shutterstock 172496525Due to a rapid increase in America’s aging population, the nursing field continues to grow exponentially every year. There are more career options than ever for nurses to explore, and there’s no better time to decide on a future specialty than now. Whether you plan on earning a bachelor’s, a master’s, or even an associate’s degree, as a nurse you’ll enjoy rapid job growth for the foreseeable future: And focusing on one of the following specialties will boost your earning potential even further!

Which degree specification should I choose?

Aside from increasing their future salaries, degree specifications allow nurses to expand their knowledge base and provide better patient care. Although many of the following nursing specialties require a master’s degree, some only require certifications or on-the-job experience. All these unique areas of focus have one thing in common: A promising job growth rate across the country. With so many specialties to choose from, you’re bound to find one perfect for your unique interests!

1. Nurse Anesthetist

Top-Rated Degree Program: M.S. in Nurse Anesthesia at Midwestern University
Median Average Salary: $183,459

In order to become a Nurse Anesthetist, you must earn a master’s degree at the minimum. But with the highest average salary of any nursing specialty, most Nurse Anesthetists find that all those years of school are more than worth it.

The main job duties of a Nurse Anesthetist include:

  • Administering anesthesia before surgery
  • Monitoring patients during surgery and administering additional anesthesia if necessary
  • Watching patients after surgery to make sure they recover
  • Prescribing medications as needed

Nurse Anesthetists must carefully calculate the correct amount of anesthesia for each patient. They hold a great deal of responsibility on a day-to-day basis, and their most common work environments are hospitals and surgical centers.

2. Family Nurse Practitioner

Top-Rated Degree Program: The FNP program at Le Moyne University
Median Average Salary: $107,850

Family Nurse Practitioners are in-demand across the country because of the nationwide shortage of primary care physicians. In order to practice, they’re required to earn a master’s degree from an accredited program. They must pass the AANP exam (or a similar licensing exam) as well. While earning their degree, they’re also required to attend hundreds of clinical hours.

The main job duties of a Family Nurse Practitioner include:

  • Performing physical exams
  • Ordering and interpreting lab tests
  • Recording medical histories
  • Creating patient care plans
  • Prescribing medication and medical devices

Nurse practitioners share many responsibilities with primary care doctors, and are often the first provider a patient sees when dealing with an acute or chronic health issue. It’s their job to refer patients to a specialist when the need arises, so it’s important for them to be able to recognize a wide variety of health issues.

3. Nurse Midwife

Top-Rated Degree Program: MSN in Nurse Midwifery at Emory University
Median Average Salary: $108,841

Nurse Midwives receive special training to delivery babies, and also work with patients throughout their pregnancies. During their master’s program, Nurse Midwives receive highly-specialized training that allows them to address the many concerns that can arise during pregnancy and delivery.

The main job duties of a Nurse Midwife include:

  • Performing exams on pregnant patients
  • Educating patients about birth options
  • Providing prenatal care
  • Providing support throughout labor and delivery
  • Post-birth counseling and exams

Nurse Midwives work closely with other providers such as Nurse Anesthetists, medical doctors, and Neonatal Nurses to provide care for women and babies. They must be familiar with the vast array of issues that can impact both the mother and the unborn child.

4. Neonatal Nurse

Top-Rated Degree Program: The Pediatric/Neonatal NP Program at the University of Rochester
Median Average Salary: $58,500

Unlike many of the other specialties on this list, Neonatal Nurses aren’t required to have a graduate degree. However, it’s possible to pursue a graduate degree and become a Nurse Practitioner specialized in Neonatal Care. All Neonatal Nurses must be certified in Neonatal Resuscitation or Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing as well.

The main job duties of a Neonatal Nurse include:

  • Operating incubators and ventilators
  • Assessing vital signs of newborn infants
  • Counselling parents
  • Caring for premature infants directly after birth
  • Monitoring infants in the NICU

Almost all Neonatal Nurses work either in the labor and delivery ward, or in the NICU. They must provide constant care for newborn babies in this vulnerable stage of development. They’re also expected to provide support to worried parents as well.

5. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner 

Top-Rated Degree Program: The PMHNP Program at Duke University
Median Average Salary: $105,220

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners work with patients suffering from mental illnesses. They share many of the same job responsibilities as psychiatrists, and are required to earn a master’s degree in order to practice. They’re permitted to prescribe medication in most states, and in some cases they even offer therapy.

The main job duties of a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner include:

  • Evaluating patients and diagnosing mental health conditions
  • Evaluating family histories to determine the likelihood of developing certain conditions
  • Prescribing medication
  • Monitoring the side effects of medication
  • Creating long-term treatment plans

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners can be found in a wide variety of work environments, such as private practices, inpatient facilities, and even hospitals. They work closely with therapists and primary care doctors to make sure patients are receiving the best possible care.

6. Geriatric Nurse 

Top-Rated Degree Program: The Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program at Drexel University
Median Average Salary: $69,799

Like Neonatal Nursing, Geriatric Nursing is another specialty that doesn’t require an advanced degree. However, many Geriatric Nurses choose to pursue a master’s degree to earn more money and open up new job opportunities. Geriatric Nurses work with elderly patients and learn how to identify medical conditions that specifically impact the aging population. Since the senior population is growing so rapidly, there are excellent job prospects across the country for nurses who choose this specialty.

The main job duties of a Geriatric Nurse include: 

  • Administering medication to elderly patients
  • Assessing patients’ cognitive abilities
  • Assisting with personal hygiene
  • Monitoring patients to prevent falls
  • Assisting elderly patients at mealtime

Many Geriatric Nurses find employment in nursing homes, but there are plenty of hospital positions available as well. Geriatric Nurses must ensure that elderly patients retain a sense of dignity even if they lose their independence.

7. Forensic Nurse

Top-Rated Degree Program: MSN at The University of Alabama with a Subspecialty in Forensic Nursing
Median Average Salary: $81,800

 Forensic Nurses work closely with law enforcement officers to provide care for victims of crime and assault. They regularly assist with homicide investigations and work with deceased victims as well. A master’s degree is required to become a Forensic Nurse, and students must learn how to conduct themselves at crime scenes and collect evidence that may be used in criminal cases.

The main job duties of a Forensic Nurse include:

  • Evaluating crime and assault victims
  • Collecting evidence from victims after a crime is committed
  • Documenting evidence for court cases
  • Consoling victims and families after a crime
  • Conducting forensic photography

Forensic nurses work in a wide variety of environments including hospitals, labs, and police stations. In some cases, they may even be required to testify in court. The sensitive and sometimes disturbing nature of their job has led to a Forensic Nurse shortage in some parts of the country, which means you’ll have an easy time finding a job if you choose this degree specification.

Erica Ciko Campbell

Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Biology| Utica College

Associate of Science (A.S.)| Herkimer County Community College

November 2019

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