How Do I Choose My Nursing Specialization?

Choosing a nursing specialization is an essential part of practicing as a Registered Nurse (RN). Although entry-level staff nursing jobs are often generalist, RN specialties offer room for advancement. As clinical care grows more complex, many registered nurses are focusing their efforts in one nursing niche. Specializing will provide better job security, higher career satisfaction, increased pay, and enhanced industry respect. There are currently 104 nursing specialties available, so there’s something for everyone. Specialties run the gamut from pediatrics and genetics to neurology and gastroenterology. Consider the following factors to help with choosing a nursing specialization.

Personality Type

Certain nursing specialties are better suited to certain personality types. It’s important to select a role that aligns well with your temperament. For instance, critical care nursing is ideal for extroverted, independent RNs who thrive on adrenaline rushes. But these nurses would likely be bored in nursing informatics or clinical research, which is perfect for the introverted. Those with an affinity for senior citizens would excel in gerontological or home health nursing. Look within yourself to discover a specialization that complements your personal style.

Job Outlook

Overall demand in nursing is booming by 16 percent for RNs and 31 percent for Advanced Practice Nurses (APRN). More than half a million jobs are projected to be added by 2024. Some nursing specialties are experiencing direr shortages than others though. Healthcare Traveler magazine found that the seven hottest nursing specialties are emergency room, labor and delivery, telemetry, medical-surgical, dialysis, neonatal, and ICU nursing. Choosing one of these specializations virtually guarantees a bright job outlook.

Salary Potential

Registered nurses in the United States earn an average yearly salary of $69,790. But wisely selecting a lucrative nursing specialization can make your income grow. For example, RNs who receive advanced training to become certified in nurse anesthesia make a mean $158,900 each year. Nurse practitioners and midwives also enjoy six-figure salaries. Other top-paying specialties include endocrinology, orthopedics, gerontology, neonatal, pain management, and informatics. Keep in mind that more money can mean higher responsibility and increased stress.

Work Environment

Where nurses want to practice can significantly impact their specialty options. There are vast differences between working in a psychiatric unit and an elementary school. Nurses looking to work in a hospital could choose specialties like ambulatory, cardiovascular, emergency, and perioperative nursing, but wouldn’t select occupational nursing. Popular non-hospital jobs include hospice, cruise ship, school, dialysis, and public health nursing. If you’re not interested in patient-facing roles, you could pick infection control or telephone triage.

Education Requirements

Aspiring nurses should also consider how long they want to spend in college (please see: Top 10 Cheap Online RN to BSN Degree Programs). Many RN specialties are available with an associate degree in nursing (ADN), such as nephrology, obstetrics, radiology, and rheumatology nursing. Yet other specializations are reserved solely for nurses holding a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from an accredited graduate school. These include nursing administration, nurse education, case management, family nurse practitioner, and clinical nurse specialist.

Today’s ambitious nurses have a wide variety of specialities to choose from after building general nursing skills. Most colleges allow students to test out several different subfields before making a lasting commitment. If you still have trouble choosing a nursing specialization, take this five-minute quiz to test your suitable career path. Then you can begin working towards a specialized certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).