Nurse smiling while using an iPad at the hospital

Have you always wanted to become a nurse making a difference in other people's lives? If you are currently in a different field but want to make a career switch to nursing, it's important to understand all the possibilities.

This article reviews various key nursing roles and the opportunities they present in the US.

1. How to Become a CNA

Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is a great way to enter nursing without spending many years in college for a degree. For many, this is an excellent path that can lead to greater opportunities in the nursing field.

Qualifications

Becoming a certified nursing assistant is simple and fast, at least compared to other medical professions. You can get your CNA license in four steps:

  • Complete Your High School Diploma or GED

  • Complete a State-Approved CNA Training Program

  • Complete In-Person Clinical Training

  • Pass a State-Approved CNA Certification Exam

The education process for a CNA can take less than a year, making it one of the most desirable options for those who want to join the medical field without a degree. Generally, most CNA programs take between 4-12 weeks.

Recommended Reading - How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)?

Average Salary and Job Prospects

Because the educational qualifications and requirements are lower, CNAs make a little less than other nurses, with an annual average of $32,554.78.

While the salary may not be substantial, potential jobs after being qualified are readily available. The BLS state that the demand for CNAs will continue to grow by 8% up to 2030.

Top 3 states for a CNA

  1. Hawaii

  2. California

  3. Connecticut

Recommended Reading - How Much Do (Certified Nursing Assistants) CNAs Make In The USA?

2. How to become an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) or LVN (Licensed Practical Nurse)

LPNs and LVNs are often used interchangeably to describe the same job. LPNs/LVNs typically perform the same duties with similar educational and licensing requirements. The significant difference between LPNs and LVNs depends on which state a nurse practices in. Those in Texas and California are known as LVNs, while all other states use the term LPN.

Qualifications

Aspiring LPN/LVN students must follow these steps:

  • Earn a high school diploma or GED

  • Complete an accredited LPN/LVN training program

  • Pass the NCLEX-PN exam

An approved program for an LPN usually takes about one year to complete. However, some programs might take as short as seven months or as long as two years.

Recommended Reading - How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) in the USA.

Salary and Job Outlook

Salary for LPN/LVN can vary widely from state to state depending on experience, further education, and service. LPNs earn an annual median wage of $51,097.65.

According to the BLS, LPNs have a possible job outlook of 25%, which is faster than the growth rate for other positions within the country and in the nursing field.

Top 3 states for LPNs

  1. California        

  2. Alaska  

  3. Washington   

Recommended Reading - How Much Do LPNs or LVNs Make in The USA?

3. How to become an RN (Registered Nurse)

For many, becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) is one of the most logical entry points into the nursing field. Working as an RN allows you to gain experience as a nurse while considering whether or not you want to advance your career.

Qualifications

After you've decided that you want to pursue a career as an RN, the steps are fairly straightforward:

  • Earn a nursing degree

  • Pass the NCLEX Exam

  • Obtain a license in the state you'd like to practice in

The education path for registered nurses is a little longer than most programs. Completing an RN program usually takes two to four years, depending on the program and previous education level.

Recommended Reading - Everything You Need to Know to Become a Registered Nurse (RN) in the USA

Average Salary

Registered nurses generally enjoy a high level of job security and an impressive salary. Their annual median average salary is $76,944.90.

 Top 3 states for RNs

  1. California

  2. Washington

  3. New Jersey

Recommended Reading - How Much Do (Registered Nurses) RNs make?

4. How to become an HHAs (Home Health Aides)

Home Health Aides (HHAs) work in private homes to help patients who are too unwell or injured to care for themselves. Their duties depend on their patients' needs, such as feeding, bathing, cleaning, dressing, and human interaction. They also administer daily medication their patients may need, and with special training, they may be qualified to operate some medical equipment like ventilators.

The qualifications to become an HHA may vary by state and the patient's health insurer. Typically, you need to:

  • Graduate with a high school diploma or an equivalent 

  • Enroll in a training program

  • Pass an evaluation

Training and certification for HHAs usually take one semester to complete. Tuition for these HHA programs often costs between $400-$800.

Recommended Reading - How to Become a Home Health Aide (HHA)?

Salary and Job Prospect

Home Health Aides are paid an annual average of $28,314.90.

The demand for HHA positions is growing fast, according to the BSL. In addition, your job prospects will be impacted by an expanding population of the elderly, many of whom often opt for home care.

Top 3 states for home health aides are:

  1. Washington

  2. Vermont

  3. North Dakota

Recommended Reading - How Much Do Home Health Aides (HHA) Make?

5. How to Become a Travel Nurse

For those with a desire and love for healthcare, meeting new people, and exploring new places, a position as a travel nurse could be the perfect combination of purpose and adventure.

Qualifications

There's no specific "Travel Nurse" degree to pursue before becoming a travel nurse. However, aspirants need the same education level as traditional nurses, including RNs, NPs, and LPNs.

The minimum travel nurse requirement is an RN license which you can achieve through an associate degree in nursing (ADN). 

Most agencies and clients also prefer travel nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Many also require additional certifications such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Basic Life Support. Individuals are then required to pass the NCLEX exams and become licensed in the state of practice.

Depending on the program's length, this schooling may take 2-4 years to complete.

Recommended Reading - How to Become a Travel Nurse in The USA

Salary and Job Prospects

Travel Nurses earn a median income of $87,958.51 a year. Thanks to their flexibility to travel whenever needed, travel nurses often earn a higher salary than permanent staff.

Once you are ready to get a job position, you'll realize that the application process is almost identical to applying as full-time staff. The difference is in every contract. You'll have to complete new requirement sets since every facility has a unique combination.

Top 3 states for Travel Nurses

  1. Hawaii

  2. New York

  3. Connecticut               

Recommended Reading - How Much Do Travel Nurses Make?        

6. How to become an ICU Nurse

An ICU Nurse is a valuable healthcare professional who provides life-saving services in the ICU of a health facility. In addition, these nurses offer short- or long-term care to critically injured or sick patients. ICU Nurses complete specialized training to handle various emergencies and may narrow down to specific areas of intensive care like those that work with injuries to particular body parts or specific age groups.

Qualifications

If you'd like to become an ICU Nurse, consider the following steps:

  • Complete  a nursing degree

  • Pass the NCLEX-RN exam

  • Receive state licensure

  • Gain experience

  • Get an ICU Nurse certification

Recommended Reading - How to become an ICU Nurse in The USA?

Salary and Job Prospect

The median annual salary for ICU Nurses is $84,281.06. They are often paid higher than their counterparts within the healthcare system due to their specialized training.

ICU Nurses will always be in demand as there will always be patients who require life-saving measures. They are highly specialized trained nurses who will always be able to find job positions, especially as digital and technological advances in the medical field continue.

Top 3 states for ICU Nurses

  1. California

  2. Connecticut

  3. North Carolina

Recommended Reading - How Much Do Critical Care Nurse (ICU Nurse) Make?

7. How to become a (CRNA) Nurse Anesthetist

A certified registered nurse anesthetist is one of the most advanced and qualified professions in nursing. 

They are certified and trained to administer anesthesia to patients. As a result, they play a vital role in various healthcare settings, dictate high salaries, and remain in demand across the US.

Qualifications

To be a Nurse Anesthetist, you'll have to spend a longer time in school. You'll also have to get work experience and pass certification before holding the position. The steps include:

  • Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or equivalent degree

  • Gain experience working as an RN in a clinical setting

  • Complete a nurse anesthesia program

  • Pass the National Certification Examination from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA)

Salary and Job Prospect

The average salary for nurse anesthetists is $140,357.71. Of course, the pay depends on your state of practice and the type of facility you work in but regardless, becoming a CRNA can be a very high-paying, lucrative career choice. According to the BSL, the overall employment for nurse anesthetists continues to grow faster than the national average rate for all occupations.

Top 3 states for CRNA

  1. Minnesota

  2. Mississippi

  3. Utah

Recommended Reading - How Much Do Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) Make?

8. How to become an er nurse

Emergency Room nurses provide care for patients who are in medical crisis. The nurses are trained to assess patients' needs fast and treat or triage them as necessary. Most ER Nurses are licensed RNs who can also work in other departments.

Qualifications

Like other nursing positions, becoming an ER Nurse needs educational qualifications through the following steps:

  • Earn Your ASN or BSN

  • Pass the Licensure Exam (NCLEX) for RN

  • Gain experience as RN 

  •  Get the ER Nurse Certification

The initial exam costs $370 and $350 for renewing the certification, which is done every four years.

Recommended Reading - How to become an ER Nurse in the USA

Salary and Job Outlook

ER Nurses earn an annual average salary of $78,451.61. However, the salaries vary based on various factors, including experience, specializations, and location.

Working as an ER Nurse is another lucrative specialty where the demand is always projected to grow.

Top 3 States for ER Nurses

  1. Hawaii

  2. California

  3. District of Columbia

Recommended Reading - How much do Emergency Room Nurses (ER Nurses) make?

9. How to become a NICU Nurse

Neonatal Nurses work with infants with health issues such as infections, congenital disorders, or low birth weight in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU). Often, these nurses require quick reactions, excellent judgment, and vast medical knowledge.

Qualifications

Neonatal Nurses go through education and experience to become licensed. The educational process includes:

  • Complete a nursing degree

  •  Get licensed

  • Gain clinical experience in a NICU

  • Receive certification as a neonatal nurse

An associate degree usually takes about two years, while a BSN takes four years. The degree can cost up to $60,000 per year at competitive nursing schools though not all institutions are so expensive.

Recommended Reading - How to Become a Neonatal Nurse (NICU Nurse) in the USA

Salary and Job Prospect

Like other medical careers, neonatal nursing can deliver a lucrative salary. Neonatal Nurses earn an average annual pay of $71,267.04.

Top 3 states for NICU Nurses

  1. Hawaii

  2. California

  3. Illinois

Recommended Reading - How Much Do Neonatal Nurses Make?

10. How to become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

A career in Labor and Delivery (L&D) Nursing is often considered patient-centric, fast-paced, and multifaceted.  These nurses care for women who are laboring, developing complications from pregnancy, or have recently delivered.

Qualifications

Having the will and personality traits that compliment L&D Nursing is beneficial. However, there are educational qualifications needed to become an L&D nurse.

  • Become a Registered Nurse

  • Pass the NCLEX-RN exam

  • Advance Your Education beyond the RN degree

  • Obtain a certification

Recommended Reading - How to become a Labor and Delivery Nurse in The USA?

Salary and Job Outlook

The BSL reports that the employment of L&D Registered Nurses is projected to grow by 16% through 2024. While it's a competitive position, demand for the job may vary depending on the state and institution of work. L&D Nurses earn an average of $75,192.16 yearly.

Top 3 best states for L&D Nurses

  1. California

  2. Alaska

  3. District of Columbia

Recommended Reading - How much do Labor and Delivery Nurses (L&D Nurses) make?

11. How to become a Scrub Nurse

Scrub or Surgical Nurses are registered nurses who specialize in surgical patient care. They work in surgical departments in hospitals, day-surgery units, or physician or clinic offices that perform invasive surgical procedures.

Qualifications

If you love healthcare, work well with pressure and boast of offering exceptional care, follow these steps to help you get ready for a career in perioperative nursing.

  • Complete a Registered Nurse education program

  • Become registered as an RN

  • Gain experience to get certified (optional)

Becoming a Surgical Nurse may take approximately 2-5 years to complete depending on your education or career level, the number of credits you can transfer, and whether you opt for a full or part-time schedule.

Salary and Job Prospect

Employment for registered surgical nurses is expected to grow by 7% from 2019 to 2029. Their median pay is  $73,366.94.This varies depending on the type and location of the medical facility where you practice.

Recommended Reading - How much do Scrub Nurses make?

12. How to become a Pediatric Nurse

Like a career in nursing, caring for children is a noble task. However, when you combine the two, you have the special nurses trained as pediatric nurses who help children develop from childhood to adolescence into healthy adults.

Qualifications

To achieve your objectives, becoming a Pediatric Nurse will require dedication, intensive education, and proper clinical training.

  • Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

  • Obtain experience in a pediatric facility

  • Pass  the Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) exam

Recommended Reading - How to Become a Pediatric Nurse in The USA?

Salary and Job Prospect

Salaries for Pediatric Nurses is a median annual average of $69,473.96.

As the country continues to experience a nursing shortage, the demand for these job positions remains positive. The growth rate for jobs is much faster than other national occupations.

Top 3 states for Pediatric Nurses

  1. Connecticut

  2. California

  3. Illinois

Recommended Reading - How Much Do Pediatric Nurses Make In The USA?

13. How to become a Charge Nurse

A Charge Nurse is a registered nurse who's essentially in charge of a ward in a hospital or other healthcare facility during their work shift. They do every general task nurses do but also get some supervisory duties. They prepare schedules, delegate tasks, and monitor patient admissions and discharges.

Qualifications

Health facilities and hospitals usually hire charge nurses with at least an AND or BSN degree and have passed the NCLEX-RN exam. Charge Nurses also need an RN licensure and significant work experience in the hospital or clinical area.

Charge Nurses are among the medical segment staff, and your experience and expertise might be more valuable than your degree level.

Recommended Reading - How to Become a Charge Nurse in The USA?

Salary and Job Prospect

Charge Nurses earn an annual median average of $73,298.27. It is an in-demand profession that requires skilled personnel with a mix of clinical and managerial expertise to guide other nurses in an increasingly busy and complex medical setting.

Top 3 states for Charge Nurses

  1. California

  2. Hawaii

  3. Alaska

Recommended Reading - How much do Charge Nurses make?

14. How to become a Flight Nurse

Flight Nurses are registered nurses trained to provide healthcare to critical patients as they transport them to a hospital or medical center via a helicopter or aircraft.

Qualifications

These steps can help you discover your new career choice:

  • Earn a degree in nursing

  • Become a registered nurse (RN)

  • Obtain nursing experience

Becoming a successful Flight Nurse can take anywhere between 5-12 years. Some can find work in five years with an AND degree and three years of experience. However, due to the intense nature of the job, it often takes more preparation to enter the field. 

Often, nurses complete a four-year degree and go for at least five years of experience. So aspiring Flight Nurses should expect to be patient and dedicate about nine years to becoming flight nurses.

Recommended Reading - How to Become a Flight Nurse in the USA

Salary and Job Outlook

Flight Nurses get paid an annual median average of $89,579.22. And according to BSL, the number of available flight nurse jobs will increase by about 7% from 2019—2029.

Top 3 states for Flight Nurses

  1. Connecticut

  2. California

  3. New York

Recommended Reading - How much do Flight Nurses make?

The Bottom Line

Regardless of where you are in your professional or academic journey, there's a clear path to follow, leading to a satisfying career as a nurse in the USA. 

Nurses make a direct, honest, and lasting difference in patients' lives and enjoy significant job stability and a high salary for their excellent work.

If you'd like to learn more, we're here to ensure your next step will be an excellent investment in your future as a nurse. Get started now.