Seven Nursing Career Specialties to Know About

nursing homes

Every profession offers a vast array of career opportunities. The nursing profession is no different.

Nurses are the medical profession’s unsung heroes. They stay with patients day in and day out, providing them with the care they need. There are various reasons why someone might choose to become a nurse. Maybe they have always wanted to help people or are interested in the medical field.

Whatever the reason, once someone has decided that they want to pursue a career in nursing, they must then pick the area of nursing they would like to specialize in.

There are many different domains of nursing, and each offers its own set of challenges and rewards. This blog post will shed some light on a few most popular nursing career specialties.

Is There a Degree for Each Specialty?

The short answer is: There is not a specific degree for each nursing specialty. However, some specialties may require additional training or certification.

The essential requirement for nurses is to get their registered nurse (RN) license. Once they have their RN license, they can pursue any area of nursing they are interested in.

The common degrees that lead to a career in nursing are:

  • A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • An Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN)

These degrees will allow the student to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which is required to become a licensed registered nurse.

There are higher degrees, too, like Post Masters DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Still, these are for nurses who want to pursue more advanced positions, like working as a nurse practitioner or becoming a nurse educator.

So, what are the most popular nursing career specialties?

Neonatal Nurse

A neonatal nurse is an RN who has undergone specialized training in the care of newborns. Neonatal nurses work in hospitals’ Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). They care for premature babies, babies with congenital disabilities, and sick newborns.

RNs must have at least two years of experience working in a hospital setting to become neonatal nurses. They must also complete a Neonatal Resuscitation Program and pass the Neonatal Nurse Certification exam.

Neonatal nurses can earn up to $49 per hour.

Psychiatric Mental health Nurse

Mental health is a pressing concern in the United States. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five Americans will suffer from a mental illness at some point during their lives.

Psychiatric mental health nurses are RNs who specialize in caring for patients with mental illness. They offer services to individuals dealing with dementia, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions.

They work in various settings, including inpatient psychiatric units, outpatient mental health clinics, and schools.

To be eligible for APRN licensure, nurses must have a minimum of an MSN and a valid RN license. They must also pass the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Specialist Certification Exam.

Psychiatric mental health nurses can earn up to $120,000 annually.

Travel Nurse

Camp Nurse

A travel nurse is an RN who works in a temporary position in another state or country. Short-staffed hospitals often hire travel nurses or need help during busy times, like the flu season.

Travel nurses typically work 13-week assignments. They are then given the option to extend their assignment or move to another location.

Travel nurses’ bare minimum education requirement is an associate or BSN degree and a current RN license. Most employers and agencies that hire travel nurses search for around two years of nursing expertise. Certified Pediatric certification is among the most sought-after credentials in this field.

A travel nurse can bag around $9500 a month.

Oncology Nurse

Cancer is the second most prevalent cause of death in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be an estimated 22 million cancer survivors in the US by 2030.

Oncology nurses are RNs who specialize in caring for cancer patients. They work closely with oncologists to provide comprehensive care to patients undergoing treatment for cancer.

To become an oncology nurse, RNs must have at least a year of experience working in a hospital setting. They must also complete a certified oncology nurse program and pass the ONCC Certification Examination for Chemotherapy Providers.

On average, oncology nurses earn around $74,000 annually.

Nurse Advocate

Nurses advocate for patients and coordinate between them and their doctors. They evaluate patient complaints and consult with specialists to guarantee high-quality, cost-effective treatment.

Their responsibilities include educating clients about their health issues, treatments, and accessible healthcare options and representing individuals by presenting their desires and reconciling disputes with their physicians.

To work as a nurse advocate, you must first acquire a BSN degree and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain RN licensure.

This specialty offers a median salary of $79,000 per year.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Nurses specialized in family health work with patients from infancy through adulthood in clinical and family practice environments. In addition, FNP certification is held by over 65% of nurse practitioners, making it the most common practice category.


FNPs examine, diagnose, and treat patients throughout their life span, including during childhood and old age, emphasizing preventive medicine.

An MSN is a minimum requirement for licensure as an FNP. Candidates must also complete a board-certified nurse practitioner program and pass the national certification exam.

The typical annual pay for a family nurse practitioner is $115,000.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

A CRNA is a highly trained nurse specializing in providing anesthesia for operations. Due to the high demand for these nurses in surgical settings and the rigorous training, CRNAs are some of the highest-paid nurse specialties in medicine.

A graduate-level program is necessary to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist. These programs can take 24 to 36 months to complete and include classroom and clinical work.

After completing a program, candidates must pass the National Certification Examination for Nurse Anesthetists to earn their CRNA credentials.

The average annual pay for a certified registered nurse anesthetist is $174,000.

Wrapping Up:

Nursing isn’t limited to working in a hospital. Nurses may choose to specialize in several fields and work in different settings. Some common settings for nurses include clinics, schools, community health centers, and private practices. 

With so many alternatives accessible, it’s critical to do your homework and find the right fit for you.

You must also consider your salary expectations and whether you’re willing to continue your education to earn a higher degree.

Keep in mind that some nursing specialties require additional certification or training. But with the right education and experience, you can find a nursing career that’s both fulfilling and financially rewarding.