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Common Titles and Roles for Nurses

A nursing career can include a wide variety of positions and responsibilities.

There are more than 3 million registered nurses (RNs) currently employed in the U.S. with another 221,900 RN jobs or positions expected to become available by 2029.1 And that’s not even counting all the other nursing professionals who don’t hold an RN or who hold an advanced nursing degree. With so many engaged in nursing, it’s no surprise that there are a wide variety of titles and roles for nurses. If you’ve considering starting or advancing your nursing career, here are a few of the roles you might consider:

Adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner: Works as a care provider for gerontology patients experiencing an acute or emergency medical issue.

Common Titles and Roles for Nurses

Adult/gerontology primary care nurse practitioner: Works in a clinical setting and serves as the primary care provider for a panel of gerontology patients.

Assistant director of nursing: Assists a director of nursing, often focusing on a particular area such as the ICU or general surgery.

Clinical nurse: Works in a clinical setting, often assisting a physician or nurse practitioner in patient care.

Clinical nurse consultant: Serves in a consultant capacity and is brought into a clinical setting to provide expert medical help and occasionally assist with clinic management and finances.

Director of nursing: Provides day-to-day management of nursing programs in a hospital or other healthcare facility.

Executive director of nursing services: Serves as an executive-level leader overseeing all aspects of a healthcare facility’s nursing program, including the oversight of finances and professional guidelines.

Family nurse practitioner: Works as a primary care provider in a clinic setting, seeing a panel of patients of all ages.

Nurse educator: Provides health education programs for nurses or the public at large.

Nurse executive: Oversees a specific nursing unit or ward within a division such as surgical, pediatric, emergency, etc.

Clinical nurse specialist: Engages in professional development through research into a specific subject. Typically holds a postgraduate degree such as an MSN degree.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Treats patients from birth to age 21, while supporting families and acting as an advocate for children.

Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner: Works as a psychiatric care provider, seeing a panel of mental health patients.

Public health nurse: Works with entire communities to help improve access to care, identify high-risk groups, interventions, and more.

Registered nurse: Provides day-to-day nursing care to patients. Must have completed an approved course of study and met the requirements of the nurses’ board. Registered nurses are encouraged to continue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

How Can You Begin or Advance a Nursing Career?

If you want to take advantage of any of the numerous nursing jobs available throughout the U.S., one of the best choices you can make is to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. An MSN program can help prepare you for such leadership roles as director of nursing or executive director of nursing services.2 A master’s degree in nursing is also a great choice because it usually has a number of specializations, allowing you to pursue a focused area of expertise such as:

If you’re worried about finding the time to attend nursing school, online learning can provide the solution. When you enroll in a master’s in nursing program at an online university, you don’t have to upend your life to earn your degree. Instead, through an online MSN program, you can complete your coursework on a flexible online platform that lets you continue working full time.

Earning a master’s in nursing online is a particularly good choice if you have completed an RN program. Not only will an online nursing school allow you to fit your education around your shifts, it can give you the opportunity to go straight from RN to MSN. With an RN to MSN online program, you don’t have to earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) separately. Instead, it is incorporated into the program. Of course, there are RN to BSN online programs, too. Regardless of which program you choose, nursing is a field with a wide range of unique—and often readily available—nursing careers, making an online nursing program a great choice.

Walden University is No. 1 in Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) graduates in the United States.3. In addition, Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online Master of Science in Nursing degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

2Source: Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.
3Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Collected using Burning Glass Technologies. Retrieved February 2020, using CIP code 51.38 (Registered Nursing, Nursing Administration, Nursing Research, and Clinical Nursing). Includes 2017–18 provisional data.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,