Career Options in the Nursing Field

Exploring the Most Interesting Career Options in the Nursing Field

Many people like the idea of making a positive contribution to their local healthcare system. The problem? They know the score when it comes to nurses. Twelve-hour shifts. Nights. Holidays. Weekends. That’s a big no-thank you.

But while there are many opportunities available for floor nurses, that’s just one small piece of the much wider nursing community. There are literally dozens of ways you can specialize and work in unique but equally rewarding settings.

In this article, we take an in-depth look at the most interesting career options in the nursing field.

Do You Like to Travel?

Well, do you? If so there are exciting opportunities in the form of working as a travel nurse. Travel nurses are a bit like the pinch hitters of the healthcare system. They go to places that have the highest need for nurses and help out for a pre-agreed-upon period of time. When the contract lapses, they move on to their next assignment.

Usually, this means going into rural communities—places that have dangerously under-staffed hospitals serving large geographical regions.

That has changed a little bit in recent years. Nursing shortages being what they are there are currently high-need hospitals all over the country. This means if you don’t want to live in Montana for eight months you can probably still work as a travel nurse and live a little bit closer to home.

Why would you want to? There are a few reasons people this gig. One is that travel nurses can make significantly more than their counterparts. This is an enticement to compensate for the relocation component of the job.

Travel nurses also have the opportunity to see the country. The job stays fresh for them because they are never in one place for too long.

Of course, it’s not hard to imagine the downsides. It’s harder to establish close professional relationships because you are always moving. You may not see much of your friends and family. And because all of the hospitals you work at are “high need,” you might be perpetually in a hectic environment, forced to make do with very limited resources.

Still, if you can handle the tricky parts of the job you are sure to find much to enjoy.

Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a nurse practitioner is a great way to fully explore your potential as a healthcare worker without committing to eight years of medical school. NPs get to do almost the exact same thing as general practitioners—at least in certain parts of the country.

If you are interested in exploring this route definitely take a look at what your local legislators have ruled on NP independence. In some states, you can prescribe medications, diagnose patients, and run your own clinics.

In other states, you need a doctor to manually sign off on everything you do. That element of oversight makes it very hard to operate with any trace of independence.

That said, it’s still a rewarding career path even when regulations make things challenging. Bonus? NPs can specialize, allowing you to work in the areas of healthcare that interest you the most.

Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses often work on the criminal aspects of healthcare. When someone who has been the victim of a crime comes into the hospital for treatment they will usually be seen by a forensic nurse, who is equipped to collect evidence.

The work is naturally very stimulating but it can also be difficult. Healthcare jobs always put the professional into contact with unpleasant scenarios but many of them are natural or accidental. Forensic nurses deal constantly with the consequences of intentional violence and cruelty. If you consider yourself a very sensitive person, it’s probably not going to be a great fit for you.

However, if you would like to engage in an important healthcare role while also making your community safer, forensic nursing is a unique and rewarding way to do it.

School Nurse

Do you like to work with children? If so, you might be a great candidate for a school nurse position. While it’s decidedly less exciting than working on a hospital floor there are many perks to keep in mind. Such as:

  • Schedule: School nurses work on an educator’s schedule. That means no weekends. No holidays. No summers. If you’re the kind of person who values their free time, this is the best healthcare option available. No other nursing jobs come with almost three months of vacation time.
  • Low-stakes scenarios: School nurses deal with scrapes and bee stings. The occasional vomiting spell. They aren’t dealing with life-or-death scenarios. This makes a huge difference in morale. One of the reasons so many nurses burn out is that they can no longer handle the emotional strain of the job. There’s little risk of that when you are working as a school nurse.
  • It’s a great job for people with families: School nurses are particularly advantaged when it comes to syncing up with their family’s schedules. If you have kids you can pretty much count on keeping approximately the same hours as them.

It’s definitely not just a fluff job. As a school nurse, you serve as the health gatekeeper for an entire community. You make choices about sending kids home and making recommendations that can expand hundreds of families. It’s important work.

Educational Nursing

Some nurses apply a more strategic approach to their healthcare interventions. Educational nursing might involve coaching patients on important health considerations. For example, when someone is newly diagnosed with diabetes, they will usually be referred to a nursing specialist who will coach them through what comes next, how they need to behave, what their new dietary restrictions are, and so on.

You get to make an important difference but you also don’t experience the same level of pressure typically seen by floor nurses.

Informatics Nursing

Informatics nursing involves using data to leverage well-informed strategies and recommendations to the hospital you work at as well as the wider community. The more accessible data processing technology becomes, the more hospitals are seeking this important position.

It’s a great opportunity to work on the strategic side of care and help implement plans that make a significant difference in people’s lives.


Comprehensive though this article was, it represents only a small fraction of the opportunities available to people with a nursing degree. If you are interested in working in a specific healthcare niche we didn’t cover today (for example, neonatal) do a deep dive into what types of nursing careers there are available.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the diversity of options.

Nurses have never been in higher demand. Now is the perfect time to explore a career in healthcare!