Andrew Wettengel / Friday, August 27, 2021 / Categories: Work World


Nursing specialties allow individuals to pursue areas of the medical field that interest them. Each specialty requires different skills, and the day-to-day duties can vary significantly between fields. In addition, each specialty has a different level of desirability for potential employers.

Every facility has distinct needs, and each hospital will hire nurses in certain disciplines based on these needs. Some specialties are more desirable than others. Let’s take a look at the top 10 most sought-after nursing specialties of 2022.

1.    Cardiovascular Nurses

Cardiovascular nurses, also called cardiac nurses, work closely with cardiologists to help patients with acute and chronic heart conditions. Cardiac nurses may assist with defibrillation and heart surgery. These specialized nurses must know how to provide cardiac life support, care for cardiac patients, communicate with patients and their loved ones, and perform catheterization.

Cardiac nurses may find employment in various healthcare settings such as hospitals, intensive care facilities, medical clinics, rehabilitative facilities, and long-term care facilities. These nurses might be found in ICUs, cardiology units in hospitals, and surgical units. They will assist with procedures, monitor heart activity, administer medications, educate patients and their families, and help patients recover post-op.

The average base salary for cardiac nurses is over $88,500, based on experience, location, and education level. Demand for qualified cardiovascular nurses is expected to increase much like all other areas of nursing over the next few years. Between 2019 and 2029, demand is expected to increase by seven percent. This could be a low estimate as Baby Boomers continue to age, especially considering the prevalence of heart disease is not expected to decrease.

2.    Intensive Care Unit Nurses

ICU nurses, often called critical care nurses, help patients and their families during some of the most difficult moments in their lives. ICU nurses provide not only medical care but also moral support and hope. Intensive care nurses monitor patients when they are admitted to the hospital after a serious accident, trauma, organ failure, extensive surgery, acute illness, or other serious incidents.

Critical care nurses must be able to handle intense, life-threatening situations. During this type of pressure, they still need to use their skills to assess patients, perform tests, assist doctors with medical procedures and treatments, and provide updates to patients and family members.

Demand for critical care nurses is expected to increase by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. This growth is much faster than average, making this specialty a great option for new nurses entering the field. The median annual salary for ICU nurses is over $72,500 per year, but many factors go into a critical care nurse’s salary. Location, type of facility, experience, and level of education all help determine pay for an intensive care unit nurse.

3.    Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurses

Neonatal intensive care unit nurses, or NICU nurses for short, perform similar tasks as ICU nurses but with newborns. Nurses in the NICU assist with births, monitor infants in the NICU, administer treatments and medications, and more. A major part of the job includes helping parents through their baby’s NICU stay. NICU nurses are often the most reliable support for parents who are scared and worried about their fragile babies.

Demand for NICU nurses is expected to increase by around 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. The average national salary for a NICU nurse is more than $71,000 per year, with traveling NICU nurses typically earning more than staff nurses at hospitals. Nurses in some regions of the country will make more, and their pay can increase or decrease based on education level, experience level, and facility.

4.    Operating Room Nurses

Working in an operating room can be a fast-paced, stressful job. Operating room nurses need to handle the pressure that comes with the high level of care required in the OR. Also called perioperative nurses, OR nurses help prep patients and the operating rooms, and assist with surgeries.

There are different roles for operating room nurses. Scrub nurses are in charge of surgical instruments during a procedure. Circulating nurses ensure that the OR is sterile throughout a surgery, and they help with general nursing tasks during a procedure.

Between 2018 and 2028, job openings are expected to increase by 12 percent. Demand for these nurses isn’t going away any time soon. The average salary for an OR nurse is more than $75,000, making this a well-paying nursing position. It is important to keep in mind that pay is dependent on many factors, including location, facility, and level of education and experience.

5.    Emergency Room Nurses

Emergency room nurses face some of the most stressful situations in healthcare. Within the field, there are different distinctions and specialties for ER nurses to pursue.

  • Trauma ER Nurse: Trauma nurses are charged with caring for severe trauma cases that arrive in the emergency room.
  • Triage ER Nurse: Triage nurses are responsible for determining the severity of trauma cases and prioritizing them based on the urgency with which the patients need care.
  • Pediatric ER Nurse: When children are admitted to the emergency room, pediatric ER nurses are there to provide specialized care. These nurses have a special pediatric emergency nurse certification.
  • Flight ER Nurse: Requiring a special flight registered nurse credential, flight ER nurses treat patients on emergency air transport during the flight.
  • Transport ER Nurse: When patients need to be transferred between hospitals, they are cared for by transport ER nurses who have a special transport registered nurse certification.

An ER nurse needs to have many skills, including critical thinking, problem-solving, and staying calm under intense pressure. ER nurses deal with illnesses and injuries that require immediate attention, and seconds can save lives in these dire situations.

Emergency room nurses are often confused with ICU nurses. However, the distinction lies in location and type of care. ER nurses provide care with the goal of stabilization immediately upon a patient’s arrival to the hospital. In contrast, ICU nurses provide care for patients in critical condition after they have received emergency treatment.

Job demand for ER nurses is only expected to grow. Between 2019 to 2029, the job growth rate is expected to increase by seven percent. ER nurse salaries vary greatly; the average median national salary for an ER nurse is $51,920, with the national average salary falling to $34,250. However, nurse practitioners with ER experience and training earn an average of $100,721 per year.

6.    Pediatric Nurses

Pediatric nurses are those who work with young children. These nurses must desire to help and care for kids who are undergoing treatments for various illnesses and diseases. Caring for young patients requires a great deal of patience and a love of children. Kids are often scared to go to the doctor’s—and even more frightened when they have to go to the hospital for any reason—which can make it challenging to provide medical care. Pediatric nurses can also help calm down kids when they feel nervous, overwhelmed, or scared.

Another important aspect of the job for pediatric nurses is education. Pediatric nurses are often the ones who help educate both children and their parents on how to provide proper care for specific ailments. Additionally, these nurses help ensure that children grow up healthy and safe.

If you have a passion for youngsters, pediatric nurses are in high demand, making it a great specialty for nurses to pursue. Pediatric nurses can work in hospitals, pediatricians’ offices, primary care clinics, schools, and more.

Pediatric nurses can expect to make between $52,000 and $88,000 per year, depending on their level of education, location, type of facility, and experience level. Demand for pediatric nurses is expected to grow 19 percent by 2028, which is much faster than the national average for job growth.

7.    General Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners have more advanced training than registered nurses, and they work in both primary and specialty care situations across the United States. These nurses can work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, nursing homes, and clinics. A lack of primary care physicians in the United States has led to a boom in nurse practitioner need.

General nurse practitioners are expected to manage patient care, prescribe medications, diagnose and treat various injuries and illnesses, order tests, and educate patients. Duties vary between specialties, however. Specialties for nurse practitioners include women’s health, psychiatric health, pediatric health, oncology, neonatal health, and family health.

With a growth projection rate of 45 percent, this career path is in higher demand than most other industries and nursing fields. Due to the need for advanced education and training, nurse practitioners make more money than many other specialties. The median pay for nurse practitioners in 2020 was $117,670 a year, or more than $56 per hour. However, a master’s degree is typically required for even an entry-level position.

8.    Clinical Nurse Specialists

Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) provide care to patients in specialty areas such as family practice, neonatal, pediatrics, adult-gerontology, women’s health, and more. The role is similar to that of a nurse practitioner, but CNSs are more about education and management. Additionally, clinical nurse specialists don’t typically provide direct patient care or treatments, and they don’t prescribe medications.

CNSs often work in healthcare administration and teaching. These special nurses help facilities implement best practices based on research and other evidence. Their main goal is a smooth operation in whatever facility they work within, including hospitals and academic settings. CNSs need to be able to conduct research and teach other nurses and staff based on this research.

Pay for CNSs averages $91,300 each year. However, reports on CNS salaries range greatly. For example, ZipRecruiter found that the average median salary for CNSs is $106,407. Jobs for CNSs are expected to increase by 45 percent between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations in the U.S.

9.    Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are responsible for helping administer anesthesia to patients undergoing surgical, diagnostic, or obstetric procedures. Due to the nature of their work, nurse anesthetists are typically expected to have either a master’s degree or a Doctor of Nursing practice (DNP) degree.

CRNAs generally work with anesthesiologists, and they help evaluate patients before and after anesthesia is given. These nurses help determine the type and amount of anesthesia that patients need. CRNAs help check for existing health conditions, medications, and allergies that might conflict with the anesthesia.

Nurses in this field typically make a median average of $183,580 per year. The lowest recorded wage for someone in this position is over $55,000 per year. Demand for certified registered nurse anesthetists is expected to increase by 45 percent between 2019 and 2029, much faster than average.

10. Surgical Nurse Practitioner

Surgical nurse practitioners work alongside surgeons in operating rooms. They assist with surgeries and even perform them on their own when needed. These specialized nurses often work in hospitals or private practices; some might even work in academic settings, such as academic medical centers.

Surgical NPs will need to have a master’s or DNP degree. As a surgical NP, you can further specialize in fields like orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, plastic surgery, general surgery, and more. In addition to their surgical duties, surgical NPs help with pre-op and post-op procedures and care, admission and discharge paperwork, pain management, patient education, wound care, and more.

Since all nurse practitioner specialties are projected to have above-average growth, surgical nurse practitioner positions are also expected to increase over the next few years. Surgical NPs can expect to make an average of $104,860 annually.


Pursuing a job in any of these nursing fields is promising. Nurses in these specialties often find good jobs and make more money than nurses in other disciplines. OneStaff Medical has open positions in a variety of nursing fields. If you are looking for your next travel assignment, reach out to one of our recruiters today!

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