As the demand for qualified healthcare professionals continues to increase, so does the need for nurses in every facet of the nursing field.
One of the best parts about being a nurse is the sheer volume of options you have regarding your profession. Want to work with children? You can become a pediatric nurse or consider working in the NICU with newborn babies that need extra TLC.
You could like the fast pace of the ER or aspire to work alongside surgeons as a scrub nurse. Or maybe you want to be an RN in a hospital, outpatient surgery clinic, or even a school.
Being a nurse lets you explore various interests and medical specializations. No matter where your passions lie, you can find a role in nursing only you can fill.
In this guide, you’ll learn more about the different types of nursing careers and the unique opportunities and benefits that go along with them.
CNA (Certified Nursing Assistants)
A CNA, or certified nursing assistant, is a medical professional who assists patients under the supervision of a registered nurse, LPN, or physician. CNAs have a hands-on role with their patients and are an integral part of the medical care team.
Recommended Reading - What Is a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in the USA?
As the role of a CNA is diverse, daily tasks and responsibilities may vary depending on where you work and the type of patients you treat.
Daily responsibilities of a CNA may include:
Bathing patients and helping them with oral hygiene
Helping to turn or move patients
Organizing medical supplies
Checking vital signs and reporting to the supervising RN
Assisting patients at mealtime
Since every medical center and healthcare facility has a different set of rules and requirements, it’s essential to understand how this can affect your daily workflow. Above all else, your role as a CNA is to ensure that patients are taken care of and remain safe during their hospital stay or when in the medical office.
Recommended Reading - How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)?
In terms of salary, the average pay for a CNA is $15 per hour or $30,000 annually. However, it’s important to note that how much you earn depends on your experience level and where you reside in the USA.
Recommended Reading - How Much Do (Certified Nursing Assistants) CNAs Make In The USA?
GNAs (Geriatric Nursing Assistants)
GNAs are qualified medical professionals who assist senior citizens with ADLs or activities of daily living. GNAs usually work in hospitals but may also work in assisted living centers, adult daycare, doctor offices, and long-term care facilities.
Similar to a CNA, the daily responsibilities of a GNA depend on where they work and what is ordered by the supervising nurse or physician. Typically, a GNA helps patients with bathing, grooming, oral hygiene, eating, and dressing and supports their supervising RNs or physicians.
Like CNAs, a GNA must hold a high school diploma and complete a nursing assistant program. To work as a GNA, you must pass the Geriatric Assistant Exam that meets state and federal requirements. GNAs also need to complete
On average, the annual salary for a GNA is $25,710 in the US. However, this may be more or less depending on years of experience and where you live.
Recommended Reading - How Much Do (Geriatric Nursing Assistants) GNAs Make?
LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses), aka LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurses)
LPNS and LVNS are essentially the same. The only difference between the two is the name. LPN is used in most of the US, except in Texas and California, where they are called LVNs.
Recommended Reading - What is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or an LVN?
Both LPNs and LVNs complete the same formal training and licensing protocols. They both also have the same qualifications when it comes to treating patients.
As an LPN/LVN, you work under the direct supervision of an RN or physician. In addition, you are responsible for the care of patients in hospitals, long-term care facilities, hospitals, and sometimes at home.
Under the supervision of an RN, you’ll perform hands-on patient care for people in nursing homes, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and more.
It’s important to note that the role of an LPN/LVN is focused more on general care than medical treatment. This care may include helping patients with their ADLs (activities of daily living) and eating, bathing, grooming, and social interaction.
LPN/LVNS do not prescribe or dispense medications. Instead, they work in a more supportive role, again under the supervision of an RN or physician.
On average, LPNs and LVNs earn around $51,000 annually. However, many programs can help you go from an LPN/LVN to RN and increase your earning potential.
Recommended Reading - How Much Do LPNs or LVNs Make in The USA?
RNs (Registered Nurses)
Registered Nurses are the most common nursing professionals but come in many variations. In addition, RN can specialize in various areas to pursue careers in different healthcare sectors.
Recommended Reading - What is a Registered Nurse (RN)?
For example, RNs may pursue certifications in primary care, acute care, emergency care, diabetes management, geriatrics, or forensics.
There are dozens of nursing specializations and certifications an RN can earn to build their dream careers.
In addition to providing hands-on care, RNs coordinate care plans and collaborate with doctors and other healthcare professionals. They may perform life-saving treatments, administer oral and IV medications, administer vaccines and other injections and offer other medical treatments prescribed by a doctor.
Recommended Reading - Everything You Need to Know to Become a Registered Nurse (RN) in the USA
The average RN salary in the U.S. is $79,500 annually, though salaries can drastically vary by experience, certifications, and specializations. For example, an RN specializing in ICU care can earn much more annually.
Recommended Reading - How Much Do (Registered Nurses) RNs make?
HHAs (Home Health Aides)
Home Health Aides provide in-home care to elderly patients, people on the mend from illness or injury, and patients of all ages with chronic conditions and congenital disabilities. They are not registered nurses, but they must complete the required hours of HHA training to earn certification in their state.
Home Health Aides act similar to CNAs by helping patients with everyday tasks. They support people with:
Bathing, toileting, and personal hygiene
Light meal prep and feeding
Assisting with nursing procedures
Helping patients stay mobile and get in and out of bed
Offering light housekeeping and laundry services
Taking patients out for walks
Escorting patients to doctor’s appointments
Running errands for patients
Recommended Reading - What is a Home Health Aide (HHA)?
An HHA does not provide direct healthcare, but they act as an assistant and healthcare advocates for their patients. They can take vitals, such as temperature and blood pressure, but do not administer medications or perform medical procedures.
An HHA’s primary focus is on personal care and promoting comfort and independence among their patients. They earn an average salary of $28,314 per year.
Recommended Reading - How Much Do Home Health Aides (HHA) Make?
Some RNs take their skills on the road to becoming travel nurses. Travel nurses are RNs with at least two years of experience. On average, they take on short-term jobs that last between 6 to 12 weeks, earning $3,000 or more per week on assignment.
Recommended Reading - Everything you need to know about Travel Nurses
Long-term Travel Nurses may stay on location for up to 26 weeks, though the usual assignment is much shorter.
Other travel nurses stay in their state, moving from one facility to another as needed. They fill in urgent roles and provide their expertise wherever it’s needed the most.
Although this position pays well, it can be emotionally taxing. Moving frequently and working in understaffed healthcare facilities can present several personal and professional challenges.
However, having specialized skills, such as cardiac care, can make a Travel Nurse a life-saver in more ways than one. They go where needed, and those with specialized training and credentials may be the only ones capable of helping patients in a particular location.
Recommended Reading - How to Become a Travel Nurse in The USA
As a travel nurse, you perform the same duties as an RN, but the care and types of patients you work with change with your assignment.
Recommended Reading - How Much Do Travel Nurses Make?
Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurses specialize in providing care to patients in critical condition. They are RNs who have earned additional certifications to work with people who are in life-threatening situations.
An ICU nurse can earn their CCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse) certification in adult care, pediatrics, or neonatal ICU (NICU). They can also further specialize in fields such as cardiac surgery.
Most employers also require ICU nurses to hold certifications in ALS (Advanced Life Support). This education ensures they can respond swiftly should a patient’s condition rapidly change for the worse.
ICU nurses are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Their schedule often includes overnight shifts, weekends, and holidays.
Many ICU nurses work with patients who are in medically induced comas. They perform routine monitoring, administer medications, perform treatments, and help support patients during their recovery.
Recommended Reading - How to become an ICU Nurse in The USA?
The average ICU nurse earns approximately $84,000 annually, not including overtime or bonuses.
Recommended Reading - How Much Do Critical Care Nurse (ICU Nurse) Make?
Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
A CRNA assists anesthetists in hospitals, surgical centers, and dental offices. They administer anesthesia-based care before, during, and after procedures and prepare to offer life-saving interventions should a patient experience complications.
These highly specialized professionals have earned their RN and CRNA certifications. In addition, they have extensive knowledge of anesthesia and anesthetic procedures.
In many healthcare settings, CRNAs directly administer anesthesia and sedation. They may work alone or alongside a physician, anesthesiologist, or other CRNAs, depending on the needs of their patients and the scale of the procedures being performed.
Because their job requires such advanced knowledge and experience, CRNAs are some of the top-earning nurses in the U.S. The median salary for a CRNA is $140,357.
Recommended Reading - How Much Do Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) Make?
An ER Nurse specialized in emergency and acute care. They can work in hospital ERs, emergency centers, urgent care clinics, or trauma centers. Nurses who choose to specialize in ER care must enjoy a fast-paced, demanding environment that can present any number of challenges.
Patients range from newborns to senior citizens, so there is always an opportunity to gain experience through various treatments. ER Nurses can also play a critical role in saving the lives of patients who arrive in critical condition.
They may have to perform life-saving interventions on patients who are in serious accidents, suffering stroke or heartache, or any other number of conditions.
Being an ER Nurse can be challenging due to the intensity of the role and the long hours and sometimes irregular shifts. Emergency care is always needed, so it’s not uncommon for ER nurses to work overnight or on holidays.
You’ll need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become an ER nurse. Then, you can work on earning your CEN or certified emergency nurse certification.
Recommended Reading - How to become an ER Nurse in the USA
The average annual salary of an ER Nurse in America is $78,451.
Recommended Reading - How much do Emergency Room Nurses (ER Nurses) make?
NICU Nurses (Neonatal Nurses)
Neonatal Nurses work with the tiniest patients on the planet. They specialize in supporting premature babies, babies born with congenital disabilities, and sick or injured neonates on the path to health and wellness.
Recommended Reading - What is a Neonatal Nurse (NICU Nurse) in The USA?
Because their patients are so fragile, NICU Nurses must earn certifications in neonatal critical care and neonatal life support.
A NICU Nurse takes care of infants in the NICU ward while providing routine care, such as feeding and changing diapers. They also comfort parents and educate them on how to support their infants’ care.
Recommended Reading - How to Become a Neonatal Nurse (NICU Nurse) in the USA
Being a NICU Nurse can be highly rewarding as you watch infants grow and thrive despite any odds they’re up against. You will need to work on-demand as there is never a time nurses aren’t required in the NICU.
The average NICU nurse earns approximately $71,000 per year.
Recommended Reading - How Much Do Neonatal Nurses Make?
Labor and Delivery Nurses
A Labor and Delivery Nurse also called an L&D nurse, supports mothers through childbirth. They also provide immediate care to newborns after delivery.
Recommended Reading - What is a Labor and Delivery Nurse in The USA?
An L&D nurse can provide pain management for mothers in labor, assist the obstetrician during childbirth, and offer education to new parents on newborn care.
Recommended Reading - How to become a Labor and Delivery Nurse in The USA?
L&D nurses can work in hospitals or birthing centers depending on their preferences. It’s a rewarding job that allows you to be a part of the miracle of life every shift.
The average L&D nurse earns around $75,000 annually.
Recommended Reading - How much do Labor and Delivery Nurses (L&D Nurses) make?
Scrub Nurses (aka Operating Nurses)
Operating Nurses, or Scrub Nurses/Perioperative Nurses, are vital surgical team members. They prep the OR and surgical site, position and ready patients for operations, and hand tools to the surgeon during a procedure.
Operating Nurses must be certified to work in the OR. Their knowledge of surgical procedures can often be on par with the surgeons. The difference is that rather than operate themselves, they support the surgeon by anticipating what tools and equipment they need and providing them accordingly.
Recommended Reading - What is a Scrub Nurse?
The average Scrub Nurse salary in the U.S. is around $73,300. This salary does not include overtime, which many operating nurses can earn due to emergency surgeries or extensive procedures.
Recommended Reading - How much do Scrub Nurses make?
Do you love working with children? Then a career as a pediatric nurse could be your dream job. Pediatric Nurses can work in hospitals, family healthcare practices, or pediatrician clinics.
They are some of the friendliest, most upbeat nurses, and having a sense of humor is a must when working with young patients.
A Pediatric Nurse helps the pediatrician perform medical procedures, and they may administer vaccines, medications, and other treatments. They also answer parents’ questions, soothe their worries, and support patients who may be anxious or afraid.
A Pediatric Nurse can earn additional certifications as well. For example, they may specialize in pediatric oncology (childhood cancer), cardiac care, PICU (pediatric intensive care), or developmental disabilities.
Recommended Reading - How to Become a Pediatric Nurse in The USA?
Salaries for pediatric nurses will vary by location and specialization, but the average pay in the U.S. is $69,473.
Recommended Reading - How Much Do Pediatric Nurses Make In The USA?
Charge Nurses are RNs who assume a supervisory role during their shifts. They oversee the entire nursing department in their division. In addition to providing patient care, they extend their clinical knowledge and management skills to help the whole nursing staff run efficiently.
A Charge Nurse enjoys taking on additional managerial and administrative duties while on shift. They coordinate patient care plans and nursing schedules, assign rooms, monitor admissions, oversee discharges, and are always on top of inventory and medical supplies.
You will need experience as an RN before you can qualify to be a charge nurse. This career does not require additional training, but some nurses may pursue MSNs (master’s in nursing) to further their skills.
Recommended Reading - How to Become a Charge Nurse in The USA?
The average Charge Nurse earns around $73,200 annually, so they may make more or less than an RN in some areas.
Recommended Reading - How much do Charge Nurses make?
One of the lesser-known nursing professions, Flight Nurses, provide critical care to patients who are airlifted by plane or helicopter. They are often part of first-response Medivac teams, but they can also support patients transferred to and from hospitals and trauma centers.
Flight Nurses are specialty RNs who have undergone additional training to care for patients in aircraft. They provide advanced patient care, including life support and emergency interventions.
Recommended Reading - How to Become a Flight Nurse in the USA
Being a Flight Nurse can open the door for careers in the armed forces.
The average Flight Nurse earns over $89,000 annually in the U.S.
Recommended Reading - How much do Flight Nurses make?
What are the top 5 most in-demand Nursing jobs in the USA?
If you’re interested in becoming a nurse or furthering your career, here are America's top most in-demand nursing jobs. The statistics below are based on the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) - 45% job growth
Nurse Midwife - 45% job growth
Nurse Practitioner (NP) - 45% job growth
Registered Nurse - 9% job growth
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)/ Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) - 9% job growth