc.
Clinical Nurse Leader
Clinical nurse leaders are licensed registered nurses who hold master’s degrees in nursing (MSN). This is a relatively new nursing specialty. Clinical nurse leaders are responsible for minimizing patient care errors administered in clinical environments. These specialists supervise patient care activities to ensure people receiving medical care are being treated with modern technology and procedures.
Community Health Nurse
Community health nurses are employed at non-profit organizations, medical clinics, government agencies, and various other settings. They specialize in health problems affecting populations, assist underprivileged individuals, and work with families requiring public assistance. They organize public campaigns and classes to teach preventative healthcare, nutrition, and raise awareness about public health problems. Additionally, they collaborate with elected officials, doctors, teachers, and parents to assist underprivileged populations and address public health problems.
Complementary Health Nurse
Complementary health nurses specialize in holistic medicine. They administer alternative healthcare treatments, such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and special nutrition plans.
Correctional Facility Nurse
Correctional facility nurses work in correctional facilities. They treat inmates imprisoned within prisons, county jails, penitentiaries, and juvenile homes.
Dermatology nurses assist dermatologists. They also teach patients being treated for or recovering from skin disease how to properly care for themselves.
Developmental Disability Nurse
Developmental disability nurses treat and assist people diagnosed with mental or physical disabilities.
Diabetes nurses treat and assist people struggling with health problems related to diabetes, a disorder affecting insulin production. They also specialize in the endocrine system which includes the reproductive glands, hypothalamus, parathyroids, pituitary thyroid, pineal body, and adrenals.
Domestic Violence Nurse
Domestic violence nurses assist and treat victims of domestic abuse. They are typically employed at battered women shelters, police departments, and medical clinics. Many conduct research and participate in public advocacy to reduce domestic violence. This profession is also referred to as violence prevention, elder abuse, and child abuse nursing.
Ethics nurses specialize in ethical issues within the nursing profession. They frequently sit on ethics committees at hospitals, insurance companies, and other facilities and work at law firms.
Family Nurse Practitioner
Family nurse practitioners hold master’s degrees and are licensed as registered nurses. Before being permitted to practice, they must certify by passing a national test. These specialists diagnose disease, arrange for diagnostic and lab tests, and some are permitted to prescribe medications. Since family nurse practitioners treat and care for patients of all ages, they possess the skills and knowledge to diagnose and provide care for various diseases and injuries.
Flight/transport nurses administer intensive care to critically injured or ill patients being transported to hospitals via ambulance or helicopter. Additionally, these specialists provide care to patients in less critical conditions being transported long distances by aircraft.
Forensic nurses collaborate with police officers and criminal investigators conducting criminal investigations. They’re frequently called upon to investigate homicides, sexual assaults, abuse, and other crimes. Additionally, they treat and assist crime victims.
Endoscopy nurses, commonly known as gastroenterology nurses, assist doctors and provide nursing care to people struggling with digestive system problems. Common problems they treat include reflux, bleeding, abdominal pain, and cancers affecting digestive system organs.
Genetics nurses administer nursing care to individuals diagnosed with genetic problems and diseases. They administer screenings, identify potential problems, treat disease, and assist child, adult, and elderly patients struggling with genetic disorders.
Geriatric and gerontological nurses provide nursing care to the elderly. These specialists are in high demand since over half of all hospitalized patients are 65 or older. Geriatric and gerontological nurses are primarily employed within hospitals and assisted living facilities. They have extensive training to prepare them for elderly patient care and teaching their patients how to live independently.
Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
Gerontological nurse practitioners specialize in elderly patient care. They hold master’s degrees and are licensed as registered nurses. These specialists are trained to diagnose and treat chronic and acute medical conditions. They frequently utilize holistic treatments to treat patients struggling with physical and mental health problems.
Gynecology and obstetric nurses specialize in women’s reproductive health. They treat women with reproductive issues, assist doctors, and teach adult and elderly women about preventative healthcare. These nurses often specialize as labor and delivery and perinatal nurses.
Health Policy Nurse
Nurses specializing in health policy work as analysts. They typically hold doctorate degrees and conduct research. Because of their expertise, health policy nurses frequently consult with elected officials, school administrators, and others to educate them about how health problems affect the public.
Hematology nurses provide nursing care to patients diagnosed with leukemia, sickle-cell, hemophilia, or other blood related disorders. Since patients with these types of diseases need special care, they teach family members how to care for their loved ones. These blood-related diseases typically share similar characteristics with cancer, so hematology nurses frequently specialize in oncology.
Holistic nurses utilize various treatments, including modern medical procedures, massage therapy, and nutrition plans to help patients recover from medical, psychological, and spiritual problems. Holistic nurses educate patients, so they’ll be empowered to take charge of their health.
Home Health Care Nurse
Home healthcare nurses administer nursing care to patients within their homes. They treat people recovering from serious injuries, the permanently disabled and elderly patients living independently. These specialists are also referred to as visiting nurses. Their work has improved the lives of untold numbers of people.
Independent Nurse Contractor
Independent nurse contractors provide their services to healthcare clinics where nurses are outsourced. They typically bill hourly. Nurse contractors have various specialties, and they can contract at physicians’ clinics, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, physical therapy facilities, and home healthcare companies.
Infection Control Nurse
Infection control nurses recognize and eliminate infectious diseases rampant within medical clinics and the community. They gather data, educate staff members, and develop procedures to control the spread of infectious disease. They specialize in STDs, HIV, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases common during hospital stays.
Nurses specializing in informatics specialize in information technology utilized to manage records and deliver healthcare services. They’re currently in demand since paper form records are being digitized. They work with automated systems and sophisticated computer networks. They’re responsible for teaching nurses and other medical professionals how to utilize information technology and ensuring medical facilities are wired with modern networks.
Infusion nurses, also known as intravenous nurses, administer fluids and mediations and assist patients who rely on arterial catheters. In addition to administering fluids, infusion nurses identify potential infections and drug interactions, keep tabs on patients, and fix problems. These specialists are employed at assisted living facilities, hospitals, and home healthcare companies.
Nurses specializing in lactation assist women currently breastfeeding or experiencing complications. In addition to nursing care duties, these specialists work with elected officials to make the workplace and public facilities accommodating to breastfeeding mothers.
Legal Nurse Consultant
Nurses who offer legal consulting services assist attorneys with medical negligence cases and evaluate medical records.
Life Care Planning Nurse
Nurses specializing in life care planning assist severely injured patients recovering from serious burns, head trauma, spinal cord injuries, and other serious injuries. They work with patients, their family members, doctors, and lawyers to develop plans designed to address healthcare costs, future treatments, and other issues affecting patients’ wellbeing. To effectively do this, they must understand what type of treatments and care patients with specific injuries require. Additionally, these nurses must advocate on patients’ behalf since they often struggle expressing themselves. These specialists frequently work outside of hospitals as consultants for government agencies, courts, and private companies.
Long-term Care Nurse
Long-term care nurses treat patients with chronic diseases or severe disabilities. They typically work with elderly and disabled individuals. Long-term care is also known as sub-acute care.
Managed Care Nurse
Managed care nurses specialize in preventative care. They teach patients how to properly take care of their health to minimize healthcare expenses. They work with managed care healthcare providers to reduce expenses and provide more efficient care.
Medical/surgical nurses are licensed registered nurses employed in assisted living facilities, hospitals, and other medical clinics where patients preparing and recovering from surgery are housed. Additionally, they assist patients with chronic pain being treated with medication.
Military and Uniformed Service Nurse
Military nurses serve in the military and care for service members in the Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Army. They also work for public health agencies.
Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse
Neonatal intensive care nurses treat premature or ill infants. They also assist mothers with any assistance while their newborns receive treatment.
Neuroscience nurses specialize in nervous system disorders. They treat people with spinal cord injuries, severe brain trauma, seizures, and other nervous system injuries or diseases.
These nurses hold law degrees. They frequently represent doctors and other medical specialists in court and collaborate with elected officials to develop new policies.
These professionals work for municipal, state, and federal government agencies. They work closely with politicians to formulate health policies to address rising healthcare costs, expanding coverage to underprivileged individuals, and other important health issues.
Nurse managers and administers are typically experienced managers with nursing administration or business degrees. These professionals hold high-level positions at hospitals and medical clinics. They’re responsible for overseeing hospital nursing operations.
Ophthalmic nurses treat patients struggling with vision problems, such as glaucoma, blindness, cataracts, and other vision disorders.
Otorhinolaryngology nurses assist and treat patients being treated for ear, nose, and throat problems. They also prepare patients for surgery. This field is also referred to as head and neck nursing.
Pain Management Nurse
Pain management nurses evaluate, assist, and monitor patients suffering with chronic pain. Pain management is also known as the fifth vital sign. They teach patients proper pain management techniques and monitor patients during pain management treatments. Nurses specializing in pain management are considered advanced practice nurses and pain management specialists since they have completed graduate-level education. Many pain management specialists certify in advanced oncology and palliative care.
Pediatric Endocrinology Nurse
Pediatric endocrinology nurses treat children diagnosed with endocrine system disorders and provide support to their families. The endocrine system consists of numerous glands that secrete hormones into the bloodstream. Children with endocrine system problems often begin puberty later in life and struggle with weight problems, diabetes, and hormonal imbalances.
Perianesthesia nurses assist patients in recovery rooms recovering from sedation following surgery. They get patients ready for surgery, monitor sedated patients, and help patients recovering from anesthesia.
Perinatal nurses administer nursing care to pregnant women, women in labor, and new mothers. They also provide support to women’s family members. These nurses spend a lot of time teaching mothers about proper prenatal care, comforting women struggling through labor, and teaching women how to care for newborns. Perinatal nurses are also called OB nurses, women’s health nurses, postpartum nurses, and couplet care nurses.
Plastic Surgery Nurse
Nurses employed in plastic surgery clinics assist patients preparing for, undergoing, and recovering from plastic surgery. They assist plastic surgeons performing all types of surgeries, including facial reconstruction surgery, dermabrasion, rhinoplasty, and other elective and necessary procedures.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatric nurses are also known as mental health nurse practitioners. These specialists have advanced training and are licensed as registered nurses. Psychiatric nurse practitioners administer various psychiatric treatments and access patients for mental health problems. They assist patients struggling to manage mental health problems, and they provide preventative mental healthcare by teaching patients how to properly manage stress. These specialists are employed at psychiatric hospitals, addiction rehabilitation centers, and private clinics.
Pulmonary Care Nurse
Pulmonary care nurses treat patients with lung problems, such as asthma, tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis, and individuals being taken off ventilators. These nurses work within hospitals in critical care and intensive care units, but they also work with patients at home struggling with emphysema, lung cancer, and other lung diseases.
Quality Improvement Nurse
Nurses specializing in quality improvement are responsible for improving nursing care at hospitals and other medical facilities. To do this, they evaluate current procedures, conduct patient surveys, and interview staff members. Once assessments are completed, these professionals develop new policies to be implemented within intensive care units, assisted living facilities, oncology clinics, etc.
Radiology nurses assist patients receiving radiation treatment and being diagnosed with radiation imaging technology, such ultrasound technology and MRIs. Radiology nurses are also called cardiac catheterization lab nurses.
Rehabilitation nurses assist disabled patients and those recovering from serious injuries live independently. They also provide support to family members with disabled loved ones. Rehabilitation nurses also work in assisted living clinics to care for people unable to live independently.
Nurses specializing in reproductive health provide medical care and education to individuals with reproductive disorders, fertility problems, and other reproductive issues. These specialists are primarily located at fertility clinics where families are matched with egg donors and couples struggling with fertility problems receive counseling.
Rheumatology nurses specialize in and care for patients with rheumatoid diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, lupus, spondylitis, and myositis. These nurses are responsible for assessing blood work and responses to pain, treating flares and symptoms, counseling patients, and determining whether patients are responding to medication.
Nurses practicing in rural settings treat patients living in scarcely populated and isolated regions. Frequently, rural areas lack doctors and healthcare resources. As a result, nurses are often responsible for providing care to people living in rural areas. To encourage nurses to work in rural settings, government agencies often offer tuition and loan repayment assistance.
These specialists offer comprehensive nursing care to individuals requiring hospitalization for acute injuries and diseases. Most the time, this type of care lasts longer than long-term and assisted living care, but shorter than acute treatments.
Substance Abuse Nurse
Nurses specializing in substance abuse work at rehabilitation clinics where people undergoing treatment for drug and alcohol addiction are housed. They supervise patients receiving medications, provide routine nursing care, and offer emotional support to recovering addicts.
Nurses employed at nursing agencies work temporarily at hospitals and other medical facilities with staffing shortages.
Surgical nurses assist patients preparing for, undergoing, and recovering from surgery. The following are specialists in this field: scrub nurses, specialists who sterilize surgical tools; RN first assistants, specialists who administer patient care during surgery; and circulating nurses, specialists with patient care duties in non-sterile settings.
Telemetry nurses specialize in technology designed to measure blood pressure, EKGs, blood-oxygen levels, and heart rate. They’re responsible for linking patients to this technology. After patients are linked to the technology, data about vital signs appear on computer screens for nurses and doctors to review. Telemetry nurses are responsible for analyzing and making judgments from the data.
Telephone Triage Nurse
Telephone triage nurses offer support to patients and other individuals requiring medical information via telephone. They’re frequently required to make judgments about the type of assistance people need after brief conversations. Telephone triage nurses are trained to understand when people need immediate medical care so unnecessary ambulance and emergency responses are minimized.
Toxicology nurses assistant patients undergoing detox treatments and requiring medical assistance following poison ingestion. These specialists often monitor patients for extended periods of time, conduct diagnostic and lab tests, and assist doctors treating poison victims. Additionally, toxicology nurses teach people how to avoid being exposed to toxic chemicals and compounds. These specialists must work well under stress since they frequently respond to life and death emergencies.
Transcultural nurses provide nursing care to immigrants, foreign refuges, and minorities. They typically understand the cultural values and beliefs of foreign nationals, so they understand how to administer care in a way that does not violate cultural and religious values.
Transplant nurses assist people preparing for, undergoing, and recovering from organ transplants. They also work with living-donors preparing for surgery and the family members of organ transplant recipients. Transplant nurses coordinate nursing care for people receiving transplants and recovering from surgery. They also teach patients how to maintain good health following an organ transplant.
Trauma nurses administer emergency treatment and care to people being treated for severe injuries. They monitor vital signs and notify doctors when emergency and life-saving treatments are needed.
Triage nurses are typically assigned to emergency rooms. They’re responsible for accurately and rapidly determining the type of treatment patients admitted to emergency rooms require. To do this, they must have exceptional analytical and judgment skills. Triage nurses must also be able to work effectively under pressure.
Urologic nurses provide nursing care to patients with urologic disorders and diseases. They respond to acute disorders and treat patients struggling with chronic pain. They conduct exams, assess results from diagnostic tests, assist urologists treating bladder disorders, including incontinence, and educate patients about preventive healthcare.
Veterans Affair Nurse
Nurses employed with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) work at veterans’ hospitals, outpatient clinics, assisted living facilities, and other medical clinics where veterans receive medical care. Various nursing specialists, including registered nurses, clinical nurse specialists, APNs, NAs, LPNs, and nurse anesthetists are employed by the VA. In addition to treating veterans with health problems, they teach those with permanent disabilities how to live independently. Many VA nurses provide hospice care.
Wound & Ostomy Nurse
Wound and ostomy nurses assist patients requiring medical care for stomas, draining wounds, pressure and vascular wounds, fistulas, and neuropathic wounds. Additionally, they teach patients requiring special medical assistance how to manage these health disorders.
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|Psychologists specialize in analyzing human behavior and brain function. They study all features of human experience, including child development, cognitive function, and human relationships. Psychology offers a wide array of career opportunities.
Salary: $30,000 - $78,654
Education: 4 - 8 Years (beyond high school)
Job Outlook: Excellent