Types of Nurses: A Guide to Nursing Specialties

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Written by Kathleen Walder Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Diana Campion, MSN, APRN, ANP-C Content Writer, IntelyCare
African-American nurse in blue scrubs with her arms folded in the emergency room.

When you decide to go into nursing, you’ve got a lot to consider, from the nursing schools to attend, degrees to pursue, and types of nurses you can become. Nursing specialties are seemingly endless, so if you’re wondering, “What type of nurse should I be?” we’ve compiled a list that ranges from cardiac and NICU to home health and travel nursing — and just about everything in between. Check out the common duties, educational requirements, and salaries for different types of nursing jobs.

Note: All of these types of nurses must have an associate (ADN) or bachelor’s degree (BSN) in nursing from an accredited nursing program, a passing score on the NCLEX exam, and specific state requirements to obtain an RN license. It’s also strongly recommended after gaining experience in a subspecialty to obtain certification in that area for career advancement.

Types of Nurses

Here are 15 nursing jobs to consider:

  1. Home Health Nurse
  2. Geriatric Nurse
  3. Orthopedic Nurse
  4. Oncology Nurse
  5. Burn Care Nurse
  6. Emergency Nurse
  7. Operating Room Nurse
  8. Telemetry Nurse
  9. Cardiac Care Nurse
  10. Labor and Delivery Nurse
  11. Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) Nurse
  12. Travel Nurse
  13. Nurse Practitioner
  14. Certified Nurse Midwife
  15. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

1. Home Health Nurse

What You’d Do as a Home Health Nurse: In this role, you’d go to patients’ homes when patients are sick, injured, or are no longer able to independently perform activities of daily living. These types of nurses typically administer medications, provide catheter and wound care, and supervise LPNs and home health aides.

Typical Requirements: You can become a home health nurse with your degree and RN license. Learn more about being a home health nurse.

Median Salary: The median salary for a home health nurse is $29.71 per hour/$61,797 per year.

2. Geriatric Nurse

What You’d Do as a Geriatric Nurse: Geriatric nursing jobs are expected to grow by 19–26% in the next 10 years. This increase is due to the aging population that wants to stay healthy as they live longer and for those who develop long-term illnesses, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. As a geriatric nurse, you care for older patients, help meet their basic needs, and administer advanced treatments for physical and mental conditions.

Typical Requirements: You can become a geriatric nurse with your degree and RN license. After gaining experience, you can pursue Gerontological Nurse Board Certification (GERO-BC), which is recommended.

Median Salary: The median salary for a geriatric nurse is $37.33 per hour/$75,700 per year.

3. Orthopedic Nurse

What You’d Do as an Orthopedic Nurse: Orthopedic (also spelled orthopaedic) nurses take care of patients with arthritis, bone fractures, joint replacements, and anything else to do with musculoskeletal diseases and disorders. You help patients recover and regain mobility and strength by performing therapeutic treatments, putting on casts, and assisting with surgery. You also teach patients and their caregivers how to heal and recuperate once they are home.

Typical Requirements: Your degree and RN license, plus state requirements, can get you started. Once you have two years of experience and have worked 1,000 hours as an orthopedic RN, you are eligible to apply for certification as an orthopedic nurse.

Median Salary: The median salary for an orthopedic nurse is $35.42 per hour/$73,681 per year.

4. Oncology Nurse

What You’d Do as an Oncology Nurse: Oncology nurses provide their expertise and support to cancer patients and are members of cancer care teams. You assess patients, administer treatments, and communicate with all team members. These types of nurses often answer questions, address symptoms, and validate the emotional reactions of patients and their loved ones.

Typical Requirements: For you to become an oncology nurse, employers prefer one to three years of acute care nursing experience unless they offer a program for new grads. Not required, but suggested for increased career mobility and compensation, you can earn an ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy Biotherapy Certificate.

Median Salary: The median salary for an oncology nurse is $35.24 per hour/$73,299 per year.

5. Burn Care Nurse

What You’d Do as a Burn Care Nurse: A burn care nurse works in a hospital burn unit treating patients who have been burned in a house or building fire, or by hot water, oil, chemicals, or electricity. Along with dressing and caring for patients’ wounds, you’ll give emotional support and teach family and caregivers how to continue care at home.

Typical Requirements: ICU or trauma center experience. These types of nurses can take training in advanced burn life support. The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) is developing a specialty certification: Certified Burn Registered Nurse (CBRN).

Median Salary: The median salary for a burn care nurse is $35.48 per hour/$73,798 per year.

6. Emergency Nurse

What You’d Do as an Emergency Nurse: Emergency nurses work in a hospital emergency department (ED) or urgent care center, treating patients with a wide variety of critical illnesses and injuries. As with a number of nursing specialties, it’s a fast-paced job requiring ultra-sharp decision-making skills.

Typical Requirements: BLS, ACLS, PALS (pediatric advanced life support), and previous nursing experience are must-haves. To qualify for emergency nurse certification (CEN), which is recommended, you need approximately one to two years of ED experience.

Median Salary: The median salary for an ED nurse is $41.27 per hour/$85,844 per year.

7. Operating Room (OR) Nurses

What You’d Do as an OR Nurse: These types of nurses are also called surgical or perioperative nurses. As an OR nurse, you care for patients before, during, and after operations. You set up the operating room and manage surgical instruments. During operations, you perform tasks such as applying bandages and controlling and maintaining patient bleeding.

Typical Requirements: You’ll first need the minimum of 2,400 nursing experience with 1,200 hours of a peri-operative experience nurse to qualify for preoperative nurse certification (CNOR), which is recommended. Many employers require one to two years of nursing experience, preferably in acute care, to apply for an OR nurse position.

Median Salary: The median salary for an OR nurse is $32.91 per hour/$68,450 per year.

8. Telemetry RN

What You’d Do as a Telemetry RN: A telemetry nurse works in progressive care nursing. Your singular responsibility is to monitor cardiac patients to identify unusual and dangerous heart rhythms that could lead to complications and emergent situations.

Typical Requirements: After gaining experience, certification is recommended. There are different certifications available. Employers tend to require or prefer BLS and ACLS certifications.

Median Salary: The median salary for a telemetry nurse is $34.03 per hour/$70,782 per year.

9. Cardiac Care Nurse

What You’d Do as a Cardiac Care Nurse: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., which means cardiac care nurses are kept busy. As a cardiac care nurse, you take care of patients with heart disease, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and those recovering from bypass surgery. You work hands-on with patients and have lots of variety in your work with different daily tasks, situations, and challenges.

Typical Requirements: After approximately two years of acute care experience with 875+ hours of direct patient cardiac RN experience, you are eligible for cardiac RN certification, which is encouraged. Some employers often require a certification in Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support.

Median Salary: The median salary for a cardiac care nurse is $31.44 per hour/$65,395 yearly.

10. Labor and Delivery Nurse

What You’d Do as a Labor and Delivery Nurse: These types of nurses care for expectant mothers before, during, and after birth. In this role, you also assist doctors with birth and communicate vital information to the birthing team. Additionally, you calm and support the parents, family members, and/or support person in the delivery room.

Typical Requirements: You need to complete an obstetrics rotation as part of your degree program. Some employers accept new grads, but others require previous nursing experience. Learn more about how to become a labor and delivery nurse.

Median Salary: The median labor and delivery nurse salary is $37.70 per hour/$78,410 per year.

11. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurse (NICU)

What You’d Do as a NICU Nurse: This is one of the most demanding nursing specialties. As a nurse in the NICU, you are part of a team that provides immediate care for ill and premature newborns. You perform medical procedures and administer tests, chart progress, and document vital signs. You also provide hands-on care to change diapers and feed infants. You will also attend high-risk deliveries.

Typical Requirements: After obtaining experience as a neonatal ICU nurse, certification for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC) or Critical Care Registered Nurse-Neonatal is recommended. Learn more about being a NICU nurse.

Median Salary: The median pay for a NICU nurse is $34.20 per hour/$71,136 per year.

12. Travel Nurse

What You’d Do as a Travel Nurse: As a travel nurse, you take temporary nursing jobs that last anywhere from eight to 13 weeks. Traveling abroad may give you longer assignments of one to two years. Many different kinds of nurses choose to become travel nurses. In order to provide care for patients, travel nurses are often sent to areas with a lack of sufficient nursing staff.

Typical Requirements: You can become a travel nurse with your degree and RN license. It’s recommended that you have two years of nursing experience.

Median Salary: The median salary for a travel nurse is $37.16 per hour/$77,293 per year, with all travel and housing provided.

13. Nurse Practitioner

What You’d Do as a Nurse Practitioner: Nurse practitioners provide primary and specialty care, diagnosing, treating, and counseling patients. As an NP, you can prescribe medications, and depending on your state, you may be able to open an independent practice. Nurse practitioners fill the gap in primary care healthcare professionals, especially in outpatient centers and rural locations. You can also be an NP specializing in targeted types of nursing, including pediatrics, women’s health, and psychiatry.

Typical Requirements: You need an MSN degree and board certification. Learn more about how to become a nurse practitioner.

Median Salary: The median salary for a nurse practitioner is $49.52 per hour/$103,000 per year.

14. Certified Nurse Midwife

What You’d Do as a Certified Nurse Midwife: A certified nurse midwife is an advanced practice nurse that cares for pregnant women who prefer holistic care and want to give birth at home or in a specialized birthing environment. Your work begins with prenatal visits and continues through labor, delivery, and postpartum counseling. Many of these types of nurses decide to open their own practices in states that allow independent nurse midwives.

Typical Requirements: MSN or DNP degree in Nurse Midwifery, and board certification as a nurse midwife. Learn more about how to become a nurse midwife.

Median Salary: The median salary for a certified nurse midwife is $48.51 per hour/$98,000 per year.

15. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

What You’d Do as a CRNA: CRNA is a highly skilled and complex specialty, and it’s one of the higher-paid types of nurses. You administer anesthesia and provide pain management and related care before, during, and after surgery.

Typical Requirements: You need a minimum of one year in an acute care setting, an MSN or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Nurse Anesthesiology, and a nurse anesthetist certification. Learn more about how to become a nurse anesthetist.

Median Salary: The median salary for a CRNA is $83.17 per hour/$173,000 per year.

Choose Your Specialty, Then Choose Your Schedule

Making a career choice from all the types of nurses is a very personal decision. Shouldn’t you have the same options about when and where you work? IntelyCare thinks so. We simplify scheduling so that you can work according to your lifestyle and location. If that sounds like a choice you’d like to make, start your application today.