Nursing offers a wide range of rewarding career opportunities. If you’re considering a career in nursing, it’s essential to understand the various paths available to you. 

This article will guide you through the different types of nursing careers, education and training requirements, job outlook and salary information, and the advantages of working in the nursing profession. Let’s dive in.

A nursing degree prepares you for a career as a registered nurse (RN) and provides you with the skills necessary to provide direct patient care and support. 

Nursing degrees cover various topics, including anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, medical-surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, psychiatric nursing, and more. 

The curriculum is designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the human body, healthcare interventions, and nursing practices.

You learn about different diseases, their signs and symptoms, diagnostic tests, and treatment options, enabling you to collaborate effectively with other healthcare professionals.

Is Nursing a Major?

Yes, nursing is a popular major at many universities and colleges. You study various subjects such as anatomy, pathophysiology, pharmacology, nursing theory, practice, patient care, and ethics.

You can choose an interdisciplinary minor subject to improve your scope of practice. For example, if you’re interested in pursuing a career in psychiatric nursing for treating people with different physical and mental conditions, you can select psychology as your minor. 

What Can You Do With a Nursing Degree?

With a nursing degree, you have a wide range of career options. One common path is becoming a registered nurse (RN), where you can provide direct patient care and work in various healthcare settings. 

In addition, nursing degrees offer specializations, allowing you to focus on areas such as pediatric nursing, psychiatric nursing, critical care nursing, oncology nursing, or geriatric nursing. 

You can also pursue advanced nursing roles by obtaining further education and certification, such as becoming a nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife, or clinical nurse specialist.

Nursing degrees can also lead to healthcare administration, research, education, or public health roles. Overall, a nursing degree provides a strong foundation for a rewarding and versatile career in the healthcare industry.

Can You Get a Nursing Degree Online?

Yes, you can earn a nursing degree online. Many accredited colleges and universities offer online nursing programs that allow you to complete your coursework remotely and at your own pace. 

Online nursing programs deliver instructional coursework through online platforms, virtual simulations, and interactive learning modules. 

You can also participate in clinical experiences which is an essential part of nursing education and may be arranged at local healthcare facilities or through partnerships with healthcare providers. 

Online nursing programs meet the same rigorous standards and requirements as traditional on-campus programs, ensuring you receive a quality education and are well-prepared for your nursing career. Because you can complete your clinical practice requirements in your area, this is a convenient way to get your nursing degree, even if you don’t live near a college.

Do Hospitals Hire Nurses With Associate Degrees?

Yes, hospitals do hire nurses with associate degrees. An associate degree in nursing (ADN) is a common way to become a registered nurse (RN). ADN programs typically take about 18 to 24 months to complete and provide you with the necessary skills to practice as an entry-level nurse.

Hospitals often have a mix of nursing staff with different educational backgrounds, including associate, bachelor’s (BSN), or higher degrees. While some hospitals may prefer to hire nurses with a bachelor’s degree, many hospitals recognize the value and competency of nurses with associate degrees and actively recruit them.

In some cases, hospitals may require nurses who completed an ADN to eventually later complete a BSN degree as part of their ongoing professional development. This is due to the growing emphasis on higher education in nursing and the increasing complexity of healthcare. 

The duration of nursing school varies depending on the type of nursing degree. An associate degree in nursing (ADN) typically takes around 18 to 24 months to complete, while a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program usually takes around 4 years. 

Some schools also offer accelerated nursing programs for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field, allowing them to complete their nursing education in a shorter time frame.

After completing your initial nursing degree, you can further your education and career prospects by pursuing advanced degrees such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). These advanced degrees usually take 2 to 4 years, depending on the program and specialization chosen.

The demand for qualified nurses continues to grow. The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, and the need for skilled healthcare professionals, including nurses, remains high. 

Nurses can work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, schools, research institutions, and even in non-traditional settings such as cruise ships or correctional facilities.

INTERESTING FACT FROM U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS: Registered nurses account for more than 1 out of every 5 healthcare workers.  

In addition, nursing offers a fulfilling career path. As a nurse, you can positively impact the lives of patients and their families, providing compassionate care and support during times of illness or injury.

Who Should Pursue Nursing?

Nursing is an ideal career choice for individuals with a passion for helping others and a strong desire to make a difference in people’s lives. Compassion, empathy, and excellent communication skills are essential qualities of a successful nurse. 

Nursing is a field that welcomes individuals from diverse backgrounds. Whether you are a recent high school graduate, a career changer, or someone looking to advance your healthcare career, pursuing a nursing degree can open doors to countless opportunities.

Related: Would I Be A Good Nurse?

One of the unique characteristics of nursing degrees is the emphasis on hands-on clinical experience. Nursing students get to apply their studies in real healthcare settings, working directly with patients under the guidance of experienced nurses and clinical instructors. 

Another characteristic of nursing degrees is the focus on holistic care. Nurses are trained to consider the physical, emotional, and social aspects of patient care. They work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive and patient-centered care. 

Several levels of nursing degrees are available for people with different educational backgrounds and career aspirations. The most common types of nursing degrees include:

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

This is a two-year program offered by community colleges or technical schools. ADN programs provide a solid foundation in nursing education and prepare graduates to take the NCLEX-RN exam to become registered nurses.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A BSN degree is a four-year program offered by colleges and universities. BSN graduates are equipped with a broader understanding of nursing theory, research, leadership, and community health. Many healthcare facilities prefer hiring BSN-prepared nurses.

NOTE: If you have completed an ADN and immediately joined the workforce as a registered nurse, you can still go back to pursue BSN for further education via RN to BSN degree programs—these are specially designed programs for working nurses who wish to upgrade their careers.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

An MSN degree is a graduate-level program that allows nurses to specialize in advanced practice areas such as nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, or nurse educator. MSN programs typically require a BSN degree as a prerequisite.

Related: Types of Master’s Degrees in Nursing

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

A DNP is the highest level of nursing education. It focuses on advanced clinical practice, leadership, and evidence-based practice. DNPs are prepared to assume leadership roles in healthcare organizations, conduct research, and influence policy decisions.

There are various types of nurses, each with different specialties and roles within the healthcare system. Here are some common types of nurses:

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) 

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVNs) provide basic patient care under the supervision of RNs or doctors. They perform tasks such as taking vital signs, administering medications, and dressing wounds. LPNs work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, and home healthcare. 

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) provide direct patient care, assisting with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating. They work under the supervision of RNs or LPNs and play a vital role in ensuring patients’ comfort and safety. CNAs work in nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. 

Registered Nurse (RN)

Registered Nurses (RNs) are at the heart of healthcare delivery. They work closely with patients, doctors, and other healthcare professionals to provide direct care, administer medications, and coordinate treatment plans. RNs can specialize in pediatrics, geriatrics, critical care, or oncology. 

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are advanced registered nurses with additional education and training. They can diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications, and provide holistic care to patients of all ages. NPs often work in primary care settings, but they can also specialize in family practice, pediatrics (care for children), mental health, adult-gerontology (care for elderly), neonatal (care for adolescents, babies), and other areas of focus. 

Related: How to Choose a Nursing Specialty

Specialized Nursing Careers

In addition to the core nursing roles, numerous specialized nursing careers are available. These careers allow nurses to focus on specific patient populations or healthcare areas, providing specialized care and expertise.

Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurses specialize in providing care to infants, children, and adolescents. They work closely with pediatricians to ensure the well-being of young patients. 

Neonatal Nurse

Neonatal nurses care for premature or sick newborns, providing specialized care in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).

Psychiatric Nurse

Psychiatric nurses specialize in providing mental health care, supporting patients with psychiatric disorders, and promoting emotional well-being.

Rehabilitation Nurse

Rehabilitation nurses work with patients recovering from illnesses, injuries, or surgeries, helping them regain independence and functionality.

Public Health Nurse

Public health nurses promote community health and prevent diseases, working in various settings such as schools, clinics, and community centers.

Hospital Nursing Careers

Hospitals offer various nursing career opportunities, ranging from general medical-surgical units to specialized areas such as critical care, maternity, and emergency medicine. Some common hospital nursing roles include:

Medical-Surgical Nurse

Medical-surgical nurses care for patients with various medical conditions, ranging from minor illnesses to complex surgical procedures.

Critical Care Nurse

Critical care nurses work in intensive care units (ICUs) and provide specialized care to patients with life-threatening conditions.

Maternity Nurse

Maternity nurses care for pregnant women, assisting with prenatal, labor, and postpartum care.

Emergency Room Nurse

Emergency room nurses work in fast-paced environments, providing immediate care to patients with acute injuries or illnesses.

Oncology Nurse

Oncology nurses specialize in caring for patients with cancer. They work directly with patients undergoing cancer treatments, providing support, administering chemotherapy, and monitoring treatment progress. 

Clinic Nursing Careers

Clinics provide specialized outpatient care, focusing on specific medical specialties or patient populations. Here are some examples of clinic nursing roles:

Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners work in primary care clinics, providing comprehensive care to patients of all ages.

Specialty Clinic Nurse

Specialty clinic nurses work in clinics dedicated to specific medical specialties, such as cardiology, dermatology, or orthopedics.

Geriatric Nurse

Geriatric nurses specialize in caring for elderly patients, addressing their unique healthcare needs, and promoting healthy aging. 

Advanced Nursing Careers

For nurses looking to advance their careers and take on more responsibilities, advanced nursing careers offer opportunities for specialized practice and leadership roles. Here are some advanced nursing career choice for you:

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse Anesthetists are advanced practice registered nurses who administer anesthesia during surgical procedures. They work closely with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare professionals to ensure patient’s safety and comfort during surgery. 

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) are advanced practice registered nurses specializing in a particular patient population, medical specialty, or healthcare setting. CNSs provide direct patient care, educate healthcare professionals, and serve as leaders and consultants in their areas of expertise.

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

CNMs provide comprehensive healthcare services to women, including prenatal care, childbirth assistance, and postpartum care. They can also provide gynecological services and family planning guidance.

Nursing Career Paths in Public Health

Public health nursing focuses on promoting and protecting the health of communities. Public health nurses work in various settings including community organizations and government agencies. Some public health nursing roles include:

Community Health Nurse

Community health nurses provide healthcare services, and health education, and help design disease prevention programs for individuals and communities.

Occupational Health Nurse

Occupational health nurses promote workplace health and safety, provide healthcare services to employees, and facilitate injury prevention programs.

School Nurse

School nurses work in educational settings, promoting student health and well-being, managing health conditions, and providing first aid.

Nursing Career Paths in Management

Nursing careers in administration and management involve overseeing healthcare operations, coordinating patient care, and ensuring quality standards are met. These roles require strong leadership and organizational skills. Some nursing management roles include:

Nurse Manager

Nurse managers oversee a specific unit or department, coordinating patient care, managing nursing staff, and ensuring quality and safety standards are met.

Nurse Educator

Nurse educators work in academic settings, healthcare institutions, and clinical settings to educate and train aspiring nurses, as well as provide ongoing education and professional development for practicing nurses. 

Nurse Informatics

Nursing informatics uses digital tools including electronic health record systems, picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), laboratory information systems and more to access, update, and share patient information, medical records, test results, and other relevant data. 

The education and training requirements for nursing careers vary depending on the specific role and level of practice. Here are the general guidelines for some common nursing career paths:

  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): Completing a practical nursing program, usually lasting about one year, followed by passing the NCLEX-PN examination.
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): Completing a state-approved nursing assistant program and passing a competency exam.
  • Registered Nurse (RN): Completion of an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, followed by passing the NCLEX-RN examination.

Related: How To Become a Registered Nurse – The Quick Way!

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP): Completing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, followed by obtaining national certification in the chosen specialty.

Please note that advanced nursing roles, such as nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist, require additional education and certification beyond the initial RN licensure.

The cost of a nursing degree program can vary depending on several factors, such as the type of institution (public or private), location, duration of the program, and whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student. 

Additionally, tuition fees may differ between undergraduate and graduate nursing programs. It’s important to note that the following information is based on general trends and may not reflect the exact cost of specific programs. It’s always best to consult with individual institutions for accurate and up-to-date pricing.

Also, your actual cost to attend any program can be much lower than the sticker price, as financial aid like grants and scholarships may lower your costs significantly. 

Undergraduate Nursing Programs:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): The cost of an ADN program at a community college or technical school can range from $5,000 to $30,000 per year, depending on the location and whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student. 
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): A BSN program offered by a public university typically costs between $10,000 and $30,000 annually for in-state students, while out-of-state students may pay between $20,000 and $60,000 per year. Private universities often have higher tuition fees, ranging from $30,000 to $70,000 per year. Online nursing programs often charge in-state tuition regardless of your residence.

Graduate Nursing Programs:

  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): The cost of an MSN program can vary significantly depending on the institution and specialization. Public universities may charge between $15,000 and $40,000 annually for in-state students, while out-of-state students may pay between $20,000 and $60,000 annually. Online programs may charge in-state tuition rates for all students. Private universities generally have higher tuition fees, ranging from $30,000 to $70,000 per year.
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): The cost of a DNP program is often higher than an MSN program. Tuition fees can range from $20,000 to $50,000 annually for in-state students at public universities, while out-of-state students may pay between $30,000 and $70,000 per year. Private institutions may have higher tuition fees, typically from $40,000 to $100,000 annually.

The above figures are approximate and may change over time. Please also consider expenses such as textbooks, uniforms, clinical supplies, and living costs when estimating the total cost of a nursing degree program. And remember, financial aid, scholarships, and grants are often available for you to help offset your education expenses.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of registered nurses is projected to increase by 6% from 2021 to 2031, which is an average growth rate. However, as a result of an aging population, increased healthcare needs, and advancements in medical technology, more advanced nursing specialties like nurse practitioner, anesthetists, and midwives are expected to grow at a rapid pace of 40% adding 118,600 jobs in the next couple of years.

One of the appealing aspects of pursuing a nursing degree is the potential for high-paying job opportunities, especially when you pursue further education. You can enroll in bridge programs to earn your degree faster or you can even apply for accelerated programs if you have a non-nursing background and wish to enter nursing school as a second-career.

While salaries can vary based on factors such as location, experience, and specialty, several nursing roles are known for their lucrative salaries:

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurse

According to Indeed, the average annual salary for NICU nurses is $153,231.

NICU nurses work in ICUs as a specialized unit for the care of premature infants, critically ill newborns, or infants with complex medical conditions.

Education requirements

  • You can start by becoming a RN, which requires earning your associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing and by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • Hospitals may prioritize RNs with a BSN degree over those with an associate degree. So if you have completed your ADN and are working as a RN, you can enroll in an accredited RN-to-BSN bridge program to get your BSN faster than any traditional four-year degree program.
  • You don’t need a certification to work in NICU but you must meet the minimum number of clinical work experience as stated by the employing organization.

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

The average annual salary for CNMs is $119,710.

CNMs are trained to provide comprehensive and holistic care to women, including prenatal care, labor and delivery support, gynecological care, family planning, and primary care.

Education requirements:

  • You can become a RN and complete a MSN program with a specialization in nurse-midwifery from an accredited institution.
  • Pass the certified nurse-midwifery exam administered by American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB). The exam assesses your ability to provide safe, evidence-based care to women and newborns throughout the pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum periods. You must be willing to renew your certification every five years.
  • After passing the exam and getting certified as a nurse midwife, you can apply for licensure to operate in particular states. Please check specific requirements.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

The average annual salary for CNSs is $136,405.

CNSs collaborate with interdisciplinary healthcare teams, including physicians, nurses, therapists, and other professionals, to enhance patient care and promote evidence-based practice.

Education requirements:


The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) recommends the doctorate degree in nursing (DNP) as an entry-level degree to work as a CNS by 2030. So you can look forward to pursuing a DNP degree in mind when you plan your career.

Nurse Anesthetist

The average annual salary for nurse anesthetists is $203,090.

Nurse anesthetists are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who administer anesthesia to patients undergoing medical procedures. They work closely with physicians and surgeons and often earn a high salary due to the level of expertise required for their role.

Education requirements:

  • To become a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), you need a RN license backed by a MSN degree. If you’re working as a RN after getting your ADN degree, you can even choose to pursue the RN-to-MSN bridge program, which helps you get your MSN in as little as two years.
  • As a next step, you need to gain clinical nursing experience—around 2,500 clinical hours—in critical care by administering anesthesia under supervision as verifiable proof of working with anesthetics.
  • Enroll in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP), as the minimum requirement to become a CRNA has surpassed MSN.
  • After completing your doctorate degree, you must pass the National Certification Examination (NCE) to get certified. To maintain your CRNA license, it’s best to recertify NCE every two years.

Nurse Practitioner

The average annual salary for nurse practitioners is $120,680.

Nurse practitioners are APRNs who provide primary and specialty healthcare services to patients. They can diagnose and treat medical conditions, prescribe medications, and manage ongoing healthcare. Nurse practitioners often earn competitive salaries, especially in specialized areas such as dermatology or cardiology.

Education requirements:

  • To become a NP, you first need to have a RN license backed by a MSN degree. Moving forward, all NPs may increasingly require a DNP to get certified.
  • After completing your graduate program, you can get certified by an accredited body with chosen specialization. You’ll also need to recertify every five years to maintain licensure.

The world of nursing careers is vast and offers many opportunities for those passionate about healthcare and making a difference in people’s lives. 

It’s essential to thoroughly research and consider educational requirements, job outlook, and personal preferences before choosing a career. By selecting a nursing career that aligns with your interests, skills, and long-term goals, you can begin a fruitful journey in nursing.