Career Resources

5 Best Career Paths for Nurses

Registered nurses have many different career path options to achieve their nursing career goals. The wide array of career options for RNs offers the flexibility and variety that many nurses find refreshing, while others find it overwhelming. By better understanding the responsibilities involved in various nursing roles and asking yourself some important questions, you can make career path decisions that best align with your current or future aspirations.

Tips for Determining Your Next Career Move

If you’re not happy with your current career path, one great thing about nursing is you have lots of opportunities to swerve to a new one. However, you might not be sure what your new move should be. To help you decide, ask yourself a few questions. What are your strengths? If you’re good at training others and enjoy keeping things organized and running smoothly, a nursing leadership role might be a good track. Advancing your career into management may require further education, so learn more about the requirements involved in this career path.

Other questions to ask yourself to help determine an ideal career path include:

  • What interests you most?
  • What patient populations do you enjoy working with best?
  • What do you like least about your current role?
  • What do you like most in your current role?
  • What are some of your ultimate career goals?

Career Paths May Lead to Greener Pastures

Your career path might not just involve a new nursing role, it could also include a new location. A new location may mean switching healthcare facilities or it could mean changing your location altogether by moving to another city or state. Changing locales is often a good career choice if a certain career path is easier to follow or salaries for your desired career are significantly higher or you simply need a change of scenery to improve your view of your current career path. Take a look at the highest-paying locations for staff RNs as you consider your options. 

Various Factors Impact Nursing Career Paths

When contemplating your nursing career path, you’ll soon discover numerous factors that may influence your decision. Education requirements can be a big one. If you want to make a more immediate change, switching to a path that requires advanced education may not be ideal for the short-term. However, it can become a long-term goal. Experience requirements can also get in the way if you’re a new graduate nurse, but knowing these requirements helps you to the path needed to reach your ultimate goals.

Combine your career goals with your personal passions to find a path that matches your interests. Working in a nursing field that not only allows you to help others but also sparks your personal interests can put you on a path that leads to more enthusiasm with your career choice and happier workdays. Consider these five nursing career paths based on specific interests.

  1. Pediatric Nursing might be a perfect career path for nurses who love working with kids and want to specialize in caring for children from birth through adolescence.
  2. Nurse Administrator positions may be ideal for nurses who like to take charge as they specialize in planning, coordinating and directing health services in a facility.
  3. Emergency Department Nursing often works best for nurses who enjoy the constant adrenaline rush of never knowing when a potentially life-threatening situation might roll through the door that requires their swift attention.
  4. Long-Term Care Nursing appeals to nurses who like working with patients often on the other end of the age spectrum and want to make a difference in the lives of aging adults.
  5. Psychiatric Nursing may suit the interests of nurses who like working closely with patients to help them manage their mental illnesses and live more fulfilling lives.

Nursing is often just as much of a calling as a career. Many nurses get into the medical field to help people during some of the worst and best moments in their lives, but earning a decent salary is also an important concern. If you’re looking for a career path that leads to a bigger paycheck consider these top-paying RN specialties.

  1. Labor and Delivery Nurses specialize in caring for women during normal or complicated pregnancies and assisting families throughout the birth process to ensure the best outcomes for mothers and their newborns.
  2. Gastroenterology Nurses specialize in caring for patients with gastrointestinal tract or digestive system disorders or illnesses, helping relieve extremely uncomfortable symptoms that can impact whole body health.
  3. Neurology Nurses specialize in treating patients diagnosed with brain and nervous system disorders or are showing signs of neurological problems caused by strokes, traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries.
  4. Neonatal ICU Nurses specialize in caring for newborn infants who were born prematurely or born with critical health problems, such as birth defects, congenital disorders/infections, and heart anomalies.
  5. Cardiac Cath Lab Nurses specialize in caring for patients with heart or valvular disease, or those who are having a myocardial infarction that needs percutaneous intervention.

Some nurses prefer to work outside of hospitals, away from the bedside. These roles may take you to nontraditional settings like summer camps or cruise ships or lead to educational or legislative roles, such as working as a health policy nurse or certified diabetes educator. If you’re looking for a different setting, consider these nursing roles. 

  1. School Nurses treat children in a school setting and play a vital role in keeping them healthy and safe while away from home and in the school’s care.
  2. Informatics Nursing appeals to more introverted nurses who are highly analytical and want to specialize in integrating nursing with the management of information technology to promote public health.
  3. Nurse Educators specialize in combining their academic and clinical expertise to train the next generation of nurses, which may occur in an academic environment but still require some time at the bedside.
  4. Flight Nurses take nursing to new heights by providing care during air transport. While, this role may still involve a bed of sorts, it’s definitely not in the traditional sense.
  5. Nurse Case Managers primarily have an administrative job but play an instrumental role by using data, clinical tools and other information to create and implement comprehensive patient care plans.

Whatever your next move is along your nursing career path, get ready to reach your goals by polishing your nursing resume, practicing your interview skills and letting Vivian Health help you find your next nursing job quicker and easier than you ever imagined.

Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee is Vivian’s Content Writer & Editor. As part of the Vivian Health team, she strives to help support the empowerment of nurses and other medical professionals in their pursuits to find top-notch travel, staff, per diem and local contract positions.

Comments (10)

I cared for neonates for eight years when I first graduated with my BSN . I loved it !!!
Couldn’t have found a more interesting job as a new graduate . After working in a pediatric trauma center for 25yrs , still loving the kids , I’d like to go back to NICU. My plan always was to go back to NICU again at the end of my career . How do I get back into NICU they tell me I am not qualified after not working in NICU for longer than 2 years . Is there any way ????
I’m so disappointed . Help me find a way !!


Thanks for reaching out, Cheryl. Talk to your supervisor to see what you must do to change your specialty. If you have pediatric experience, facilities often let you transition to similar areas if they have an opening.


I think flight nursing may be a very interesting position. I have seriously wanted to engage in fight nursing. Where or how do I get the BEST information for this job?


Thanks for reaching out, Miranda. Current flight nurses should be great sources of information in this nursing field. You might also inquire with the Air and Surface Transport Nurses Association and the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. Both associations may be able to provide further information as they both offer professional certification in this field. Good luck with your endeavors! Please keep Vivian in mind for all of your job search needs (


Past work has been critical care looking for a new path


Thanks for reaching out, Christy. Please browse our current job posts at to view and apply for any positions that might interest you and visit our Resource Hub at to find information about various healthcare positions and career paths that might help lead you to your new path. Good luck with all your endeavors!


I will love to venture into the informatic nursing and need more information on it.


Thanks for reaching out, Rebeca. Please visit Vivian’s Resource Hub at for information on various aspects of nursing. For more details on informatic nursing, you might also contact the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and the American Medical Informatics Association.


My name is Etagu Assefa from Ethiopia am a nurse and nutrionist I have more experience with different NGOs I need to get job in abroad pls help me


Thanks for reaching out, Etagu. We greatly appreciate your interest. However, Vivian is currently a resource for U.S. healthcare professionals only.


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