Nursing careers are financially and personally rewarding. The nursing field provides job security and more jobs than any other healthcare occupation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a big demand for nurses; the current large shortage of nurses is projected to increase over the years.
With so many specialties, it’s difficult to choose just one. Specialties provide a bigger paycheck and some provide opportunities to work in interesting jobs outside of hospitals.
We’ve created a list of the 10 best nursing careers based on salary, employment outlook, flexibility, and job satisfaction. The list, which is alphabetical order by career title, includes 2010 salary information from Monster.com, a leading global online employment website.
Certified Dialysis Nurse
What they do: Certified dialysis nurses help people whose kidneys don’t perform properly and who have to rely on dialysis machines to eliminate waste products from their body. Certified dialysis nurse is one of the nation’s fastest growing nursing specialties. There’s a high demand and a low supply of certified dialysis nurses. They’re also in demand on cruise ships. Most of the nurses employed at dialysis clinics enjoy a 9-to-5 working schedule—a breeze compared to hospital shifts.
Qualifications: An RN license and at least 2,000 hours taking care of dialysis and nephrology patients in the past two years, as well as 15 hours of continuing education credits in nephrology. Certified dialysis nurses also need to pass an official certification test.
Certified Legal Nurse Consultant (CLNC)
CLNC is an excellent career for nurses not interested in working in a hospital. Some CLNCs work in law offices or from their homes. Others work for government agencies, insurance companies, or private corporations.
What they do: A CLNC is an RN who utilizes her or his healthcare expertise along with specialized CLNC training to consult on medical related lawsuits. CLNCs offer attorneys cost-effective expertise about nursing and the healthcare system. They perform research, assist with discovery, identify standards of care, review medical records, prepare reports and summaries, and locate expert witnesses.
Qualifications: A current RN license, but a BSN is not required.
Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
What they do: CNMs do more than deliver babies; they provide a variety of healthcare to female patients such as gynecological exams, family-planning education, and prenatal and postnatal care.
Qualifications: A master’s degree, such as a master of science in nursing. CNMs work in hospitals, health departments, clinics, private practices, and homes.
Nurse anesthetist is one of the highest-paid nursing specialists.
What they do: Nurse anesthetists administer and maintain anesthesia. They collaborate with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and dentists to administer anesthesia medications.
Qualifications: A current RN license, experience in critical care, and completion of a two-year anesthesia education program. They also need certification from the National Board on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). Nurse anesthetists work in hospitals, pain clinics, doctor’s offices, dentist offices and ambulatory surgery centers.
Nurse Case Manager
Nurse case manager is an excellent job for RNs desiring to get away from typical nursing tasks.
What they do: Nurse case managers monitor the progress of patients, evaluate their care, and sometimes suggest alternative treatments. Although they advocate for patients, they also find the most cost-efficient care on behalf of medical facilities and insurance providers. Some nurse case managers work for insurance companies.
Qualifications: Some RN-to-BSN, RN-to-MSN programs provide a case management track. A case management nursing certificate is not required, but it can improve the chances of getting a job.
Nurse educators are in demand. The shortage of nurse educators provides a high level of job security. Many qualified prospective nursing students are turned away due to a shortage of nurse educators. Also, nurses need ongoing education throughout their careers. Nurse educators combine clinical expertise and a passion for teaching into rewarding careers.
What they do: Nurse educators design, implement, evaluate, and provide academic and continuing education programs for nurses. They teach at colleges, universities, technical schools, and hospital-based schools. Mobile simulation labs are a popular workplace.
Qualifications: A master’s or a doctoral degree in nursing. According to the National League of Nursing, there are two paths to become a certified nurse educator. Nurse educators typically have advanced clinical training in a healthcare specialty.
Most nurse educators get a high degree of satisfaction from their work. They also enjoy the flexible work scheduling.
Nurse Practitioner (NP)
NPs are in high demand in the primary-care sector.
What they do: NPs serve as primary- and specialty-care providers. Most states require NPs to work collaboratively with a doctor; however, some states allow NPs to run their own clinics. They’re allowed to prescribe medications.
The American Nurses Association reports that NPs can perform 60 to 80 percent of primary and preventive care. The most common specialties are family practice, women’s health, pediatrics, geriatrics, and acute care.
Qualifications: An RN license with at least a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Some nurse practitioners have a Doctor of Nursing degree.
NPs are attractive to healthcare employers because they provide a lot of the healthcare typically provided by doctors, for less pay. In 2009, nurse practitioner was ranked the #4 best job in America by CNNMoney.com.
The job is a good choice for nurses seeking an advanced non-clinical job in the nursing industry. Nurse researchers are employed by health-policy nonprofits and private companies.
What they do: Nurse researchers perform analysis and create reports based on research gathered from medical, pharmaceutical, and nursing products and/or practices. Their objective is improving healthcare and medical services.
Qualifications: RN’s with a BSN are eligible for these jobs, but those with an MSN or a doctoral degree have a better chance of getting a nurse researcher position.
Nursing Informatics Analyst
What they do: They manage and provide healthcare data to patients, nurses, doctors, and other healthcare providers. Nursing informatics analysts ensure computer applications are easy to use and provide useful information to nurses, managers, and other healthcare workers.
Qualifications: A bachelor’s of nursing degree is the minimum requirement for certification for a nursing informatics job. Many employers require a master’s degree in health informatics, healthcare management, or quality management. Some schools offer a master’s degree in nursing administration with an emphasis on nursing informatics. Some schools also offer doctoral degrees in nursing informatics.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center requires two years of experience as an RN and at least 2,000 hours of work in informatics for certification. Those with certification improve their chances of obtaining a job and obtaining a higher salary.
The job outlook is very good because many organizations hire informatics experts to solve documentation issues and decrease errors. Nursing informatics analysts work for hospitals and medical-records software vendors.
Pediatric Endocrinology Nurse
What they do: Pediatric endocrinology nurses help young children suffering from disorders and diseases of the endocrine system. They educate parents and children about the physical growth and sexual development issues associated with endocrine-system disorders. Educating parents and patients about preventing disease and managing endocrine diseases is a major part of their job. They also deal with issues such as obesity and diabetes.
Qualifications: An RN license. Pediatric endocrinology nurses typically need at least two years of nursing experience. The specialty does not have an official certification. Internships at a pediatric-endocrinology or other pediatric setting provide experience and networking opportunities.