From entry-level nursing degrees to doctoral programs, statistics show a significant, all-round increase in enrollment for nursing programs across the United States. Students who seek out higher education in nursing can benefit from a choice of diverse nursing professions, a potential to earn more per year, and a fulfilling career that makes an actual difference in the world. Whether you’re looking to begin your career in nursing or you’re a skilled nurse who wants to branch out, here are a few of the top career choices within the field of nursing.
What Is Nursing?
Nursing is an important part of healthcare, and it is a term that describes the care of individuals, families, groups, and communities. Nursing professionals also work towards preventing illnesses and promoting health and wellness, and they are advocates for their patients. There are many types of roles within the field of nursing. Entry-level positions require basic education, while higher-level nursing roles require advanced training, qualifications, and relevant experience. Roles can range from the traditional bedside nurse who provides care in hospitals and clinics to roles such as nurse researchers who work towards improving patients’ lives from within a laboratory.
Different Types of Degree Programs
No matter what type of nursing career you wish to obtain, gaining a nursing degree is a great way to extend your knowledge and boost your chances of bagging your dream job. Entry-level degree programs include the associate degree in nursing (ADN) and the bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). With an entry-level degree coupled with an NCLEX-RN exam pass score, you can apply for different types of registered nurse positions. With the addition of a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree, clinical hours, and certifications, you can apply for more advanced roles within nursing. The doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree and the PhD in nursing are the only two doctoral degrees you can achieve within this field. DNPs are ideal for registered nurses who wish to seek out leadership and management positions, while a PhD is more suitable for those with an interest in academia and research.
Accreditation Is Key
There are plenty of nursing degree programs that can be achieved on and off-campus; the key is to find a program that has been accredited by a reputable institution. Besides accreditation, you can also research programs to suit your particular needs. For example, nurses in entry-level positions can enroll in accelerated courses to reduce the amount of study time they need to complete, while working professionals with a bachelor’s degree in another field can use their previous credits to get onto an MSN program. Furthermore, there are dual nurse practitioner programs online that allow students to learn about two nursing disciplines instead of specializing in just one.
Registered nurses (RNs) are one of the first professions that spring to mind when prospective students consider nursing as a career. It is an entry-level nursing job that requires an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree and a license. Registered nurses earn an average salary of $75,330 per year, and the role revolves around patient care. Responsibilities differ depending on where RNs work and whether they specialize in a specific area. In general, day-to-day tasks include assessing and diagnosing patients, creating patient care plans, administering treatments and medications, and providing advice and counsel to their patients and their patient’s families. Becoming a registered nurse can be incredibly rewarding for the right person. It goes beyond the paycheck as the role involves directly helping others and improving their health. There are around 2.7 million RNs in the United States, and there is still a huge demand for people within this profession. Registered nurses have the option to choose a specialty regarding the care they give, and they also have plenty of options when it comes to workplace settings.
As the title suggests, school nurses work in an educational setting, and their role revolves around caring for school children. School nurses provide physical, emotional, social, and mental care to children. Although people in this role generally get paid less than other skilled nurses, this is a fulfilling career choice, and it is perfect for people who love working with kids. Working in a school setting means that nurses benefit from a school schedule. In other words, they can enjoy regular hours, free evenings and weekends, and long vacations. The job satisfaction rate for this profession is generally higher than other registered nurse jobs.
Nursing homes are one of the largest employers of registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses, and working in a senior living facility can be very rewarding. Nurses in these settings spend their days supporting and caring for older people. In some facilities, they help patients with everyday activities and are responsible for supervising nursing assistants. Patients often reside at senior living facilities for a long time, which means that nurses tend to develop meaningful relationships with residents.
A nutritionist nurse can work in varied settings, from large corporations and educational institutions to hospitals and outpatient settings. The role can include helping patients deal with problems that affect their consumption and digestion, creating nutrition and diet-focused wellness programs, and helping patients achieve healthy weight goals.
Nursing professionals with a combined passion for healthcare and IT might be suited to a career as a nursing informatics specialist in information technology, like an informatics nurse. Healthcare specialists in IT design and implement new tech to improve patient care and support workflow. They also prepare systems, help with user support and training, and can offer assistance in the event of a cybersecurity breach.
Legal Nurse Consultant
Legal nurse consultants have the ability to pick and choose the type of work they want and the companies they want to work for. They work with legal teams and provide expert advice concerning issues such as insurance fraud, medical malpractice, and compensation claims.
Nurse Informatics Analysts
This role does not involve caring for patients directly. Instead, the role includes managing healthcare data for patients and healthcare professionals. Nurse informatics analysts can find work within healthcare facilities and also in consulting companies, information system development organizations, and universities. Nurses in this role can earn a median annual wage of $81,973.
Nurse managers, also known as nurse administrators, work with colleagues and other healthcare professionals to help improve patient care and outcomes. The role puts them in charge of nursing operations, and responsibilities include streamlining care processes, overseeing finance, budget and inventory, and recruitment. Nurse managers are also tasked with the training and development of their nursing team, giving performance reviews, and liaising with healthcare professionals in other departments. This role requires a vast experience in the field and an advanced degree in nursing.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
If you are looking for a high-paying nursing profession, becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) could be the career move for you. CRNAs boast an average salary of $166,969 per year, making them the most well-paid nursing professionals. Nurse anesthetists can work in hospitals, clinics, pain management centers, and outpatient centers, and their role revolves around anesthesia. They administer anesthesia to patients, provide related care, monitor health and vitals, and help develop anesthetic plans for patients. To become a CRNA, you must obtain an advanced degree, gain relevant experience, and pass the National Certification Examination (NCE), which is offered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). Prospective CRNAs also need to acquire the right licensure specific to the state in which they wish to practice.
The role of a nurse practitioner (NP) is highly sought after for a number of reasons. The average pay exceeds that of a registered nurse by over $40,000 per year, they have a broad scope of practice, and in some states, they have full job autonomy. This means they can practice independently without the supervision of a doctor. Nurse practitioners are primary and preventative care providers, and they share similar responsibilities to physicians. Although the role of a nurse practitioner varies depending on the specialty and work setting, general day-to-day tasks can include assessing patient health, diagnosing illnesses and conditions, prescribing treatment, and administering medication and treatment. Nurse practitioners need to be educated to an advanced level, gain clinical hours in a supervised setting, pass the right certifications and obtain the correct state licensure before they can practice legally.
Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
The highest paying NPs are psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs), as they earn an average salary of approximately $125,000 per year. PMHNPs provide care to people with psychiatric and mental health issues. The age of their patients can vary. These NPs treat people with psychiatric disorders, behavioral problems, and substance abuse problems. Nurse practitioners can choose to treat patients with therapeutic techniques and can also prescribe medication when necessary.
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) offer primary and preventative healthcare with a family-centered focus for their patients. Their patients can include individuals, groups, families, and communities. FNPs are usually the first point of call for people who require care, and they often play the role of the main primary and preventative healthcare provider for a long period of time for their patients. This enables patients and family nurse practitioners to develop a meaningful connection, which makes being an FNP particularly rewarding.
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
The role of an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP) is to provide comprehensive care to patients ranging from young adults to elderly adults with acute, critical, and chronic health conditions. AGACNP collaborate with a range of healthcare professionals to help improve their patient’s health and stabilize their conditions. Older patients are more prone to experiencing several health conditions simultaneously, with obesity, hypertension, and diabetes being the most common conditions. Treating multiple conditions requires polypharmacy, a concoction of different types of medication. Nurse practitioners who specialize in adult-gerontology acute care need to gather and evaluate patient information in order to help their patients live with their conditions. Using information gathered, AGACNPs create health management plans to help patients thrive. As with other nurse practitioner jobs, prospective AGACNPs need to be educated to an advanced level and obtain the correct certifications and licenses to practice. In addition, they also need a minimum of 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners who specialize in pediatric health provide high-quality care to children ranging from infants to young adults. Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) examine their patients and assess their health to diagnose and treat illnesses and health conditions. PNPs can expect an annual median wage of approximately $110,000, and with additional training and experience, they can specialize further by body system and service.
Nurse educators do not work with patients directly. Instead, their role consists of teaching future nurses, putting together lesson plans, and evaluating nursing students. Nurse educators need to be educated to a master’s level at least. However, many nurse educators have a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree or a PhD in nursing. People in this profession can choose to teach students a range of topics, from general nursing and biology to topics within their own chosen specialty. As the first point of call for many nursing students, nurse educators often act as mentors to the people they teach. Throughout a student’s educational journey, they may lean on nurse educators for professional and educational advice, which usually leads to long-term mentorship. The role of a nurse educator is best suited to professionals with an interest in education and clinical nursing. These nursing professionals make a significant impact on the future of nursing and play a huge role in the training and development of future nurses.
Nursing researchers are scientists who spend their time studying various aspects of healthcare, illness, and general health. People in this line of work create, design, and implement scientific studies to improve healthcare services and enhance patient outcomes.