Different Types of Nursing Jobs

By Courtney Johnson

Nurses sitting on bench at hospital

During and after you complete your nursing program, whether it be a traditional, RN to BSN or accelerated nursing degree, you should be reviewing the different types of options that are out there for you. The healthcare field has numerous opportunities for individuals to get involved in, and whether you are entering the field or are continuing as a registered nurse (RN), it is important to narrow down which type of nurse you would like to be. There are distinct types of nursing jobs, any of which you could successfully pursue with an accredited nursing degree and appropriate state licensure.

In this nursing blog:

Levels of Nursing

There are different levels of nursing that are important to understand when deciding on the type of nurse you want to be. Here is breakdown of the different levels and the education it takes to reach that level.

  • Registered nurse: Those who have an associate or bachelor’s in nursing and pass the NCLEX exam can become RNs.
  • Advanced practice registered nurse (APRN): This level requires a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. This level includes four clinical roles which go beyond patient interaction and can include higher-level positions in leadership and direction: nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist and nurse midwife.
  • Doctorate-level nurse: A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the highest level nursing degree. To reach this level, you must be an experienced nurse who has acquired knowledge of healthcare policies, health information systems, nursing practices and leadership.

Registered Nurses

RNs are the main point of contact for many patients. They also frequently work with family members, particularly family caregivers who provide assistance to loved ones with serious or chronic health conditions. It is common for RNs to provide emotional support, advocacy and education to patients who are having difficulty in their situations. The role of a nurse requires compassion, cultural awareness and sensitivity, empathy and patience. These are just a few of the qualities and attributes in patient care.

Direct Patient Care

As an RN, there are many job options within the community that require direct patient care. These roles include bedside nursing in a hospital, patient care within a private practice office, telehealth experiences in collaboration with advanced providers/physicians and much more. Patient education is a key component and critical responsibility of all nurses. It promotes patient wellness and preventative care, which is reflected in patient outcomes.

Nurse Leaders

Registered nurses are also trained to advance into leadership and administrative roles. To be successful within these roles, it is helpful to have strengths in prioritizing, collaborating, empowering others and in teamwork. Some common roles and responsibilities of RNs within leadership and/or administrative roles may include the following:

  • Managing and supervising others
  • Managing budgetary needs
  • Project management
  • Integrating new policies and procedures


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Nurse Anesthetist

Another type of nursing job to consider is the role of nurse anesthetist. A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is an advanced practice role in the nursing profession. The primary responsibility of a CRNA is to deliver anesthesia to patients. They also must ensure the safety and well-being of patients before, during and after procedures.

After administering anesthesia, a CRNA is responsible for closely monitoring the patient’s vital signs and being ready to act if a patient exhibits signs of distress or anesthesia-related complications. The educational preparation for this role provides the CRNA the assessment, treatment and management skills needed to be successful in practice.

What makes this type of nursing job unique is not only the specificity of administering anesthesia itself, but the need to be alert, think on your feet and always pay close attention, with the potential for major complications. There is a lot of training and preparation that goes into becoming a skilled CRNA; however, it can be a very rewarding job.

Nurse Midwife

If you enjoy the thought of helping new life enter the world, perhaps a career as a nurse midwife would be right for you. A certified nurse midwife (CNM) provides holistic care and typically focuses on the health of a patient as it relates to preparing them for a healthy childbirth. CNMs take the entirety of the patient’s health into consideration. This comprehensive approach includes the patient’s physical, mental and psychosocial needs. Additionally, they provide support as women enter perimenopause and menopause. Some responsibilities of CNMs include the following:

  • Providing prenatal education and postnatal guidance
  • Monitoring the health of mother and baby throughout the pregnancy and beyond
  • Aiding and encouraging during labor and delivery
  • Delivering follow-up care after childbirth, including assistance with breastfeeding

The role of the CNM is to bring healthy babies into the world, while providing education to promote a healthy life for the mom and baby. This is a unique type of nursing job because of the specificity, which also makes it appealing to those wanting to work with mothers and babies before, during and after birth.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical nurse specialists often hold an advanced nursing degree and have specialized in a particular area of nursing. These healthcare professionals gain many skills while earning their master’s or doctoral degree that are crucial to providing excellent care and expertise.

The day-to-day responsibilities of a clinical nurse specialist differ, but here are some common duties a clinical nurse specialist may encounter:

  • Treating patients
  • Develop plans to address health problems
  • Promoting healthy living
  • Guiding and leading other nurses
  • Conducting research

Many clinical nurse specialists choose to spend a substantial amount of their time on research and education. They are important in the field of healthcare because their specialization and unique skillsets allow them to serve those around them through mentorship and leadership.

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners (NP) are an APRN-level nurse. These nurses typically earn their MSN degree and may choose to specialize in a specific area, such as pediatrics or family care, adult and gerontology, occupational health, mental health or acute care. NPs work with patients from newborns to the elderly, with many of them providing primary care. Responsibilities of an NP may include:

  • Performing standard comprehensive examinations
  • Diagnosing illness and injuries
  • Ordering and interpreting various diagnostic tests, i.e. X-rays and EKGs
  • Providing guidance and management for chronic health problems
  • Prescribing medication and other treatments
  • Educating patients and their families

What makes NPs distinct is that they are providers and work with patients regularly and typically specialize.

Nurse Executive

Nurse executives fall at the highest level when talking about types of nurses. This type of nurse works on the administrative side of healthcare, aiming to ensure that all components of the organization are running as they should. If you’re looking at being a nurse executive, you will need to explore MSN programs, as that is typically the minimum educational requirement for this position. Many nurse executives have DNPs or various post-graduate certificates as well. Some of the responsibilities of a nurse executive include:

  • Implementing organizational mission and values
  • Developing and shape healthcare policies
  • Designing and managing patient care delivery models
  • Leads, directs, and motivates nursing personnel

What makes this type of nurse unique is that they are typically behind the scenes. Even though they may not be as patient-facing as others, their influence is indirectly felt by employees and patients alike throughout their organization.

Career Outlook for Different Types of Nursing Jobs

It’s no secret that the demand for nurses will always be pertinent. As for which type of nursing job is the most desirable, there is not one direct answer.

As of September 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners to increase by about 45% from 2020 to 2030, faster than average, accounting for an estimated increase of 121,400 jobs in the field.1 This information not only shows the increasing demand for high-level nurses but also the need for highly qualified healthcare professionals.

Become a Nurse Faster With an Accelerated Nursing Degree

Grand Canyon University offers a wide range of nursing degree options for students who want to prepare for a rewarding career in healthcare. Programs such as the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) degree is designed for those looking to change career paths and get into the nursing field as soon as possible. After receiving your BSN from GCUs ABSN program, you can choose to take the next step in your journey and explore different types of nursing jobs or even pursue graduate nursing education.

1 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners.

2 Cannot be used in conjunction with other GCU scholarships or awards.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.