The field of nursing has dozens of different specialties that students can pursue once they have met the basic educational requirements to become registered nurses or licensed practical nurses. With additional education and training, nurses may move on to become certified nurse midwives, nurse practitioners and nurse educators, or they work in different areas of hospitals, such as geriatrics, labor and delivery, emergency room, obstetrics and many other nursing specialties.
Specialty nursing careers
Demand for registered nurses is expected to grow 19 percent, or 526,800 new jobs, from 2012 through 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) reports. However, demand is much stronger for nursing specialties, including:
- Nurse practitioners (34 percent)
- Nurse midwives (29 percent)
- Nurse anesthetists (25 percent)
All told, the three nursing specialties are projected to grow by 47,600 positions through from 2012 through 2022, the BLS reports. Other nursing specialty professions include charge nurses, clinical nurse managers, chief nursing officers, intensive care nurses and ambulatory surgical nurses.
Nursing education, degrees and certifications
Specialty nurses typically need years of intensive training and education -- nurse practitioners and nurse midwives usually have completed master's- and sometimes doctorate-level educational programs, the BLS reports.
It doesn't take years to get started in the profession, though. Some nurses choose to get their start in the field by working as licensed practical nurses or licensed vocational nurses. LVNs and LPNs typically complete yearlong educational programs at nursing trade schools or community colleges and pass state licensing tests. Some LVNs choose to further their education by completing associate's or bachelor's degrees in nursing and becoming registered nurses.
Coursework for nursing education programs varies between classes in theory and practice. Coursework at nursing trade schools can include:
- Basic and advanced nursing theory and research
- Organization, delivery and health care policy
- Anatomy and physiology
- Nursing assessment
- Nursing leadership
Nurse education programs vary by institution and degree conferred -- usually a diploma or associate's and bachelor's degrees.
Nursing salaries and career outlook
LVNs and LPNs are the lowest-paid nurses, the BLS reports. Still, LPNs earned national median hourly wages of $20.15 in May of 2013, the BLS reports. The top 10 percent took home 27.90 an hour, while the lowest 10 percent earned $15.05.
With their more advanced education, registered nurses command higher wages. RNs earned national median hourly wages of $31.84 in May of 2013, the BLS reports. Nurse midwives earned national median hourly wages of $44.37, while nurse practitioners earned $44.55 an hour.
Growth for nurses of all types is expected to be highest in the country's most densely populated states, but nurses are in high demand in rural parts of the county as well, the BLS reports. Demand is driven primarily by increased need for health care services.
Nurses are the backbone of hospitals and physicians offices. Their scope of work varies by their education and the licenses they hold. Students interested in this growing field can get their careers started by enrolling at nurse vocational, trade and technical schools.
Discover Nursing Specialties, Johnson & Johnson, Accessed July 24, 2014, http://www.discovernursing.com/explore-specialties#no-filters
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm
Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-1
Nurse Midwives, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291161.htm
Nurse Practitioners, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291171.htm
Registered Nurses, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm
Registered Nurses, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm
RN to BSN Curriculum, Jacksonville University School of Nursing, Accessed July 24, 2014, http://www.jacksonvilleu.com/programs/bachelors-degree/rn-to-bsn-online/curriculum/