Overview of Nursing Careers

General Types of Nurses

RoleAcademic RequirementsCertification/LicensureEmployment Outlook
Home Health AideOn-the-job training is accepted in some states. Other states require formal training. If agencies receive reimbursement from Medicare, federal law suggests at least 75 hours of training.The National Association for Home Care (NAHC) offers national certification for Home Health Aides, which may be required by some employers.One of the fastest-growing occupations, at 48 percent, due to the high rate of turnover in this occupation and the large population of aging individuals.
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)Federal law requires at least 75 hours of training and passing of a competency evaluation exam that includes knowledge and skill test.The board of nursing or health in each state grants their specific title and placement on their registry for nursing assistants.Expected growth of CNAs is 21 percent, which is faster than average, because of aging of the U.S. population and a high turnover rate for this job.
Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN)Approximately 1 year of education. All states require the LPV/LVN to pass the NCLEX-PN licensing examination.License varies from state to state. Licenses may be issued by a state board of nursing or the department of labor\'s licensing and regulation agency.25 percent; above average growth
Registered Nurse (RN)Two to 4 years of education. All states require the RN to graduate from an accredited nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam.Licensure requirements vary among states. RN licenses are issued through the state of practice.Faster than average growth (19 percent) due to the variety of RN positions available and an aging population of nurses currently employed.
Advanced Practice Nurse (APN)Registered nurse licensure with undergraduate degree plus 1-2 years of graduate-level education.Different professional associations provide advanced nursing certificates. Each state differs in licensure according to specialty.Increasing growth due to increase in independent practice in rural areas/underserved areas and lower cost than that relative to a physician.

Specific Nursing Roles


Nurse Executive

photo_Nurse-ExecutiveNurse Executives work towards accomplishing the “big picture” objectives of healthcare facilities. Includes communicating productively with staff, promoting creative thinking and enforcing fiscal responsibility. Also facilitates continuing education courses for their personnel and urges them to become part of national nursing organizations. Has ability to form practice policies, in addition to overseeing quality of nursing team care.

Nurse Manager

photo_Nurse-ManagerNurse Managers assist patients by overseeing the nurses who treat them. Although these specialty nurses are primarily in charge of recruitment, management and retention of staff, from time to time they work with physicians on patient care, as well as helping patients and their families. Takes on numerous roles, including functioning as an intermediary between healthcare organizations, doctor groups and the nursing team.

Advanced Practice

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

photo_CRNANurse Anesthetists are specifically skilled in the administration, regulation and monitoring of anesthetics to patients undergoing surgical procedures. CRNAs have the ability to work autonomously or under a some level of oversight from an anesthesiologist or other physician, as determined by local medical legislature. Dating back to the Civil War, nursing anesthesia is recognized as the earliest specialty role for nurses.

Certified Nurse Midwife

photo_CNMCertified Nurse Midwives typically work in medical centers and clinics, as well as help deliver newborns in birthing facilities and at patient homes. These advanced practice nurses provide guidance and care to women from adolescence through menopausal years and may work in tandem with an Obstetrics/Gynecology physician, offering support and treatment to patients who experience issues related to birth or reproduction.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

photo_CNSClinical Nurse Specialists have an advanced scientific proficiency in a distinct clinical specialty (i.e. neuroscience, hematology, oncology), providing expert patient care or carrying out clinical studies to improve patient results. Apart from medical practice or research, functions can also involve teaching and consulting, as well as administrative and managerial roles. CNSs commonly offer guidance and mentorship to other nurses.

Nurse Practitioner

photo_NPNurse Practitioners carry out a number of the duties and responsibilities customarily performed by physicians. For example, NPs are qualified in providing full patient examinations, diagnosing and treating basic emergencies, illnesses and injuries, giving immunizations, ordering lab and radiology work, prescribing medications and counseling patients. The NP can operate both as part of a team with physicians and autonomously.

Pain Management Nurse

photo_Pain-Management-NursePain Management Nurses treat patients with acute and chronic pain. Responsibilities of these advanced nurses include determining the cause of pain and collaborating with other nursing staff and physicians to organize a treatment and care plan with the patients comfort a priority. They are also educators, teaching patients ways to help control their own pain with medicine as well as non-medicinal methods to alleviate discomfort.

Academia and Research

Nurse Educator

photo_Nurse-EducatorNurse Educators strive to prepare the future generation of nurses. These advanced nurses may instruct students pursuing an Associate’s, Bachelor’s and graduate degree in nursing, or help nurses attain various certifications and continuing education credits. With this role, you also have the opportunity carry out studies, compose funding proposals and help uphold various clinical criteria in the field of nursing.

Nurse Researcher

photo_Nurse-ResearcherNurse Researchers are scientists who perform studies and analyze data in an effort to advance the nursing industry. These researchers coordinate and lead studies, evaluate results, and present their findings. Work can be very analytical and meticulous, however it can also be among the most fulfilling, given these advanced practice nurses can make breakthroughs that directly affect the lives of both patients and the healthcare team.