Last Updated: January 31, 2021
21 Types of Nursing Specialties in demand
Nursing is a profession that's always been in high demand. An RN specializing in a certain field, specially in a field that is high in demand has a bright future. Most of the specialties require an RN license along with a bachelor's degree. Additional certifications can then be taken in the specialty of choice.
Some of the most popular nurse career options are:
1 Nurse Anesthetist or Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
The highest paying nursing career, a CRNA is an advanced practice nurse. A CRNA administers anesthesia to a patient, monitors the patient before and after administering the anesthesia and making sure the patient is reacting favorably to the anesthesia.
To become a CRNA, a licensed RN must earn an MSN in nurse anesthesiology and then proceed to pass National Certification Examination for Nurse Anesthetists which is a three hour computer-based test.
National median annual salary of a CRNA is around $175,000 according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' May 2019 data.
2 Surgical Nurse/Perioperative Nurse
As the name suggests, a Perioperative Nurse assists a surgeon during surgical/operative procedures. Duties also include preop and postop services and monitoring the patient at all times. Experienced Perioperative nurses assist the surgeons in suturing and draping the patients. This is the field that's the most in demand and associated with the word 'nurse' in layman jargon.
To become a Perioperative Nurse, a licensed RN must have an associate degree in nursing or a BSN. After this, at least a year work experience in nursing is required, post which they can take one of the two certifications available through Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI), namely CNOR and CNFA.
The national annual median salary of a Perioperative Nurse is around $92,000.
3 Cardiac Nurse
A Cardiac Nurse assists physicians and surgeons in the field of cardiology. Most Cardiac Nurses specialize in a cardiology sub-specialty.
Obtaining a BSN (recommended) and an RN license is a must to become a Cardiac Nurse. The licensed RN then proceeds to procure MSN in a cardiac specialty. They can further obtain certifications in a certain sub-specialty through American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine (ABCM), American Association of Critical Cares Nurses (AACN) or American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
The national annual median salary of a Cardiac Nurse is around $67,000.
4 Oncology Nurse
Oncology Nurse help patients suffering from cancer. They assist during chemotherapy sessions, make sure patients are comfortable, monitor the patients, advise them on how to take care of themselves and educate and answer their questions relating to their health condition and treatment plan.
To become an Oncology Nurse, an RN needs to have a BSN or associate degree in nursing. They can then earn certification in oncology nursing through Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation.
The national annual median salary of an Oncology Nurse is around $82,000.
5 Neonatal Nurse
A Neonatal Nurse takes care of newborn babies and helping the parents take care of their babies. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurses work solely with premature and critically ill newborns.
To become a Neonatal Nurse, a licensed RN must have at least an ADN or BSN. They need to obtain Neonatal Resuscitation certificate and other NICU certificates. These can be obtained by the employer they are working for.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
are Nurse Practitioners specializing in Neonatal. They need to have at least an MSN and two years of clinical experience working as a NICU to be able to obtain Neonatal Nurse Practitioner license. Since Nurse Practitioners have to be certified by the state, Neonatal Nurse Practitioners also need to earn state certifications as a Neonatal Nurse in the state in which they will be working.
The national annual median salary of a Neonatal Nurse is around $66,000.
6 Nurse Midwife or Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
A CNM helps expectant mothers during pregnancy, epidural/pain relief administration, delivery and postpartum period. They usually act as primary care providers or PCP for these patients and have their own practice while others perform their duties at a facility.
An RN has to obtain an MSN in midwifery and then proceed to get the CNM credential from American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB). The requirements to become a CNM are defined by the state, so the final step to become a CNM is to make sure to meet those requirements.
One of the highest paying nurse career choice, a Certified Nurse Midwife has a national median annual salary of around $105,000.
7 Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
A CNS provides clinical care in a specialized field. Common duties include patient care, diagnosing and treating simple medical conditions. Their scope of duties varies from state to state but regardless, they train and provide managerial services to other nurses in their field.
A CNS is also an Advanced Practice Nurse that needs to have a prior BSN with an RN license. They then work towards obtaining their MSN or DNP in the field they want to be a CNS. After the successful completion of Master's or Doctor's program, they have to pass the National Nurses Licensing Exam provided by National Certification Corporation and then obtain the state license.
In league with a Nurse Midwife, a Clinical Nurse Specialist earns a national annual median salary of around $107,000.
8 Critical Care Nurse
As the name suggests, Critical Care Nurses work on critical care floors like ICUs and trauma floors. They can be further specialized in a particular field like cardio etc.
A Critical Care Nurse field does not require a lot of degrees like the other specialties, instead these nurses require practical knowledge. They might be required to work with only couple patients at a time, since the patients might be at high risk and need special care. After obtaining an RN, along with a BSN, the nurses require at least couple years experience working in critical care field, after which they can take one of the various certifications provided by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.
Critical Care Nurse earn a national annual median salary of around $73,000.
9 Pain Management Nurse
Do not confuse them with CRNA, who mostly deal with anesthesia. A Pain Management Nurse works hand in with a doctor in coming up with a plan for pain management for a patient suffering from chronic pain.
To become a Pain Management Nurse, an RN license and a BSN are a must. Additionally, the RN has to prove that he/she has practical knowledge to qualify as a Pain Management Nurse. They have to show that they have worked as an RN for at least 2 years, which must include 2000 hours of work in pain management, which has been earned in the last 3 years. A Pain Management Nurse has to take the pain management test through American Nurses Credentialing Center to become certified as a Pain Management Nurse.
Pain Management Nurses make national median salary of around $101,000 annually.
10 Perianesthesia Nurse
Perianesthesia Nurse help the patients who are coming out of anesthesia and sedation post surgery. Duties include checking vital signs and any adverse reactions to anesthesia. They are also the first ones to communicate with the patients once they regain consciousness and make sure that the patients are comfortable. They are also trained in resuscitation and defibrillation to be able to deal with any emergencies when the patient comes around.
To become a Perianesthesia Nurse, a valid RN license along with a nursing degree are a must. The RN must additionally have 1,800 hours of practical experience working in a perianesthesia setting and then apply for a CPAN or CAPA certification through American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification (ABPANC).
Same as a Pain Management Nurse, a Perianesthesia Nurse earns around $101,000 as national annual median salary.
11 Dialysis Nurse
Dialysis Nurse help patients suffering from acute and chronic kidney failure. They are responsible for the prepping of the patient before the procedure, monitoring the procedure and making sure the patient is doing well post procedure. Dialysis Nurse may work in outpatient dialysis centers or hospitals.
To become a Dialysis Nurse, post graduate courses are not needed. An RN and BSN is a necessity. They need to make sure they have a minimum of 2 years of medical surgical experience, preferably in nephrology. One of the two certificate exams can be obtained through Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission - Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN) or Certified Nephrology Nurse (CNN).
The national annual median salary of a Dialysis Nurse is around $76,000.
12 Health Policy Nurse
A Health Policy Nurse does not work at clinical level but helps set up policies and laws for a better healthcare system. They may work in a non-profit organization, a medical university or for the United States Congress.
A BSN along with RN are a must to become a Health Policy Nurse, though it's feasible to earn an MSN in a related field like MSN in Healthcare Policy. An additional certificate through American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is helpful.
The national annual median salary of a Health Policy Nurse is around $72,000.
13 Nurse Advocate
Nurse Advocate are the advocates for the patients. They make sure that the wishes of the patients and their families are heard by the medical staff. They make sure that all the questions and concerns that the patient might have are properly answered and they also act an an intermediary between the patient and the doctors or clinical nurses or other healthcare staff. The healthcare facilities usually hire Nurse Advocates, so that there is someone available to hear out the patients calmly apart from the usual hustle and bustle.
No special certification is needed to become a Nurse Advocate. Interested RN needs to have a BSN and enough clinical experience as an RN.
The national annual median salary of a Nurse Advocate is around $62,000.
14 Informatics Nurse
This field is probably the least in demand but once a nurse enters this field, there is an immense potential to grow. Some nurses choose to go in this field due to their personal/medical reasons, since this field is a lot less demanding. An Informatics Nurse works with the data and statistics collected from the patients and institutions and convert it into meaningful information that can be used to better serve the healthcare industry. They need to have a strong math, statistical and technical background to properly manipulate the data. An Informatics Nurse also trains other nurses and staff on how to better use the latest technologies. Informatics Nurses are in demand in medical research fields like pharma and CDC.
An Informatics Nurse holds a BSN degree and RN license along with a certification in Informatics through American Nurses Credentialing Center. Clinical experience is a must before being able to earn this certification.
The national annual median salary of an Informatics Nurse is around $89,000.
15 Diabetes Nurse
Diabetes Nurse educate patients suffering from diabetes about nutrition and how to take care of themselves including but not limited to modifying their lifestyle. Diabetes Nurse can either work on their own accord, or they can work under an endocrinologist or a related specialist.
To become a Diabetes Nurse, RN license is a must and at least 500 hours of clinical experience in a diabetes facility. They can then earn their MSN and work their way towards earning Advanced Diabetes Management Certification through American Association of Diabetes Educators.
The national annual median salary of a Diabetes Nurse is around $89,000.
16 Psychiatric Nurse
Psychiatric Nurse take care of patients with mental illness, in hospitals or in-patient care facilities. Duties include counselling the patients so that they can take care of themselves; making sure patients take their medications and stay safe and comfortable.
An RN can become a Psychiatric nurse by having a nursing degree. Thought associates and diploma in nursing are acceptable, it's better to hold a BSN. An additional 2 years experience as an RN, which includes 2,000 hours of clinical experience working in a mental health nursing setting in the last 3 years, is required to earn Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification through American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
are Nurse Practitioners that specialize in mental health. They have the power to prescribe medications and treat patients suffering from mental health issues. To become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, an RN needs to earn an MSN or DNP in a psychiatric program. They also need 500 hours of clinical experience working in a mental health setting. After meeting these criteria, they can take Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification through American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
The national annual median salary of a Psychiatric Nurse is around $62,000.
17 Trauma Nurse
Trauma Nurse work in trauma centers, emergency rooms and urgent care centers. They are among the first ones to handle the patients in these settings.
To become a Trauma Nurse, an RN needs to clock-in more clinical hours than course hours. An RN needs to have 2 years of experience working in a trauma setting. After this, they can apply for emergency nursing certification through Board of Emergency Nursing. The last step is passing a course in trauma nursing through Emergency Nurses Association (ENA).
The national annual median salary of a Trauma Nurse is around $80,000.
18 Nurse Educator
As the term implies, Nurse Educator educate and train nurses to perform better at their job. They can work in the field they specialize in. Nurse Educator can be hired on a temporary contract basis or permanent basis to train nurses as and when needed.
Nurse Educator need to be highly knowledgeable in their area and have sufficient practical experience to be able to effectively train nurses and answer their questions. They need to have MSN or DNP along with RN license. They can then earn their National League of Nursing (NLN) Certification exam to become a certified Nurse Educator.
The national annual median salary of a Nurse Educator is around $82,000.
19 Travel Nurse
Travel Nurse is not a special kind of nurse, but they are nurse in their chosen field who as the name implies, travel. They fill up the employment gap in the facilities that need them, like filling in for a nurse that's on maternity leave or that's sick. They work on a contractual basis and are affiliated with an agency that provides nurses on short term need.
No additional qualifications are needed to be a Travel Nurse. They just have to be licensed and have the degree required by their field.
The national annual median salary of a Travel Nurse is around $76,000.
20 Family Nurse Practitioner
Family Nurse Practitioners are Nurse Practitioners that are like family practice doctor. They work under a physician or in some cases have their own practice. Duties include examining patients, diagnosing illness and prescribing medicines.
An RN with a nursing degree needs to earn MSN or DNP in order to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. They can then proceed to earn their Family Practitioner Certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
Since Family Nurse Practitioners are a step up from RNs, they earn a national annual median salary of around $119,000.
21 Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
Gerontological Nurse Practitioner are nurse practitioners that treat elderly people. They can work in a number of settings including nursing home, hospitals and can also have their own private practice.
Since Gerontological Nurse Practitioner are a nurse practitioner, they need to have their RN license along with BSN and MSN or DNP. They can then work towards achieving their certificate in Gerontology through the American Nurses Credentialing Center of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
Just like Family Nurse Practitioners, a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner earns a national annual median salary of around $110,000.