Nurses are an essential part of a well-functioning health care system, liaising directly with doctors and providing hands-on patient care. The types of patients they treat vary, and professionals may specialize in anything from pediatrics to gerontology. Nurses who choose to pursue an advanced nurse practitioner education, such as an online Master of Science in Nursing degree, can focus on a particular specialization, enabling them to qualify for advanced health care careers and higher nurse salaries.
Individuals who want to pursue advanced degrees in nursing should consider some of the available careers in nursing and how to prepare for them. Understanding how different nursing careers vary can help prospective students find the right educational path, specialization, and certification to make a difference in patients’ lives.
The Importance of Advanced Nurse Practitioners
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the physician shortage in the U.S. is projected to grow over the next decade. This will result in increasing dependence on advanced practice nurses who are able to perform tasks such as ordering and interpreting lab results, developing diagnoses, and evaluating patient responses to care plans. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts the number of jobs for nurse practitioners to grow by a staggering 52% between 2020 and 2030, much faster than the projected average for all jobs.
Especially troubling is the fact that some of the most sensitive and in-need populations will be those that are most impacted by the physician shortage. Advanced nurse practitioners are essential parts of the puzzle in ending the ongoing opioid epidemic, for instance. Those with expertise in substance abuse and mental health are particularly in demand.
Looking toward the future, an aging population will greatly need qualified care. Life expectancy increased throughout the second half of the 20th century. People now live longer, and the U.S. population aged 65 and older is projected to nearly double from 52 million (as of 2018) to 95 million by 2060.
Women’s health is another area where demand is already pressing and only expected to get worse. In 2020, there was a shortage of some 8,800 OB-GYNs. By 2050, the country will be lacking approximately 22,000 women’s health care providers. Currently, more than half of all U.S. counties lack a single OB-GYN. This means that fewer women will get access to essential care, such as prenatal services.
6 Different Nursing Careers
According to BLS data, nursing professionals with a post-baccalaureate degree preparing them to work with specific patient groups may benefit from higher nurse salaries. Advanced training can help them hone their skills for specialty careers in nursing, such as in pediatrics, family care, psychiatric mental health care, women’s health, and adult gerontology. Each group has unique requirements for practical medical knowledge and interpersonal skills.
Some of the different nursing careers to consider include:
Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) work with patients aged 21 and younger, including infants. Children’s bodies don’t respond to illness and injury exactly like adults’ bodies do, so professionals receive specialized training to identify and diagnose the unique physical and mental conditions of young patients. They must also know how to communicate with young people who may not have the linguistic skills to convey their symptoms yet.
Nurses working in family care serve patients of all ages. Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) focus on holistic care. They must be able to diagnose, treat, and help manage illnesses, working with patients at every stage of life, from children to seniors. They must also know how to educate and counsel patients on their care plans.
Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing
Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) specialize in therapeutic skills related to the behavioral sciences. They must exhibit a high level of emotional intelligence to assess, diagnose, manage, and treat mental health and psychiatric illnesses across diverse populations. Within this field, they may specialize in a subcategory, such as substance abuse, eating disorders, or dementia.
Women’s Health Nursing
Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) work specifically on issues pertaining to women, including reproductive and gynecological health. WHNPs should have in-depth knowledge of female-specific illnesses like uterine cancer. They might be involved in prescribing oral contraceptives, performing routine gynecological exams, and providing postnatal care to mothers and infants.
Adult Gerontology — Acute Care Nursing
Adult gerontology — acute care nurse practitioners (AGACNPs) are educated to provide care to young adults, older adults and geriatric patients. They meet the needs of their patients by providing them with a spectrum of care, from disease prevention to acute care management. The primary role of the AGACNP is to care for patients with complex, acute conditions. Many AGACNPs practice in intensive care, trauma or acute care units.
Adult Gerontology — Primary Care Nursing
Nurses who wish to work with adult populations but are less interested in critical care settings may wish to become adult gerontology — primary care nurse practitioners (AGPCNPs). These specialists build relationships with patients, seeing them repeatedly over the course of their lives both for short-term clinical interventions and for wellness checks and the management of chronic conditions.
Given the diversity of these specializations and the patient populations they address, an advanced degree with a relevant focus is an important criterion for nurses wishing to enter any of these fields.
6 Different Nursing Salaries
The additional training required for the specialized careers in nursing described above can be reflected in the salaries for these jobs. According to BLS data, the median annual salary of registered nurses is $75,330. Nurse practitioners typically earn more, depending on their field. Salaries can vary based on location, experience, and specialization.
The following is an overview of different nursing salaries by specialization. PayScale’s median salaries for 2021 include:
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: around $93,000
- Family Nurse Practitioner: around $97,000
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: around $111,600
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner: around $94,900
- Adult-Gerontology — Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: around $93,200
- Adult-Gerontology — Primary Care Nurse Practitioner: around $89,500
Find Out More About Careers in Nursing
Regis College offers an online Master of Science in Nursing degree program that can prepare graduates for any of the previously discussed careers in nursing. Six specializations are offered in the program: Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology — Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, and Adult Gerontology — Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. Each specialty focuses on the specific skills needed to work with the respective patient group, which can prepare students to succeed in their chosen area. Explore the Regis College online MSN today, and start your advanced nursing career.