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We live in an age of specialization, and the field of nursing – brimming with opportunities to specialize – is a prime example of that. Below are 12 specific nursing professions to think about as you pursue a nursing career.

But First, Some General Notes

Job Outlook – The overall job outlook for nursing is good. In fact, it just may be the best it’s ever been. From the growing needs of an active baby boomer generation to an emphasis on preventive care, the American healthcare system will be busy for decades to come. Extremely busy.

Education Outlook – Almost every nursing specialty requires you to be at least a Registered Nurse (RN). Many require candidates to hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree and some type of certification. Many RNs without a bachelor’s degree choose to go back to school through an RN-to-BSN program to improve their ability to pursue certification – and, in the end, the career – required by a specialization.

Salary Outlook – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the reported median pay for RNs is a healthy $68,450 per year. Although this is not necessarily indicative of the salary range for every specialization listed below, it is a good benchmark for most.

Nurse Practitioners – Nurses in a specialty – such as Family Care, Emergency Units, or Psychiatric Care to name a few – can often advance their careers in the field with more training, degrees, and certifications to become Nurse Practitioners. They are healthcare leaders who are compensated accordingly.

Top 12 Nursing Jobs

As promised, here are 12 nursing professions for your consideration – along with brief overviews of the things you might do, places you might work, and the people you’ll help.

#1 – Emergency Nurse

An Emergency or Trauma Nurse can often be found anywhere a patient needs life-saving help now, such as trauma centers, emergency rooms, or ambulances. In these fast-paced environments, and as part of a team, they assess symptoms, coordinate treatments, stabilize conditions and save lives.

#2 – Cardiovascular Nurse

From monitoring and treating the patient to providing guidance on lifestyle changes, these specialists care for those – young and old – with heart disease. At a minimum, the nurse should hold a BSN. Certification from an accredited organization such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), a subsidiary of the American nurses Association (ANA), is also often required.

#3 – Forensic Nursing

There are a number of career opportunities in the field of Forensic Nursing. Forensic Clinical Nurse Specialists, Forensic Gerontology Specialists, Forensic Nurse Investigators, Nurse Coroners (or Death Investigators), and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners all play a vital role in helping to bridge the gap between healthcare and the judicial system by examining victims of criminal acts … investigating cases of abuse, exploitation, neglect, or even death. Correctional Nursing Specialists treat those in jail, prison or otherwise detained by the court system. Forensic Psychiatric Nurses may examine criminal defendants or provide rehabilitative care. Legal Nurse Consultants work in civil cases, helping the law make sense of medicine.

#4 – Geriatric Nurse

These specialists care for the elderly. From hospitals to in-home care, Geriatric Nurses know how to provide care for the many maladies of old age. A BSN is generally required. The ANCC offers three certifications in the field.

#5 – Home Health Nurse

Home Health Nurses provide care in patient homes – from wound care to administering medication – often for the elderly or disabled, but sometimes for patients with a serious illness or suffered serious injuries from an accident. A BSN is often required.

#6 – Legal Nurse Consultant

Legal Nurse Consultants are licensed RNs with the training and clinical expertise needed to analyze, interpret, and provide explanations for medical-related issues in legal cases. They help the legal process continue by investigating cases, educating attorneys, or even testifying as an expert witness.
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#7 – Neonatal Nurse

Premature, full-term or somewhere in-between, babies need care. Neonatal Nurses specialize in caring for newborn infants at three levels. Level 1 is care for healthy infants. Level 2 nurses care for premature or sick babies who need continuous attention. Level 3 nurses work in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) caring for seriously ill and premature infants. Neonatal Nurses need a BSN and certification from their states’ boards.

#8 – Oncology Nurse

Oncology Nurses provide care for cancer patients. Often working in hospitals, they do everything from monitoring a patient’s condition to administering chemotherapy. A BSN is also frequently required.

#9 – Pediatric Nurse

A Pediatric Nurse is here for children. They can be involved in educational settings, explaining the need for good hygiene, for example. Or they can provide acute care in a pediatric ward. Pediatric Nurse Practitioners can work in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. RNs can find employment as a Pediatric Nurse with a BSN. Pediatric Nurse Practitioners will need more education and certifications.

#10 – Rehabilitation Nurse

Working in many cases in rehab centers, home health care agencies, or long-term acute care facilities, Rehabilitation Nurses help patients who are recovering from potentially life-changing diseases and injuries. A BSN is required and certification is expected.

#11 – Rural Nurse

Rural Nurses serve communities with limited access to healthcare options. Pursuing an education and certifications to become a Nurse Practitioner is helpful in that Rural Nurses are often responsible for everything from treating acute illnesses to spearheading community health initiatives. An MSN is needed to be a Rural Nurse Practitioner, and certification from ANCC is recommended.

#12 – School Nurse

Working as part of the staff for a private or public school, this nurse supports the wellbeing of children … and their ability to achieve academic success. Some states require an MSN and state certification.