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Nursing Career Options: In-Demand Jobs You Don't Know About

Pop quiz: Quickly name four different nursing job titles … ready … go!

How many did you guess? Chances are you knew licensed practical nurse (LPN) and registered nurse (RN), but unless you’re already a nurse those last two may have left you scratching your head.

There’s nothing wrong with being an RN or LPN, and in fact, they’re rewarding, fulfilling careers. But if you’re interested in nursing, you should know that you are not limited to just two job titles. Actually, nursing career options are broader than you may realize – once you have a little experience and the proper education, of course.

Nursing career options: Top 10 nursing job titles

Before we dive into that topic though, let’s go over some common nursing job duties. RNs and LPNs have some overlapping tasks: both monitor patient health, change bandages, keep track of medical charts and manage patient symptoms. In addition, RNs give out medication, operate medical equipment, help perform certain diagnostic tests and, sometimes, oversee LPNs.

But there’s more to nursing than that.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 in-demand nursing job titles, as identified by an analysis of 182,417 nursing job postings.*

Nursing Job Titles

1. Nurse practitioner

Nurse practitioners (NP) are RNs who’ve gone on to specialized graduate education and often focus on health and disease prevention, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Unlike RNs and LPNs, NPs are able to prescribe medication – and in some states they’re able to set up their own practice.

NPs can become certified in specific areas including: acute care, geriatrics, women’s health and psychiatry.

2. Certified nursing assistant

It’s important to note that a CNA is not actually a nurse, and they work under the supervision of an RN, but the job can be used as a stepping stone into a nursing career.

If you’re interested in nursing but you’re not quite ready to commit to the necessary education, becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA) is an option. CNAs provide patients with walking assistance and catheter care and assist patients who need help dressing and bathing.

To become a CNA you’ll need training and certification, which varies by state.

3. Nurse assistant

A nurse assistant is similar to a CNA, but has limited job responsibilities and is not certified. Often students whose ultimate goal is to be an LPN or RN will work as a nurse assistant while they’re in school.

Nurse assistants can work in a variety of settings, but most jobs are found in nursing homes, hospitals or assisted living facilities.

4. Staff nurse

A staff nurse is an RN who has a generalized role within a medical facility, usually a hospital. Staff nurses have the opportunity to work with patients of any age and can work anywhere from the ICU to a surgical unit, according to Nurse Resource.

Becoming a staff nurse requires no additional education once you’re an RN.

5. Nurse manager

Nurse managers don’t often work directly with patients. Instead, they recruit and manage nurses, organize medical records and work closely with doctors, according to Discover Nursing. They also liaise between doctors, nurses, medical students and patients.

Nurse managers often need a BSN or MSN and a management certificate, according to Discover Nursing.

6. Intensive care unit (ICU) nurse

As the title implies, ICU nurses, also known as critical care nurses, work in intensive care units. The patients in such units are usually in life-threatening situations so ICU nurses must be quick-thinking and able to work under pressure. These nurses must be able to notice subtle differences in patient symptoms and make snap decisions to prevent a patient’s health from failing further, says My ICU Care.

ICU nurses usually have a BSN or MSN and a critical care nursing certification, according to Discover Nursing.

7. Travel RN

Travel nurses fill in at medical facilities that are experiencing nursing shortages. They can work as independent contractors or be employed by a travel nursing agency. Travel nurses continue to work for the length of their contract and are then off to a new facility, often in a different state – or even in a completely different country. Contracts can range from three months to a year, according to Nurse Zone.

If you love to travel, this might sound like an exciting career option, but keep in mind that most travel nurses need at least 18 months’ experience. If you want to be a surgical or rehab travel nurse, you’ll need at least two years’ experience.

No additional education is required beyond being an RN.

8. Clinical nurse

Clinical nurses specialize in one of three areas – patients, nurse management or administration. These nurses often have teaching, consulting or research skills which go beyond the scope of an RN.

RNs looking to become clinical nurses need a Master’s degree and a certification exam, according to Discover Nursing.

In conclusion

Feeling overwhelmed? If you answered only RN and LPN to the pop quiz, you likely just discovered a whole new nursing world you didn’t know about. But don’t worry – having more nursing career options really is a good thing!

If you want to be a nurse and help others, you’ll see an abundance of RN and LPN job postings and there’s no way around that. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that there are other nursing jobs out there – and one of them might be the perfect position for you!

Is your ultimate goal to be an LPN, RN or something else? We want to know – tell us in the comments!

*Source: (analysis of nurse job postings, 1/13/2013-4/10/2013)

Elizabeth Xu

Elizabeth is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She enjoys writing engaging content to help former, current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.

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