Best Nursing Careers: 50 Different Types of Nurses

Best Nursing Careers: 50 Different Types of Nurses

Are you up for the challenge of helping a doctor perform an organ transplant? Have you ever thought about helping the police catch criminals through the use of forensic evidence? You can do these things and more with a degree in nursing. Nurses can specialize in any number of fields, from law and forensics to terrorism response. If you are thinking about a career in nursing, take a moment to consider the job outlook for the industry as well as the different nursing careers available to you.

The Baby Boomer Effect

Nurses are in higher demand than ever before. This is partially due to the fact that the Baby Boomer generation is aging, and this larger population of senior citizens will need experienced medical care. Another result of Baby Boomers aging is that the nurses who are a part of that generation will be facing retirement soon. It’s estimated that there will be 1.6 million job opportunities for nurses in the year 2020.

Consistently Growing Field

Of course, the demand for nurses has been steadily rising over the last few decades. Between the years of 1980 and 2008, the number of people applying to nursing programs increased by more than 80 percent. With more and more jobs opening up, nursing students may want to consider pursuing advanced degrees to command higher salaries in the nursing field.

Are you ready to take on a new career as a nurse? Do you already hold an RN license and want to consider a specialty area of practice? Check out this list of top 50 nursing career options, and determine which one speaks to your interests.



CNA best nursing careers

CNAs, or certified nursing assistants, provide support for patients under the supervision of an RN or LPN. A CNA can work in a range of medical settings, from in-home care to medical practices, and the experience gained as a CNA can sometimes be applied as credit for an ADN program. Gaining CNA certification can be a great way to find out if a career as an RN is right for you. CNA certification can be acquired at a local community college.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $25,710


School Nurse

school nurse best nursing careers

School nurses provide essential support for students throughout the school year. These services include administering already-prescribed medications, providing first aid, and offering basic therapeutic care for children who become ill while in class. While the pay scale tends to be lower than other nursing positions, it does typically come with time off in the summer and long holiday breaks, making it an ideal job for nurses with school-age children. Nurses applying to these jobs should hold an RN certificate as well as an associate or baccalaureate degree.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $48,000



HIV-AIDS nurse best nursing careers

HIV/AIDS care nurses provide both emotional and medical support for patients who are living with HIV/AIDS. These nurses can help to coordinate care between different doctors, administer medication, and offer a friendly ear. When not caring for patients, these nurses are out in the community providing education to help prevent the spread of this disease and other STIs. You can become an HIV/AIDS nurse with an RN license and an ADN, but you may also need experience working with patients who have HIV/AIDS.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $51,000


Radiology Nurse

radiology nurse best nursing careers

A radiology nurse helps prepare patients for a host of different procedures, including ultrasounds, MRIs and CT scans. These nurses may see a number of different patients each day, and there may not be a lot of opportunities to build relationships with patients due to the nature of the work. An ADN or BSN is typically required for this position.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $53,000


American Red Cross Nurse

american red cross nurse best nursing careers

The American Red Cross offers a host of options for nurses, including its own CNA training program. Nurses working with the red cross provide disaster relief, medical care, and support for patients in need, and they may be able to travel across the country and around the world to provide emergency care. Nurses seeking to work with the Red Cross need an RN license and an ADN or BSN.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $54,000


Public Health Nurse

A public health nurse provides care for an entire community through education and advocacy. These nurses may create vaccination programs, monitor risk factors for certain types of illnesses or conditions within a community, or help improve access to care. A public health nurse might find employment through a county or local municipality. To become a public health nurse, you’ll typically need a BSN and RN license.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $56,000


Nutrition and Fitness Nursing

Nutrition and fitness nurses provide education and support for patients who need to improve their lives through proper diet and exercise. These nurses can work in health clubs, hospitals, spas, and medical clinics. While they should be licensed RNs, the amount of direct medical care provided in this role may be minimal. Nurses who wish to pursue this career option should hold an ADN or equivalent diploma.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $57,910


Oncology Nurse

Oncology nurses provide care for cancer patients as well as those patients who may be at a greater risk of developing cancer. These nurses may work in hospital, clinical or private practice settings, and they are responsible for monitoring each patient’s condition and administering medication as needed. As an oncology nurse, you may also provide emotional support for patients and their families when dealing with a cancer diagnosis. An RN with a BSN degree can expect to make an average salary of $60,000, though the pay may depend on the facility you work for and the area you live in.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $60,000


NICU Nurse

NICU nurses work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units at local hospitals. This career option is both challenging and rewarding, but it is not for the faint of heart. As a NICU nurse, you will tend to premature or sick newborns, and many might require surgery, time in incubators, or the use of a ventilator. NICU nurses also provide emotional support for the parents of these newborns who may have a difficult time coping with the reality of having a sick baby. NICU nurses must hold an RN certificate and a BSN, and they may also be required to spend more time in clinical training to prepare for this career. Some NICU nurses may want to go on to an MSN program to become a neonatal nurse practitioner, which can command a higher salary.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $60,100


Plastic Surgery Nurse

Plastic surgery nurses provide care for patients undergoing elective or medically necessary plastic surgery. In a clinic or boutique cosmetic surgery practice, a nurse might help with liposuction and face peel procedures. They may also provide emotional support for patients with facial deformities or other congenital conditions. Pay for this type of nursing may depend on the medical setting. An ADN or BSN is required, though a BSN may be preferred for assisting with more complex procedures, such as craniofacial reconstructive surgery.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $60,460


Prison/Corrections Facility Nurse

Nurses working in prisons or other types of corrections facilities provide care for inmates. Nurses may need to provide treatment for chronic conditions or acute illnesses, and they may also need to administer first aid to prisoners injured while incarcerated. This job is a challenging one, and anyone who takes on the role of a corrections nurse must be able to remain objective, even when treating patients who have committed serious crimes. An RN license and a BSN or MSN degree are typically preferred for this line of work.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $60,900


Rehabilitation Nurse

Rehabilitation nurses help people with chronic illnesses or disabilities adapt their lifestyle and physical activity to remain as independent as possible, and can also assist people who have undergone traumatic injuries to work their way back to a new normal. These nurses may help people who have been severely injured learn how to walk again, and they can also provide education and emotional support for patients’ families. Rehabilitation nurses need an RN license and at least a BSN to work in this field.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $65,470


Labor and Delivery Nurse

Labor and delivery nurses have the distinct honor of helping little ones enter the world. These nurses can act as coaches during the labor process, monitor both the baby and mother’s condition throughout labor, and provide after-delivery support for each new mom. Nurses may offer help with breastfeeding after birth as well as helping each mom begin recovering from labor. An RN license and a degree from ADN or BSN program are required to become a labor and delivery nurse.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $65,000


Burn Care Nurse

Burn care nurses see patients who have been burned due to a number of causes, such as fires or exposure to toxic chemicals. They provide essential wound and skin care, administer pain medication, and help patients on the long road to recovery. They may also provide educational support for family members who will be caring for a burn patient at home as well as emotional support in dealing with the aftermath of a severe burn injury. This type of nursing can be extremely demanding, both physically and emotionally. To work as a burn care nurse, a master’s degree is an ideal option. Some schools provide master’s programs that specialize in trauma and critical care, which may be the right option for a burn care nurse.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $65,900


Surgical Nurse

Surgical nurses assist surgeons in the operating room, and may also prepare the operating room before surgeries and procedures. They are in charge of ensuring the area is sterile and that all required equipment is ready. They may also provide some support for patients who are awake during procedures. There are several different types of surgical nurses, including a scrub nurse, first assistant, and circulating nurse. To become a surgical nurse, you will need an RN license and a BSN. You will also need to complete a peri-operative nurse training program.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $66,000


Pediatric Home Care Nurse

A pediatric home care nurse provides a host of different services to patients. They may provide care for newborns with extra care needs, or they may offer support services for older children with certain medical conditions. These nurses travel to the homes of their patients and often provide parents with advice on how to provide continuous care as well as emotional support. This type of skilled nursing is typically provided on an hourly basis. Those wishing to become a pediatric home care nurse should hold an RN certificate and an ADN or BSN degree.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $66,000


Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses work with law enforcement and legal professionals to help investigate crimes. This might include collecting rape kits, providing support for victims, and testifying in court cases. This type of work requires someone who is detail-oriented. Forensic nurses also see patients when they are at their most vulnerable, and they can be faced with a significant amount of trauma. However, helping the victims of crime can be an incredibly rewarding experience. A BSN is required for this job, as well as an RN license.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $66,640


Geriatric Nurse

Geriatric nurses offer a range of specialized care for senior patients as well as support for their families. They may focus on preventative care for patients who may be at risk for developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer, among other conditions. Geriatric nurses can work in hospital or clinic settings, geriatric medical practices, or assisted living facilities. With this specialized type of nursing field, applicants should consider pursuing a BSN degree if they don’t already hold one.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $67,000


Rural Nurse

A rural nurse will provide basic nursing care for communities that are underserved or that don’t have access to hospitals. As a rural nurse, you may work in a local clinic to provide support for the community. Some rural nurses offer house calls, particularly for patients who are unable to drive and who can’t access public transportation. An ADN or BSN and an RN license are required for rural nurses.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $67,490


ER Nurse

The duties of an ER nurse may depend on the level of care a hospital’s emergency room offers. Some ERs offer basic life-saving care for medical emergencies, while others offer trauma care for serious injuries, including those that are a result of car crashes, shootings, or other catastrophic events. Nurses in the ER may perform minor medical procedures, administer medicine, monitor current health conditions, and prepare patients for discharge or admittance to a hospital room. Anyone looking to become an ER nurse will need an RN license and an ADN or BSN from an accredited program.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $67,500


Long-Term Care Nurse

Long-term care nurses work in a variety of settings from nursing homes to residential group homes for disabled adults. They may also provide in-home care assistance to patients. In addition to medical care, they may also provide assistance with bathing and toileting to individuals unable to perform these tasks on their own. Nurses in this field typically need current CPR certification in addition to an RN license and an ADN or BSN degree. CNAs providing long-term care might pursue an RN degree and pursue a career in long-term care nursing or geriatric care.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $68,000


ICU Nurse

ICU nurses work in the intensive care or critical care area of hospitals, and they provide support for patients who have undergone a traumatic injury or an invasive surgery. Patients in the ICU are often dealing with life-threatening conditions, so ICU nurses must be prepared to administer emergency treatments and assist doctors in providing life-saving medical treatments. To become an ICU nurse, you will need an RN license and at least an ADN. Some hospitals may give preference to candidates with a BSN and a certain number of years experience working in a hospital setting.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $68,450


Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurses can work in pediatricians’ offices, clinics, children’s hospitals and a range of other settings. The tasks these nurses perform depend on the setting, but it can involve treating minor injuries, administering vaccinations, and providing supportive care. For nurses who love working with children, this can be a rewarding career opportunity. Pediatric nurses can get a job with an ASN, but they can also command higher salaries with a BSN degree.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $69,790


Hospice Care Nurse

Hospice care nurses can provide in-home care as well as care in a hospice setting. The nurse provides palliative care as well as emotional support for each patient, and he or she also helps the family to begin coping with grief and stress. Nurses can be part of a patient’s care team, or they can be employed as hospice intake nurses. Intake nurses help transition patients into hospice care. Nurses working as part of a patient’s care team may provide wound care, administer pain medications, and provide assistance with daily living skills. The education level required will depend on the type of care a hospice nurse provides, but typically the minimum certification is an LPN certificate. RNs with BSN degrees can typically command a higher salary, but will also have more duties during shifts.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $70,000


Telephonic Triage Nurse

Telephonic triage nurses provide essential services for patients who are unable to get to the doctor’s office. They listen to symptoms over the phone and help patients determine which course of treatment or action is correct for each patient. These nurses may work for health insurance companies, hospitals, and other medical facilities.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $71,100


Nurse Educator

Nurse educators perform their duties in a teaching role, educating students and preparing them to become nurses. These nurses still hold RN licenses, and they may continue their education through clinical and research programs to stay on top of the latest advancements in medicine. To become a nurse educator, you will need to complete at least an MSN, though some colleges and universities may require a DPN.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $72,000


Epidemics Research Nurse

An epidemics research nurse works in clinical or laboratory settings to research epidemics to help create prevention and control plans. They may work alongside doctors and other scientists, and they can observe patients who have contracted a disease with epidemic potential. An RN license and BSN or higher are required for this line of work. Some epidemic research nurses will go on to earn an MSN and DNP.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $74,022


Dialysis Nurse

Dialysis nurses work with patients who are experiencing kidney failure, and many of their patients may also be diabetic. A dialysis nurse will help patients through the dialysis process, provide support and educational resources for patients to lead healthy lives, and in some cases, they may also provide support for patients awaiting kidney transplants. Dialysis nurses may work in hospitals or in outpatient dialysis clinics. A BSN degree and RN license are typically required for this line of work., though it is possible to work as a renal dialysis nurse with an ADN or equivalent diploma.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $75,00


Bioterrorism Nurse

A bioterrorism nurse provides many of the same services as a disaster nurse, but they may also respond to bioterrorist attacks or attacks on a civilian population during the war. These nurses must be able to work quickly under pressure and feel comfortable in a range of different environments. Nurses wishing to pursue this option as a career choice should have emergency room or critical care experience in addition to an RN license and a BSN degree.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $75,000


Senior Home Care

Senior home care nurses provide in-home support for senior patients, but they can also work in nursing homes and assisted living communities. Their duties are often similar to those of geriatric nurses. However, because they are providing care in a residential setting, other services may also be required, such as help with daily dressing, bathing and administering medication. Skilled nursing care may also involve wound care for diabetic patients or other daily medical treatments. While some people employed in senior home care hold a CNA or LPN certificate, registered nurses with a two- or four-year degree are the only individuals who can provide medical treatments in these settings.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $76,900


Legal Nurse Consultant

A legal nurse consultant can help attorneys on either side of a legal case. They may perform in an advisory role within a law office that deals with medical malpractice, insurance fraud, worker’s compensation, or personal injury cases. They may also provide expert testimony before a judge and jury or collect documentation to help prepare a case. A legal nurse consultant typically needs an RN license as well as a BSN degree and several years of hands-on nursing experience.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $77,000


Pharmaceutical Research Nurse

A pharmaceutical research nurse can work for pharmaceutical companies or universities to monitor clinical tests, provide advice about medication strategies, and help enroll patients in clinical trials. Nurses with at least a BSN can apply for this line of work, though candidates with MSN degrees may be given preference. Some universities offer certification in clinical research for pharmaceutical research nurses.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $77,000


Flight Transport Nurse

Flight transportation nurses accompany patients during air transport to medical facilities. These nurses may work in some emergency settings where air transport is the only way to get critical patients to trauma centers, or they may work for private companies that assist with transporting patients to rehabilitation facilities or hospitals that are located near family members. These nurses provide medical support and monitoring during the flights and can assist patients with transferring in and out of ground ambulances.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $81,000


Occupational Health Nurse

Occupational health nurses help to maintain safe working environments, and they may also treat workplace illnesses and injuries. An occupational nurse may find work in a factory or plant, in an office building setting, or in a corporate capacity.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $82,000


Cruise Ship Nurse

For nurses who want to travel the world, a career as a cruise ship nurse may be the perfect job. These nurses provide first aid as well as acute care for illnesses. They treat both the staff and the cruise ship passengers, and they may be required to work every day of each voyage. To obtain this type of job, you’ll need ACLS (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support) certification, CPR certification, and a minimum number of years working in emergency or critical care. Cruise ship nurses typically hold a BSN degree.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $82,900


Charge Nurse

Charge nurses perform the typical role of a registered nurse with some additional administrative duties. Charge nurses may act in a supervisory capacity, and they may also be in charge of scheduling. A charge nurse is responsible for the overall level of care patients receive in his or her unit, and as a result, they may see fewer individual patients to help manage the unit. Charge nurses should hold a BSN or MSN degree.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $82,900


Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing

Wound ostomy continence nurses provide specialized care for patients with wounds, healing incisions, and patients with ostomies. These nurses treat wounds, provide pain management options, and help patients learn how to care for their conditions at home. A nurse may show a patient how to change an ostomy bag or help families learn how to care for and provide support for family members. To become this type of nurse, you will need an RN license, a BSN or higher, and complete a WOCN-accredited program and relevant clinical experience.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $83,000


Infusion Therapy Nurse

An infusion therapy nurse administers intravenous medications, inserts IV lines as needed, and provides other support services for patients. This type of nurse might work in a hospital or clinic, and may also provide in-home services to disabled patients. To become an infusion therapy nurse, you’ll need an RN license and an ADN or BSN from an accredited program.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $84,300


Transplant Nurse Coordinator

Transplant nurse coordinators provide essential support for patients in need of an organ transplant. They may assist with the evaluation of the need for a transplant, and they notify patients when an organ becomes available. This type of nurse may also have to help assess whether a patient in need is not a suitable match for a new organ, such as a person who is still struggling with addiction but is in need of a new liver. This demanding job requires an RN license as well as a BSN.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $87,400


Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse

Psychiatric mental health nurses provide care for individuals with mental illness in medical practices, hospitals, and mental health facilities. They may be responsible for planning and implementing care, and they may also provide assistance with diagnosing certain conditions. This specialty field typically requires a BSN in addition to RN licensure. Nurses who wish to go on to become advanced practice psychiatric mental health nurses (PMH-APRNs) will need to complete a master’s program.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $88,400


Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners serve in a primary medical caregiver role, and they often work in clinics or medical practices. They can provide diagnostic care and provide treatment options, including the prescribing of medication. In underserved areas, a family nurse practitioner may provide primary care for a community, and they can work with patients throughout their lives, building a relationship with each patient. To become a family nurse practitioner, you’ll need to complete a master’s degree program, though you can also choose to complete a doctoral program for advanced studies.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $89,000


Medical-Surgical Nurse Practitioner

Medical-surgical nurse practitioners fill essential roles in operating rooms. They can provide pre- and post-operative care for patients, assisting with preparation for anesthesia, and ensuring patients understand the procedures they are having performed. This role goes beyond the med-surge nurse role, and they may operate laparoscopic equipment, suture wounds, and open sites for surgical procedures. Med-surge nurses will need to complete a master’s program and pass the board certification for medical-surgical nursing.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $90,300


Infectious Control Nurse

An infectious disease control nurse works to prevent the spread of diseases. This may include helping to contain an area affected by a rapidly spreading disease, researching pathogens, and educating the public. They may work in hospital settings or with government agencies. An RN license and an MSN degree are ideal for this role, but you may also be able to find employment with a BSN. You may also consider sitting for the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) exam.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $91,800


Health Administration Nurse

Health administration nurses take on more of a supervisory role in hospitals, nursing homes, and laboratories. They may be in charge of overall patient care, scheduling, and create operating budgets for the nursing staff. Working as a charge nurse can be a great real-life experience for this job, but a BSN will also likely be required. There are several MSN programs for advanced studies to help you prepare for this type of career.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $96,540


Disaster Management Nurse

A disaster management nurse provides a range of services for disasters, including prevention. They may help local municipalities create a disaster management and prevention plan, and they may also provide a response to emergencies. During a disaster, these nurses can perform triage, administer first aid, and provide emotional support for people who have lost their homes or loved ones. This role is ideal for a public health nurse wanting to advance his or her career. An RN license and a BSN are both required for this role, though some employers may require an MSN.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $101,000


Travel Nurse

Travel nurses can work in a number of specialty practices, or they can provide general RN services. They typically work with employment agencies to fill needs at hospitals and medical facilities that are short-staffed. This job can be an exciting one for anyone who loves to travel, as it requires moving to new cities for short periods of time. Pay tends to be a bit higher due to the demand for nurses in different areas, but pay does also depend on your area of expertise. You can become a travel nurse with an RN license and an ADN or BSN.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $101,000


Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners can provide a host of essential services for patients that go beyond typical nursing care. They can diagnose certain ailments, prescribe medicine, and see patients in much the same way that a doctor does. While their job duties aren’t as comprehensive as an MD, these nurses can fill in gaps where doctors are in short supply, such as in rural settings. Nurse practitioners might work in medical practices, urgent care centers, and hospital settings. You must complete a master’s program to become a nurse practitioner.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $104,740


Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists work closely with anesthesiologists and other physicians to assist with medical procedures. They administer anesthesia, monitor vitals, and provide other types of support in their roles. In this specialty nursing field, nurses must make expert calculations for dosages and make critical decisions regarding how to administer medications. Certified nurse anesthetists must complete a graduate-level degree and become certified through the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $104,740


Certified Nurse Midwife

A certified nurse midwife can provide a host of services for pregnant women, including prenatal care, family planning services, postpartum care, and gemological exams. They are also trained to deliver newborns. These nurses provide an essential bridge between midwifery and medical care, giving patients who potentially want a home birth a safer option for delivery. Nurses who wish to become CNM must complete a BSN degree program and a CNM certification program.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $107,460


Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

A neonatal nurse practitioner works in the neonatal intensive care unit with other NICU nurses and provides care for premature infants with medical conditions and complications. Neonatal nurse practitioners typically work in level II or III units where more severe cases are seen. To become an NNP, you’ll need an RN license, a master’s degree in nursing, and neonatal resuscitation certification.

  • Average Salary Outlook: $107,550


All average salaries are estimates, and the amount you can make on average will depend on the area you live in as well as the demand for each type of nurse in that area. If you are interested in learning more about any of these nursing career options, click here.

Nursing Articles