national
Close Nav

Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

March 16, 2018

Nursing & Healthcare

Top 5 careers in nursing.

Careers in nursing require a mix of technical, job-specific skills and soft skills like communication and bedside manner – both types are valuable, and there are many nursing specialties to work in.

As you consider which skills and qualifications you want to acquire, here is a look at the top 5 careers in nursing based on salary, education, and projected job growth.

Nurse interacting with a patient

1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).

In order to get a job as a CRNA, you must complete a Master of Science in Nursing degree program and pass a certification exam. As of May 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported nurse anesthetist’s median salary at $160,270, and the specialty is expected to see growth of 25% between 2012 and 2022.

2. General Nurse Practitioner.

A master’s degree is necessary to become a Nurse Practitioner, but due to the large number of specialties that a general nurse practitioner can work in, education requirements beyond a master’s can vary.

Some may choose to complete a doctoral degree program to further their knowledge, but it is not mandatory. The median salary is $100,910 as of May 2016 according to the BLS, and the specialty is expected to grow 31% between 2016 and 2026.

3. Gerontological Nurse Practitioner.

The first step to becoming a GNP is to complete a registered nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN to obtain licensure for your respective state. To practice as a GNP, you must also earn a Master of Science – Nursing degree. Some programs specifically include a focus on gerontological nursing. Upon completion of an MSN and sufficient clinical experience (minimum of 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours according to registerednursing.org), you will complete a GNP certificate program and take the certification exam. The BLS reported a median annual salary of $95,070 as of May 2013. Between 2014-2024, jobs are expected to grow by 35%.

4. Family Nurse Practitioner - Pain Management.

Specializing in pain management takes several years of training. A Bachelor’s of Science, Nursing degree is preferred, and candidates must first pass the NCLEX-RN exam to earn their licensing. Two years of full-time work experience as a registered nurse is required, plus a minimum of 2,000 hours of experience in pain management over the previous 3 years.

Within those same 3 years, candidates will complete 30 hours of continuing education – 15 of which need to relate to pain management. The final step is a computer-based certification exam of 175 questions, which is valid for 5 years.

Indeed.com lists the current median salary at around $101,000 but varies depending on city, state, education, and place of employment. Job growth specific to the specialty is not available, but the demand for Registered Nurses is growing.

5. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner.

To work in psychiatrics, you must first earn a RN license after completing an associate or bachelor’s degree, with most employers preferring a BSN. Education requirements vary between states, but most require you to attend an accredited institution.

You are then required to pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX) to obtain licensure. RNs can work in psychiatric nursing without a bachelor’s or master’s degree, but most choose to obtain RN-BC training anyway.

To take the RN-BC exam, your license must be current with two years of work experience under your belt, or you must be currently working as an RN full-time. Thirty hours of continuing education in psychiatric-mental health over three years plus 2,000 clinical practice hours is mandatory to sit for the exam. The credential is renewable every five years.

Specific job growth information is not currently available, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for nurse practitioners in general is expected to rise 31% by 2024. Payscale.com lists the median salary at $97,975.

In conclusion, it is important to note that the nursing field as a whole is expected to see strong growth in the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an increased demand for registered nurses from 2016-2026 for several reasons, including an aging population, increased financial pressure on hospitals with more patients, and growth in patients entering long-term care facilities, among other things.

Thus, no matter what path nurses take, their future job prospects are only getting stronger.

Share this:

One online university. Four colleges. Flexible degrees.

Our focus on your success starts with our focus on four high-demand fields: K–12 teaching and education, nursing and healthcare, information technology, and business. Every degree program at WGU is tied to a high-growth, highly rewarding career path. Which college fits you?

Want to see all the degrees WGU has to offer? View all degrees