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Common Nurse Specialties to Choose From

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Mar 26, 2024
Nurses Walking and Looking at a Tablet in a Medical Facility.

Common Nurse Specialties to Choose From

Registered nurses (RNs) are dynamic health care professionals who profoundly impact the lives of their patients on a daily basis. If they want to focus on a specific population or area of care or advance to a leadership role, RNs may choose to pursue a specific nursing specialty. This can include becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). These professionals are nurses who have obtained an advanced education and have furthered their knowledge in a specific field of nursing.

Pursuing education beyond a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree through a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program can open up doors for new leadership roles and career advancement. Prospective nurses who want to move their careers forward should review some of the potential nurse specialties to choose from and decide which specialty may be best for their preferences.

Why Pursue a Nurse Specialty?

Nurse specialties allow RNs to hone their practice and gain expertise in a specific patient population or area of nursing. There are many reasons why nurses may want to specialize, and doing so can yield significant personal and professional benefits. 

Salary and Career Outlook Benefits

Earning an advanced degree, such as an MSN, can yield higher earning potential for nurses. According to the compensation website Payscale, the average base salary for nurses with a BSN is $94,000 per year, while the average base salary for nurses with an MSN is $103,000 per year as of February 2023. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that RNs have an annual median salary of $81,220, where APRNs have an annual median salary of $125,900 as of May 2022.

The job outlook for nurses with advanced degrees is also promising. By 2032, the BLS estimates job openings for APRNS will grow by 38%, which is much faster than the growth of the U.S. employment market as a whole during that same time. 

Professional Benefits

Obtaining an MSN degree also allows nurses to choose a concentration or specialization they are passionate about. This can lead to greater career satisfaction. Additionally, it can help nurses feel they are making a positive difference for a specific patient population or area of care.

Advanced education and specialization can also help nurses enter leadership roles that offer more responsibility, such as managerial or administrative positions. Some roles may also be non-bedside nursing positions, which may appeal to nurses who are looking for a non-clinical career focus.

Types of Nurse Specialties to Consider

A higher-level nursing degree offers students the potential to enter various nursing careers. Some common nurse specialties include the following.

  • Certified nurse-midwives: A certified nurse-midwife is a type of APRN specialty that provides gynecological services, reproductive health care, postpartum care, labor and delivery services, and postpartum care. Nurses in this advanced specialty work specifically with women from adolescence through the menopausal years.

  • Nurse administrators: Nurse administrators are RNs who focus on organizational, leadership, and managerial responsibilities. They may provide bedside care, but their primary duties include scheduling, staffing, and other administrative tasks.

  • Acute care nurses: Nurses who specialize in acute care can treat patients with acute and sometimes chronic health conditions. They may work with specific patient populations, such as adult gerontology, to provide short and long-term strategies and treatment plans.

  • Clinical nurse specialists: A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is a nurse who holds special education in a specific field of nursing. Nurses in this role provide oversight to nurses who are caring for patients and are involved in diagnosing, treating, and managing patients’ health. CNS can work in various fields, including pediatric, primary, and acute care.

  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists: This unique nursing specialty allows nurses to administer anesthesia and pain management services. CRNAs often work in operating rooms or hospital settings.

Deciding on the Best Nurse Specialty

Nurses who want to specialize in a specific area should consider certain factors to find the right choice.

  • Consider the preferred work environment. Nurses who prefer working directly with patients will want to consider nurse specialties that allow them to gain more knowledge in a specific nursing field, such as orthopedics or OBGYN care. On the other hand, nurses who prefer working in a non-clinical environment may pursue specialist roles including managerial roles.

  • Consider the ideal patient population. Consider which patient population is most enjoyable for you to work with. It is also important to consider the different parts of the body and which are of interest (for example, cardiac care).

  • Earning potential. If earning more is a driving factor for obtaining an MSN degree, consider the average earning potential of each of the many nurse specialties. Nursing specialties in some fields may have a higher earning potential than others. The BLS is a great resource for exploring average salaries for specific nursing careers.

Getting Started With The University of Tulsa’s RN to MSN Program

The University of Tulsa online RN to MSN pathway program makes it easy for motivated nurses to obtain their MSN through a flexible, online class schedule. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) curriculum allows nurses to choose from one of four specialties to advance skills in specific focus areas.

From increased earning potential to new leadership opportunities, exploring nurse specialties can help you advance your career and achieve your goals.

Learn more about The University of Tulsa RN to MSN program today.

Recommended Readings

How to Become a Chief Nursing Officer

Population Health Nursing: What It Is and How to Make It Your Career

The Importance of Developing Soft Skills in Nursing


American Nurses Association, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)

American Nurses Association, How To Become a Nurse Practitioner

Indeed, “12 Master in Nursing Jobs You Can Pursue with an MSN Degree”

Payscale, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

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