Types of Nurses: Key Differences, Salaries and Education Requirements

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A group of smiling nurses.

The health care field is an integral aspect of society, no matter the condition of the economy or what trends are influencing businesses. While people can choose different ways to spend their time and money, they can’t neglect their health care needs. With health care as a primary driver of the economy and a looming nursing shortage, nurses are in high demand.

While different areas of nursing grow at different rates, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that jobs for registered nurses (RNs) will increase by 12% between 2018 and 2028. Some areas are predicted to grow faster than others, with high demand for neonatal, clinical and dialysis nurses, and increasing need for nurse practitioners (NPs).

As the baby boom generation ages, the health care field will increase in demand for qualified medical experts. Many nurses and doctors are retiring; consequently, the need for RNs, NPs and other types of nurses is growing much faster than average. Now is an excellent time for prospective students to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rider University and pursue careers as nurses.

What Are the Different Types of Nurses?

There are many different types of nursing careers. Here are the three major types of nursing roles:

Licensed Practical Nurse

Nurses can begin their careers by working as licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). LPNs and LVNs are required to earn a practical nursing diploma as well as a license from an accredited institution. Typically these nurses can earn the necessary credentials within a year. They mostly work in nursing facilities and residential care facilities, but can also work in hospitals and physician offices.

LPNs and LVNs assist patients with basic medical needs, performing tasks such as checking blood pressure and changing bandages. They help other nurses by monitoring patients’ health and helping keep records. According to the BLS, this role is projected to grow by 11% between 2018 and 2028. LPNs and LVNs made an annual median salary of $47,480 in 2019.

Registered Nurse

Like LPNs and LVNs, RNs can begin their educational path with a practical nursing diploma or by earning an associate degree. Many nursing students earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing before taking the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to receive their nursing licenses, enhancing their chances in the job market. According to the BLS, 60% of RNs work in hospitals. They also work in ambulatory services, nursing facilities, the government and educational organizations.

There are several different types of RNs, including the following:

  • Genetics nurses
  • Rehabilitation nurses
  • Cardiovascular nurses
  • Addiction nurses
  • Charge nurses
  • Neonatal nurses
  • Nurse managers
  • Critical care nurses
  • Home health nurses
  • Nephrology nurses

As certified health care workers, RNs can administer medication and treatments as well as manage medical equipment. RNs work alongside doctors to assess patients’ health and diagnose conditions. They can provide screenings for patients as well as advise them regarding how to take their medications at home. RNs made an annual median salary of $73,300 in 2019, according to the BLS.

Nurse Practitioners

NPs need advanced education and experience before they can practice. After earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing, RNs can further their education to pursue a range of nursing careers. NPs need to earn an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing, to qualify as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

NPs can pursue a variety of specialties, including the following:

  • Family nurse practitioner
  • Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner
  • Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner
  • Women’s health nurse practitioner

APRNs in these roles serve as primary care providers who, unlike other types of nurses, can prescribe medication. Others work alongside physicians to provide patient care. Nurses who earn advanced degrees can also pursue careers as nurse anesthetists or nurse midwives. APRNs in all of these roles made an annual median salary of $115,800 in 2019, according to the BLS.

What Is a Nurse Manager Salary and Job Description?

Nurse managers play an important role in the nursing field as well as the overall health care field. Nurse managers work as a bridge between RNs and medical facility administration. An individual interested in pursuing a nurse manager career should earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and gain experience working as an RN. Most medical facilities and hospitals require RNs to have at least two years’ experience before they become nurse managers. Nurses can also obtain a Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) credential to qualify for nurse manager positions.

Nurse managers create the budgets and schedules for their departments. They provide regular budget reports to their administrative leaders, manage their departments’ supplies, interview prospective nurses and train newly hired nurses. Providing ongoing training and coaching for staff is another aspect of a nurse manager’s job.

Nurse managers not only interact with administrators and nurses in their units but also work with physicians and patients. Key skills and qualities for nurse managers include the following:

  • Strong communication with nurses, administrators, physicians and patients
  • Organization and scheduling
  • Budgeting and financial knowledge
  • Technical skills and knowledge of medical terminology
  • Patience for training and coaching nurses
  • Empathy for patients
  • Ability to operate equipment

While nurse managers sometimes engage with patients, they mostly work as the primary communicators between line nurses and the administrative leaders working in management positions. These types of nurses are important as they ensure quality of care across multiple departments and work to make any necessary improvements. PayScale reports that nurse managers make a median annual salary of around $86,000, according to April 2020 data.

What Does a Charge Nurse Do?

One way nurses can advance without additional education is by becoming charge nurses. Charge nurses work in supervisory roles, overseeing a specific department or unit of nurses. Individuals should have experience working as LPNs or RNs before considering becoming charge nurses, as experience plays an important role. Even though RNs don’t need to earn additional education to become charge nurses, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing can make them more appealing to employers.

While the roles of nurse managers and charge nurses share some similarities, the former have more administrative duties while the latter still work primarily as nurses. Charge nurses still report to nurse managers, like the nurses under their own supervision. Often, charge nurses work as bedside nurses for one shift and then take on a leadership role for the next. They need to be flexible, with varying responsibilities that can change throughout the week.

Charge nurses still primarily work with patients, administering medications and treatments and ensuring quality levels of medical care. They also coordinate other nurses’ activities, from helping create schedules to making sure all patients have been assigned to a nurse.

Charge nurses help admit and discharge patients and ensure that shifts run smoothly, addressing problems that arise and making decisions for the department. Charge nurses should exhibit the following skills:

  • Communication with nurse managers, nurses and patients
  • Decision-making
  • Problem-solving
  • Remaining calm under pressure
  • Organization for scheduling and multitasking
  • Critical thinking and resourcefulness
  • Patience and empathy for patients

While charge nurses are still bedside nurses who work one-on-one with patients, they also have leadership roles. Charge nurses should demonstrate specific competencies as bedside nurses as well as an ability to work well with nurse managers and other administrative leaders. PayScale reports that charge nurses make an annual median salary of around $70,000, according to April 2020 data.

Health Educator Salary and Job Description

Health educators play an important role in the medical field, promoting wellness and educating individuals about their health. Health educators may begin their education by earning an associate degree, but they usually earn a bachelor’s degree in health education, public health education or nursing. They also gain experience through on-the-job training before they begin working. Many employers require health educators to earn a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential.

According to the BLS, 10% of health educators work in hospitals. After doctors diagnose a certain condition or disease for patients, health educators can help them understand how it will practically affect their lives. They advise patients on how to manage their conditions and work toward improved health.

While the main goal of health educators is to promote health and wellness in various communities, they work in many different locations, including the following:

  • Government organizations
  • Health care facilities
  • Public health departments
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Community health facilities
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Private practices

Health educators’ primary goal is to determine the health needs of the people they serve. After assessing a community’s medical knowledge regarding certain health issues or conditions, health educators provide training sessions, programs or workshops to help that community better manage its health.

Health educators provide medical information about a wide range of issues, from how to prevent the flu to healthy eating and exercise habits. They work with team members to host training programs, teach materials and help individuals implement healthy practices. They may also serve as health advocates, connecting individuals with other medical experts. According to the BLS, the annual median salary of health educators was $46,910 in 2019.

Home Health Nurse Salary and Job Description

Home health nurses work with patients in their own homes. Depending on the expectations of the medical facilities they work for, home health nurses can either earn an associate degree in nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Nurses interested in becoming home health nurses can begin by working as LPNs or RNs.

After gaining experience in medical facilities, nurses can develop specialized expertise to become home health nurses. It’s important for nurses to develop the following skills, as they will be working with a variety of different patients with different health needs:

  • Administering medication
  • Taking vital signs and running assessments
  • Running IVs
  • Taking labs for testing
  • Dressing injuries and changing bandages
  • Understanding mental health
  • Understanding technical knowledge and medical vocabulary
  • Working with a range of patients, from pediatrics to geriatrics

Home health nurses differ from nurses working in medical facilities in that they travel to visit patients. Home health nurses work with patients who need regular or specialized care. While they work in conjunction with a specific medical facility and report back to nurse managers with patient records and updates, they primarily work in the field. PayScale reports that the annual median salary for home health nurses is around $65,000, according to April 2020 data.

Pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing

While different types of nurses have different roles and responsibilities, they each contribute to the health care field in an important way. With a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, nurses can expand the range of careers open to them, working as RNs, nurse managers, charge nurses, health educators or home health nurses. Some may use a Bachelor of Science in Nursing as a springboard to further education, pursuing a master’s degree and certification as an APRN. While these nurses perform different day-to-day tasks, they all ensure that patients receive the medical knowledge and care they need.

Individuals interested in becoming nurses can begin their journey with an online Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rider University. Students take classes in Interprofessional Collaboration and Communication for Improving Healthcare Outcomes, Organizational and Healthcare Systems Leadership, Professionalism and Professional Values, and Cultural Diversity in a Global Society, among other core nursing courses. While gaining skills and expertise, they learn about different types of nursing and how to succeed in those careers. Explore Rider University’s program today, and let us help you pursue your professional nursing goals.

Recommended Readings

Nurse Management Roles in Healthcare

Registered Nurse Supervisor Job Description, Skills, and Educational Requirements 

Why Is Communication Important in Nursing?


eMedCert, “10 Types of Nurses That Are in High Demand” 

HealthCare Support, The Highest-Demand Nursing Specialties

Houston Chronicle, “Nurse Manager Requirements” 

PayScale, Average Charge Nurse (RN) Hourly Pay

PayScale, Average Nursing Manager Salary 

PayScale, Average Registered Nurse (RN) with Home Health/Home Care Skills Hourly Pay  

ReferralMD, “Different Types of Nurses and Their Role in Healthcare” 

Trusted, “So You Want to Be a Charge Nurse?” 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Health Educators and Community Health Workers 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

Verywell Health, “Average Nurse Salaries by Type of Nursing Career and Role”