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Exploring the Broad Spectrum of Nursing Careers

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at CTU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

Nursing isn’t a career for the faint of heart, as it may require grit. However, another equally important quality for excelling in the field of nursing can be passion. Determining what a person is passionate about in the area of nursing may help navigate the broad spectrum of specialties and disciplines. This might also assist nursing candidates to identify a specific path or specialization while doing what they love.

Understanding Specialties

With numerous nursing specialties to choose from, the prospect of identifying the best fit for you can be overwhelming. Ultimately, to understand a specialty in the nursing field, identify the main tasks a specialist performs in the line of duty.

To begin to narrow down the options, a nursing candidate can consider the different areas of nursing. With more than four times as many registered nurses (RNs) in the U.S. as doctors, nursing delivers an array of health care specialties, such as:1

  • Pediatrics
  • Family Health
  • Emergency Care
  • Women’s Health
  • Gerontology
  • Clinical Nursing
  • Certified Midwives
  • Nurse Anesthetists
  • Cardiac Nursing
  • Oncology Nursing
  • Neonatal Nursing
  • Neurological Nursing
  • Obstetric/Gynecological Nursing1

Although most nurses work in hospitals, as nursing and health care delivery expands, so do opportunities outside of the traditional hospital setting. Therefore, it can be important to consider the setting or facility in which a job is based. Work in home health care and long-term care facilities has risen, as well as outpatient settings such as health maintenance organizations and physician and nurse-based practices.1

Each area of nursing has distinct frameworks and requirements. Emergency medicine can be expected to be a fast-paced field involving direct contact with a wide variety of patients and medical challenges while advanced practice nursing may tend to be more structured, regular and focused on addressing particular health issues.

Subcategories of each area of nursing also exist. If a nurse prefers a more structured setting, consideration for subcategories of advanced practice nursing should be given. A nurse may choose to focus on caring for a particular age group, such as children or seniors. A particular field, such as cardiology or orthopedics, may also suit a nurse’s preferences.

Preparing for the Steps in Your Projected Career Path

Once a few specializations or disciplines of interest have been identified, it’s time to begin taking the next steps. Each phase may be an important part of the overall career path to becoming a nurse.

Education Requirements

Some programs offer basic medical education to prepare for entry-level nursing careers, like a licensed practical nurse (LPN). LPNs work under doctors and RNs to provide the most basic of patient care. LPNs monitor the health of patients and look for signs that their health is deteriorating or improving, perform basic nursing functions (such as changing bandages and wound dressings), and administer medications.2 LPNs may aspire to grow their foundational knowledge and specialize in a particular area within the field of nursing. To do so, an LPN can continue on to pursue RN-required education and specialized certifications.

Traditional or online schools offer RN-to-BSN and MSN programs which are generally built on foundational nursing knowledge and give students the opportunity to obtain the necessary tools to provide quality care in the health care industry. A bachelor’s degree program may be more beneficial to nursing candidates because a BSN nurse is more prepared for a broader role and is the only basic nursing graduate preferred to practice in all health care settings. Thus, a bachelor’s degree in nursing has the greatest employment flexibility of any entry-level RN.1

Licenses and Certifications

In order to practice, nurses typically need to be licensed or certified. To become licensed, nurses must obtain a degree (a diploma, associate’s or bachelor’s degree) from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Many nursing specializations also require certifications beyond the basics of being a registered or licensed nurse. These additional certifications can demonstrate adherence to a higher standard and some employers require it.3

Practical Experience

Whether a nursing candidate chooses a diploma, associate’s or BSN degree, all nursing education programs include supervised clinical experience.3 The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) defines clinical practice experiences as, “planned learning activities in nursing that allow students to understand, perform and refine professional competencies at the appropriate program level.” 4 By completing clinical education, a student may likely be more prepared to pass the NCLEX exam and become officially licensed.

Characteristics of a Nurse

Each step taken along a career path to specialized nursing may be a job in itself. Nurses may take years to complete each step. Along the way, a nursing professional can discover a lot about themselves, their skills and their preferences.

In preparing to take the next step in the process toward a nursing degree, it may be important to keep adaptability and other specific characteristics in mind. Over time, a nurse has the potential to work in a chosen field. Flexibility can be vital because, at every step, plans have the potential to change.

In addition to adaptability, the need for communication skills, emotional stability and physical stamina is also essential for both success and navigation in a nursing career. Critical-thinking skills, compassion and organizational talents can also benefit someone in the fast-paced nature of nursing.3

To maintain a practical, balanced approach in a medical career, a nurse may be able to use these skill sets to set general goals. Preferences in a specialty can be identified, but the ability to remain open to further education and broad experiences may be beneficial. Each step of the nursing profession has new opportunities to explore. Taking them as they come and staying passionate can be elemental in excelling in this field.

Earn Your RN-to-BSN from CTU

Colorado Technical University (CTU) offers an online RN-to-BSN program which is built on prior foundational nursing knowledge and provides students with the necessary tools to deliver evidence-based care and drive change at the bedside and beyond. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program at Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (

Learn more about CTU’s BSN program.

1. "Your Nursing Career: A Look at the Facts." American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Last modified November 2016. Accessed July 10, 2017.
2. Doyle, Alison. “Licensed Practical Nurse Job Description.” The Balance. Last modified November 09, 2016. Accessed July 10, 2017.
3. “How to Become a Registered Nurse.” Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last modified December 17, 2015. Accessed July 10, 2017.
4. “Frequently Asked Questions: Clinical Practice Experiences.” Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Last modified October 2016. Accessed July 10, 2017.

For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended this program, go to CTU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Not all programs are available to residents of all states. Financial aid is available for those who qualify. 1213390 7/17

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