7 Career Specializations for Nurse Practitioners

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By securing advanced professional nursing qualifications—such as a master’s degree and post-master’s certificate—nursing professionals can expand their range of career options beyond the basic clinical nursing opportunities. Specialization in caring for particular groups of patients, like women, children, or the elderly, requires advanced skill sets and specific knowledge. Through a Master of Science in Nursing and post-master’s certificate, nursing professionals can gain the knowledge and experience to develop these valuable skills and enter into any of the following specializations.

Pediatrics nurse practitioners

Pediatric nurse practitioners occupy a unique role, as they specialize in caring for younger patients ranging from birth through adolescence. As a result, pediatric nurses as a whole play a central role in making sure children grow up healthy. Common tasks that are administered by pediatric nurse practitioners include such activities as vaccination shots and regular checkups. Another responsibility includes educating children, and their parents, about making the healthiest choices regarding eating and nutrition, exercise, and positive lifestyle behaviors. Doing so requires that pediatric nurse practitioners understand how to effectively communicate with children and families. Advanced nursing coursework covers the various educational areas that are necessary for a nurse practitioner to advance. This includes the study of child psychology and children’s health.[10] Following a formal education, nurse practitioners can pursue a pediatric nurse certification from the pediatric nursing certification board, enabling them to specialize in pediatric care.

Acute care pediatrics

Pediatric nurse practitioners in acute care work in a similar space as pediatric nurse practitioners. The difference is; they specialize in providing treatment to children who have complex acute, critical, or chronic illnesses. They also often provide consultation, education, and case management to children in acute care facilities. Common clinical environments for this type of work include pediatric emergency rooms or the pediatric ICU, during outpatient and inpatient procedures, or during the discharge process. Performing well in these high-pressure emergency medical settings requires a passion for fast-paced work and an affinity for teamwork.

Family nurse practitioners

Family nurse practitioners provide long-term care for patients of all ages, ranging from infants to the elderly. These nurses are often responsible for developing and implementing care plans to treat long-term illnesses and chronic conditions, as well as for administering prenatal care to women. To foster patient wellness, family nurse practitioners treat minor injuries, conduct diagnostic tests, perform routine examinations, and prescribe medications when necessary. With such diverse skills, family nurse practitioners can provide vital services to communities, especially to those who are experiencing a shortage of physicians. The knowledge that family nurse practitioners have regarding health assessment techniques, pharmacology, and the advanced principles of physiology often qualify them to serve as primary care providers.

Women’s health nurse practitioners

Women’s health nurse practitioners specialize in providing ongoing, comprehensive health care for women across their lifespan. This requires performing physical examinations with an emphasis on addressing obstetric and gynecologic conditions such as pregnancy, infertility, or other gender-specific circumstances. A women’s health nurse practitioner must also have a detailed understanding of psychology, because they often help assess issues that may be related to the impact of sexual abuse, depression, postpartum complications, and other events with psychological elements.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners

The psychiatric nurse practitioner treats diagnosed patients using both psychotherapy and advanced physical assessment skills. This requires developing a knowledge base that includes physical diagnosis, management of acute and chronic conditions, and more specialized psychiatric nursing capabilities such as the ability to promote mental health and mental rehabilitation. With these skills, the psychiatric nurse practitioner is equipped to provide interventions for families of patients with mental disorders, while offering solutions for stabilizing patients’ mental conditions.[9]

Adult-Gerontology nurse practitioner

Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners treat adult patients ranging from adolescents to the elderly. To specialize in this area, a degreed nurse must be able to expertly record detailed health histories, and make informed health assessments using that data. The job requires administering preventive care, managing chronic conditions, treating illnesses, performing routine checkups, and providing education to patients about living a healthy lifestyle.

Acute care adult-gerontology nurse practitioner

The number of patients who need critical care for acute conditions is constantly on the rise. In addition, there is a growing gap between the numbers of these patients and the critical care personnel who can serve them. One answer is to have acute care adult-gerontology nurse practitioners fill that gap. By successfully completing a certification and residency in this nursing specialization, nurse practitioners open themselves to new opportunities to aid ICU personnel. They can facilitate critical care procedures, and provide assistance to other departments that may need help treating adult acute care conditions. Because they have the capacity to provide treatment to even to the most complex patient populations, experienced acute care adult-geriatric nurse practitioners can expect to be in demand for years to come.

To secure a career as a nurse practitioner in any of the fields above, master degreed nurses will need to further their education at the postgraduate level, and consider pursuing a post-master’s certificate. Beyond receiving a formal education, they also need to secure certification through the appropriate certification boards, verifying their capacity to provide constructive care to patients.

Pursuing certification in more than one of the described nursing specializations can result in higher pay, more diverse work opportunities, and greater responsibilities in the workplace. Another employment outlook comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects job growth for nurse practitioners to be at 31% by 2024[7].

Regardless of their desired specialization, nurses who aspire to progress must first enhance their clinical knowledge of medicine, their attention to detail, their communication skills, and their ability to positively impact patients by earning an advanced nursing degree.

Learn More

Across the country, a national shortage of primary care providers has set the stage for RNs to advance. As more states certify nurse practitioners as primary care providers, you can pursue a new avenue of nursing to fill meaningful voids in today’s health systems. At Regis College, you can earn an online post-master’s certificate to not just prepare for advancement in nursing, but to also expand services as a primary care provider.

Recommended Readings:

5 Resources for Nurse Practitioners for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Best Practices to Promote Cultural Awareness


1. Nurse.org
American Academy of Family Physicians
Nurse Journal
National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists
Payscale – Pediatric Nurse Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Nurse Journal – What Do Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurses Do?
Nurse Journal – Pediatric Nursing + Careers, Salary & Jobs Outlook
The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing – Making the Case for Adult-Gerontology Critical Care Nurse Practitioner Fellowships
Payscale – Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) Salary