EDUCATION
July 8, 2022

What Are All the Types of Nurses? The Complete List of Nursing Careers and Specialties

There are a lot of different ways to enter the field of nursing and even more career options available to nurses. To help you figure out what path you want to take, here’s an extensive list of every nursing career and specialty available to you. Get ready to scroll!

The Different Types of Nurses

CNA

  • Median salary: According to the BLS, the median salary for CNAs is $30,290 per year or $14.56 per hour.
  • Career Outlook: Overall employment of nursing assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.            
  • Education requirements: Certified nursing assistants must complete a state-approved training program. These programs are generally found at local community colleges, high schools, vocational or technical schools, or local hospitals.
  • Job Description: Responsibilities of CNAs include turning and repositioning patients, gathering bedside supplies, assisting patients with ADLs, assisting with medical procedures, answering patient calls, and obtaining vital signs. 

LPN

  • Median salary:  According to the BLS, the median salary for LPNs is $48,070 per year or $23.11 per hour.
  • Career Outlook: Overall employment of LPNs is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.    
  • Education requirements: Becoming an LPN requires completing an accredited practical nursing certificate program, which is usually offered at community colleges and takes about a year to complete.
  • Job Description: A LPN helps provide patients with essential care including eat, drink, and bathe. There will be times when an LPN administers certain medications and performs other duties such as taking blood pressure, inserting catheters, and recording other vital signs.

RN

  • Median salary: According to the BLS, the median salary for RNs is $77,600 per year or $37.31 per hour.
  • Career Outlook: Overall employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.    
  • Education requirements: To become an RN, there are three paths including a BSN which takes 4 years to complete, an ADN which takes 2 to 3 years to complete or a nursing diploma which takes 1 to 2 years to complete.
  • Job Description: RNs are responsible for the care, education, and coordination of sick and dying patients. Main responsibilities include assessing patients, administering medications and treatments, collaborating with other healthcare providers, educating patients and families on disease processes and management, and assisting with procedures.

NP

  • Median salary: According to the BLS, the median salary for NPs is $120,680 per year.
  • Career Outlook: Overall employment of nurse practitioners is projected to grow 52 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.    
  • Education requirements: The first step to becoming a NP is to earn your BSN and gain bedside nursing experience. Then, enroll in an accredited MSN/NP program and pass the national certification exam.
  • Job Description: NPs are health care providers that can prescribe medication, examine patients, order diagnostic tests, diagnose illnesses, and provide treatment.

CNM

  • Median salary: According to the BLS, the median salary for CNMs is $112,830 per year.
  • Career Outlook: Overall employment of certified nurse-midwives is projected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.    
  • Education requirements: The first step to becoming a CNM is to earn your BSN and gain relevant bedside nursing experience. Then, enroll in an accredited MSN/CNM program and pass the national certification exam.
  • Job Description: Common job responsibilities for CNM include delivering babies, providing prenatal and postpartum care, assisting obstetricians, and performing routine check-ups for pregnant patients. Other duties include, annual exams, prescribing medications, patient education, and basic nutritional counseling.

CRNA

  • Median salary: According to the BLS, the median salary for CRNAs is $195,610 per year.
  • Career Outlook: Overall employment of certified registered nurse anesthetists is projected to grow 13 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.    
  • Education requirements: First, earn a BSN and then gain one to three years of experience working in the ICU. Next, apply and get accepted to an accredited nurse anesthesia program which will take two to three years to complete.
  • Job Description: CRNAs are responsible for the care of a patient under anesthesia. Specific duties include identifying risks to a patient under anesthesia, administering anesthetic and pain medication, and educating patients and their families.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

  • Median salary: According to ZipRecruiter.com, the median salary for CNSs is $112,221 per year or $54 per hour.
  • Career Outlook: APRN jobs, which include Clinical Nurse Specialists, are expected to increase by 45 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Education requirements: After earning a bachelor’s degree, attend an accredited MSN program with a focus on a clinical nurse specialist track. After successful completion, you must pass a national certification exam administered by American Nurses Credentialing Center.
  • Job Description: Responsibilities of a CNS will depend on the specialty and type of facility. Specific job duties include assisting with evidence-based practice projects, assisting with research, educating patients and families, teaching within the community, providing transitional care, conducting research as the primary investigator, and assisting nurses and staff with direct patient care as a resource.

Nurse Educator

  • Median salary: According to the BLS, the median annual salary is $82,040 for nurse educators in post-secondary universities.
  • Career Outlook: Overall employment of postsecondary teachers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.            
  • Education requirements: After successful completion of a BSN program, you’ll need to complete an MSN nurse educator program. Though every MSN curriculum is different, accredited nursing programs follow the framework provided by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing.
  • Job Description: Nurse educators have a variety of responsibilities including developing lesson plans, teaching courses, overseeing students’ clinical practice, maintaining clinical competencies, and serving as a mentor on academic and career issues.

Nurse Administrator

  • Median salary: According to the BLS, Nurse Administrators fall into the category of Medical and Health Services Managers and they earn an average annual salary of $101,340 per year or $48.72 per hour.
  • Career Outlook: The employment of medical and health services managers is projected to grow 32 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.
  • Education requirements
  • Job Description: Specific responsibilities of a nurse administrator depend on the type of job - CNO versus nurse manager versus a nursing director. Common jobs include managing day-to-day operations for the nursing staff, managing the budget and financial planning, creating operational strategies, interviewing and hiring new staff, and managing the schedule.

Clinical Nurse Leader

  • Median salary: According to ZipRecruiter, Clinical Nurse Leaders earn an average annual salary of $102,821 or $49 per hour.
  • Career Outlook: The position is relatively new and there are only about 1,000 certified CNLs in the United States at this time, ensuring that new nurses entering this important field can have a high level of confidence in their career outlook and their job prospects.
  • Education requirements: After graduating from a BSN program and earning your RN, you’ll need to earn an MSN from an accredited CNL program. The CNL program will need to include a minimum of 400 clinical hours within the CNL program, including a minimum of 300 clinical hours in a clinical immersion experience.
  • Job Description: CNLs have many different roles and responsibilities including, advocating for patients and families, coordinating the care of patients, acting as mentors to staff and liaisons to administration, educating staff members on new policies and procedures, and delegating patient care. 

Most Popular Nursing Specialties

1. Labor and Delivery

  • Salary: According to ZipRecruiter.com, the average annual salary for a labor and delivery nurse is $113,789 per year or $55 per hour.
  • Education requirements: To become a labor and delivery nurse, you first must graduate from a program of study that is approved by your State Nursing Board, either a bachelor’s degree or associate degree program. Upon completion, you have to pass the NCLEX-RN.
  • Certifications needed: While there is no required certification for labor and delivery nurses, some nurses will choose the to obtain the Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) certification through the National Certification Corporation.
  • Job Description: Common duties for labor and delivery nurses include, but are not limited to, timing contractions, monitoring both the baby’s and mother’s vital signs, administer medications, aid in inducing labor, and identifying and assisting with handling complications.
  • Who this specialty is right for: Labor and delivery is ideal for those interested in helping deliver babies including encouraging and comforting new moms and dads.

2. Pediatrics

  • Salary: According to ZipRecruiter.com, the average annual salary for a pediatric nurse is $84,834 per year or $41 per hour.
  • Education requirements: To become a pediatric nurse, you first must graduate from a program of study that is approved by your State Nursing Board, either a bachelor’s degree or associate degree program. Upon completion, you have to pass the NCLEX-RN.
  • Certifications needed: There are several pediatric certifications available to pediatric nurses including, Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN), Registered Nurse-Board Certified Pediatric (RN-BC), Registered Nurse- Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC), and Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN).
  • Job Description: Common duties for pediatric nurses include, but are not limited to, administering and educating about vaccines, administering medications, performing assessments, creating nursing care plans, assisting healthcare professionals with tests and procedures, monitoring vital signs, and documenting observations and findings.
  • Who this specialty is right for: Pediatric nursing is ideal for individuals that enjoy working with babies, toddlers, children, and the adolescent population.

3. Neonatal ICU

  • Salary: According to ZipRecruiter, the average neonatal nurse salary is $118,586 annually or $57 per hour.
  • Education requirements: To become a neonatal intensive care nurse, you first must graduate from a program of study that is approved by your State Nursing Board, either a bachelor’s degree or associate degree program. Upon completion, you have to pass the NCLEX-RN.
  • Certifications needed: Certification is not required to be a NICU nurse but there are several including CCRN® (Neonatal), RNC Certification for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC), RNC Certification in Low-Risk Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-LRN(R)), Neonatal Neuro-Intensive Care (C-NNIC) certification, and Care of the Extremely Low Birth Weight Neonate Subspecialty Certification (C-ELBW).
  • Job Description: Neonatal nurses are responsible for the care of critically ill neonates and newborns. 
    Who this specialty is right for: NICU nurses must have strong communication skills and a calm, empathetic personality. This speciality is ideal for those that can stay calm under pressure and have a good attention to detail.

4. Oncology Nurse

5. Emergency Room Registered Nurse

  • Salary: ZipRecruiter reports that emergency room nurses earn an average of $103,612 per year or $50 per hour.
  • Education requirements: To become an ER nurse, you first must graduate from a program of study that is approved by your State Nursing Board, either a bachelor’s degree or associate degree program. Upon completion, you have to pass the NCLEX-RN.
  • Certifications needed: Advanced certification is optional but highly encouraged. The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing offers the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) to eligible nurses.
  • Job Description: Duties include administering blood products, medications, and vaccinations, cleaning and dressing wounds, assisting in care of traumas, cardiac arrests, strokes, and sexual assaults, as well as setting broken bones and triaging patients.
  • Who this specialty is right for: This speciality is ideal for nurses that enjoy the world of fast-paced nursing. ER nurses have to be quick thinkers, able to juggle multiple patients and emergencies, and have strong nursing skills.

6. Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Registered Nurse

  • Salary: ZipRecruiter reports that ICU nurses earn a median annual salary of $120,243 annually or $58 per hour.
  • Education requirements: To become an ICU nurse, you first must graduate from a program of study that is approved by your State Nursing Board, either a bachelor’s degree or associate degree program. Upon completion, you have to pass the NCLEX-RN.
  • Certifications needed: The most popular certification for ICU nurses is the Certification for Adult Critical Care Nurses (CCRN) awarded by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.
  • Job Description: ICU nurses perform the following specific duties: administer medications, evaluate vital signs, immediately respond to changes in a patient’s condition, cleaning and bandaging wounds, responding to medical emergencies, educating patients and families, and identifying a patient’s ongoing needs.
  • Who this specialty is right for: This speciality is perfect for nurses caring for the critically ill and dying patients. ICU nurses must have strong attention to detail and strong critical thinking skills.

7. Surgical Registered Nurse

  • Salary: According to payscale.com, the average annual surgical nurse salary is $60,831 per year or $32.14 per hour.
  • Education requirements: To become a medical-surgical nurse, you first must graduate from a program of study that is approved by your State Nursing Board, either a bachelor’s degree or associate degree program. Upon completion, you have to pass the NCLEX-RN.
  • Certifications needed: Three certifications are offered for perioperative nurses: Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR), Certified Foundational Perioperative Nurse (CFPN) and Certified Ambulatory Surgery Nurse (CNAMB).
  • Job Description: Responsibilities for surgical nurses depend specifically on the role including, scrub nurses and circulating nurses.
  • Who this specialty is right for: This speciality is ideal for nurses that want to care for patients and their families after surgical procedures.

8. Operating Room Registered Nurse

  • Salary: According to ZipRecruiter.com, the average annual salary for OR nurses is $107,100 or $51 per hour.
  • Education requirements: To become an OR nurse, you first must graduate from a program of study that is approved by your State Nursing Board, either a bachelor’s degree or associate degree program. Upon completion, you have to pass the NCLEX-RN.
  • Certifications needed: There are several OR certifications available to nurses including Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR).
  • Job Description: OR nurses are responsible for ensuring operating room equipment and supplies are accounted for and functioning correctly. They are also responsible for monitoring patients during operations, assisting surgeons, and documenting throughout surgeries.
  • Who this specialty is right for: Nurses that are interested in surgical procedures and caring for patients while under anesthesia would find OR nursing as a perfect fit.

9. Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Registered Nurse

  • Salary: According to ZipRecruiter.com, the average annual salary for a PACU nurse is $87,936 per year or $42 per hour.
  • Education requirements: To become a PACU nurse, you first must graduate from a program of study that is approved by your State Nursing Board, either a bachelor’s degree or associate degree program. Upon completion, you have to pass the NCLEX-RN.
  • Certifications needed: While no certification is needed, if you want to further your education and ensure that you are paid for your specialized skills, you will want to become a certified post-anesthesia nurse (CPAN). In order to apply for the certification exam, you must be a licensed RN and have accumulated at least 1,800 hours of clinical experience. Once you pass the certification exam, you will be qualified to practice as a PACU or CPAN.
  • Job Description: PACU nurses have to be diligent about monitoring patients as they come out of sedation and immediately take action if there are any complications.
  • Who this specialty is right for: This speciality is ideal for nurses interested in surgical procedures but do not want to care for patients under general anesthesia. PACU nurses spend a great deal of time educating patients and families so they must have a strong desire to teach.

Trauma Registered Nurse

  • Salary: According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for trauma nurses is $91,969 or $44 per hour.
  • Education requirements: To become a trauma nurse, you first must graduate from a program of study that is approved by your State Nursing Board, either a bachelor’s degree or associate degree program. Upon completion, you have to pass the NCLEX-RN.
  • Certifications needed: The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) offers the Trauma Certified Registered nurse (TCRN®) certification.
  • Job Description: Trauma nurses are responsible for the care of patients after major catastrophic injury or illness including car accidents, stabbings and shootings. Other duties may include giving CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and ensuring the patient receives any needed monitoring or even defibrillation. They must be adept at starting IVs and administering medications, fluids, and possibly blood products.
  • Who this specialty is right for: Trauma nurses must be able to manage multiple priorities and tasks, and quickly provide and follow instructions in chaotic situations. They also must have a high level of technical skill in providing advanced life support. 

FAQs

  • What type of nurses get paid the most?
    • According to ZipRecruiter,  ICU nurses earn a median annual salary of $120,243 annually or $58 per hour.
  • What are the 3 fields of nursing?
    • Nurses can fall within three fields: non-degree (CNA), degree (BSN RN), and advanced degree (NP).
  • What is the best type of nurse to become?
    • This will depend on your professional and personal goals. All aspects of nursing are excellent and one isn’t better than the others.
  • What type of nurse is most in demand?
  • What is the lowest level of nursing?
  • What are the 4 branches of nursing?
    • The four branches of nursing are CNA, LPN, RN, and NP.
  • What is the hardest type of nursing?
    • Nursing in general is very difficult. All aspects of nursing are very difficult. Most would say that ICU nursing, ER nursing, and trauma nursing are among the hardest types of nursing. 

Most Popular Nursing Specialties

Right now, every nursing specialty is very popular due to the ongoing nursing shortage. However, historically some specialties are more sought out than others. Typically, these are the ones with the highest salary but do also tend to have the highest job satisfaction. These include:

Fields of Nursing

There are countless fields nurses can go into. Most can be broken down into the following categories:

How to Choose a Specialty

One of the easiest ways to choose a specialty is to see what you connect with and love the most during your nursing school clinical experiences. 

Sometimes that is easier said than done depending on the clinical location, population, and experience. However, it’s important to use that time to determine if you could see yourself working in that specific specialty. 

If you do - then great! If not, there are countless possibilities. Also, ask yourself some questions,

  • Do you like to engage with people?
  • What is your personality like? Are you shy or outgoing?
  • What are your interests?
  • Do you thrive under pressure?
  • Do you like constant movement during your day?

Answering questions about yourself and your personality will help you also determine the best nursing specialty fit. 

The great thing about nursing is that you have the opportunity to change your specialty whenever you want. Some positions do require specific experience but that can be easily achieved. 

It’s also important to remember that even though you might not get the job you wanted in the specialty you wanted - it’s always possible to switch at a later time. Also, consider positions that are vacant. For example, if you are interested in being a pediatric nurse but there is no pediatric hospital or jobs in your area, then this may be difficult. 

Types of Nursing Careers You Can Start Quickly

  1. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  2. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
  3. Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)

Nursing Degrees

  1. Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  2. Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN)
  3. Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN)
  4. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  5. Doctorate of Nursing Anesthesia Practice (DNAP)
  6. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

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Types of Registered Nurse (RN) Specialties

>> Related: What are the highest paid nursing specialties?

Types of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN)

1. Family Nurse Practitioner

2. Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

  • Ambulatory Care Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Bariatric Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Dermatology Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Diabetes Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Dialysis Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Endocrine Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Genetics Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Hematology Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Home Health Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Hospice Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Infection Control Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Medical Surgical Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Oncology Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Orthopedic Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Otorhinolaryngology Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Pain Management Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Plastic Surgery Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Poison Control Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Primary Care Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Public Health Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Pulmonary Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Radiology Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Rehabilitation Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Rheumatology Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Substance Abuse Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Telemetry Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Transplant Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Transport Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Trauma Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Urologic Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Wound Care Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

3. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

4. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

  • Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Ambulatory Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Burn Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Cardiac Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Critical Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Dermatology Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Diabetes Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Dialysis Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Emergency Medicine Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Endocrine Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Gastroenterology Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Hematology Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Home Health Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Hospice Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Infection Control Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Medical-Surgical Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Nephrology Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Neurology Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Oncology Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Ophthalmic Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Orthopedic Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Ostomy Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Otorhinolaryngology Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Pain Management Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Palliative Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Plastic Surgery Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Pulmonary Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Radiology Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Rheumatology Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Substance Abuse Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Surgical Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Telephone Triage Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Transplant Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Transport Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Trauma Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Travel Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Urologic Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Wound Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

5. Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and Related Gender Specialties

  • LGBTQ Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Obstetrics Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Postpartum Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Reproductive Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

6. Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

7. Certified Nurse Midwife

8. Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

  • Adult Health
  • Psychiatric and Mental Health
  • Child/Adolescent Psychological and Mental Health
  • Diabetes Management
  • Gerontology
  • Home Health
  • Pediatrics
  • Public and Community Health

9. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

10. Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)

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Other Nursing Degrees/Professions

  1. Assistant Nurse Manager
  2. Chief Nursing Officer
  3. Nurse Educator
  4. Nurse Executive
  5. Nurse Manager
  6. Nursing Director

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