Top 15 Specialty Careers for Nurses

5 Min Read Published March 22, 2024
Top Specialties for Nurses

One of the most exciting and desirable aspects of nursing is the wide variety of specialty fields. The best specialty nursing career for you will depend on many factors, including your skills, aspirations, interests, and the field's hours, environments, and education requirements.

We've curated the top 15 nursing careers to help take the guesswork out of choosing the right career for you.

Top 15 Specialty Careers for Nurses

To create this list, we analyzed nursing jobs by their burnout rate, education, salary, work hours, and job satisfaction. The top 15 nursing fields we've selected are an excellent starting point if you're still debating between specialties.

Remember that some of these specialties require advanced nursing degrees. To reach these milestones, you must consider your life and outside commitments to meet their requirements.

1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

A CRNA is the highest-paid nursing job with the most autonomy. They directly deliver anesthesia to surgical patients, oversee their condition during surgery, and manage postoperative pain. 

With the growing aging population, the number of surgical patients is increasing and there is more demand than ever for CRNAs.

  • Average Salary: $203,090 (BLS)
  • Degree/Certification Required: DNP/DNAP
  • Career Outlook: 9% growth from 2022-2023 (BLS)

>> Show Me CRNA Programs

2. Aesthetic/Cosmetic Nurse

Aesthetic nursing is an exciting and growing nursing career. Cosmetic nurses work with plastic surgeons in their offices, operating rooms, or aesthetic spas. 

Their duties include administering injections of Botox and fillers, performing chemical peels, laser hair removal, dermabrasion, CoolSculpting, and removing tattoos.

  • Average Salary: $80,321 (ZipRecruiter)
  • Degree/Certification Required: BSN
  • Career Outlook: 6% growth from 2022 to 2032 (BLS)

3. Pediatric Nurse 

Perhaps one of the more emotionally taxing nursing specialties, pediatric nursing requires a unique skill set. Nurses considering this specialty must be able to manage the care of their patients and their families. 

Pediatric hospitals generally employ pediatric nurses, but they also work in larger adult hospitals with designated pediatric units.

  • Average Salary: $109,492 (ZipRecruiter)
  • Degree/Certification Required: BSN
  • Career Outlook: 6% growth from 2022 to 2032 (BLS)

4. Neonatal ICU (NICU) Nurse 

NICU nurses care for the smallest and sickest babies, often right on the edge of viability. This field is fast-paced, emotionally demanding, and requires constant learning to stay abreast of the most current neonatal education.

According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN), NICU nursing generally involves caring for infants in crisis. It encompasses neonates who suffer from long-term problems related to premature birth or severe illness.

  • Average Salary: $128,211 (ZipRecruiter)
  • Degree/Certification Required: BSN
  • Career Outlook: 6% growth from 2022 to 2032 (BLS)

5. PACU Nurse 

When caring for patients after surgical procedures, PACU nurses transfer them to in-patient units or discharge them post-surgery. They also manage and monitor vital signs to ensure their patients safely wake from anesthesia.

  • Average Salary: $88,254 (ZipRecruiter)
  • Degree/Certification Required: BSN
  • Career Outlook: 6% growth from 2022 to 2032 (BLS)

6. Nurse Educator

Nurse educators forge the next generation of nurses through classroom and clinical instruction. Nurse educators work closely with other educators to develop their school’s nursing curriculum and meet all state objectives.

  • Average Salary: $102,263 (ZipRecruiter)
  • Degree/Certification Required: MSN
  • Career Outlook: 8% growth from 2022 to 2032 (BLS)

>> Show Me Online Nurse Educator Programs

7. Nurse Administrator 

Nurse administrators are high-level executives in nursing leadership roles who work in hospitals and healthcare systems. They supervise and oversee nursing staff and create and administer clinical programs for the entire organization. 

You may often hear nurse administrators called nurse managers and chief nursing officers.

  • Average Salary: $84,334 (ZipRecruiter)
  • Degree/Certification Required: MSN/MBA/MHA
  • Career Outlook: 28% growth from 2022 to 2032 (BLS)

>> Show Me Online Nurse Admin Programs

8. Nurse Practitioner (NP)

The most in-demand of all nursing specialties, NPs are highly autonomous healthcare providers and nursing leaders. NPs take on several responsibilities similar to physicians. 

NP duties include prescribing and administering meds, performing patient exams, ordering tests, diagnosing illnesses, and treating patients. They can even work as independent providers in states with full practice authority for nurse practitioners.

  • Average Salary: $121,610 (BLS)
  • Degree/Certification Required: MSN/DNP
  • Career Outlook: 45% growth from 2022-2032 (BLS)

>> Show Me Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

9. Travel Nurse

Travel nursing is the perfect specialty for adventure seekers. This nursing specialty can combine your love of nursing with the desire to experience new places and people. 

Healthcare organizations hire travel nurses to fill voids at their facilities. Therefore, travel nurses can work in any area nationwide or in other countries.

  • Average Salary: $101,132 (ZipRecruiter)
  • Degree/Certification Required: BSN
  • Career Outlook: 6% growth from 2022 to 2032 (BLS)

10. Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

CNMs focus on women’s health care, including delivering babies and providing prenatal and postpartum care. Additionally, CNMs assist obstetricians and perform routine check-ups for pregnant patients.

  • Average Salary: $120,880 (BLS)
  • Degree/Certification Required: MSN - Midwifery 
  • Career Outlook: 6% growth from 2022-2032 (BLS)

>> Show Me Online Nurse Midwife Programs

11. Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

Like advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), a CNS focuses on a specific population, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or obstetrics. However, CNSs focus on educating nurse staff and improving patient outcomes instead of caring for patients. 

Though they have advanced practice training, their job duties focus on evidence-based practice projects and research.

  • Average Salary: $94,545 (ZipRecruiter)
  • Degree/Certification Required: MSN - CNS
  • Career Outlook: 6% growth from 2018-2028 (Zippia)

12. Research Nurse

Research nurses conduct and assist with evidence-based research focusing on quantitative and qualitative research methods. 

Nurse researchers collaborate with other healthcare professionals, medical device companies, and pharmaceutical companies to conduct research. 

  • Average Salary: $91,797 (ZipRecruiter)
  • Degree/Certification Required: BSN
  • Career Outlook: 6% growth from 2018 to 2018 (Zippia)

13. Forensic Nurse 

An often controversial specialty, forensic nurses gather medical evidence from crime victims and provide expert testimony in court cases. 

Forensic nurses also work to educate other healthcare providers and the public and help victims process their experiences.

  • Average Salary: $66,963 (ZipRecruiter)
  • Degree/Certification Required: BSN
  • Career Outlook: 6% growth from 2022 to 2032 (BLS)

14. Informatics Nurse 

Nursing informaticists improve health systems, which can improve health outcomes for patients. 

These nurses work to develop communications and information technology systems while also serving as educators, specialists, researchers, and software engineers.

  • Average Salary: $98,409 (ZipRecruiter)
  • Degree/Certification Required: BSN
  • Career Outlook: 28% growth from 2022 to 2032 (BLS)

>> Show Me Nursing Informatics Programs

15. School Nurse

School nursing is one of the lower-paid nursing jobs, especially because many schools have summer breaks. However, they practice in a rewarding environment, helping kids every day. School nurses work in schools and universities, providing care to ill or injured students.

  • Average Salary: $67,035 (ZipRecruiter)
  • Degree/Certification Required: BSN
  • Career Outlook: 6% growth from 2022 to 2032 (BLS)


  • What is the best nursing career?

    • Although there are several fantastic nursing careers, the "best" depends on your needs, likes, and aspirations. You'll choose your ideal fit based on the specialty's education, salary, work schedule, and career advancement opportunities.
  • What is the career ladder for nursing?

    • Unlike other professions, nursing does not have a straightforward career ladder. Instead of title or role progression, the nursing ladder goes by education level. Nursing degrees progress from Associate’s to Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing, and Doctor of Nursing Practice.
  • Which nurses are the happiest?

    • CRNAs currently earn the highest salary and have the highest autonomy of all nursing specialties.
  • What type of nurse is most in demand?

    • According to the BLS, nurse practitioners are currently the highest in demand, with a projected growth of 45% from 2022 to 2023.
Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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