Primary nociceptors are a heterogeneous class of peripheral somatosensory neurons, responsible for detecting noxious, pruriceptive, and thermal stimuli. These neurons are further divided into several molecularly defined subtypes that correlate with their functional sensory modalities and morphological features. During development, all nociceptors arise from a common pool of embryonic precursors, and then segregate progressively into their mature specialized phenotypes. In this review, we summarize the intrinsic transcriptional programs and extrinsic trophic factor signaling mechanisms that interact to control nociceptor diversification. We also discuss how recent transcriptome profiling studies have significantly advanced the field of sensory neuron development.