20 Types of Nurses Employers Are Looking to Hire

top types of nurses

You’ve heard about nurses your whole life. From the movies and TV shows to the news headlines about the nursing shortages. But now that you’re considering capitalizing on the career opportunity, you’re noticing that there are a lot of options under the umbrella of nursing.

It’s helpful to have a good understanding of the types of nurses out there before taking the next step on your career path. From acronyms like “ICU RN” to job titles like “periansethsia nurse,” perusing these professional opportunities has the potential to make your head spin.

But halt your harried search because we have what you need right here. We identified 20 types of nurses you could become, and that’s only a portion of your options. Get a sneak peek at these in-demand opportunities.

Top 20 types of nurses

We used real-time job analysis software from Burning-Glass.com to examine more than 1 million nursing job postings. Our analysis helped us identify the 20 types of nurses in highest demand. Learn a bit about each position and the earning potential and education requirements associated with each.*

1. Registered nurse

Number of openings: 377,707

Education needed: ADN or BSN degree

Mean annual salary: $68,164

Registered nurses (RNs) are nurses with an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. They assist physicians in hospitals and a variety of medical settings and help in treating patients with illnesses, injuries and medical conditions.

2. Licensed practical nurse

Number of openings: 117,891

Education needed: LPN certification

Mean annual salary: $45,101

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) perform a variety of tasks under the supervision of an RN. They administer medicine, check vital signs and give injections. If you want to dip your foot in the world of nursing, becoming an LPN is often a great way to start.

3. Clinical nurse specialist

Number of openings: 53,353

Education needed: MSN or PhD

Mean annual salary: $75,318

A clinical nurse specialist is an advanced practice nurse and is proficient in diagnosing and treating illness within their realm of expertise. A clinical nurse may focus on patients and their families, nurse management or administration. They are often looked to for guidance from the rest of the nursing staff.

4. Nurse practitioner

Number of openings: 53,353

Education needed: BSN and MSN

Mean annual salary: $75,318

While some nurse practitioners (NPs) work under the supervision of a physician, more and more are gaining autonomy, taking on many roles of a physician.  NPs can diagnose diseases, prescribe meds and initiate treatment plans.  If you want more independence and responsibility, without all of the educational requirements of a physician, becoming an NP might be the perfect fit.

5. Nurse case manager

Number of openings: 31,196

Education needed: ADN or BSN

Mean annual salary: $70,716

Nurse case managers coordinate long-term care for patients in hopes of keeping them healthy and out of the hospital. They can choose to specialize in treating people with diseases like cancer or working with a specific age group, such as geriatrics. Consider becoming a nurse case manager if you enjoy researching, coordination and scheduling.

6. Intensive care unit registered nurse

Number of openings: 30,613

Education needed: ADN; often BSN

Mean annual salary: $72,361

These RNs work in the intensive care unit (ICU) of hospitals, providing complex care to those with very serious illnesses or injuries. ICU nurses may work in specialty hospitals or with patients in a certain age bracket, such as children in the pediatric ICU. Due to the difficulty of this position, most hospitals require training or continued education before allowing an RN to work there.

7. Travel registered nurse

Number of openings: 29,621

Education needed: Nursing diploma, ASN or BSN

Mean annual salary: $64,052

A travel nurse works temporary jobs nationally and internationally, sometimes for weeks at a time and sometimes for a few years. Travel nurses perform many of the same duties as standard RN, often working for an agency that supplements staff to facilities in need. This could be a great gig for someone with no strings attached who enjoys travel and change.

8. Home care registered nurse

Number of openings: 24,668

Education needed: Nursing diploma, ASN or BSN

Mean annual salary: $68,808

A home care RN works with patients out of their own homes. Often times, these patients will be in geriatric care or young people with developmental or mobility issues. This is an ideal position for someone looking to work outside of a traditional hospital setting, but still enjoys working with patients.

9. Operating room nurse

Number of openings: 19,897

Education needed: BSN

Mean annual salary: $69,688

Operating room nurses, also referred to as perioperative nurses, care for patients before, during and after surgery. They work alongside surgical teams and act as a liaison between them and the patient’s family. Perioperative nurses also equip patients and their families for postoperative care. This is a good fit for someone empathetic to the stress of surgery on individuals and families.

10. Staff nurse

Number of openings: 19,381

Education needed: RN; BSN preferred

Mean annual salary: $62,636

Staff nurses work in a variety of settings including rehab centers, critical care, psychiatric and outpatient facilities. They provide direct patient care, administer meds, perform IV therapy and more. Staff nurses often have the opportunity to advance and supervise other medical staff, like RNs or LPNs. Those with strong leadership skills may want to consider this option.

11. Emergency room registered nurse

Number of openings: 17,436

Education needed: ASN or BSN

Mean annual salary: $72,794

An emergency room RN will treat patients experiencing trauma or injury in a hospital ER. They will encounter a variety of conditions and have to stabilize patients dealing with traumatic events and injuries. This position would be good for someone who can handle high stress scenarios and find it rewarding to be a presence of calm amidst chaos.

12. Labor & delivery registered nurse

Number of openings: 16,627

Education needed: Nursing diploma, ASN or BSN

Mean annual salary: $72,045

Labor and delivery RNs help welcome new lives into the world every day. They care for both mother and baby during labor, childbirth and even after birth. A labor and delivery nurse may aid in inducing labor, administering epidurals, timing contractions and educating the mother with breastfeeding advice when the baby is born.

13. Medical/surgical registered nurse

Number of openings: 15,730

Education needed: Nursing Diploma, ASN or BSN

Mean annual salary: $71,991

These RNs provide direct care to adult patients in a variety of settings. Originally, this was considered an entry-level position for nurses to gain experience before specializing. Now, it is considered a specialization of its own because it requires mastering so many different skills.

14. Per diem nurse

Number of openings: 13,927

Education needed: ASN, BSN

Mean annual salary: $73,531

Per diem (per day) nurses carry out the same essential duties of an RN but on a part-time or temporary basis. Some per diem nurses work in this capacity to gain additional hours, some to have shorter working hours and some may just want to gain a variety of experiences to explore their opportunities.

15. Nurse supervisor

Number of openings: 12,494

Education needed: BSN

Mean annual salary: $65,744

Nurse supervisors, also known as nurse managers, oversee the nurses caring for patients. As a nurse manager, you will wear many hats and handle a lot of administrative duties. Nurse supervisors are often responsible for  recruitment and retention of nurses as well as occasionally collaborating with doctors on patient care and assisting families in need. This is a great option for those hoping to step away from direct patient care after gaining some experience in the field.

16. Oncology registered nurse

Number of openings: 9,271

Education needed: BSN

Mean annual salary: $68,060

Oncology nurses provide care for cancer patients and those at risk of the disease. They monitor physical conditions, prescribe medication and administer chemotherapy and other treatments. This is a good fit for someone interested in a challenging, yet rewarding career that is research-oriented.

17. Critical care registered nurse

Number of openings: 8,988

Education needed: BSN and MSN

Mean annual salary: $63,883

Critical care nurses ensure their critically ill patients get optimal care for their illnesses and injuries. They have in-depth knowledge of the human body and the latest technology in the field, as well as a keen sense of their patients’ needs. Critical care nurses often work in hospitals but may also work in outpatient facilities, nursing homes or military units.

18. Neonatal intensive care registered nurse

Number of openings: 8,825

Education needed: Nursing diploma, ASN or BSN

Mean annual salary: $71,663

Neonatal intensive care RNs care for premature and critically ill newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of a hospital. They care for infants needing immediate medical attention, connecting them to life-giving technology and comforting them when they are in distress.

19. Dialysis registered nurse

Number of openings: 7,017

Education needed: ASN or BSN

Mean annual salary: $68,954

Dialysis RNs, commonly referred to as nephrology nurses, administer dialysis treatments to patients with kidney disease or abnormal kidney functions. They work out of patient homes, dialysis clinics and even transplant units, performing dialysis treatments on their patients while helping implement treatment plans.

20. Post-anesthesia care unit registered nurse

Number of openings: 5,699

Education needed: Nursing diploma, ASN or BSN

Mean annual salary: $68,261

Post-anethesia care unit (PACU) work with patients as they regain consciousness from anesthesia after surgery. Also known as perianesthesia nurses, they are prepared to handle patients who react aversely, wake up in pain or confusion or experience other problems. PACU nurses are a comforting presence to those coming out of anesthesia and offer them tips for their recovery.

Seize the opportunities

You are now familiar with 20 types of nursing jobs employers are looking to fill. The wide array of options is just one of the perks of joining the field. Learn about a handful of other benefits of becoming a nurse.


*Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 1,023,796 nursing job postings, Sept. 9, 2013 – Sept. 8, 2014)


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Megan is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She hopes to engage and intrigue current and potential students.

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