Nurse smiling at a tablet in a hospital hallway

The 15 Best Hospital Nursing Jobs in 2024

Discover Some of the Best Specialties for Nursing Professionals.

Nurse smiling at a tablet in a hospital hallway

Whether you’re an active nurse or an aspiring one, you will likely consider specialization at some point in your career. This is because nursing specialties allow healthcare professionals to meet the complex needs of the human condition. By pursuing specialization, nurses demonstrate a commitment to professional growth, lifelong learning, and medical competency. Think about it: Nursing specialties help improve safety and quality of care in the healthcare system.

This kind of specialized knowledge is especially important in hospitals. All kinds of conditions and illnesses are treated at hospitals around the world. This means that patients benefit from medical professionals who specialize in various areas. For instance, some nurses choose a career in oncology, while others might pursue geriatrics or pediatrics. There are so many paths you can follow, so it’s usually best to pursue your passion.

Our guide will provide you with more information about the top 15 types of hospital nursing specialties. Continue reading to learn about the requirements, responsibilities, and rationale behind each specialization on our list.

(Click here to learn about the highest paying nursing jobs.)

How Many Nurses Work in Hospitals?

Hospitals maintain some of the highest levels of employment for nurses in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), almost two million Registered Nurses (RNs) currently work in general medical and surgical hospitals. This group contains about 30% of industry employment, while outpatient care centers come in second place and only reach 14%.

Furthermore, healthcare-related occupations represent more than seven percent of California’s total employment. This rate may even increase over the next few years due to the aging population and technological advances, creating more employment opportunities for healthcare professionals. In addition, there are several nursing shortages across the U.S., which are largely due to active nurses reaching retirement age.

Recently, Nurse Journal has highlighted various nursing and healthcare trends that we can expect to see in the near future. Some of their callouts include elevated job growth for nurses, changing care models, particularly for nursing skills in hospital units, higher wages for nursing professionals, the use of AI in helping nurses learn more and avoid burnout, and greater numbers will pursue nursing specializations.

Nurse Journal has even predicted that these four specialties will “explode” in the next decade or so: mental health nursing, emergency and critical care, nursing education and leadership, and community health nursing.

The Different Types of Nurses in Hospitals

In our list, you’ll find a number of hospital nursing jobs. We encourage you to continue reading and dive deeper into each specialty. Of course, there are many wonderful specialties you can choose from; these are just the standouts we wanted to highlight today.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the specializations you can expect to see:

  • Nurse Administrator
  • Surgical Nurse
  • Pediatric Nurse
  • Emergency Nurse
  • Geriatric Nurse
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse
  • Critical Care Nurse
  • Wound Care Nurse
  • Palliative Care Nurse
  • Oncology Nurse
  • Cardiac Nurse
  • Rehabilitation Nurse
  • Psychiatric Nurse
  • Infection Control Nurse
  • Nurse Midwife


Female nurse administrator sitting at a desk

1. Nurse Administrator

While some pursue nursing to work with patients, others enjoy the managerial and leadership aspects within a hospital or other healthcare settings. Nursing Administrators represent the second category. These individuals thrive when it comes to hospital management and seeing the bigger picture.

What is a Nurse Administrator?

Nurse Administrators are usually Registered Nurses who fill collaborative roles in leadership. They work with a number of other professionals, such as hospital administrators and CEOs. Some of their primary tasks revolve around staffing, scheduling, and making organizational decisions.

What Does a Nurse Administrator Do?

Nurse Administrators often focus on the business side of nursing and healthcare. Their responsibilities often include hiring, budgeting, and scheduling nurses for a healthcare system. In addition, they help foster communication between doctors and executives to ensure that everyone’s voices are heard.

Where Do Nurse Administrators Work?

While Nurse Administrators tend to work in hospitals, they may also oversee a network of hospitals, nursing homes, long-term rehabilitation centers, and several other healthcare facilities.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Nurse Administrator?

Aspiring Nurse Administrators can expect to commit at least six years to their professional development. First, you must become an RN, ideally with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. After graduation, you will need to take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain your nursing license. Keep in mind that advanced degrees like a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) will make you a more desirable candidate.

These educational periods are followed by several years of training in the field. Did you know that many detectives start as beat cops? In a similar vein, you must gain experience as an RN before you advance to a managerial role. Doing so will give you a better understanding of the job and needs of your future staff.

There are also continuing education requirements for Nurse Administrators. Every now and then, you will need to complete additional courses to maintain your license. The same goes for certifications like the Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC®) from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). You can learn more about the eligibility requirements for this certification here.

Learn More

Click here to learn more about how to become a Nurse Administrator.


Nurse holding equipment in the operating room

2. Surgical Nurse

A Surgical Nurse may also be known as a scrub nurse, operating room (OR) nurse, or perioperative nurse. They are Registered Nurses who assist OR teams during surgeries. On a typical day, they will care for people before, during, and after surgery. These procedures can range from lifesaving to elective ones.

What is a Surgical Nurse?

Surgical Nurses offer both pre and post-op teaching in this role. In addition, they perform several tasks in the operating room. They also tend to patients in recovery rooms and provide them with post-surgical care. Some surgical subspecialties include areas like the following:

  • Neurosurgery
  • Cardiac Surgery
  • Trauma
  • Pediatrics
  • Oncology
  • General Surgery
  • Urology

What Does a Surgical Nurse Do?

A Surgical Nurse acts as the right hand of the surgeon they assist. Not only do they anticipate the needs of the surgical team, but they must know a wide array of surgical equipment. Some of their tasks include but are not limited to the following:

  • Surgically scrub the patient before their procedure
  • Prepare the operating room for surgery
  • Ensure the surgical tools are sterilized and ready for use
  • Scrub in during operations as directed by the surgeon
  • Hand the surgeon various tools during each procedure
  • Count equipment before and after procedures
  • Collaborate and communicate with the surgical team

Where Do Surgical Nurses Work?

Surgical Nurses can work in a variety of settings. These include ambulatory surgery centers, day surgery centers, clinics, and physician offices. Perhaps most commonly, they work in hospitals; they often perform tasks in areas like operating rooms and recovery rooms.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Surgical Nurse?

In order to become a Surgical Nurse, you will likely need to attend an accredited nursing program, pass the NCLEX-RN licensure exam, gain additional training or experience, and seek certification. When it comes to experience in the field, you will probably be required to obtain an additional year of education and training. You can find this through on-the-job programs in surgery centers or hospitals. Another option is to pursue a program with a post-bachelor’s perioperative certificate.

Once you are ready, you can seek certification as a CNOR, CFPN, or CNAMB from the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI). Eligibility requirements vary but generally include things like a current RN license and at least 2,000 hours of experience. Visit their website for more information.

Learn More

Click here to learn more about how to become a Surgical Nurse.


Female nursing smiling at a young boy in a hospital bed

3. Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric Nurses devote their lives to caring for children from infancy through their teen years. This specialized role allows nurses to focus on the medical care of children. As you can imagine, this field is crucial to the overall health and well-being of adolescents. Children experience a high amount of growth and development during the period Pediatric Nurses care for them. This path appeals to various nurses because it creates opportunities to provide young patients with new, promising futures.

What is a Pediatric Nurse?

A Pediatric Nurse is a Registered Nurse (RN) or an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) with specialized training in the field of pediatrics. Today, we will focus on Pediatric Nurses who are Registered Nurses. Pediatric Nurses work with patients that range from newborns to teenagers. To provide optimal care, these nurses must possess specialized knowledge to address various conditions that are relevant to children.

Pediatric Nurses provide medical care to children in healthcare settings like a doctor’s office or a hospital’s pediatric department. They play a crucial role in ensuring that adolescents receive proper care. In this position, they promote the health and well-being of pediatric populations.

What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?

A Pediatric Nurse is tasked with a range of critical duties and responsibilities that are essential to the welfare of pediatric patients. In this role, they are responsible for monitoring the conditions of their pediatric patients. They must be quick to recognize any subtle changes or reactions. In addition, Pediatric Nurses must know how to communicate with children of such a young age. This means understanding both verbal and non-verbal cues, incorporating a great deal of sensitivity and a comforting bedside manner into each visit, etc.

Pediatric Nurses are responsible for patients that range in age from newborns to teenagers. As you can imagine, their patients require a different approach than adult ones. Their responsibilities can range from medication administration to physical assessments, patient education, and more. It’s also vital that Pediatric Nurses collaborate with other healthcare professionals to address the unique needs of children.

Where Do Pediatric Nurses Work?

Pediatric Nurses can work in a variety of healthcare facilities, offering a wide range of experiences and professional growth. Some of these facilities include pediatric hospitals, clinics, and community health centers. Pediatric nurses can also work in private pediatricians’ offices and surgical centers.

In a similar vein, Pediatric Nurses may pursue specialized roles in pediatric oncology or pediatric cardiology. These types of nurses bring a great deal of comfort to their young patients in several acute care departments, such as neonatal units, pediatric critical care units, and pediatric oncology wards.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Pediatric Nurse?

Below are some of the general educational requirements for becoming a Pediatric Registered Nurse.

  • Earn a Nursing Degree: Obtain a nursing degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). This will serve as the foundation for your nursing career.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam: Successfully complete the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), a standardized test to obtain a nursing license.
  • Gain Clinical Experience: Acquire experience in Pediatric Nursing. You can start with entry-level positions to ensure that the specialty is a good fit for you. Once you have gained experience, you can pursue certification in pediatrics.

Certifications for Pediatric Nurses

Though not always required, becoming a certified Pediatrics Nurse can open many doors for employment and career advancement. Certification can help reassure patients and demonstrate your capabilities in the field. Additionally, Magnet hospitals usually encourage certification so that they can maintain their Magnet status.

Each certificate has its own eligibility criteria, exam, and renewal requirements. Currently, there are three major organizations that offer certification in Pediatric Nursing:

  1. Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PCNB)
  2. American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  3. National Certification Corporation (NCC)

Learn More

Click here to learn more about how to become a Pediatric Nurse.


Medical professionals in the ER transporting a patient

4. Emergency Nurse

Emergency Nurses live up to their name and care for people during critical situations. Every day, they make a difference in the lives of others. If you thrive in fast-paced environments, enjoy the unexpected, and want to make a positive impact, then specializing as an Emergency Nurse might be the career path for you.

What is an Emergency Nurse?

These nurses work specifically in the emergency room of a hospital. They care for patients who have severe, even life-threatening conditions. The primary goal of an ER nurse is to identify medical issues and provide their patients with urgent care to minimize long-term effects, lessen trauma, and sustain life. In other words, Emergency Nurses must quickly assess a patient and make crucial decisions in a short amount of time. They ensure that the most critical patients are treated first.

What Does an Emergency Nurse Do?

It’s probably safe to say that no day is the same for Emergency Nurses. Their patients may suffer from a range of medical issues, such as broken bones, heart attacks, and gunshot wounds. They rapidly triage patients based on severity and work with other healthcare professionals in the process. Some of their responsibilities may include applying stitches or sutures, starting intravenous lines (IVs), performing intubations or tracheotomies, setting broken bones, and more.

Where Do Emergency Nurses Work?

As their name suggests, ER nurses typically work in the emergency rooms of hospitals. However, with additional training, some may work as flight nurses, critical-care transport nurses, burn center nurses, military nurses, and more. There are also emergency nurses who specifically work at centers for pediatric or geriatric patients.

What Are the Requirements to Become an Emergency Nurse?

Like the other specializations on our list, you must start by completing an accredited nursing program and passing the licensure exam. Once you’ve become a Registered Nurse, acquire at least two years of experience and obtain your credential as a Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN). This is a national certification that demonstrates your level of expertise in the area of emergency care.

In addition, you can pursue the following CEN specializations:

  • Flight emergency nursing (CFRN)
  • Pediatric emergency nursing (CPEN)
  • Critical care ground transport nursing (CTRN)

Learn More

Click here to learn more about how to become an Emergency Nurse.


Female medical professional with elderly woman

5. Gerontological Nurse

Before choosing the type of nurse you’d like to become, you should consider the patients you are most likely to treat. Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners (AGNPs) work with a wide range of the aging population. They are also one of the highest-paid nurses in the United States. Gerontological Nurses rank high on our list because of their immeasurably vital role in our healthcare system, as well as their independence and autonomy as nurse practitioners.

What is a Gerontological Nurse?

The role of a Gerontological Nurse can be defined as an advanced practice nurse with a clinical focus on treating patients from adolescence through adult ages and into geriatrics. Thanks to their advanced degree and training, Gerontological Nurses work with a broad patient population in numerous settings. They have the authority to prescribe medication, order and analyze diagnostic tests, and develop treatment plans for their patients.

There are two primary types of Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners:

  1. Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP) – These nurses work with adults who suffer from acute illnesses. Their areas of practice may include critical care, cardio-pulmonary, emergency/trauma care, oncology, or surgery. AG-ACNPs are authorized to diagnose and treat a wide variety of medical conditions.
  2. Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-PNCP) – AG-PCNP nurses provide care to adults and adolescents. It’s their job to help their patients lead healthier lifestyles while educating them on topics such as disease prevention or managing chronic illnesses. AG-PNCPs can work in a variety of healthcare settings, including internal medicine, student health, clinics, and ambulatory care centers.

What Does a Gerontological Nurse Do?

As people age, they can become fragile and require specialized care. Gerontological Nurses not only care for the elderly, but they also serve a wide range of patient groups, from adolescence through adulthood.

Gerontological Nurses conduct patient exams, diagnose health problems, develop patient treatment plans, and prescribe medications. They can also evaluate the performance of these treatment plans, adjusting them as necessary and keeping detailed records of their patient’s history and progress.

Where Do Gerontological Nurses Work?

Gerontological Nurses can work in a variety of medical centers and facilities, including private practices, specialty clinics, hospitals, community health centers, healthcare technology companies, healthcare research, and schools and colleges.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Gerontological Nurse?

To become a Gerontological Nurse, you must earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree as well as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. During this process, you must also pass the NCLEX-RN exam in order to become a licensed Registered Nurse (RN). As a final step, you can seek Nurse Practitioner (NP) certification from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners or the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

A typical AGNP position may include the following job requirements:

  1. Current RN license
  2. Master of Science in Nursing degree
  3. Nurse Practitioner certification
  4. Prior professional experience as an RN or Nurse Practitioner

Learn More

Click here to learn more about how to become a Geriatric Nurse.


Neonatal nurse holding a newborn baby

6. Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse

A Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse looks after newborns or infants with issues such as birth defects, infection, prematurity, surgical problems, or cardiac malformations. Although the neonatal period covers the first month of life, these newborn patients can be sick for months at a time. In fact, some Neonatal Nurses might even care for infants till they reach about two years of age.

What is a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse?

Nurses who work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) provide care to infants with a number of illnesses or conditions. These individuals possess remarkable compassion and empathy as they care for society’s most vulnerable members.

What Does a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse Do?

When looking at the role of a NICU nurse, keep in mind that there are distinct levels of neonatal care, which dictates the kind of tasks nurses can perform at these facilities. The categories range from Level I (Basic Newborn Care) all the way to Level IV (Highest Level of Neonatal Care). In general, though, NICU nurses maintain responsibilities like the following:

  • Provide comfort as well as care to vulnerable patients
  • Collaborate with other medical professionals on the NICU team
  • Deliver treatments or medication that has been prescribed by a physician(s)
  • Educate family members on infant care and each patient’s unique needs
  • Utilize the latest equipment and technological devices

Where Do Neonatal Intensive Care Nurses Work?

Like the other specialties on our list, you will most often find NICU nurses in privately owned or public hospitals. However, some may gain employment in home health settings, community health organizations, and medical evacuation and transport services.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse?

Before you can become a NICU nurse, you must start by earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Then, you must pass the NCLEX-RN licensure exam and become a Registered Nurse. While certification is not always required, NICU nurses must typically have a certain degree of clinical experience. Certification will certainly make you a more desirable candidate, though, and it can lead to greater opportunities for your career.

Here are a few places you can seek certification:

  • The RNC-NIC credential for neonatal intensive care nursing from the National Certification Corporation (NCC). Eligibility requirements may include…
    • A current Registered Nurse license
    • Employment in a neonatal-related field during the last two years
    • At least 2,000 hours of neonatal specialty experience OR two years of experience working with infants as an RN
  • CCRN (Neonatal), CCRN-K (Neonatal), or ACCNS-N credential from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN). Eligibility requirements may include…
    • A current Registered Nurse license
    • At least 1,750 hours as an RN or APRN in the care of critically or acutely ill infants during the last two years.


    • At least five years of experience as an RN or APRN and a minimum of 2,000 hours in the care of critically ill infants.

Learn More

Click here to learn more about how to become a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse.


Blonde nurse standing next to an intubated patient

7. Critical Care Nurse

Critical Care Nurses are the backbone of intensive care units (ICUs) across the United States. Every year, millions of patients are admitted to ICUs with life-threatening conditions. Thanks to physicians and Critical Care Nurses, these people can receive the treatment they need to survive. As the population ages and healthcare becomes increasingly specialized, medical facilities must seek highly trained and adaptable professionals to meet this demand.

Critical care is exactly how it sounds, which means that nurses in these environments must be ready for whatever is thrown at them. Typically, you will find Critical Care Nurses in ICUs or emergency rooms (ERs).

What is a Critical Care Nurse?

A Critical Care Nurse provides medical care to people who have sudden, life-threatening injuries or illnesses. They work in fast-paced settings like ICUs, ERs, and cardiac care or telemetry units. They play a crucial role in ensuring that critically ill patients receive specialized care. In this position, they monitor and manage patients with serious and complex medical needs.

What Does a Critical Care Nurse Do?

A Critical Care Nurse is tasked with a range of critical duties and responsibilities that are essential to the healthcare system. In this role, they are responsible for monitoring the conditions of their patients. They must be quick to recognize any subtle changes or reactions. In addition, Critical Care Nurses must collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, case managers, therapists, and other nurses.

Think of it like this: Critical Care Nurses are responsible for all care that’s given to each patient. These responsibilities can range from tracheotomies to ventilator care, medication administration, intravenous insertion and infusion, central line care, and more. Above all else, Critical Care Nurses must always be prepared to perform CPR or other lifesaving methods. As you can see, it’s vital for nurses to make rapid decisions and work well with others so that they can manage emergencies in Critical Care Nursing.

Where Do Critical Care Nurses Work?

Critical Care Nurses can work in a variety of healthcare facilities, offering a wide range of experiences and professional growth. Some of these facilities include intensive care units, emergency departments, trauma centers, and cardiac catheterization labs. Critical Care Nurses can also work in progressive care units and post-anesthesia care units.

In a similar vein, Critical Care Nurses may pursue specialized roles in cardiac care, neurology, or neonatal intensive care. Even when it comes to ICUs, there’s a great deal of variety for these nurses. They may work in a pediatric ICU, a neonatal ICU, etc. Others work in burn care units where they stabilize acutely burned patients and treat and monitor burn wounds.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Critical Care Nurse?

Here are the educational requirements for becoming a Critical Care Nurse:

  • Earn a Nursing Degree: Obtain an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. A BSN is often preferred and may enhance job opportunities.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam: Successfully complete the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), a standardized test to obtain a nursing license.
  • Gain Clinical Experience: Acquire experience in Critical Care Nursing. You can start with entry-level positions, such as an ICU nurse. Once you have gained a certain degree of experience (such as two years), you can pursue certification to become a Certified Critical Care Nurse (CCRN).

Certifications for Critical Care Nurses

Though not necessary, becoming a Certified Critical Care Nurse (CCRN) can open many doors for employment and career advancement. This certification can help reassure patients and demonstrate your capabilities in the field. Additionally, Magnet hospitals usually encourage certification so that they can maintain their Magnet status.

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) offers the CCRN certification. They also offer other certifications in critical care, such as cardiac medicine, progressive care, and tele-ICU. To achieve CCRN certification, the AACN requires that you hold an active RN license and meet one of the below options:

  1. At least 1,750 hours caring for critically ill patients within your last two years of service, with half of those hours being completed in the most recent year.
  2. At least 2,000 hours caring for critically ill patients within your last five years of service, with 144 of those hours being completed in the most recent year.

Learn More

Click here to learn more about how to become a Critical Care Nurse.


Nurse wrapping an elderly woman's hand in gauze

8. Wound Care Nurse

All nurses provide care for wounds, but a Wound Care Nurse specializes in more complex wounds. They work to prevent skin breakdown while evaluating, planning, and administering care for complicated wounds.

What is a Wound Care Nurse?

These Registered Nurses specialize in treating wounds and even ostomy or continence care. They provide care to people who suffer from a number of chronic and acute wounds. Sometimes, these patients might be bedridden.

What Does a Wound Care Nurse Do?

Although it might sound simple, the role of a Wound Care Nurse is anything but: These professionals evaluate deep wounds, skin tears, severe burns, ostomies, diabetic foot wounds, pressure injuries or bedsores, and other conditions. Wound Care Nurses design a plan of care that other nurses follow. To prevent wounds from worsening, they also perform specialized procedures (i.e., removing dead tissue or cleaning wounds), educate colleagues, patients, and families on proper care, chart information, write nursing orders, and more.

Where Do Wound Care Nurses Work?

Wound Care Nurses normally work in acute-care hospitals or home-health settings. They may also work in long-term residential and skilled nursing facilities. In addition, Wound Care Nurses are often on call for these facilities, as residents can develop complex wounds any time of day.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Wound Care Nurse?

Due to this highly specialized type of nursing, many Wound Care Nurses possess a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree or higher. They have active RN licenses (at the minimum) and specialized training. Additionally, certification is mandatory for these professionals. They must become Certified Wound Care Nurses (CWCN) through the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing Certification Board.

You can choose from several types of certifications, which include foot care, wound, ostomy, continence, wound treatment associate, and advanced practice. Visit their website to learn about eligibility requirements for each kind of certification.


Nurse comforting a sick patient

9. Palliative Care Nurse

Palliative Care Nurses fill a very challenging but rewarding role in healthcare. They provide comfort, support, and care to critically ill patients or those near the end of their life. One of their primary responsibilities is to relieve pain. In addition, these Registered Nurses can help patients create care plans or end-of-life decisions.

What is a Palliative Care Nurse?

Nurses in palliative care may provide their patients with short or long-term services. They often tend to patients who are terminally ill, providing comfort and supporting families. In this role, there is an element of bereavement care. Just like NICU nurses, Palliative Care Nurses care for some of the most vulnerable members of society.

What Does a Palliative Care Nurse Do?

The key responsibilities of a Palliative Care Nurse include alleviating physical symptoms, providing pain management, administering medication, offering emotional support, and advising families on patient conditions. If you think about it, Palliative Care Nurses assist patients across their lifespan. They may have conditions such as dementia, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.

Where Do Palliative Care Nurses Work?

Palliative Care Nurses can find employment in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and outpatient settings (i.e., home care). They also work in mental health clinics or correctional facilities. Some Palliative Care Nurses even work in veterans’ homes.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Palliative Care Nurse?

By now, you know the drill—aspiring nurses must complete an accredited program and pass the NCLEX licensure exam. For this specialization, you should also acquire at least two years of clinical experience in a critical or acute-care setting (i.e., an intensive care unit or a hospital emergency room). To provide the best care possible and be the ideal candidate, pursue certification in palliative care with entities like the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center.

Some of these certifications include Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (ACHPN®), Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN®), and Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurse (CHPPN®).


How to become an oncology nurse

10. Oncology Nurse

Many of us have been affected by cancer in one way or another. We may know people who were diagnosed with cancer or even through first-hand experience. For people in the medical profession, those experiences may influence their decision to specialize in oncology, a branch of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Some of the unsung heroes in healthcare are Oncology Nurses.

What is an Oncology Nurse?

Oncology nurses care for patients who are diagnosed with cancer. In addition to caring for patients, oncology nurses also provide counseling support to their patients’ families and caregivers.

Oncology nurses can make a real difference in the lives of others. It is an admirable career path that offers learning experiences, monetary rewards, and professional growth. Throughout their careers, oncology nurses can develop meaningful relationships with their patients and other members of the oncology medical team.

What Does an Oncology Nurse Do?

The duties of an oncology nurse may depend on their level of education and training. Some oncology nurses are registered nurses (RNs), while others are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Oncology nurses who have earned APRN status are referred to as oncology nurse practitioners.

Oncology nursing responsibilities revolve around caring for their patients, families, and communities. According to, the role of the oncology nurse has grown to include various elements of care, such as:

  • Cancer education and prevention
  • Cancer screening
  • Nurse navigation
  • Nursing management
  • Research
  • Direct patient care

Where Do Oncology Nurses Work?

Oncology nurses can find employment in numerous healthcare settings. These include hospitals, cancer centers, clinics, physician offices, home care agencies (i.e., palliative and hospice care), hospice centers, and extended care facilities.

What Are the Requirements to Become an Oncology Nurse?

In the U.S., there are several paths you can take to become an oncology nurse. At a minimum, you must be a registered nurse with either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Some may choose to further their oncology nurse education by pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.

Upon earning your degree, you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. This exam is nationally recognized and offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). After passing the NCLEX, you can pursue specialization in oncology.

Keep in mind that rules and regulations for oncology can vary by state. Do not assume that your qualifications will allow you to work everywhere. It’s important that you check the regulations of your state. Two great resources are the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the NCSBN. While some states won’t require specific oncology nurse certification, it can be incredibly beneficial.

Learn More

Click here to learn more about how to become an Oncology Nurse.


Medical professional taking a man's heartrate

11. Cardiac Nurse

Patients with heart conditions are often cared for by Cardiac Nurses. These medical professionals are involved in the treatment and rehabilitation of patients suffering from diseases of the cardiovascular system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. This means that Cardiac Nurses will always be needed to help care for individuals and the overall health of their communities.

What is a Cardiac Nurse?

Cardiac Nurses assist patients who have heart problems. They do this by adhering to a treatment plan assigned by a cardiologist, administering medication, and monitoring each patient’s progress. The daily responsibilities of a Cardiac Nurse can vary depending on their employer and the facility.

What Does a Cardiac Nurse Do?

Under the supervision of cardiologists, Cardiac Nurses fulfill a variety of tasks to care for patients with acute or chronic heart conditions. They may need to use equipment like defibrillators for patients with acute heart failure. In addition, they might assist surgeons during heart surgeries. They also monitor heart conditions, perform advanced cardiac life support, provide patient care and catheterization, and more. The ideal Cardiac Nurse excels at critical thinking and communication.

Where Do Cardiac Nurses Work?

Cardiac Nurses may work in settings like hospitals, medical clinics, intensive care settings, rehabilitative facilities, and long-term care facilities. In particular, you can often find them in ICUs and hospital cardiology or surgical units.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Cardiac Nurse?

Aspiring Cardiac Nurses must earn a nursing degree, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, and gain experience in cardiac nursing. For the latter, you can pursue entry-level roles to help get your foot in the door. Certification will often require about two years of experience; 2,000 hours in the field of clinical cardiac nursing, and 30 continuing education hours. Some options for certification include the following:

  • Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification (CV-BC™)
  • Cardiac Surgery Certification (CSC®)
  • Cardiac Medicine Certification (CMC®)


Nurse helping an elderly man walk

12. Rehabilitation Nurse

Rehabilitation Nurses specialize in helping others acquire optimal function and health. By adapting to an altered lifestyle, they assist patients who have disabilities or chronic illnesses. The ultimate goal of a Rehabilitation Nurse is to help their patients gain greater independence through treatment plans and realistic objectives. These professionals work on a multidisciplinary team and typically coordinate patient care.

What is a Rehabilitation Nurse?

Patients with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities may work with a Rehabilitation Nurse. It’s not just about gaining independence but helping a patient feel more confident in their body. In addition, Rehabilitation Nurses help families learn to care for their loved ones.

What Does a Rehabilitation Nurse Do?

Rehabilitation Nurses strive to restore function and prevent complications. In this role, they provide their patients with counseling, education, and case management. They may also act as advocates for patients and participate in research to better the very practice of rehabilitation. Keep in mind that RNs with this specialty are usually certified by the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (more on that later).

Where Do Rehabilitation Nurses Work?

There are many settings where you can find a Rehabilitation Nurse. More often than not, they can work in hospitals, private practice, industrial health centers, long-term care facilities, community and home health settings, and even schools. Rehabilitation Nurses also work at inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation centers. You may find them at insurance companies, too!

What Are the Requirements to Become a Rehabilitation Nurse?

As you have probably come to expect, aspiring Rehabilitation Nurses must acquire a nursing degree and pass the NCLEX-RN licensure exam. It’s highly recommended that you pursue certification with the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN). They offer the Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse (CRRN®) credential. Learn more about eligibility requirements and other FAQs here.


Psychiatric nurse assisting a patient

13. Psychiatric Nurse

A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, or Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), is arguably one of the highest-paid nurses in the U.S. Aspiring nurses who are interested in mental health could find this specialization incredibly rewarding.

What is a Psychiatric Nurse?

Psychiatric Nurses are certified advanced practice nurses who manage the mental health needs of individuals, families, groups, or communities. They work under the direction of a psychiatric physician and advise patients who have mental health disorders.

What Does a Psychiatric Nurse Do?

Psychiatric Nurses assist patients with numerous psychiatric disorders. They provide diagnostic care and treatment. In addition, they promote mental health maintenance and wellness. Psychiatric Nurses offer medicinal as well as therapeutic interventions to help their patients. Some areas of treatment may include ADHD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Psychiatric Nurses can work with children, adults, or families. They may also choose to further specialize in areas such as substance abuse or forensic psychiatry. Others may decide to further their training by earning a doctoral degree within their specialty.

Where Do Psychiatric Nurses Work?

Psychiatric nurses typically work in settings like private medical practices, psychiatric and behavioral treatment clinics, corporations, residential treatment facilities, public health agencies, family practices or pediatric clinics, and correctional facilities.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Psychiatric Nurse?

The minimum requirements to become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner are as follows:

  • Hold a current RN license
  • Earn a master’s or doctoral degree from an accredited PMHNP program
  • Work a minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours within the PMHNP program
  • Complete courses in advanced pathophysiology, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology
  • Study content in health promotion/maintenance, differential diagnosis, and disease management, including prescribing medications and clinical training in at least two areas of psychotherapy

To become certified, most aspiring PMHNPs will currently need to obtain credentials like the following:

  1. Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree with a specialization in psychiatric healthcare.
  2. The NCLEX-RN licensing credential and become a Registered Nurse.
  3. Certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Learn More

Click here to learn more about how to become a Psychiatric Nurse.


Medical professional in protective gear

14. Infection Control Nurse

You’ve probably heard a lot about infection and diseases since the COVID-19 pandemic. Infection Control Nurses (ICNs) strive to identify, prevent, and manage diseases before they can spread. As previously mentioned, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of this specialization now more than ever!

What is an Infection Control Nurse?

Although medical professionals do their best, there is always a risk of bacteria or viruses that can cause an outbreak. This means that Infection Control Nurses will always be needed to prevent an outbreak, address and resolve various issues, and maintain a working knowledge of how infectious agents spread.

What Does an Infection Control Nurse Do?

Like a Nurse Administrator, ICNs are not usually patient-facing professionals. They use their skills to conduct research, educate other medical practitioners, implement new policies, and improve the state of the facility overall. A big part of their job revolves around research and communication, not to mention the education of others. Infection Control Nurses may serve as liaisons between a healthcare environment and organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the National Institutes of Health.

Where Do Infection Control Nurses Work?

Typically, Infection Control Nurses can find employment in hospitals and ambulatory or outpatient care centers. They also work in home care, hospice, and long-term care centers. Through hospital positions, ICNs ensure best practices are maintained throughout the facility.

What Are the Requirements to Become an Infection Control Nurse?

To specialize as an Infection Control Nurse, you must become a Registered Nurse by obtaining a nursing degree and passing the NCLEX licensure exam. Then, you must spend around two years working in the field of infection control. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) requires that you gain this experience before taking and passing an exam to become an Infection Control Specialist.

Once you have gained certification from the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology, you will possess a CIC certificate for five years before recertification is necessary. At that point, you can pursue recertification through an online examination or by earning Infection Prevention Units (i.e., continuing education).


Nurse with a pregnant patient

15. Nurse Midwife

While there are many nursing specializations, Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) provide women with specialized care throughout the course of their lives. This includes pregnancy, family planning, and general care. Nurse Midwives can have a great deal of autonomy and the opportunity to open their own practice depending on their state. If you feel passionate about obstetrics or child delivery, becoming a Nurse Midwife could be the ideal career path for you.

What is a Nurse Midwife?

The role of a Nurse Midwife can be defined as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) who specializes in childbirth and women’s reproductive health. Not only do they attend to women during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum, but they are also responsible for women’s general health and quality of life.

What Does a Nurse Midwife Do?

The duties of a Nurse Midwife can vary from state to state. However, they typically fall under four categories: women’s health maintenance, family planning, antepartum period, intrapartum period, postpartum care, and newborn care. Some of their many duties include tasks like educating others on women’s health issues and treating various gynecological disorders.

Where Do Nurse Midwives Work?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), hospitals and physician offices are the largest employers of Nurse-Midwives. Nurse Midwives can work in a variety of facilities, including but not limited to hospitals, clinics, OB/GYN offices, private practices, outpatient care centers (i.e., birthing centers), patient homes, and schools.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Nurse Midwife?

As with several other nursing specialties, your educational path to becoming a Nurse Midwife can vary. Regardless of how you get there, you will likely be required to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree with a specialization in Midwifery. Although it’s not required, some Nurse Midwives also hold a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.

All Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), including Certified Nurse Midwives, must meet the following minimum requirements:

  1. A master’s degree from an accredited MSN program
  2. Be a licensed Registered Nurse in your state of employment
  3. Pass a national certification exam
  4. Hold a state APRN license

Learn More

Click here to learn more about how to become a Nurse Midwife.


Nurse in scrubs holding a clipboard

Your Journey into Nursing Starts Here

During your journey, it’s vital that you choose the right specialty for you. We focused on the top 15 hospital nursing specialties because we think they will lead to a growing number of employment opportunities. Don’t forget: Hospitals have the highest levels of employment for Registered Nurses in the United States.

Not only do hospital specialties meet the complex demands of healthcare, but they demonstrate a nurse’s commitment to competency and quality of care. In addition to greater salaries, specializations can typically create more networking opportunities and an improved sense of fulfillment. When you pursue your nursing interests, you are likely to become a better nurse, too.

So, are you interested in nursing education? Unitek College offers several nursing programs to help you pursue a nursing career in less time. Start by learning how to become a Registered Nurse. Then, look at Unitek’s LVN to BSN Advanced Placement Option for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

At Unitek College, the programs and pathways are designed to equip you with the skills needed for a successful nursing career. Don’t wait any longer—follow your career goals today!