Pursuing a specialized nursing career can help you take advantage of fast-growing employment opportunities and unlock your potential for career advancement. It’s important to realize there are many different types of nursing career paths, from general practice to niche specialties like oncology.
Here's a list of all the types of nurses in the highest demand: descriptions of who they are, what they do, and what you need for education to become one - listed roughly in order of qualifications needed.
What are the types of nurses in high demand on the market today?
1. Licensed practical nurse (LPN)
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) work closely with registered nurses (RNs) and physicians to provide patients with basic nursing care. Many new nurses start out as an LPN to gain nursing experience before advancing their career with an associate (ASN) or bachelor’s (BSN) degree.
Due to an aging population, there is a growing need for LPNs and their duties in long-term care, such as rehabilitation centers, residential treatment centers and hospice. Employment for LPNs is expected to increase by as much as 12 percent through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2. Registered nurse (RN)
Registered nurses (RNs) play a central role in helping healthcare organizations provide quality care to a diverse and growing patient population. In general, RN positions are expected to grow by as much as 15 percent through 2026, adding more than 400,000 new jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
BSN-prepared nurses are the most sought-after RNs in the job market and can advance to leadership and management roles more quickly than the ASN nurse.
3. Travel nurse
Travel nurses are registered nurses who help hospitals and healthcare organizations fill workforce gaps. For example, travel nurses might fill in for nurses who are on maternity or sick leave, or they could be called to another country to help deal with an emergency situation like a national disaster.
If you want to help others and see the world at the same time, then a career as a travel nurse could be right for you.
4. Med-surgical nurse
A med-surg nurse works on the medical/surgical floor of a hospital. Med-surg nurses must have strong time management and organizational skills, as they often care for multiple patients at a time. They also need to be skilled communicators in order to work effectively with multiple healthcare team members, such as doctors and surgical staff.
If you like a fast-paced work environment where no two days are the same, then a career as a med-surg nurse might be a good fit for you.
5. Emergency room nurse
Emergency room nurses nurses provide urgent care to patients in hospitals suffering from sometimes life-threatening injuries or illnesses. ER nurses often work alongside emergency medical staff and first responders, so they must have strong communication, critical thinking and collaboration skills to coordinate care and share information across these teams.
As an ER nurse, you can work in a variety of settings, from Level 1 trauma centers to rural hospitals or clinics, and across a range of nursing specialties, from trauma to pediatrics. ER nurses are registered nurses and must obtain at least an ASN.
Many ER nurses have a BSN and can go on to obtain additional certifications for specialized care, such as advanced cardiac, pediatric, and newborn life support.
- Education: ASN (required) or BSN (recommended)
- Certifications needed: RN; some hospitals might also require Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC) certification
6. Oncology nurse
Oncology nurses are involved in many aspects of cancer diagnoses and treatment, from early detection to symptom management. They most often work in hospitals, but they can also be employed by home care organizations, specialty medical centers and ambulatory centers.
While cancer affects individuals of all ages, 69 percent of new cases are diagnosed in individuals between the ages of 55 and 84, according to the National Cancer Institute. As the baby boomer generation ages and the pool of older cancer patients increases, oncology nurses will become an even more important part of the healthcare workforce.
7. Nurse informatics specialist
Nursing informatics is a growing field that integrates nursing science with information technology to improve systems and processes for hospitals and large medical facilities. A nursing informatics specialist serves as a vital “technology liaison” for the hospital staff, while still performing typical nursing duties.
For example, their duties include analyzing data to identify and reduce risk of medical errors, or evaluating and implementing new workflow processes to improve patient care. As a nurse informatics specialist, you are a critical team member of a hospital’s nursing and IT staff.
8. Nurse manager
Nurse managers are experienced nurse leaders who oversee a team of nurses and other healthcare staff. They help ensure positive patient outcomes and make it possible for an organization to achieve a higher standard of care.
Effective nurse managers must have a combination of strong leadership, critical thinking and communication skills to effectively manage teams and coordinate patient care. If you want to play a role in improving the standard of patient care, then a nurse manager might be the right position for you.
9. Nurse educator
As more students seek entry to nursing degree programs, demand for skilled nurse educators is on the rise. In an academic setting, nurse educators design and implement continuing education programs for nursing students and practicing nurses.
In a hospital or other clinical setting, nurse educators help train nursing staff and other healthcare professionals. As experienced nursing professionals, nurse educators can identify opportunities to improve processes and mitigate risks to the patient, nurse and hospital.
10. Nurse anesthetist
A nurse anesthetist is a special type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who is certified and trained in administering anesthesia to patients. They can provide care in a variety of settings, including hospitals, physician’s offices, rural and medically underserved areas and the military. They can also work in non-clinical settings as a teacher, researcher, or administrator.
Employment for nurse anesthetists is expected to grow by 16 percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; and its median annual pay is $165,120 per year. Due to fast-growing employment and ample career advancement opportunities, U.S. News ranked Nurse Anesthetist #3 on its list of Best Healthcare Jobs for 2019.
11. Nurse midwife
Nurse midwives are APRNs who provide prenatal, family planning and obstetric care. Often, they serve as primary caregivers for women and their newborns. They can also be involved in general wellness care for new mothers and babies, providing education on nutrition and disease prevention.
Employment for nurse midwives is expected to grow by 21 percent through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average salary for a nurse midwife is $100,590.
- Education level: MSN
- Certifications needed: Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)
12. Nurse practitioner
Nurse Practitioners (NPs) provide advanced care that includes health promotion, health prevention, wellness and disease management, as well as diagnosis and treating acute, chronic, and episodic illness. Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) are a special type of NP that works with patients of all ages.
In some rural or medically underserved areas, NPs are increasingly becoming the front line for patient care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a nurse practitioner is $103,880 - and demand for NPs is expected to grow by 36 percent through 2026, adding as many as 56,100 new jobs.
How many types of different nurses are there? Are there more?
The ebb and flow of the market dictates what kinds of nurses are most hotly recruited, and these are the 12 types of nursing roles you might pursue if you’re after the biggest opportunities on the job market.
But there are certainly more, with unique expectations for educational requirements and everyday duties and differing pay. Their uniforms may look the same, but their job descriptions are anything but uniform. Different kinds of nurses have all sorts of unique specialties and capabilities based on training and certification, whether it’s registered nurses, pediatric nurses, neonatal/NICU nurses, flight nurses, home health nurses, advanced practice nurses or nurses who specialize in radiology, telemetry, dialysis, radiology or other areas. Take our personality quiz to find out what kind of nursing specialty is perfect for you.
What are the levels of nursing education?
Depending on your career goals, you may need to earn your way through a few levels of nursing education. Read more about the different types of nursing degrees and how Herzing University can help you carve a unique path in your nursing career.
No matter what type of nursing you want to pursue, the most important factors in your success are 1) getting the right education and degree 2) obtaining the required certifications 3) developing the soft-skills to become a must-hire to prospective employers. Herzing University’s nursing degree programs are your launching pad to a new career in nursing.