Nursing Specialties

What is a Nursing Specialty?

A nursing specialty often allows a nurse to focus on a specific area of care. Nursing specialties are areas where a nurse has obtained longer or more concentrated education. This may help them have the skills to meet specific needs. Some people may elect to complete a nursing specialty as a part of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Others may do so in their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). This may help students complete education for their specific career path of choice.

What kind of nurses are there?

A vast number of nurse types are available. These individuals often complete their education in a specific area. This may include a nurse that wishes to work in an intensive care unit. Others may wish to pursue a certified registered nurse anesthetist degree to work in a surgical unit. Some may wish to work as a certified nurse midwife. There are many types of nurses, each of which provides specific skills for their patients.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Nursing Career

Choose a nursing degree, specialty and career based on what interests you. Consider factors such as these:

  • Your Goals: What you wish to do is important. Choose areas that interest you. Some people may be interested in gerontology. Others pediatrics. Choose a nursing degree and specialty that helps place you on the path to work in the field you desire.
  • Demand: Consider the demand for a specific field in your area. Also, consider the level of education you need. There may be a high demand for those who are a Doctoral Nurse Practitioner (DNP) but in other areas, a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) may be more in demand. Look for nursing programs that put you in the area you wish to pursue. Is a Ph.D necessary or beneficial to achieve your goals?
  • Location: Think about the type of nursing care needed in your area. That could include geographical factors. It may also focus on the type of environment you wish to work, such as the ICU, NICU, palliative care, home health care, or healthcare facilities providing rehabilitation.
  • Salary: Consider how much you wish to earn. There are some degree paths that may lead to highly skilled positions in demand. This may pay more. For example a surgical nurse working in an operating room may have exceptional skills and earn more than someone working in an outpatient location.

30 Nursing Specialties

Take a look at some nursing specialties you may wish to pursue in nursing practice.

Registered Nurse

Education Required: Minimum of an Associates Degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019- 2029 Growth Rate: 5% to 7%

Per O*NET, as a registered nurse (RN), duties include maintaining medical records and monitoring patients’ conditions. You may also need to administer intravenous (IV) and non intravenous medications. Inform other medical professionals about the patient’s current care levels.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Education Required: Master’s Degree
2020 Median Salary: $117,670 annually
2019- 2029 Growth Rate: 45%

In this nursing position, one is responsible for the care of the patient in this nursing specialty. According to the BLS, you may work with the patient to maintain their levels of care and to provide them with the course of action needed to maintain wellness. They work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics and may even set up their own practice. They may work as a neonatal nurse or postpartum nurse.

Cardiac Critical Care Nurse

Education Required: Minimum of associates prefer bachelors
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 5% to 7%

As per O*NET, in this position, you work directly with patients in need of direct care. These are patients you may work with, specifically in a hospital setting. The patients are in need of care for heart issues. In this position, there may also be administering of medications both orally and through an IV. Interaction with family members as well as working directly with the doctors to provide in the area of cardiovascular medicine is a part of this position.

Registered Public Health Nurse

Education Required: Bachelors degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 7%

In this nursing specialty, per the BLS, the nurse works directly in the community. This may happen in a number of ways. Either by conducting research on health issues in the community, creating plans of education regarding health issues in the community, or developing action plans for health emergencies. Other duties may include running clinics or offering education to members of the community. This position may be found on local, county, or state levels and is usually directly related to the health departments of those areas.

Nurse Anesthetist

Education Required: Master’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $117,670 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 45%

A nurse anesthetist works as an advanced practice registered nurse. In this position, duties may include taking and recording medical histories and symptoms, performing physical exams, and creating patient care plans according to the BLS. A nurse anesthetist works primarily in dealing with the patient regarding administering and controlling anesthesia. They work in doctor’s offices and hospitals primarily to aid in surgical procedures. In this position, they spend the bulk of their time with patients before, during, and following a surgery or procedure.

Registered Pediatric Nurse

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 7%

As a registered pediatric nurse, there are many duties. According to O*NET, first and foremost is having the ability to work with and understand children. Being able to assess the condition a child is describing as well as to get a medical history and to learn what symptoms the child may be experiencing. The nurse may aid in providing the information to the doctor or primary caregiver and to help assess the situation. They may also work with the family of the patient to help educate and provide information regarding the situation. They may work in clinics, doctor’s offices, or hospitals and sometimes in neonatal intensive care locations.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 7%

A clinical nurse specialist or CNS is an advanced practice registered nurse. In this position, they are directly responsible for patient care as per the BLS. This care may be in any of a number of different health specialties. In this nursing specialty, one may work indirectly with other nurses when providing care for patients. In this position, you may work in a hospital or clinic setting, In some cases, urgent care centers, or even in a doctor’s office.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

Education Required: Master’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $117,670 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 45%

As an orthopedic nurse practitioner, there are a number of duties. Some of these duties according to the BLS may include but are not limited to getting a patient’s medical history, perform physical exams, create plans of care, and diagnose health problems. In this nursing specialty, you work primarily with an orthopedic surgeon or doctor. Here you may have to aid in procedures and to possibly diagnose. In situations where there is no need for a surgeon, you may be counted on to perform all duties with the patient and prescribe medications and treatment plans. You may work in a hospital setting or a doctor’s office.

Critical Care Nurse

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 7%

Per O*NET, as a critical care nurse, you may be responsible for a number of items regarding patient care. In this position, you may be the first person that the patient encounters in a hospital setting. You may need to get a detailed medical history as well as a description of the symptoms and issues the patient is experiencing. Dealing with patients in an emergency setting and knowing which type of action to take and which tests to run and how to interpret and provide evaluations for the doctors to get the best results and solutions for the patients efficiently.

Oncology Nurse

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 7%

According to the BLS, an oncology nurse is one that works directly with a doctor who is an oncologist. These cancer doctors want nurses who are familiar with the issues that their specific patients may be dealing with. In many cases, as the nurse, you may be responsible for getting patient histories and current list of ailments, as well as performing a routine medical exam. Administering of drugs orally and through an IV may also be part of the job duties. In many cases, this position may be in the cancer ward of a hospital or in a doctor’s office.

Emergency Room Registered Nurse

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 7%

As an emergency room nurse, you may be the primary evaluator of a person in need of urgent care. In this nursing specialty, per the BLS, you may need to evaluate a patient and their symptoms, you may also need to take a patient’s history. An ER nurse may be the first person encountered by someone in need of immediate care. Here you work directly with a group of doctors, nurses, and EMTs to aid patients in need of emergency care.

Nurse Practitioner

Education Required: Master’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $117,670 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 45%

As a nurse practitioner, there are a number of options and paths to choose. Whether you are looking to specialize or simply be a general nurse practitioner, there are specific duties you now have. According to the BLS, aside from the traditional histories and physical exams, you may now have the ability to administer medications and to write prescriptions. You may also be responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of your patients on multiple levels with decision making authority. In many cases, you may find yourself working in a hospital, clinic, doctor’s office or in other locations. They may oversee other nursing staff as well.

Nurse Midwife

Education Required: Masters degree
2020 Median Salary: $111,130 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 8%

As a nurse midwife, you have a number of responsibilities. Per O*NET, you may have to monitor a fetal heartbeat, perform measurements as well as document a fetus’s position to help estimate size and weight. Other duties may include initiating emergency procedures to stabilize the patient, being able to communicate with the patient and family. Helping to participate in discussions with the entire medical team handling the patient. You may also work to develop a plan for the individual that best suits their needs for healthcare. You may work in a doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Education Required: Master’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $117,670 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 45%

As a family nurse practitioner, you are an extension of a general practitioner. In this position, according to the BLS, you may be handling many of the simpler cases that come into the office where you are practicing. Handling things such as routine physicals, diagnosing ailments, and determining a course of action to aid in assisting basic medical needs. Here you do not have a specialty per se but work with many different patients to help cover basic needs medically. This could occur in a clinic, hospital, urgent care setting.

Registered Geriatric Nurse

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 7%

According to the BLS, as a geriatric nurse, you may primarily be dealing with people who are older. This type of nurse is meant to work with a senior community and works directly in a doctor’s office or clinic. Here you may have to work with patients to help understand the conditions they have as well as the medications they are taking. You may also need to teach patients and families how to perform certain items to aid in improving health or how to properly take medications.

Medical Services Nurse Manager

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $104,280 per year
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 32%

As a medical services manager, you may have a number of responsibilities. Per the BLS, here you may be tasked with improving the efficiency and quality of healthcare services. You may be the key part of communication between all aspects of the department or office in which you work. Managing and teaching the office staff may be other tasks you could face. Creating work schedules for the office staff and also being responsible for budgeting. They may provide case management. This position may be in a doctor’s office or in a specific department of a hospital.

Surgical Assistant

Education Required: Associates Degree
2020 Median Salary: $51,840 per year
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 8%

As a surgical assistant, there may be a number of responsibilities. Here you may need to assist a surgeon in a number of ways. This may include helping to seal sutures or close surgical sites. Other tasks may include placing catheters, applying dressings, or helping to implant medical devices. A position such as this may be found in a hospital, doctor’s office, clinic, emergency facility, or a hospital as per the BLS.

Nurse Educator

Education Required: Master’s Degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,470 per year
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 8%

Per the BLS, as a nurse educator, you may plan to work at a college or nursing school. Here you may have the duties of teaching new nurses how to do their jobs and how to prepare for the career they are going into. In many cases, a nurse educator was a nurse originally and chose to go into the field of teaching after spending time working as a nurse. In most cases, they use this experience to help in teaching and guiding the students. These jobs are available at colleges, universities, and nursing schools.

Mental Health Advanced Practice Nurse (Psychiatric Nurse)

Education Required: Master’s Degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 per year
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 5% to 7%

As a mental health advanced practice nurse, there are a number of duties involved. According to O*NET, here you may have to treat and diagnose while working with doctors of mental health patients. You may have to take medical histories as well as learn what symptoms the patient is dealing with. Being able to prescribe and administer medications are also tasks you may encounter. There are a number of places where you may work as a mental health practice nurse, including hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. Some may work in substance abuse treatment as well.

Neonatal Registered Nurse

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 7%

As a neonatal registered nurse, per the BLS, you primarily work with and take care of infants. Here you have the job of taking care of the newborn babies in hospitals and working with their families. Some of your tasks may include changing and feeding these babies as well as providing necessary care for them, depending on what they may encounter. You may also need to work to educate parents on specific things that need to be done when caring for the child. This job is available in the maternity wards of most hospitals and may be able to be found in a pediatrician’s office.

Infection Control Nurse

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 7%

As an infection control registered nurse, there are a number of duties you may encounter. As per the BLS, in many cases, you may find yourself working out of an office and dealing with people out in the open or at a health department. In this position, there are a number of duties that may entail tracking and record keeping as well as educating the public on what is happening what dangers they may face. You may also be responsible for educating the public and organizing methods for providing the information that the public needs in regard to these diseases.

Registered School Nurse

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 7%

As a registered school nurse, there are a number of duties you may encounter. Many of these may involve record keeping and tracking of students’ health records according to the BLS. Tracking notes from doctors as well as immunization records. You may also be responsible for the care and treatment of minor ailments as presented by the students. This could be on an elementary or high school level. At times you may be responsible for an entire school district in as far as the record keeping, and the tracking is concerned.

Dialysis Registered Nurse

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 7%

Per the BLS, as a registered dialysis nurse, you may have a specialty of dealing primarily with kidney disease. Duties may include but are not limited to transporting and monitoring patients while they receive treatment in a nephrology department. You may also need to administer medications as well as educate the patients and their families on the process of dialysis and how to care for and ensure that the treatment is effective. Many times you may work in a hospital, long term care facility, or a dialysis center.

Informatics Nurse

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $93,730 per year
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 5% to 7%

As an informatics nurse, you may have a number of responsibilities. According to the BLS, some of these duties may include translating information from nurses to systems engineers and analysts. In this position as a nurse, you may need an extensive technological background as you may be responsible for many of the computational and data analysis activities that occur in the area you are working. This could be in a hospital, clinic, doctor’s office or even at a long term care facility.

Nurse Advocate or Health Education Specialist

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $48,140 per year
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 13%

As a nurse advocate, there are a number of duties you may be charged with. Per the BLS, some of these may be assessing the health needs of a community and helping people to find the services or information that they need for the issues they are facing. In addition, other tasks may include analyzing and assessing the effectiveness of health programs and working to improve the health resources. These jobs may be found in community health centers, county, and state health departments, or hospitals.

Nurse Researcher

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 7%

As a nurse researcher, there are a number of jobs you may encounter. According to the BLS, some of these tasks may incur while working in a lab or at a hospital research facility. As a nurse researcher, some of the things you may do include analyzing how different drugs interact with different symptoms as well as with each other. Seeing how different patients react to different treatments and environments while gathering and analyzing the data found.

Acute Care Nurse

Education Required: Associate’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $75,330 per year
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 5% to 7%

As an acute care nurse, there are a number of tasks you may encounter. In many cases, you may be dealing with emergency situations. According to O*NET, performing things such as basic life support or advanced cardiac life support may be required. Dealing with the pain levels and managing them of your patients, and knowing which the best methods of treatment are based on the type of pain they are experiencing. Have the ability to diagnose and treat acute conditions. You may find these positions in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and emergency rooms. Some work as a travel nurse to meet demand as it changes in various areas. These individuals also provide pain management support.

Licensed Practical Nurse

Education Required: Certification or Associate’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $48,820
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 8%

As a licensed practical nurse (LPN), some of your duties may include administering oral medications and starting an IV per O*NET. Updating items on a patient’s chart. Making patient observations and notating any changes in how they are reacting, feeling, or acting. Answer calls from patients to help them meet their needs. Perform basic nursing tasks such as blood pressure, temperature, treating bedsores, and catheters. These jobs may be found in hospitals and in long term care facilities.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

Education Required: Master’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $117,670 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 45%

An advanced practice nurse practitioner (APRN) is someone who has many of the responsibilities of a doctor. According to the BLS, they are able to treat, diagnose, and prescribe medications for patients. They may work hand in hand with the other doctors in the department or in the office to help determine the best course of action to meet the needs of their patients. They also may take patient histories and symptoms as well as perform physicals. These jobs are found in hospitals and in established practices.

Obstetrics Nurse Practitioner

Education Required: Master’s degree
2020 Median Salary: $117,670 annually
2019 – 2029 Growth Rate: 45%

According to the BLS, an obstetrics nurse practitioner may help patients during pregnancy, essentially from conception all the way through to childbirth. Here you may be responsible for monitoring patients and their fetuses to make sure both are healthy along the way. Making sure to administer blood tests and to perform appropriate testing and observations with the mother throughout the process. These positions are usually within a doctor’s practice or at a hospital.