The Top 6 Most Popular Career Paths for Nurses



There are many popular career paths for nurses to take, initially and throughout their tenure. The profession itself is one of the most flexible, and in no other position will you find the amount of job security you will in the nursing profession. In addition to the growing need for quality nursing staff, there is also a need for specializations and many nurses, newly minted and seasoned pros, are opting to take a specialized and specific career path. These popular choices offer the ability to grow with experience, and promote job satisfaction for those in the nursing profession.

Choosing a Career Path


Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

CRNA’s are advanced practice nurses whose chief responsibility it is to administer and maintain anesthesia. They are required to assess their patients and prepare them to receive anesthesia based upon their assessment. Further duties of a CRNA include administering pain relief, maintaining sedation, and monitoring the patient in recovery.

CRNA’s can find employment in various areas of healthcare including surgical centers, hospitals, dental clinics, and for surgeons and anesthesiologists as part of the surgical team. CRNA’s can expect to make an average of around $160,000.00.

The career path to Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist begins with a bachelor’s degree in a related field, and a master’s degree in nurse anesthesia. Upon completion of the master’s program for nurse anesthesia you must pass a national certification exam to practice legally as a CRNA.

Nurse Practitioner

Should you complete your BSN and wish to grow in your career path and income, think about becoming a nurse practitioner. Many healthcare facilities employ NP’s to work directly with patients. As a nurse practitioner you’re expected to examine, diagnose, and treat certain medical conditions, order tests and interpret the results, provide patient counseling and advise on how the patient can maintain a healthy lifestyle. NP’s are allowed to prescribe medication and in some areas of the country even set up private practice independent of a physician.

As a nurse practitioner you can work in hospitals, physicians offices, clinics, nursing homes, schools, college campuses, and certain government agencies. The field of nurse practitioner is growing and changing to meet the needs of the population. This career has a very exciting outlook.

In order to become an NP you must obtain your RN/BSN, and complete your masters of science in nursing. You can expect to earn about $75,000.00 annually as a full-time NP.

Nurse Researcher

For those who are interested in nursing but who don’t feel well-suited to the clinical environment, a position as a nurse researcher could start you on a wonderful career path. Nurse researchers are basically scientists. Your days will be devoted to research, including lab work, on health concerns and illnesses, as well as disease, and all aspects of human anatomy. Nurse researchers are constantly improving our healthcare by organizing specific scientific studies, fact-checking, analyzing data and reporting their findings to the proper organizations.

As a nurse researcher you’ll find employment in hospitals, research centers, universities, non-profits, government agencies and laboratories. You can begin at an entry level position with a bachelor of science in nursing, and advance your career path by earning a master’s in science or even a doctorate. Your annual salary, upon completion of required degrees, will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000.00.

Certified Nurse Midwife

Nurses with a special interest in the birthing process, should choose a career path in certified nurse midwifery. As a CNM you’ll tend to the patient throughout the pregnancy, during labor, birthing, and post-natal period. Midwives can prescribe medication, perform physical examinations, order tests, and do all they can to ensure a healthy pregnancy and birth. CNM’s also educate on ways to live a healthy lifestyle, at every stage of life.

It’s becoming a trend in busy birthing centers, hospitals, and OB practices to employ midwives as a part of the practice. Upon completion of your BSN and RN status you’ll be required to obtain your MSN, and pass a certification exam. Depending on your area of the country, and your experience, you can expect to earn an average annual salary of $91,000.00.

Nurse Educator

For the nurse who has grown tired of patient care, yet loves the profession a nurse educator is a marvelous career path to choose. As a nurse educator you’ll combine two of the most noble and rewarding professions there are: teaching and nursing. You’ll be responsible for designing lesson plans that cover course material, evaluate students, and provide supervision in clinical settings. You can teach the general nursing subjects such as biology, or specialized subjects pertaining to pediatrics, med-surg, orthopedics, and the like.

Nurse educators must obtain a master’s of science in nursing, with a specialty, and sometimes a doctoral degree is required by some universities. The job outlook for this career path is excellent. As a nurse educator you’ll have flexible schedule and the average salary is about $71,000.00 for the school year.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

For those with a high level of interest and experience in a certain specialty, the career path of the clinical nurse specialist is ideal for you. Clinical nurse specialists are responsible for diagnosing and treating certain injuries, illnesses, and conditions which pertain to their field of expertise. Pediatrics, critical care, oncology, psychiatric, and rehabilitative services are just a few of the specialties which employ CNS.

You’ll be required to advance your degree to a master of science in nursing, with a specialty, and possibly earn your doctorate. Clinical nurse specialists are employed in many types of healthcare facilities and hospitals and can expect to earn just under $80,000.00 annually.


Nurses will always be in demand, but you can increase your income potential and job satisfaction by following a specialized career path. Find out which one is right for you. No matter which one you choose, it’s sure to be rewarding

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