9 Lucrative Nursing Careers

Nursing careers can be split up and categorized in several ways, and if all those ways were listed, it would require books to explain all of them, rather than a single article.  Even if you divide them by medical specialty, such as neuroscience, OB/GYN or gastroentology, the list would look like this.

So for brevity’s sake, below you’ll find a generalized list of 9 lucrative nursing careers according to credentials and education, as well as job description and salary range.

  • CNA

Certified nursing assistants are the lowest level of nursing, but also the fastest to get into, requiring only a high school diploma and typically one post-secondary course to pass the certification exam.  Because the level of education is so low and entry is so quick, CNAs earn between $12/hr and $35,000. CNAs are assistants to their supervising nurses, and perform light tasks such as bed changing, bathing patients, admittance, vitals and other non-medical related tasks.

  • LPN/LVN/Vocational Nurse/Practical Nurse

You’ve probably seen these terms and acronyms all over the place and wonder which is what.  Well you’re not alone – most people don’t know the difference between these, and that’s most likely because there really isn’t one except the term one chooses to use (usually it’s by where you live).  LPN stands for licensed practical nurse and LVN represents licensed vocational nurse.  LPN is used by all states except Texas and California.

The level of education required to be an LPN is earned through a one-to-two year program or associate’s degree, but an actual degree is often not required so much as an LPN educational program, which is taken to pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-PN).

  • RN/BSN

RNs are the single most in-demand job in the U.S., which is why even though they only need a bachelor’s degree – and sometimes less than that – they can be paid anywhere from $60,000 to $75,000 a year.  RNs can work in pretty much any specialized medical field as well as in ICU (intensive care), where as LPNs typically serve as staff nurses and are not permitted to provide care for ICU patients like RNs.  RNs without a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) are paid on the lower end of the salary range, and RNs with a BSN are typically paid $70,000 or more.

  • MSN

A nurse with a master’s degree has higher professional possibilities, such as nurse educator.  Nurses with MSNs earn between $70,000 to $90,000.

  • CRNA

A certified registered nurse anesthetist puts patients under anesthesia before surgery as well as during childbirth.  They are paid very well for having to do something so precarious and risky, usually between $150,00 and $200,000. At least a master’s degree is required for this type of nursing career, and sometimes post-graduate education as well.

  • CNM

A certified nurse midwife is a nurse with at least a graduate degree, and is certified to help women throughout pregnancy and deliver babies unassisted unless extenuating circumstances call for physician consultation.  CNMs are paid anywhere from $70,000 to $100,000 a year.

  • COHN

Certified occupational health nurses work in commercial settings to ensure safe and healthy environments for employees, and require graduate level certification, at the end of which a certification exam is taken.  COHNs make between $60,000 to $80,000 a year.

  • Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner is one of the highest levels of nursing occupations, and can even substitute for actual doctors in many local medical clinics and private practices.  Additionally, nurse practitioners are the professionals that many hospitals plan to use for the shortage of doctors that is predicted in the near future.  While current NPs hold an APRN, which is a graduate degree, there may be more and more facilities that require post-graduate education or even a terminal degree (DNP).  Nurse practitioners currently earn between $90,000 to $120,000 a year, but that could very well increase as demand goes up.

  • Nurse Researcher

Nurse researchers must earn a doctorate in Philosophy or Science, and assist medical researchers and scientists to study illnesses, cancer research and much more. As you can imagine, they are some of the highest paid of nurse professionals, and can earn up to $150,000 a year.

Some of the above nurse occupations are fairly new to the nursing world, such as the COHN, but all of them require varied levels of credentials and education requirements.  Understanding the differences between nursing occupations and education requirements is essential to making a decision about your educational path and schooling choice.


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