Nurse Practitioners & Other Careers in Nursing Leadership

As the field of nursing continues to mature, nursing careers are becoming both more nuanced and more complex. The options for specialization are wide-ranging: nurses, nurse practitioners (NPs), and other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) may choose to focus on a particular patient population, or specialize in treating a certain type of disease or a specific part of the body. Over the last decade, many niche areas of nursing have grown into their own dedicated specialties and subspecialties, complete with fellowship opportunities, certification options, and professional societies to support them. 

Modern nursing is not a monolithic profession but a constellation of different roles. Nursing careers at all levels each have their own educational pathways, certification options, and licensure requirements. To learn more about the different careers available, and to get the most comprehensive and up-to-date information about each, check out our career guides below.


Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN)

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs/LVNs) are the entry-level category of nurses. They provide basic patient care and perform duties such as taking vital signs, administering injections, and observing patients.

Registered Nurse (RN)

Becoming a registered nurse (RN) is compelling for many people because of the relatively low barrier to entry into this growing and lucrative career. After graduating from high school or earning a GED, aspiring RNs need to complete a nursing degree.

Nurse Leaders

Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)

Clinical nurse leaders (CNLs) serve a vital role in the healthcare system by effectively utilizing resources, improving patient outcomes, and leading interprofessional teams. These nurses bridge the gap between direct bedside care and administrative decision-making.

Nurse Administrator

Learn more about the steps to becoming a nurse administrator, including a step-by-step guide, educational requirements, salary, and professional certifications.

Nurse Educator

Becoming a nurse educator necessitates meeting some prerequisites, including completing a nursing education program, holding a valid nursing license, and having a minimum of two years of nursing experience.

Nurse Executive

To step into a nurse executive role, registered nurses must demonstrate the necessary skills to lead teams of other nurses and collaborate with physicians, therapists, and other healthcare team members. Most nurse executives have years of work experience in leadership roles such as charge nurse or nursing supervisor.

Nurse Practitioners

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP)

Acute care refers to the treatment of an illness or injury that requires immediate attention. It is typically provided in an emergency setting such as a hospital, urgent care center, or other healthcare facility.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

To become an NP, nurses must first earn an associate’s of science in nursing (ASN) or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). These general nursing education programs prepare students to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) and obtain a registered nurse (RN) license.

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)

Adult gerontology nurse practitioners (AGNPs) provide care to patients across their adult lifespan, from young adulthood through old age. AGNPs specialize in the unique needs of each stage of life, allowing them to provide comprehensive, individualized care.

Family Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are an essential part of the solution to this problem. FNPs are advanced practice registered nurses who are educated and trained to provide primary care services to patients of all ages.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)

Among the many providers who attend to premature babies are skilled neonatal practitioners (NNPs). Like nurses, they can monitor patients, administer medications, and educate families.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)

Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses who provide primary, acute, or specialty care to infants, children, and adolescents up to the age of 21.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses specially trained to care for patients with mental health conditions. They can prescribe medication, conduct therapy, and provide other forms of treatment.

Women's Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)

Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) are specialized nurse practitioners that focus on providing comprehensive care for women throughout their lifespans. WHNPs can offer a wide range of services, from preventative care to managing chronic conditions.

Other APRNs

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

CNMs are also strong advocates for women’s health and well-being. They work tirelessly to promote health equity and access to quality care, and they are a powerful force in the fight against maternal mortality. CNMs are trained in both nursing and midwifery, are certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and must be licensed to practice in their state. In most states, CNMs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), although a few states only require national certification and a registered nurse (RN) license to practice.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who provides care to patients with complex medical needs. The work of a CNS includes everything from wellness to treating patients when they’re sick. They offer a wide range of services, including diagnosing and treating acute or chronic illnesses.

Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

A career as a CRNA can be very rewarding. CRNAs are responsible for administering anesthesia and providing care before, during, and after surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic, and obstetrical procedures. They can also provide pain management and some emergency services.