Nurse Practitioner Specializations

Within the field of nursing, advanced practice nurses often specialize in order to provide patients with the most quality care possible. Through their master’s programs, nurses typically move beyond core curricula to take courses to help provide them the knowledge necessary to diagnose and treat particular populations or illnesses.

With such a large variety of nurse practitioner specialties to choose from, many nurses find an avenue of advanced study that is perfect for them and deeply rewarding.

Family Nursing Nurse Practitioner Programs

family nurse practitioner masters degrees

Family Nurse Practitioners work with individuals throughout the lifespan in numerous capacities. They diagnose illnesses, conduct exams, provide treatment, and prescribe some medications. To pursue careers as Family NPs, nurses earn a master’s or doctorate degree in nursing with an emphasis on family nursing theory and intervention and primary healthcare[i]. Following is a sample curriculum of a master’s program in family nursing:

Core Curriculum:
  • Advanced physiology and pathophysiology
  • Advanced pharmacology and therapeutics
  • Professional and ethical issues
  • Advanced physical assessment and clinical decision-making
  • Scientific inquiry for evidence-based practice
  • Research methodology and design
Theory Courses and Elective Curriculum:
  • Family and organizational systems across the life span
  • Clinical management of primary care with young individuals and families
  • Family-focused primary care for the middle-aged and older adult
  • Child and family development: theory and practice
Clinical Courses:
  • Clinical practicum: primary care for young individuals and families
  • Clinical management of primary care for adults
  • Advanced concepts in primary care
  • Clinical practicum: family-focused primary care of the middle-aged and older adult

Psychiatric Nursing Nurse Practitioner Programs

psychiatric nurse practitioner degree programs

Psychiatric NPs (Psychiatric Mental Health Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, or PMH-APRNs), work with people with psychiatric disorders or the potential for such disorders. They provide certain types of therapy, prescribe medication, administer psychotherapy, and work in administrative, academic, and/or political capacities[ii]. They often work with primary care physicians or members of a healthcare team to provide structured treatment to patients. Following is a sample curriculum of a master’s program in psychiatric nursing:

Core Curriculum:
  • Advanced pharmacology and therapeutics
  • Pathogenesis of mental disorders across the lifespan 
  • Psychopharmacology across the lifespan
  • Advanced physical assessment and clinical decision-making
  • Advanced physiology and pathophysiology
  • Advanced developmental physiology and pathophysiology
  • Scientific inquiry and evidence-based practice
  • Research methodology and design
Theory Courses and Elective Curriculum:
  • Child and adolescent mental health
  • Cognitive behavioral strategies in healthcare
  • Clinical modalities across the life cycle
  • Family and organizational systems
  • Mental health and aging
Clinical Courses:
  • Advanced-practice nursing practice: psychiatric mental health NP I
  • Advanced-practice nursing practice: psychiatric mental health NP II
  • Advanced-practice nursing practice: psychiatric mental health NP III

Pediatric Nursing Nurse Pratitioner Programs

pediatric nurse practitioner graduate programs

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (PNPs) provide primary and specialized care to children across the continuum of illnesses. PNPs work with patients and family members to diagnose illnesses, prescribe medications, provide treatment, and give counseling. Following is a sample curriculum of a master’s program in pediatric nursing:

Core Curriculum:
  • Advanced pharmacology and therapeutics
  • Advanced physical assessment and clinical decision-making
  • Advanced developmental physiology and pathophysiology
  • Scientific inquiry and evidence-based practice
  • Research methodology and design
Theory Courses and Elective Curriculum:
  • Professional role issues for Nurse Practitioners
  • Clinical management of primary care with young families
  • Nursing of children theory I: child and family development
  • Graduate nursing (elective 1)
  • Graduate nursing (elective 2)
Clinical Courses:
  • Clinical practicum: primary care with young families
  • Clinical practice with select populations: adolescents
  • Advanced concepts in primary care

Neonatal Nursing Nurse Practitioner Programs

neonatal nurse practitioner masters degree programs

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNPs) work with neonates, or infants and babies in utero. They work in a variety of settings, including intensive care units. NNPs diagnose and treat patients and work closely with family members to provide guidance and counseling. Many neonatal nurses also work as pediatric nurses. Following is a sample curriculum of a master’s program in family nursing:

Core Curriculum:
  • Advanced pharmacology and therapeutics
  • Advanced developmental physiology and pathophysiology
  • Scientific inquiry and evidence-based practice
  • Research methodology and design
Theory Courses and Elective Curriculum:
  • The medically fragile child
  • High-risk neonate, theory I
  • High-risk neonate, theory II
  • Graduate nursing: elective 1
Clinical Courses:
  • Advanced physical assessment and clinical decision making: nursing of children clinical I
  • Clinical practicum for high-risk neonates
  • Advanced practice concepts for the childbearing family
  • High-risk neonate clinical II
  • High-risk neonate clinical III

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs

acute care nurse practitioner masters degree programs

Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (ACNPs) work with people of all ages to provide advanced nursing care in emergency situations. They work with a team of people to diagnose and treat short-term but extreme and severe illnesses and injuries. Following is a sample curriculum of a master’s program in family nursing:

Core, Elective, and Clinical Curriculum:
  • Advanced health assessment and applications for adult gerontology
  • Advanced health assessment and clinical reasoning
  • Advanced physiologic and pathophysiologic foundations of acute care
  • Advanced pharmacotherapeutics for acute care Nurse Practitioners
  • Pathophysiology and collaborative management in acute care I
  • Pathophysiology and collaborative management in acute care for the adult I, II, and III
  • Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner practicum
  • Scientific underpinnings for advanced nursing practice
  • Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner preceptor ship
  • APN role within the U.S. healthcare delivery system
  • Conceptualization and integration of evidence for advanced nursing practice

nurse practitioner masters degree programs and graduate degree programs


Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-4 | [ii] apna.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3292

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