20+ Best Nursing Career Specialties for 2014 and Beyond

by Brittney Wilson RN BSN, NurseJournal.org   

The nursing field has seen explosive growth in recent years, and this should continue for the foreseeable future. In reality, there actually is a nursing shortage in many specialties. This is being driven by the aging US population, who require more health care services as they move through their retirement years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that nurses generally will see a 19% increase in demand by 2022. This demand could edge even higher for some specialities, the most popular of which are listed below. Note – we use average salaries from Indeed.com for each specialty, but your salary can vary depending upon where you work, education level and how much experience you have.

Our top 20 specialties were selected by our staff due to their high demand, good salary, and work setting. If you are intrigued by a career in nursing, you will likely find a specialty in this list that is just right for you!

#1 Neonatal Nurse

A neonatal nurse works with premature babies, most often in an intensive care setting. They provide extensive care for premature infants who usually have a variety of health problems. Neonatal nurses must work closely and effectively with other health care professionals.

How to Become One

You need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and some have a master’s degree. You also need to have specialized training and/or experience in working with neonates.

Job Growth Trends

Job demand for this field should increase by 17% by 2022.

Salary

The average salary is $65,000.

#2 Nurse Midwife

A nurse midwife is a type of advanced practice registered nurse who provides and coordinates patient care for mothers and expecting mothers. These professionals do perform births, but they also work with mothers before, during and after delivery to ensure the health of mother and child.

How to Become One

Most nurse-midwives have many years of experience as a nurse, and then they earn their Master of Science degree in nurse-midwifery.

Job Growth Trends

Job demand in this field should increase by 31% by 2022.

Salary

The average salary is $79,000.

#3 Clinical Nurse

A clinical nurse diagnose and treat patients who have more serious health problems in most cases. They usually work with these patients in a hospital in a clinical setting. Many of the patients are chronically ill, and suffer from heart and lung disease, cancer, or other chronic diseases that require specialized care.

How to Become One

A clinical nurse also is an advanced practice registered nurse who has a BSN, and also a MSN. This professional also needs to have specialized, clinical nurse training.

Job Growth Trends

This field will grow by 20% by 2022.

Salary

The average salary is $67,000.

#4 Critical Care Nurse

A critical care nurse works most often in the intensive care unit, or ICU. Many hospitals now have ICUs for specific health problems, including burns and heart/lung problems. A critical care nurse can work in any of these ICU departments.

Critical care nurses may work in a hospital, nursing home or hospice. These types of nurses spend most of their shifts in the ICU carefully watching the health status os ICE patients.

How to Become One

Many critical care nurses just have a BSN, but they will need to have additional training beyond their bachelor’s program. Continuing education classes are needed to stay on top of the latest trends in critical care. They also have to work for at least two years in an ICU before they may certify as a critical care nurse

Job Growth Trends

This field will grow by 16% by 2022.

Salary

The average salary is $61,000.

#5 Dialysis Nurse

A dialysis nurse works with patients who have kidney problems and who must receive dialysis on a regular basis so that they can survive. When people have kidney problems, their kidneys are no longer able to filter the blood of waste products, which is then eliminated through urination. These patients need a dialysis machine to filter their blood for them.

These nurses are experts with all kinds of dialysis, including hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. They also work with patients who recently had a kidney transplant.

How to Become One

You must have a BSN, and should take classes in college that address dialysis specifically, such as nephrology and pharmacology.

Job Growth Trends

This field will grow by at least 19% by 2022.

Salary

The average salary is $64,000.

#6 Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner (NP) today is a very important part of most family medicine offices. These professionals work under the eye of a doctor, and they do patient exams, diagnose various illnesses and prescribe drugs. Some NPs are even able to have their own private practices in some states.

NPs are becoming very much in demand, as there is a doctor shortage in the country.

How to Become One

You must earn your BSN and MSN and pass the exam for licensure. You will need to have several years of experience in the field before you can get your license from the American Nurses Credentialing Center of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners..

Job Growth Trends

This field will see growth of at least 25% by 2022.

Salary

The average salary is $94,000.

#7 Health Policy Nurse

A health policy nurse does not work with patients in a clinical setting. This type of nurse actually works at an administrative level in various public and private organizations to come up with policies that will make people in society healthier.

A health policy nurse looks carefully at health care laws and devises strategies to change the attitudes of the public. This professional also helps to come up with more effective laws when necessary. You might work in a public health agency, a college or in a legislative body.

How to Become One

You have to have your BSN and MSN degrees and have worked for some period of time in nursing. You then will need to get into this specialized field by participating in a health policy residency, where you will gain necessary health policy experience.

Job Growth Trends

Job growth in this field should be at least 17% by 2022.

Salary

The average salary is $66,000.

#8 Informatics Nurse

An informatics nurse collects, interprets and analyzes important medical data that comes into a health facility every day. An informatics nurse also often trains other nurses in the hospital on any new technology that is being introduced.

Informatics nurses often work for hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and government agencies.

The demand in this field is still growing, but the few nurses who have these specialized skills will find themselves in strong demand.

How to Become One

You need to have your BSN and be a practicing RN. As you work as a nurse, you should take classes in informatics nursing, which may often be taking as continuing education credits.

Job Growth Trends

Job growth in this field is probably not as high as nursing overall, but the demand should steadily increase in coming years as health care facilities rely more and more on analysis of digital medical information.

Salary

The average salary is $83,000.

#9 Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists belong to one of the most prestigious and well-paid fields in nursing. This field is in high demand and requires a high level of education, training and experience.

Nurse anesthetists provide anesthesia to patients who are going into surgery. They also help manage patient care in the OR, and they provide follow up care for many procedures that are done on an outpatient basis.

How to Become One

You need to have your BSN and obtain experience as a nurse for at least two years, then you should earn your MSN in nurse anesthesia. Then, you will need to work in acute care, such as an ICU or ER.

You may in coming years be required to earn your Ph.D. in nursing as well, but these requirements continue to evolve.

Job Growth Trends

This field will grow by 22% by 2022.

Salary

The average salary is $154,300.

#10 Nurse Educator

A nurse educator teaches other professionals to become nurses. You can work in many areas of nursing education. You might be an instructor at an associates’, bachelor’s or master’s degree program. Given the high demand for nursing professionals of all kinds throughout the US, it makes sense that there also is great demand for nurse educators.

How to Become One

You first need to be a registered RN and have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing. You also may need to have your MSN. If you want to get some of the more prestigious teaching positions at a college, you may need your doctorate in nursing.

Job Growth Trends

This field should grow by 19% by 2022, which is much faster than average.

Salary

The average salary for nurse educators is $65,000, but this can vary a lot depending upon if you work at a community college or a four year university.

#11 Nurse Advocate

If you have ever been in a hospital and were frustrated that you did not have someone on your side, then a nurse advocate is what you probably needed. The role of this nursing professional is to represent the interests of the family and the patient in a clinical care setting.

A nurse advocate is an important link between patient, doctor and other medical professionals. Given how busy many medical professionals are, patients and families may not always understand what is going on with various medical care, procedures, billing and so forth. The nurse advocate also explores alternative treatments with the patient and family.

How to Become One

You need to earn your BSN, and become an RN. After you have some experience as an RN in a hospital, you need to take some continuing education classes in social and financial matters related to health care. Then you can become employed as a nurse advocate, and possibly become a consultant.

Job Growth Trends

The field of nursing overall will grow by 19% by 2022, much faster than average.

Salary

The average salary is $57,000.

#12 Nurse Researcher

A nurse researcher works closely with various medical organizations and research organizations to do clinical studies related to health. This professional is basically a type of scientist that studies issues that specifically deal with nursing. For example, you might do research on how to improve the performance of nurses, or to determine effective ways to reduce chances of infection.

A key part of this job is to be able to write effective grant proposals so that you can get funding for your studies. It also is vital to be able to analyze data effectively.

How to Become One

You need to have your BSN and MSN, and a doctorate in nursing often is required. Having experience or training in clinical studies is preferred.

Job Growth Trends

The demand for all research scientists will increase by 26% by 2022, and nursing overall will see a 19% increase.

Salary

The average salary is $90,000.

#13 Pain Management Nurse

A pain management nurse is a type of advanced nursing profession that will give you a great deal more responsibility, more skills and higher salary.

Pain management is such a vital part of the medical field, because alleviating chronic pain is so important to improving the quality of life of patients. It also is very important to help the patient to not become addicted to narcotics. A pain management nurse works with the patient to determine what is causing the pain, and then works with other medical professionals to determine the best course of treatment.

How to Become One

A bachelor’s degree and experience in nursing are enough to get into this field. But you will need to have many years of nursing experience in this field, including at least 2000 hours related to nursing pain management.

Job Growth Trends

Job growth will be at least 19% for all nurses by 2022, which is much faster than average. Given how many patients are living longer and with more medical conditions, it is reasonable to expect that this field will see higher demand.

Salary

The average salary is $67,000.

#14 Psychiatric Nurse

A psychiatric nurse has a high degree of expertise in mental health, crisis intervention and therapy that they use to help patients deal more effectively with mental illness. This field is very important because it helps patients to avoid having severe life long problems by learning how to manage their mental disorder better.

You might help patients work with anxiety, addictions, drug abuse and mood disorders.

How to Become One

You need to be an RN with a bachelor’s degree, and you will need to have an education in mental health, as well as continuing education in how to treat people with mental disorders.

Job Growth Trends

Job growth should be over 20% by 2022 in this profession.

Salary

The average salary for all nurses is $65,000.

#15 Trauma Nurse

A trauma nurse will just about always see a high level of demand. They usually work in ERs, trauma facilities, and urgent care centers. This is a high demand, high stress profession, and it is not for every personality.

You will usually be one of the first people to treat a patient in an emergency situation. So you will be the first line of defense when a patient is rushed in from an ambulance. You will see some terrible injuries that some may find tough to stomach. You will also need to work long hours , as well as holidays and weekends.

How to Become One

You need to be an RN with your BSN, and have a few years of experience working in an ER or trauma center. You then need to obtain your emergency nursing certification.

Job Growth Trends

We should see at least 20% growth in this field by 2022.

Salary

The average salary is $65,000.

#16 Travel Nurse

A travel nurse usually works for a nursing or health care agency that covers a certain area of the US, or possibly the entire country. These types of healthcare organizations provide nursing services to hospitals and medical facilities to fill a short term need. A hospital might, for instance, have a few nurses that are out on maternity leave and they need you to fill in for a couple of months. A typical assignment is two months, but you might get assigned to one facility for one or two years.

How to Become One

You just need to have your BSN and be a registered RN. It helps to have at least two years of nursing experience in one or two facilities, and then you can apply for a travel nurse job.

Job Growth Trends

Travel nurses should be in similar demand to nurses over all – at least 20% growth by 2022.

Salary

The average salary is $70,000, and your employer will pay benefits usually as well as a housing allowance.

#17 Pediatric Nurse

A pediatric nurse works with young children, most often in a clinical or intensive care setting. These nurses provide children with specialized care. Children often have special health needs that differ somewhat from those of adults, and you will be trained in how to deal specifically with children.

How to Become One

You need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and some have a master’s degree. You also need to have specialized training and/or experience in working with children. You should try to get a nursing job in a children’s hospital so you can gain experience with children, if that is what interests you.

Job Growth Trends

Job demand for this field should increase by 19% by 2022.

Salary

The average salary for nurses overall is $65,000.

#18 Geriatric Nurse

A geriatric nurse works with elderly patients in a hospital or nursing home in most cases. These nursing professionals are specially trained to work specifically with the elderly and to handle the challenges that these types of patients have. You will work with patients with long term, chronic illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, dementia and heart/lung problems.

How to Become One

You need your BSN and RN designation, and should have special training in working with elderly patients.

Job Growth Trends

This field should see very rapid growth in coming years, due to the aging population in the US. Expect growth of at least 20% by 2022.

Salary

The average salary for nurses overall is $65,000.

#19 Public Health Nurse

A public health nurse is a bit different from many other nurses, in that the public health nurse cares for an entire population of people, whereas a regular nurse takes care of one patient at a time. Public health nurses generally focus on preventative medicine. That is, they primarily educate people about health issues and try to improve community health before people get sick.

How to Become One

You should have a BSN and have some experience as a regular nurse. You then can gain training and experience in public health nursing, and possibly earn your Master of Science degree in nursing.

Job Growth Trends

There should be strong demand in this field in the future, as governments focus more and more on preventative medicine to save on health care costs. Expect at least 18% growth by 2022.

Salary

The average salary for a public health nurse is $66,000.

#20 Oncology Nurse

An oncology nurse provides specialized care for cancer patients. They frequently work one on one with cancer patients in a hospital, clinical care center or even at home. You may need to administer chemotherapy and implement different types of cancer treatments, and monitor the progress of patients overall.

How to Become One

You should get a BSN and be a practicing nurse in a general capacity for several years. You can eventually earn a certification in oncology nursing, and even get your MSN later one.

Job Growth Trends

Our population is living longer and medical breakthroughs have provided better treatments for cancer patients. So, it is likely that the demand in this field will continue to be strong – at least 20% by 2022.

Salary

The average salary is $68,000.

 



About the Author

Brittney Wilson RN BSN
Brittney Wilson RN BSN /

Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, also known as The Nerdy Nurse, is a Clinical Informatics Specialist practicing in Georgia. In her day job she gets to do what she loves every day: Combine technology and healthcare to improve patient outcomes. She joined NurseJournal.org to help connect with other nurses in Informatics and educate those considering the field for the first time. Connect with me on Google+

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