Nursing is a rewarding career path, and many choose it because of the opportunities to help others and make a difference. Many also choose nursing for job stability. Nurses are in demand, and the field is steadily growing. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in nursing are projected to increase 16% by 2022, much faster than average. Nursing careers are plentiful in the country and require several different type of nursing positions including entry-level positions such as medical assisting.
There are many nursing career options available beyond a registered nurse. Many of these positions are known as advanced practice positions and require more schooling beyond a RN degree program. These positions also require specialization courses and certification. Although specialization requires more time and school, the rewards and salary are typically worth the extra work. Students still looking to finish school should consider these online nursing schools.
Below we’ve listed the 12 best nursing careers based on several different factors: median annual salary, work environment and responsibilities, and qualifications to become a particular type of nurse.
Here are the Best Nursing Careers
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Median Annual Salary: $157,140
Work Environment: Nurse Anesthetists, also known as CRNAs, administer anesthesia and related care while patients receive surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic, and obstetrical care. They also provide pain management and emergency services. A typical day for a CRNA includes explaining and discussing any medications, allergies, or illness a patient may have to determine the safe dosage of anesthesia. Next, a CRNA will either administer general anesthesia to put the patient to sleep to avoid any pain during surgery or administer regional or local anesthesia to make an area numb. CRNAs then stay with the patient during any procedure to monitor vital signs and make anesthesia adjustments as necessary.
Qualification: CRNAs must earn a master’s degree from an accredited program before practicing. The program must include classroom courses and clinical experience. CRNAs also must have a registered nursing license and one year of clinical experience before being admitted to a nurse anesthetist program.
General Nurse Practitioner
Median Annual Salary: $98,190
Work Environment: Nurse practitioners, also known as NPs, serve as primary and specialty care providers. They deliver advanced nursing services to patients by assessing patients’ health. Then they try determining ways to improve or manage overall health, and discussing integrated health promotion strategies. NPs can specialize in a particular group of people or areas of the body such as adult and geriatric health, pediatric health, or psychiatric and mental health.
Qualification: Similar to certified registered nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners must be licensed registered nurses and pass a national certification exam before completing a master’s degree in nursing.
Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
Median Annual Salary: $74,000
Work Environment: Gerontological nurse practitioners, also known as CGNPs, work with elderly patients. They can work in nursing homes, with home health care providers, at hospice facilities, or manage their private practices. Like a geriatrician, CGNPs diagnose illness, conduct exams, and prescribe medication. They also order patient lab tests, manage patient pain and focus on preventative care.
Qualification: To become a gerontological nurse practitioner, first receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Then pass all required tests to become a registered nurse. Next, attend school to receive a Master of Science in Nursing. The program will require taking courses in geriatrics, acute and chronic illness management, and primary health care. After having received an MSN, CGNPs must get board certification in gerontological practice.
Pain Management Nurse
Median Annual Salary: $55,000
Work Environment: Pain management nurses care for patients with acute or chronic pain. After assessing the patient’s source of pain, pain management nurses work with doctors and other nurses to plan the best treatment and care. Pain management nurses also work with patients to show them how to manage best their pain as well as alternative ways to relieve pain.
Qualification: Nurses who want to become pain management nurses first must have a nursing diploma, an Associate of Science in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. They also must have licensure and at least two years of full-time experience as a registered nurse, or at least 2,000 hours or three years of expertise in a pain management nursing role. Finally, to become a certified pain management nurse, nurses need certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Median Annual Salary: $74,550
Work Environment: Psychiatric nurse practitioners, also called a mental health nurse practitioners, have a similar role to a psychiatrist. Psychiatric nurse practitioners diagnose mental illness, prescribe medication, and help patients with counseling for depression, anxiety, and suicide. They also help inform a patient’s family about the patient’s condition and how to react to certain situations.
Qualification: Becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner requires a Master’s of Science in Nursing focused in psychiatry as well as board certification in psychiatric nursing through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Psychiatric nurse practitioners are required to renew their certification every five years.
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Certified Nurse Midwife
Median Annual Salary: $92,510
Work Environment: Certified Nurse Midwives, also referred to as CNMs, provide gynecological care, family planning services, and prenatal care. They also help deliver babies, manage hemorrhaging, repair lacerations, and provide surgical assistance during cesarean births. CNMs also provide primary care for women and newborns. In addition to assisting mothers and babies during birth, midwives provide wellness care, educating patients on health, nutrition, and disease prevention.
Qualification: To become a certified nurse midwife, you have first to have a registered nurse license and must complete a master’s CNM program. CNMs also have to be certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board.
Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse
Median Annual Salary: $57,000
Work Environment: Neonatal nurses work in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) primarily with premature and critically ill babies. Working with a physician, neonatal nurses care for newborns by monitoring conditions, administering medication, recording progress, changing diapers, and comforting babies and mothers in distress.
Qualification: Nurses want to become a neonatal intensive care nurse first need to be registered nurses with proper state licensure. Before taking the exam for critical care neonatal nursing certification, nurses should have several years of experience working with neonatal care.
Health Policy Nurse
Median Annual Salary: $66,000
Work Environment: Health policy nurses work outside of hospitals and clinics to analyze healthcare laws, health care regulations, and public health policies. They develop strategies to advocate policy change and help plan and implement new policies in health. Health policy nurses work in health services research firms, legislative offices, or in health care provider associations. They are in the forefront of advocacy, research, policy development and evaluation.
Qualification: Health policy nurses need to have at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing as well as state licensure. After receiving a BSN, many health policy nurses work several years as registered nurses. After, they are earning a Master of Science in Nursing. In addition to master’s coursework, health policy nurses have to complete a 10-week health policy residency program in government offices, advocacy organizations, and community groups, but nurses who want to go further in the role also receive a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing.