There are many different career paths in the field of nursing, and the main difference among them is that each type of nurse is able to provide different levels of care to their patients. This also requires different levels of education. One of the highest levels of nursing is that of a nurse practitioner— and they’re also one of the highest-paid nursing professionals.
So naturally, one would think that nurse practitioners have more employment opportunities than other types of nurses. Overall, healthcare workers have a good chance of finding employment because of how important healthcare is. Here’s a comparison of some of the most common nursing professions and where they can be employed.
CNAs perform basic care such as monitoring vital signs and assisting their patients with daily activities such as bathing and dressing. To become a CNA, one must complete a state-approved program and receive on-the-job training. CNAs are typically employed in assisted living facilities and long-term care facilities, but they can also be employed in hospitals.
As for job outlook, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts an average growth rate for CNAs over the next 10 years. In 2021, the median salary (meaning half earn above this amount and the other half earn below) was around $30,000 per year.
LPNs are able to provide basic care to patients under the direction of registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians. This includes collecting blood and urine samples and monitoring blood pressure. Most LPNs earn a certificate or a diploma from a community, technical, or vocational college and find employment in assisted living facilities, home health care, physician offices, and hospitals.
According to the BLS, demand for LPNs will continue to grow at an average rate over the next decade. The median annual salary for LPNs is a little over $48,000.
RNs can perform a lot more care services than LPNs and CNAs. These include assessing patients, assisting in diagnostic testing, administering medications, and providing health education to their patients. RNs can earn an Associate’s degree in nursing, but more and more places are requiring RNs to earn a Bachelor’s degree in nursing to be able to work in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, physician’s offices, home health care, outpatient care centers, and ambulatory care services. There are also a variety of different types of RNs, including:
- Advanced Practice RNs
- Critical Care RNs
- Emergency Room RNs
- Home Care RNs
- Oncology RNs
- Surgical Assistant RNs
All of these positions require a Bachelor’s degree, excluding an advanced practice RN, which requires a Master’s degree. Like many other types of nursing jobs, RNs can expect to see average growth in job availability over the next 10 years. The median annual salary is $77,600 per year, with the majority of RNs working in hospitals.
NPs can examine, diagnose, treat, and administer medications to their patients. Plainly speaking, NPs can do everything an MD (i.e., physician/doctor) can do without being under the supervision of that physician. In many states, NPs can also open and operate their own medical practice independent of a physician. Typically NPs are employed in physician offices (including urgent care centers) and hospitals, but these facilities also employ nurse practitioners:
- Correctional Facilities
- Hospice care
- Long-term care facilities
- Patient homes
- Retail clinics
- Skilled nursing facilities
According to the U.S. BLS, nurse practitioners will see the highest job growth over the next decade, compared to other careers in nursing. They also have some of the highest salaries in nursing, with the median annual salary being around $123,000.
Other types of nurses include labor and delivery nurses, clinical nurse supervisors, clinical nurse specialists, nurse case managers, and nurse educators. Many of these positions also require a Master’s degree in nursing, which is also earned by a nurse practitioner. So the bottom line is that— in most cases— the more advanced your nursing degree is, the more job opportunities you’ll have.
Overall, nurse practitioners will have more job opportunities because of the many services they can provide, but nurses of all types and education levels may be employed in the same medical setting— depending on the state. However, nurses will never be permitted to legally do any work that is beyond their ability levels. NPs (and advanced practice RNs) are the only types of nurses that will legally be able to perform many of the same tasks that physicians can perform.