Whether you have recently graduated from high school or are seeking a new career alternative as an adult, ensuring that your next career move is both viable and stable is paramount. With the cost of schooling and the disruptions that pursuing education present to day-to-day life, getting the most out of your educational journey should be a primary goal. As technology and other societal factors continue to disrupt our economy, career options can change very quickly. As such, looking for a profession with optimal, long-term growth is key.
One sector of the economy where growth is virtually guaranteed is in healthcare. Given concepts such as population growth and people living longer lives, the demand for healthcare workers is at an all-time high. And, perhaps even more importantly, it shows no signs of slowing down. This makes pursuing a career in healthcare an intelligent move.
One of the fastest growing segments of the healthcare industry is nursing, but what exactly do nurses do? As it turns out, nursing graduates have a plethora of responsibilities and specializations that make them necessary components of any healthcare institution. To illustrate the scope of opportunities nursing graduates have, let’s examine 12 career paths in nursing where both current and long-term potential exists.
Doctor’s Office Nurse
Arguably one of the easiest entry points career-wise in the field of nursing, the need for nurses in physician offices all over the country has never been higher. It is here that most nursing graduates will first begin pursuing their careers, working alongside doctors in private sector settings predominantly. The primary roles of a doctor’s office nurse are to help organize patient care and assist with various support tasks. While a graduate degree in nursing isn’t always necessary to pursue this nursing career field, it substantially improves the pay (the average annual salary for a doctor’s office nurse is around $50,000).
The need for qualified nursing graduates in educational settings continues to grow, which is why so many graduates are choosing to pursue opportunities as school nurses. Elementary, middle and high schools, as well as higher educational settings, alike are in need of school nurses, who attend to the needs of students on campus during traditional school hours. School nurses also focus on improving nutritional outcomes at the school and can help develop proper exercise regimens for students during physical education. Background checks and select certifications are required to be a school nurse.
Mental Health Nurse
Mental health nurse practitioners can be found in a wide variety of settings, including psychiatric facilities and addiction centers. These nurses make it possible for tailored treatment solutions to be provided in more intimate settings rather than large hospitals and other formal, intimidating settings. Becoming a mental health nurse requires substantial education: while a bachelor’s degree in nursing is often the minimum needed, some choose to pursue a doctor of nursing practice degree to further their careers in mental health or to pursue an administrative role. Generally speaking, mental health nurses are paid well, earning between $50,000 to $80,000 per year.
Some nurses have a calling to help the newest additions to the world. For many who feel this calling, pursuing a career as a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) nurse is a common choice. Working first-hand in caring for babies that are born prematurely or who suffer from illness, NICU nurses stand on the frontlines of very stressful healthcare work. To pursue a career in NICU nursing, an associate’s degree will be required at minimum, though many choose to pursue their BSN along with additional certifications (such as the NCLEX-RN exam).
Health care is required at every stage of life, from birth to death. Yet care often begins for many of us before we’ve even born, and chances are that there were one or more nurses involved in the process. Another viable nursing career choice is midwifery, which is still a common practice in the healthcare sector. Nurse midwives assist with a variety of tasks, including prenatal care and delivery. Midwives may also provide vital assistance in family planning services and even methods to improve fertility. Nurse midwives earn sizeable salaries ($70,000 – $90,000 per year) and require special certifications to provide these services.
Nurses may often be seen on the frontlines of healthcare, but plenty are also needed to shore up the day-to-day tasks of medical facilities. Nurse managers are one such example and are generally tasked with providing administrative and management services in hospitals and other healthcare settings. Not a field that can immediately be pursued, nurse managers often require years of experience in nursing situations to effectively manage their teams. Additionally, nurse managers often pursue either a master of nursing or doctor of nursing practice degree to further hone their administrative skillsets.
Delicate situations where life hangs in the balance require specifically trained nurses to shadow and assist physicians. Surgery is one of the most obvious examples where precision matters: surgical nurses help both doctors and patients during and after critical operations. From assisting patients in handling their illnesses to keeping tabs on their vital signs and medications, surgical nurses are often utilitarian in nature. One of the more common points of entry for nursing graduates, surgical nursing gives individuals a taste of the broader nursing world and can inspire more specific trajectories in your future nursing plans. An LPN diploma or ADN degree are all that’s required to get started.
Being with expecting mothers on their day of delivery can be an emotional, stressful and yet beautiful experience. For some nurses, choosing to be involved with labor and delivery is a calling. These delivery nurses help ensure everything flows smoothly during the labor process, including monitoring the patient’s vital signs, coordinating scheduling and assisting with the actual delivery process itself. This particular form of nursing continues to grow in demand, particularly as more and more patients choose to schedule delivery rather than waiting for a spontaneous birth. A minimum of an associate’s degree in nursing is required to become a delivery nurse.
Emergency Room Nurse
Those who are in desperate need of immediate care take priority at hospitals and emergency rooms. The healthcare professionals who provide these services require steady hands, clear minds and a desire to serve even in the most stressful of circumstances. Emergency room nurses never experience a dull moment in the ER as the number of patients – along with their ailments – can vary wildly from one day to the next. Depending on the exact setting, specialized emergency room nursing opportunities may present themselves, allowing you to focus on specific types of patients in a more detailed fashion.
Home Healthcare Nurse
Given the explosive costs associated with healthcare, many medical institutions are seeking new ways to lower costs and reduce stress for patients. The world of home healthcare is growing rapidly as a result, allowing patients to receive treatment in-home rather than in-office. Home healthcare nurses generally provide longer-term care for specific patients, visiting with them regularly and aiding them in performing select tasks. These nurses may also focus on improving daily regimens for patients and monitoring their vital stats. You can pursue a career in home healthcare nursing with as little as a LPN, but an associate’s degree in nursing would be useful.
While the need for frontline nurses only continues to grow, we can’t forget about those nurses who must coordinate teams and manage workloads. Nurses with years of experience in healthcare may ultimately choose to pursue a career in administrative nursing. This field of nursing focuses more on employee management, administrative tasks and patient outcomes in the aggregate. A doctor of nursing practice degree or comparable education is required to obtain employment in this field, along with select certifications and nursing experience. The average salary of an administrative is quite high, ranging from $80,000 to $90,000 per year.
As much as we need qualified nurses in the field, we also need an army of nurses to train the next generation. This is why the field of nurse educators continues to grow so rapidly. These nurses can be found in a variety of positions but most commonly are associated with schools and institutions tasked with training upcoming nurses. Nurse educators help oversee classroom instruction as well as clinical tasks where nurses’ skills are tested. Ultimately, a bachelor’s degree at minimum is required to pursue this career field, but many job openings for this occupation require a master’s degree. Additionally, nursing experience as well as passing the NCLEX-RN exam are common requirements in order to become a nurse educator. Many experienced nurses opt to pursue this field later in life as one method of pursuing what they love without the irregular schedules and heavy workloads.
Ultimately, there are dozens of potential nursing fields that can be considered by anybody pursuing a degree in the field. These 12 career paths are among some of the most commonly pursued, fastest-growing and best-paying options in healthcare currently, but everybody has their own calling. If one or more of these career paths feels like a great match for you, then consider learning more and contributing to the vital world of healthcare via nursing.