Nurse Practitioner (NP) Specializations

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As a nurse, you already understand the importance of your job to the health care industry and to the patients for whom you are responsible. You enjoy the hands-on part of the job and are committed to lifelong learning in order to improve your own clinical knowledge. You may reach a point in your nursing career, however, where you want to do more. You want to adopt more of a leadership role within your team, take on more responsibility, and perhaps focus on a specific area of care. If this sounds like you, working toward a nurse practitioner certification may be the right path to consider. This article illustrates the various NP specializations and concentrations available and outlines the educational requirements for becoming an NP.

What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice nurses. They typically work in primary and specialty care and have a broader, more advanced scope of practice than registered nurses. NPs will often be involved in assessing patients, determining how to best treat and improve patients’ health, and working with patients to integrate healthier strategies into their lifestyles. Most NPs specialize in a certain area of care, such as pediatrics, family practice, psychiatric mental health, women’s health, or adult geriatrics.

Education Required to Become an NP

In order to become an NP, nurses must already have obtained a registered nursing license. The most common path toward earning an NP certification is to enroll in a Master of Science in Nursing program. These programs typically focus on a single specialty, such as one of the areas of care mentioned above.

Sometimes, aspiring NPs will also choose to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice. Post-master’s certificates are another option for those who are seeking to expand their advanced practice nursing into a new area of care.

All of these programs help to prepare students to take the national certification exams required to become an NP.

Potential NP Specializations

Nurse practitioners are in a unique position to concentrate their areas of practice in a specific section of the population. Below are some of the common NP specializations available.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Working as an NP within the field of pediatric care immerses you in every aspect of caring for kids. A master’s degree in this specialization will teach students to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses in children; provide caregiver education; and design home care plans for families of children with special needs. Students who earn an MSN with this focus may also choose to further specialize in areas such as pediatric oncology, acute care, or primary care mental health. Roughly 5 percent of NPs specialize in pediatric care, and in 2016, the average salary for pediatric NPs in the U.S. was $80,692.

Family Nurse Practitioner

One of the more common specializations—nearly 55 percent of NPs in the U.S. are family NPs—family practice nurse practitioners are particularly important in understaffed health organizations. An MSN with an FNP specialization helps to prepare aspiring NPs to take on many of the same duties as physicians, including interpreting medical histories, conducting physical examinations, and prescribing medication. In some states, NPs are permitted to practice independent of a physician. Family NPs made an average salary of $85,435 in 2016.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

NP students who are looking to focus their nursing practice on mental wellness and holistic care may want to explore an MSN with a concentration in psychiatric mental health. In this area of practice, NPs assess, diagnose, manage, and treat mental illness in a variety of populations. A degree with this specialization, on which 3.7 percent of NPs focus their practice, prepares students to play a key role in educating patients and their families about the importance of mental wellness, helping patients with self-care, and treating those with mental illnesses. In 2016, psychiatric mental health NPs earned an average salary of $91,298.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Tackle complex women’s health issues, such as pregnancy, childbirth, postnatal care, and family planning, by earning an MSN with a concentration in women’s health. In this role, NPs help promote women’s health by delivering primary care, conducting mammograms and other wellness exams, providing prenatal and postnatal care, and diagnosing and treating acute illnesses. A degree with this specialization aims to prepare students to treat women’s specific health needs and promote overall health throughout their lives. Nearly 5 percent of NPs concentrate their practice in the area of women’s health. NPs working in this area earned an average salary of $80,969 in 2016.

Adult-Geriatric Nurse Practitioner

The senior population is growing, and with it, the need for NPs who specialize in treating the needs of elderly patients. As an NP focused on adult-geriatric care, you will help this demographic to maintain healthy and comfortable lives. An MSN degree in this concentration will help prepare students to provide preventive care, diagnose and treat illness, counsel patients on maintaining healthy lifestyles, and collaborate with other health care providers. Just 2.5 percent of NPs in the U.S. focus their practice in this area. Adult-geriatric NPs earned an average of $87,089 in 2016.

Learn More

Becoming a nurse practitioner can be a challenging but rewarding educational path. Nurses who obtain this certification are uniquely positioned to meet the needs of a variety of special populations within America’s health care industry. Now that you know more about the different NP specializations, contact an enrollment adviser today to find out which online Master of Science in Nursing program at Regis College could work for you.

Recommended Reading

Should Nurse Practitioners Have Full Practice Authority?
Understanding Clinical Nurse Specialists
5 Areas of Study for the Master of Science in Nursing Student


Regis College – Online Master of Science in Nursing Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Regis College – Online Master of Science in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner
Regis College – Online Master of Science in Nursing Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Regis College – Online Master of Science in Nursing Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
Regis College – Online Master of Science in Nursing Adult-Geriatric Nurse Practitioner
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Houston Chronicle