Whether you’re just starting to think about becoming a nurse or are already one and are thinking of branching out, there’s no doubt about it: the amount of nursing career options is always expanding, with nursing specializations becoming more and more in demand.
With baby boomers getting older, longer lifespans, and healthcare coverage getting a bump from the Affordable Care Act, the need for trained nurses is projected to dramatically increase in the future – 19-25% versus the 11% projected growth for most jobs. The average RN salary is $64,000, while those for specific specialties can reach over $94,000. It’s clear that nursing can be a rewarding and lucrative career choice. From specializing as a critical care nurse, a pain management nurse, a midwife (CNM), a medical-surgical nurse, or an adult gerontological nurse practitioner (AGNP), you can take many different nursing paths. Once you’ve decided you want to become a nurse, it’s important to choose what kind you’d like to be. Whether you choose to complete your Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, one of the most important steps on the path to your chosen nursing focus will be passing the NCLEX-RN exam.
Let’s look at some specialty nursing careers for RNs that are only expected to grow in the coming years, which you may be able to qualify for after you pass your NCLEX-RN exam.
5 Most Promising Nursing Careers
Critical Care Nurse
The US is experiencing one of its largest nursing shortages for critical care nurses, those that work in emergency departments, pediatric and neonatal ICUs, and adult critical care units. While it can be considered a high-stress job, it’s also a great field with a high demand for quick thinkers and those who handle pressure well. Critical care nurses must be a current RN, fulfill required clinical hours, and should pass the CCRN exam. Critical care nurses average around $69,000 a year, which is on par for most specialties.
Hospital Emergency Room Sign
Pain Management Nurse
Pain management nurses work in another field with high demand, according to nurse.org; they can work in a broad range of settings, making them a vital member of many healthcare teams. They can work with patients in pain after surgery, help with chronic pain issues, and educate about addiction and dependence on prescription medication. There are often job openings for pain management nurses not just in hospitals, but also general and specialized medical practices, rehabilitation centers, and even nursing homes. To certify as a pain management nurse, you must be an RN with at least two years of experience, fulfill clinical hours, and sit for an additional licensing exam. Pain management nurses can help patients live without debilitating pain and can average about $90,000 annually while they do it.
Certified Nurse Midwife
Perhaps if midwifery is more your calling, becoming a certified nurse midwife encompasses not only delivering babies but also providing healthcare for mother and child before and after the birth, as well as family planning and regular gynecological care. The average expected salary is around $96,000 and projected job growth is 29% by 2022. To become a licensed nurse midwife you need to be an RN with a Bachelor’s of Science, complete a two year accredited CNM program, and sit for a certification exam.
A midwife is expected to offer options to eliminate or minimize unnecessary interventions
A medical-surgical nurse not only steps into the operating room to assist in surgeries; they also monitor patients’ status and medications pre- and post-surgery. Many newer RNs are attracted to the idea of specializing as a medical-surgical nurse due to the varied nature of the work as well as the comradery and support of interacting with other nurses in a hospital setting. Regardless of how new or experienced an RN is, though, if they wish to specialize in this area, they must demonstrate a broad range of knowledge on what they may encounter. Starting salary is in line with the average for an RN, but a CMSRN certification is available after two years of experience and salary will increase with certification and additions of specialties, increasing to an average of $75,000 a year.
Surgical nurses are asked to take on key roles in surgical procedures and the surrounding care
Adult Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
With the abundance of baby boomers reaching an advanced age, becoming an adult gerontological nurse practitioner may be a wise decision, as elder care is a solid field with guaranteed job growth for the future. An adult gerontological nurse practitioner, or AGNP, works with elderly patients usually under the care of a geriatrician or the patient’s GP and must be prepared for a wide variety of ailments from arthritis and heart conditions, to decreased mobility, and even dementia. AGNPs may work in a hospital setting, medical office, or nursing home and can make up to $94,000 a year.
Gerontological Nurses see a lot of cases of Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, and cancer
In addition to school, clinic hours, passing your NCLEX-RN exam, and any other accreditation exams for your specialty, it’s also important to think about where you want to be a nurse.
Different states can offer you better prospects like higher pay, a higher demand for your specialty, or a higher number of health care facilities available to work at. Overall, some of the states with greatest general demand for nurses are: Texas, California, Vermont, and Massachusetts. Here are the states where you’ll currently find the highest wages for nurses: California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Alaska. It’s important to look at what you want to focus your nursing career on, in addition to where your specialty will be most marketable. Becoming a nurse is a big decision, but for those looking to take on a career that can both provide financially and give the satisfaction of caring and helping others, nursing is a viable and promising career path.