Because of a shortage of nurses, there are many lucrative careers in nursing available today. From hospitals to schools to traveling nurses, the available careers in nursing today are exciting and diverse.

Nursing careers are a rewarding, lucrative way to earn a living. Some nursing positions only require one year of education while others demand a master's degree. There are two basic types of nursing careers with dozens of different specialties.

LPNs, LVNs and RNs

The first basic type of nurse is a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). LPNs and LVNs take care of disabled, convalescent, injured or sick patients. Usually they work under the direction of registered nurses and physicians. Most LPN training programs take one to two years to complete. LPN courses are offered at community colleges, junior colleges and technical and vocational schools.

The second basic type of nurse is a registered nurse (RN). RNs treat and educate patients and the public, providing emotional support for patients and their families. Rns setup a care plan or contribute to the existing care plan for patients. Educational courses to become an RN take two to four years to complete. A master's degree program takes an additional two years. With 2.6 million jobs, RNs are currently the largest health care occupation.

LPN and LVN Careers

LPNs and LVNs work in all health care areas. They can be employed in hospitals, nursing care facilities, physicians' offices, clinics, outpatient care facilities, residential care facilities and federal, state and local government agencies. Some work as home health care aides or as dhoulas assisting pregnant women through pregnancy and delivery.

In every state, LPNs must pass the NCLEX-PN licensing exam to obtain a license. In 2008, LPNs held a total of 753,600 jobs in health care. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, LPN employment is expected to grow by 21 percent between 2008 and 2018. As of 2008, LPNs earned a median annual salary of $39,030.

RN Careers

Careers in nursing are even more plentiful and diverse for RNs. An RN can choose a position based on his or her unique personal qualifications. RN jobs can be administrative with staff, educational with public, innovative through research or holistic advances and hands-on with patients. About 60 percent of RN positions are in hospitals.

An RN may complete an associates degree course for two or three years or a bachelor's degree course for four years. In some situations, an RN may take a three year course at a local hospital to earn a diploma. RNs are required to pass a licensing exam called the NCLEX-RN to get a nursing license. Licenses must be renewed periodically and in most instances continuing education is required. The median annual salary for RNs as of 2008 was $62,450.

What the Professionals Say About Nursing

According to nursing and medical professionals, careers in nursing are always available with limitless opportunities for growth. Dr. Linda N. Pugh, director of professional education at Hopkins' School of Nursing, indicated, “Nursing is such a wide open career right now. There are so many possibilities that weren't available even 10 years ago.”

Barbara R. Heller, PhD and dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing, said, “There are so many opportunities and challenges now. Nursing can attract the best and the brightest. All nurses are going to play a significant role in the changing health care environment, especially in an atmosphere in which prevention and health promotion is stressed.

Sharon Hudacek, RN and author of “A Daybook for Nurses,” said, “Bound by paperwork, short on hands, sleep and energy...nurses are rarely short on caring.”

Choosing A Nursing Career Path

With so many different careers in nursing, it is important to choose a particular career path. Would you prefer to work with patients or paperwork? Do you feel more comfortable in larger or smaller settings? Do you have a particular aspect or nursing specialty that interests you the most? Ask yourself these questions as you consider careers in nursing.

Specialty Nurses

Registered nurses have the option of specializing in certain health care areas.
  • Maternity and labor nurses, women's health care nurses, delivery and neonatal nurses and nurse-midwives take care of female concerns including pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Acute care nurses care for patients with serious disabilities and illnesses.
  • Oncolology nurses provide cancer care and education to patients and their families.
  • Public health nurses educate the public about better ways to care for their health.
  • Trauma and emergency nurses are specially trained to handle emergency situations.
  • Dermatology nurses specialize in skin care and treatment.
  • Pediatric nurses work with infants, toddlers, children and teens.
  • Holistic nurses treat the overall patient with therapies such as massage, acupuncture and aromatherapy.
  • Sports care nurses work with athletes including preventative care and treatment of injuries.
  • Orthopedic nurses care for patients with muscular and skeletal problems.
  • Psychiatric and mental health nurses work with patients who have personality and mood disorders.
  • Home health care nurses provide at-home nursing care and treatment for patients.
  • Addictions nurses assist patients in substance abuse programs.
  • Radiology nurses provide care to patients getting diagnostic radiation procedures such as ultrasounds.
  • Transport nurses offer medical care to patients transported by air to the closest medical facility.
  • Nurse anesthetists administer anesthetics to patients undergoing medical, obstetrical and dental procedures.
  • Dental nurses work with dentists and orthodontists to prevent and treat various oral conditions.

These are just a sampling of the specialized nursing careers available today. There are literally dozens of specialties to consider. In basic terms, nursing specialties fall into four categories.

Nurses may work in a certain setting offering a particular type of treatment. Nurses can specialize in specific health conditions. Other nurses may decide to work with certain body system or organs. Nurses can also deal with a designated population such as elderly patients, pregnant women or children.

Administrative Nurses

Administrative nurses are in charge or other registered nurses, licensed practical nurses or a certain clinic, office or department. Some administrative work includes hands-on patient care. However, most administrative nurses handle policies, procedures and paperwork in an office-type environment. Registered nurses can pursue an M.S. or M.B.A. degree in nursing to qualify for administrative positions.

Travel Nurses

Travel nurses are not assigned to work in one particular facility or location. Instead, traveling nurses work at one of the many understaffed hospitals in the country. Typically, travel nurses are assigned toa location for three to six months then move on to another assignment. Travel nurses are paid generous hours wages, benefits and expenses for travel, rent and utilities.

Institutional Nurses

There are many nursing careers at institutions such as schools, camps, colleges, shelters, substance abuse treatment centers, state and municipal governments, correctional facilities, insurance companies and legal and forensic fields.

Modern nursing careers are flexible with outstanding growth opportunities. With more careers in nursing than ever before, it is a top career choice for a successful future.