10 Rising Nursing Types to Advance Your Career

10 Rising Nursing Types to Advance Your Career

Posted on Jun 11, 2024

When you think of nurses, you might envision a healthcare professional who primarily focuses on patient care and works within a larger clinical team to provide treatment. However, a nurse’s day-to-day tasks and expertise can vary greatly depending on their nursing specialty. Experienced nurses often expand their careers by growing into specific fields, and new nurses may pursue specialties to increase their earning potential.

Use our blog to explore different types of nursing careers to pursue in Virginia, including responsibilities, education requirements, salary, and job outlook.

Not sure what to specialize in? Compare Virginia’s nationally recognized nursing programs on our Education Page!

Rapidly Growing Market for Different Types of Nurses in Virginia

Although there are almost 4.7 million registered nurses (RNs) across the U.S., many locations are facing a nursing shortage. As a result, demand for RNs, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and diverse nursing types has skyrocketed..

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects RNs to grow by 6% between 2022–2032, which is faster than average. APRNs are projected to increase by nearly 40% in the same timeframe..

Programs like On Board Virginia help promote nursing opportunities in the Commonwealth by highlighting job stability, work-life balance, and generous state-sponsored nursing scholarships and work incentives designed to help nurses excel in Virginia’s robust healthcare landscape.

Nursing Education Pathways

Nearly all nursing types require some combination of experience or continuing education to pursue. RNs may pursue roles in hospitals or departments specializing in a specific demographic or treatment to gain clinical experience before committing to a nursing specialty.

Certifications may help solidify an RN’s credentials but aren’t always necessary to pursue a specialized role. More advanced roles will require a master’s or doctoral-level education to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

ADN to RN – An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a two-year program that teaches candidates the fundamentals of nursing and clinical skills. ADN programs are more financially accessible while still allowing graduates to take the NCLEX, become RNs, and gain initial employment. Many will then pursue an accelerated BSN degree.

BSN to RN – A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a four-year program that includes ADN coursework in addition to evidence-based research, leadership skills, and management skills. A BSN can open more professional opportunities in leadership roles after practicing as an RN. Some employers prefer a BSN to an ADN.

RN to MSN (to DNP) – RNs can join accelerated nursing programs (also known as direct-to-MSN programs) to pursue their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) without having a BSN. These are intensive programs designed for individuals who want to become APRNs. It’s also an ideal option for RNs who only hold an ADN.

10 In-Demand Nursing Types & What They Do

1. Registered Nurse (RN)

A registered nurse (RN) is a licensed nurse who provides critical patient care. All RNs can monitor and record patient vital signs, create care plans, administer medications, and assist with medical procedures.

Because of their versatile skill set, RNs can adapt to many nursing specialties and several clinical settings through a combination of supervised clinical experience and continuing education. Some RNs may choose to distinguish themselves through certifications to increase their earning potential.

Common clinical units for RNs include ER, intensive care (ICU), medical-surgical, and pediatrics. RNs who pursue their master’s or doctoral degrees can become APRNs to further their careers.

Salary: $70,500 median annually

Education Requirement: ADN or BSN, pass the NCLEX exam for RNs

Relevant Certifications: State RN License

Where they work: Hospitals, physicians’ offices, home healthcare services, and nursing care facilities.

2. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), also called a nurse anesthetist, is an APRN who specializes in administering anesthesia for procedures and surgeries to reduce pain. They’re responsible for providing patient-centered care before, during, and after procedures to ensure the patient’s safety and comfort.

CRNAs work in various settings, making anesthesia medications accessible to several healthcare facilities, including those that might not have access otherwise, such as rural areas.

Salary: $215,600 median annually

Education Requirement: ADN or BSN, RN license, at least one year in an acute care setting, and MSN or higher from an accredited nurse anesthesia program

Relevant Certifications: NBCRNA Certification

Where they work: Hospitals, outpatient surgical centers, dentist offices, labor and delivery units, emergency rooms, and anywhere that involves surgery

3. Cardiac Nurse

A cardiac nurse, also known as a cardiovascular nurse and cardiac care nurse, is an RN who focuses on heart health. They work alongside cardiologists to treat patients with chronic heart diseases or acute heart conditions, like strokes, through medication, implementing medical devices, and other life-saving procedures. They’re also responsible for communicating with patients about cardiac health.

Within cardiology, a cardiac nurse can specialize in specific demographics and procedures, depending on their setting. Some cardiac nurses work exclusively with children, others administer electrophysiological assessments in labs, and others still focus on surgery and rehabilitation.

Salary: $72,000 median annually

Education Requirement: ADN or BSN, and RN license. Additional cardiac care training within a cardiac unit is required to qualify for certification. Many get started in medical-surgical units and ICUs.

Relevant Certifications: Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification (RN-BC)

Where they work: Hospitals, cardiac care units, outpatient clinics, labs, and cardiac rehabilitation centers

4. Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is an APRN who works behind the scenes to improve healthcare systems. It’s an analytical role centered on optimizing processes, nursing assessments, and outcomes to address big-picture goals. CNSs collaborate with healthcare workers from multiple disciplines to streamline care programs.

Most CNSs specialize in gerontology (adult health), though demand is high for pediatric acute care and neonatal acute care. Hospitals may also encourage CNSs to obtain additional specialty certifications for certain populations, diseases, or settings.

Salary: $110,000 average annually

Education Requirement: RN license, MSN or higher from an accredited CNS program, complete 500 clinical hours related to the CNS program

Relevant Certifications: The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offer several certifications depending on the nursing specialty

Employment Locations: Hospitals, physician’s offices, in-home healthcare services, etc.

5. ER Nurse

An ER nurse, or emergency room nurse, is an RN who works in the emergency room, treating patients with life-threatening conditions. As one of the first responders in an emergency room, they’re responsible for quickly triaging patients, prioritizing care based on the severity of the patient’s condition, and working with the ER team to stabilize patients.

While certification isn’t required to become an ER nurse or work within an ER setting, many employers prefer a CEN certification.

Salary: $78,300 median annually

Education Requirement: ADN or BSN, RN license

Employment Locations: Emergency rooms

Relevant Certifications: Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) Credential. You can also specialize in Flight Emergency Nursing (CFRN), Pediatric Emergency Nursing (CPEN), and Critical Care Ground Transport Nursing (CTRN)

6. Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

A family nurse practitioner (FNP) is an APRN who provides primary care to patients across their lifespan. They prioritize long-term health by encouraging preventative healthcare practices. As such, an FNP shares similar tasks to a physician and can practice independently as long as they meet the requirements.

Salary: $116,000 median annually

Education Requirement: An APN or BSN, RN license with at least one year of experience as an RN, MSN or higher from an accredited FNP program

Relevant Certifications: Family Nurse Practitioner Board Certification (FNP-BC) from the ANCC or the FNP Certification from the AANP

Employment Locations: Doctor’s offices, hospice facilities, schools, independent private practices, telemedicine

7. Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse (PMH-RN)

A psychiatric-mental health nurse, also known as a psychiatric nurse or a mental health nurse, is an RN who cares for patients affected by psychiatric and behavioral disorders. They typically work with psychiatrists and physicians to execute treatment plans.

A mental health nurse is responsible for supporting patient assessment, leading therapy sessions, carrying out treatment plans, providing crisis support, and helping families access additional resources.

PMH-RNs can advance their role by becoming psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners (PMH-NP) through additional education and supervised experience. Both are in high demand as behavioral health needs continue to rise in Virginia.

Salary Range: $84,700 median annually

Education Requirement: ADN or BSN, RN license, clinical experience in psychiatric and mental health settings

Relevant Certifications: Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification (PMH-BC)

Employment Locations: Hospitals, rehabilitation centers, psychiatric facilities

8. Nurse Practitioner (NP)

A nurse practitioner (NP) is an APRN who can perform responsibilities comparable to a medical doctor or physician assistant. In Virginia, NPs are allowed to practice independently as long as they have the requisite experience. As healthcare leaders, they hold more authority and responsibilities than RNs, including mentoring and managing other nurses and prescribing medicine.

NPs may specialize in different nursing specialties to distinguish their expertise and increase their earning potential. Oncology, orthopedics, psychiatric-mental health, and telehealth are just a few types of nursing practitioner pathways.

Furthermore, NPs are becoming increasingly popular with families for their accessibility and more personal approach to patient care.

Salary Range: $124,700 median annually

Education Requirement: ADN or BSN, RN license, MSN or higher from accredited NP program

Relevant Certifications: Certifications dependent on the specialty of care

Employment Locations: Hospitals, doctor’s offices, independent practices

9. Pediatric Nurse

A pediatric nurse is an RN who works with children, starting at infancy and ending at 18 (or 21 in some practices). Pediatrics is distinct in that children’s bodies change and develop more rapidly than adult bodies. Pediatric nurses must understand a child’s developmental stages to provide effective care, in addition to being cheerful and empathetic.

RNs can become pediatric nurses by working in healthcare systems or departments that primarily serve pediatric patients to gain clinical experience.

Obtaining a pediatric nurse certification is optional and requires 1,800 hours of pediatric clinical work within 24 months as an RN or a minimum of 5 years as a pediatric nurse with 3,000 hours in pediatric nursing within the last 5 years (1,000 within the past 24 months).

Salary Range: $79,000 median annually

Education Requirement: ADN or BSN, RN license

Relevant Certifications: Pediatric Nurse Certification through the PNCB or the PED-BC from the ANCC Pediatric Nursing Board.

Employment Locations: Doctor’s offices, hospitals.

10. Orthopedic Nurse

An orthopedic nurse is an RN who specializes in musculoskeletal disorders, caring for patients with broken bones, fractures, bone density conditions, and more. They often support patients after orthopedic surgery by helping them manage pain and assisting with dressing changes.

As with all nursing types, orthopedic nurses can increase their earning potential through sub-specialties. Common sub-specialties include rehabilitation, sports medicine, and orthopedic surgery.

Salary Range: $72,000 median annually

Education Requirement: BSN, and RN license

Employment Locations: Hospitals, doctor’s offices, rehabilitation centers.

Relevant Certifications: Orthopedic Nurse Certification Exam (ONC) after two years of RN experience and 1,000 hours of orthopedic clinical experience.

Nursing Types: How to Choose the Right Specialty

Nursing plays an essential role in patient care and medical support in every medical and healthcare field. When choosing nursing types to specialize in, reflect on the experiences you’ve had as an RN and the environments in which you perform best. Picking the right hospital to work for also plays a large role in determining your day-to-day pace.

As for finding nursing specialties with a job board, focus on the job description and requirements as much as the title. This can help you transition laterally to new nursing types by relying on your transferable skills and on-the-job training, even if you don’t have extensive experience in the specialty.

Explore On Board Virginia’s interactive job board to see which nursing specialties are in demand!