The world of nursing is hugely diverse. Types of nursing positions can range widely by educational prerequisite and certification level, responsibility type and job setting, required skill set, and interests.
Though the entire nursing field as a whole makes for a dependable career path with plenty of job security.
Plus, the job market can sometimes favor certain specialties and job types over others within the realm of nursing dependent on trends that affect the greater healthcare industry.
Thus, it can be to your advantage to know what roles within nursing are anticipated to be in the highest demand in the coming few years so that you can make advantageous and strategic career decisions.
Whether you are first considering entering the nursing field or are already employed within nursing but considering a change or further education, take a moment to learn how different branches of nursing experience job demand.
The Nature of the Nursing Field
To know how different job types fit within nursing, it’s important to have a working understanding of the nursing industry as a whole. Nursing jobs can be divided into three basic categories:
Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs)
Also referred to as licensed vocational nurses, LPNs have typically completed one year of formal training before entering the workforce. This may be through a vocational school, proprietary program, or community college.
LPNs are equipped to provide basic care in several different medical settings.
Registered Nurses (RNs)
RNs have completed either a two-year Associate Degree or a four-year Bachelor of Science (BSN) degree.
Alternatively, they may have completed a three-year Diploma of Nursing. RNs are trained to perform more rigorous or technical tasks than LPNs are equipped to complete.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs)
APRNs are nurses that have earned a Master of Science (MSN) degree. This is typically accomplished after gaining one to three years of employed experience as a nurse.
APRNs can also seek out further certifications and specializations and take on highly technical areas of nursing practice.
Though these high-level categories help make sense of the various types of nursing roles and options available within the field, they are still highly nuanced.
Each one can be accessed from multiple entry points, involve different types of programs, and offer a range of specialties and certifications.
The diversity of the nursing field creates a wide landscape from which to choose a direction that most suits your interests, life circumstances, and skill set.
Nursing Career Demand Projections
Knowing not only what options are out there but which options are projected to experience the largest demand can be a strategic way to decide what route you may take.
This is true whether you are beginning a nursing degree or deciding on your next career move as a practicing nurse.
The United States government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics provides in-depth research and projections that help predict the growth and demand for certain nursing job types within the industry.
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies
These individuals provide an entry-level access point to enter the field of nursing. Jobs in this category are expected to grow by 8% between 2020 and 2030. For comparison, this is akin to the average rate of growth over the same period across all industries – 8%.
That growth percentage still accounts for an expected 118,500 additional individuals employed in this line of work by 2030.
These nursing jobs also provide the added benefit that they can be entered after minimal schooling (a one-year certification program in many cases).
This track can be advantageous if you would like to enter the workforce as soon as possible or limit your upfront expenditure on education costs before beginning your career and completing further schooling later.
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
These positions are expected to increase in number by 9%, or 63,800 jobs in total, by the year 2030.
Similar to above, this type of position can be obtained after a one-year certification or training program and allow you to get your foot in the door more quickly than choosing other routes of entry into the nursing field.
This can be advantageous in a few ways and allow you to more quickly accrue experience that will help you move towards certain specialties that require work experience prerequisites.
The job outlook for RNs over 2020-2030 is also a projected growth of 9%. Though this is a healthy growth rate, it is typical of the expected average across all industries.
However, RNs make up a significantly larger total of the individuals employed in the nursing field than most other nursing jobs (over 3 million, as supposed to be just under 272,000 for the following category).
That reality, in addition to the fact that educational requirements to become an RN are a bit more accessible (a Bachelor’s degree rather than a Master’s degree as noted below), makes becoming an RN a solid career choice.
Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
Notably, the employment rate for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners is projected to grow by an astonishing 45% (rated “much faster than average”) between 2020 and 2030.
This illustrates the extremely healthy growth that this area of nursing is expected to experience in the coming years.
These nursing positions require at least a Master’s degree. These specialty areas within nursing are coveted roles and can make a highly strategic career path due to their expected demand.
The Demand for Specialized Nursing Positions
Clearly, specialized nursing positions that require advanced degrees are projected to experience very high levels of demand in the coming years.
When even entry-level positions within an industry are projected to experience normal or above-average growth over the coming decade and the demand for its specialized roles are projected to skyrocket, it is very likely that the industry will remain vibrant, healthy, and full of opportunity for years to come.
Next Steps Towards a Nursing Career
Because of the wide variety of nursing career pathways available and the range of educational options that can make it possible to enter the field, your next step in deciding your course of action will probably involve researching the specifics of the various nursing positions available to determine the best fit for you.
Or, if you are already employed in the nursing field, you may be interested in changing roles or diversifying your skills to achieve movement or progression into specialty areas or higher-paying positions.
Either way, the field of nursing is broad and contains ample opportunities to help you achieve your goals.
Assessing what resources you have available to you, what types of work you might be most interested in, and what specific areas within nursing are likely to experience growth in the near future can help you decide how to begin or advance your career in nursing and discover a long-lasting, fulfilling vocation.