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32 Top Nursing Career Paths

There are many opportunities for nurses to work in unusual and interesting health care positions beyond the familiar hospital setting.

A Fast-Growing Profession with Numerous Opportunities

With baby boomers retiring and recent health care legislation projected to place more responsibility on nursing staff, the nursing industry's job outlook is expected to increase by 19 percent from 2010 to 2022.

Advantages of being a registered nurse in today's field include high potential for competitive pay and promotions; technological advancements that make nursing more comprehensive, efficient, and effective; and a wide range of unique nursing opportunities.

Opportunities in Nursing Practice

Professional nurses are involved in all aspects of health care. With the emphasis on prevention, early detection, and health promotion, opportunities in the community health setting are increasing.

In addition to practice within the hospital setting, nurses are finding opportunities in informatics, pharmaceutical research and many other alternative health care settings. There are also needed and welcome opportunities for nurses to become involved in health care policy on a political level.

Given these many different possibilities for specialization, the list of nursing specialties (and subsequently unique job opportunities) is vast.

  • Addiction Nurses: These professionals focus on the treatment, management, and prevention of addictive disorders including alcohol and other drug dependencies, nicotine dependencies, eating disorders, dual and multiple diagnoses, and process addictions such as gambling.
  • Aesthetics Nursing: This specialty involves specialized training in procedures such as Botox injections, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, sclerotherapy, non-invasive body sculpting, skin inspection/assessment, certification programs, and legal and ethical considerations involved in treating aesthetic problems.
  • Ambulatory Care Nurses/ Clinical Nurses: These professionals provide rapid assessments to high volumes of patients in a short time-span. They deal with unpredictable conditions and treat on an out-patient basis in physicians clinics, advanced practice nurses clinics, urgent care centers, and some emergency departments.
  • Burn Nurses: These nurses care for patients who have suffered burns, and typically work in burn units and trauma centers.
  • Camp Nurses: These professionals treat a variety of conditions in camp visitors and staff members. They must be knowledgeable in dealing with poisonous animal bites and scratches, poisonous plants, and injuries typical to camp life, like anaphylaxis and sprained or broken limbs.
  • Cardiac Nursing: These nurses deal with individuals who have heart-related problems such as angina, disturbances in cardiac rhythm, congestive heart failure, etc.
  • Case Management Nurses: These individuals care for patients receiving long-term therapy and coordinate optimal timing in all aspects of treatment. For example, in dealing with a cancer patient, the nurse must coordinate primary care visits, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. A Nurse Case Manager usually specializes in one specific area, such as AIDS, geriatrics, or pediatrics.
  • Correctional Nurses: These professionals treat inmates at prisons, and chronic diseases and geriatric issues aren't uncommon in this line of work.
  • Developmental Disabilities Nurses: These professionals work with patients with developmental and learning disabilities.
  • Diabetes/Endocrine Nursing: This specialized field is in high demand with the increasing number of diabetes patients in the U.S.
  • Dialysis/Renal/Urology Nurses: Professionals that treat kidney patients and work on a renal/urology/nephrology floor or in a dialysis unit.
  • Emergency Nurses: Individuals that work in a volatile environment treating high-priority, often life-threatening conditions.
  • Nursing Entrepreneurs: These individuals use their nursing training and business know-how to start their own companies, which may provide patient care, equipment, and consulting services.
  • Flight Nurses/Surface Transport Nurses: Professionals that handle emergency and non-emergency air/surface transport of critically ill and/or injured patients. Rapid patient assessments and physically demanding work hours are typical of this dynamic job.
  • Forensic Nurses: These professionals often deal with the investigation and treatment of trauma, death, and violent or criminal activity within the community.
  • Gastroenterology Nurses: These professionals treat all things GI-related, from ulcers to colon cancer detection.
  • Military/Government Nurses: Nursing professionals that care for soldiers and government employees.
  • Holistic Nurses: These professionals treat the whole person, addressing their physiological, psychological, and spiritual needs.
  • Home Health Nursing: These nurses address the needs of patients recovering in their home.
  • Infectious Disease Nurses: Clinical nurse specialists focusing on infectious disease control work primarily in major health care facilities, such as hospitals and nursing homes.
  • Legal Nurse Consultant: These professionals possess the ability to analyze all relevant health care related information in a legal claim or case.
  • Medical-Surgical Nurses: These professionals work in hospitals, acute care units, home care, and long-term care facilities to provide care for patients before and after surgical procedures.
  • Neurological Nursing: This specialty deals with assessment, nursing diagnosis, and management of many neurological disorders for which nurses provide patient care.
  • Staff development: These nurses are unit educators and develop programs for their team's precepting and orientation.
  • Nursing Informatics: A specialty that integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice.
  • Ob/Gyn Nursing: These nurses address female reproductive health concerns including pre-teen and teen issues, pregnancy, pre-term labor, fetal monitoring, labor and delivery, postpartum, mother/baby care, contraception, infertility, and gynecology.
  • Post-Anesthesia Care Unit Nurses: These professionals handle parents/visitors in the pre-op/post-op areas, control of post-op nausea/vomiting, and starting post-op orders, among other responsibilities.
  • Pain Management Nurses: These individuals are responsible for assessing, treating, and monitoring pain, educating patients about their pain medications, ensuring safety during pain medication administration, and advocating for patients with unrelieved pain.
  • Rehabilitation Nurses: These professionals help patients recover from distressing events such as strokes and traumatic injuries.
  • Rural Nurses: These professionals work with patients who may have limited access to health care in isolated and remote areas of the United States.
  • Travel Nurses: These professionals are hired to work in a specific location for a limited amount of time around the country depending on where they are needed.
  • Wound/Ostomy/Continence Nurses: These professionals provide acute and rehabilitative care to people with abdominal stomas, wounds, fistulas, drains, pressure ulcers, and/or continence disorders.

An extensive list of Nursing Specialty Certifications can be found here.

Your unique nursing career can climb to new heights and stay current with an ever-changing marketplace by earning a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Saint Mary. Learn more about both programs at

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