It can be challenging to choose a specialty. When you become an RN, there are many specialties and work environments in which you can branch out. With so many options, deciding the best specialty for you might be confusing.
Hence, in this article, we will discuss the various questions you should ask yourself while deciding on a specialty. We will also discuss the job descriptions, educational requirements, and salaries of different nursing specialties.
Questions to consider before choosing a specialty:
- What will suit your personality?
Though nursing jobs require all nurses to have common traits like empathy and compassion, there is no one 'right' personality for all specialties. Different specialties need you to have varying levels of patient interaction and responsibilities. Hence, choosing a specialty that best suits your character will be a good idea.
For example, some nursing specialties, like oncology and hospice, will require you to have higher emotional stability. Others, like pediatrics, might need you to be good at handling children. So while choosing a specialty, you should consider the ones where your personality will naturally flourish.
- Which age group would you like to work with?
You should also consider what age group of patients you want to work with. Most nurses like treating and interacting with a wide range of patients, but some may specifically like or dislike a particular age group.
Hence, before deciding on your specialty, consider the kind of people you would like to deal with. For example, suppose you don't like working with children. In that case, avoiding specialties like pediatrics and family practice will be wise.
- How many hours do you want to work?
Some specialties will demand long hours from you, and others may be more flexible.
While choosing a specialty, you should also consider your priorities in life. For example, suppose you want enough time to spend with your family and have other commitments. In that case, pick a specialty that allows you the time and flexibility you need.
And suppose you don't mind working long hours and missing occasional holidays. In that case, many nursing specialties will allow you to work hard and achieve high career success.
- What responsibilities do you want to take?
Each specialty comes with its unique set of duties and responsibilities. Therefore, it would be best if you were aware of these responsibilities before you make a decision.
For example, some specialties will need you to work in a team, and others will allow more independence. Some will make you responsible for many patients, others only a few. Some will need you to make decisions for the patients, and others will just need you to follow orders.
Therefore, decide beforehand what responsibilities you want to take and which you don't.
- Which setting do you want to work in?
In addition to hospitals and clinics, nurses can work in doctor's offices, at home, in schools, and corporate environments.
Each working environment has its pros and cons. Therefore, you should analyze all the factors and choose a specialty that allows you to work in a favorable environment.
- What salary are you expecting?
All nursing positions have the potential to earn a good salary. The US Bureau of Labour Statistics says the mean annual wage of a nurse is $ 82,750.
Some nursing specialties allow you to earn more than others. Hence, if making a higher income is essential to you, you should choose a specialty that is in high demand and allows high career growth.
- How much growth and advancement the specialty allows?
Some nursing specialties are rapidly growing, and others are declining. Therefore, while choosing a specialty, you must consider the long-term implications.
It would be best to choose a high-demand specialty with many job openings. It will also allow good career advancement
List of Nursing Specialties:
- Registered Nurse (RN):
As an RN, you will be working with multidisciplinary teams. This will allow you to work directly with clients from various specialties. In addition, you will be monitoring and assessing diverse patients and educating their families.
To become an RN, you must first get a diploma, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree in nursing. Then you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to get licensed as a Registered Nurse officially. The average salary of an RN is $70,387.
- BSN Nurse:
BSN Nurses have a bachelor's degree in nursing. As a BSN Nurse, you can work in a wide variety of environments and have more opportunities than ADN Nurses. In addition to directly caring for clients, you can also provide nursing education and administration.
To become a BSN, you must complete a four-year bachelor's degree. After which, you can take NCLEX-RN to get licensure. You can expect an average salary of $81,116/year.
- ADN Nurse:
An ADN Nurse has an Associate's Degree in Nursing. ADN Nurses work in various settings, including medical units, surgical units, outpatient clinics, etc. You will record medical histories, prepare clients for procedures, and provide medical education to clients daily.
To become an ADN, you will have to earn an associate degree which will take about 2 to 3 years. After getting the degree, you can take the NCLEX-RN to get licensed.
As an ADN Nurse, you can expect an average base salary of $74k/ year.
- Geriatric Nurse:
As a Geriatric nurse, you will work in nursing homes, senior citizen centers, and retirement communities, helping patients aged 65 or above. As a geriatric nurse, you will monitor and assess clients' health, administer medication, and help them age gracefully.
To become a geriatric nurse, you must pass NCLEX-RN while holding an ADN or BSN degree. You will also need to get certified as a Geriatric nurse. For this, you will have to gain 2000 hours of working experience in gerontological nursing and complete 30 hours of continuing education in gerontological nursing. Then you can take a test to get Gerontological Nursing Certification (GERO-BC™). Your average yearly salary will be about $73,681/yr.
- Charge Nurse:
Charge nurses act as leaders and managers in healthcare. They are in charge of other nurses working in a unit. Your duties may include assigning nurses to clients, ordering supplies, mentoring other nurses, and caring for patients. You can work in various nursing departments, from the intensive care unit (ICU) to assisted living.
To become a charge nurse, you must acquire a diploma, associate, or bachelor's degree in nursing, along with passing NCLEX. In addition, as it is a leadership role, you will have to gain a few years of experience working as an RN. Most jobs will require at least three years of work experience. You can expect an average base salary of $94,218 per year.
- Emergency Nurse:
As an emergency nurse, you will work in the Emergency Department (ED) or the Emergency Room (ER). You will have to be ready for any situation/case that may come in the ER. You will have to assess and monitor critical patients, educate their families and help the physicians make the right decision.
To become an ER nurse, you must get an associate's or bachelor's degree and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. After which, you will have to gain at least two years of practice working as an RN. In addition, you will be required to obtain multiple certifications, such as Advanced Cardiopulmonary Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS). Then you can expect a salary of $93k/ year.
- Oncology Nurse:
As an Oncology nurse, you will be helping clients fight cancer. Your job will include administering chemotherapy, helping to create treatment plans, and educating them on their diagnosis and treatment. In addition, you will be dealing with clients and their families at a callous and emotional time of their lives. Hence, you have to show utmost compassion and empathy.
You can become an oncology nurse by getting an ADN or BSN degree and passing NCLEX-RN. Then you will have to gain 1000 hours of experience working in oncology and pass an exam to become an Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN). After which, you can expect an average salary of $81,600/year.
- Neonatal Nurse:
As a neonatal nurse, you will be taking care of newborn babies. You will probably work in a Neonatal Intense Care Unit (NICU). You will provide primary care to babies and critical care to premature or ill babies.
To become a neonatal nurse, you must obtain an associate's, bachelor's, or sometimes a master's degree in nursing, along with passing NCLEX-RN. Then you can take the CCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse Neonatal) exam after working in a neonatal setting for at least two years. After that, you can expect a salary of $75,277/ year.
- Mental Health Psychiatric Nurse:
Mental health and psychiatric nurses work in facilities that help people suffering from mental illness. Your duties will mainly involve evaluating and recording symptoms, assisting clients, and managing treatment. In addition, you will have to take care of people with compassion, along with setting firm boundaries.
To become a mental health and psychiatric nurse, you must pass NCLEX-RN while holding an ADN or BSN degree. You must also acquire the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification (PMH-BC™). For this, you will have to log in 2000 hours of experience working in a psychiatric nursing field and complete 30 hours of continuing education in psychiatric mental health nursing. You can expect an average salary of $80,700/year.
- PRN Nurse:
As a PRN nurse, you will work as the need arises. PRN stands for the Latin word 'pro re nata', which translates as 'under present circumstances.' As a PRN nurse, you will not have a fixed schedule. Instead, you will be on call, filling in any department that needs help. Therefore, you will need to adapt quickly to new environments and have good knowledge of various nursing specialties.
To become a PRN nurse, you must earn a BSN and pass NCLEX-RN. Then you will need to acquire at least one year of experience working in various nurse specialties. After that, you can expect a salary of $85,761/ yr.
- Pediatric Nurse:
Pediatric nurses help clients that are below 18. You will be working in a children's clinic or pediatric department in a hospital. If you like children and are good at working with them, you should consider pediatrics as a specialty for you. When giving treatment to children, you will need to make them feel at ease and pay close attention to details.
You must pass the NCLEX while holding an associate's or bachelor's degree to start working as a pediatric nurse. It may not be necessary for all jobs, but you may have to obtain the credentials for Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN). You can expect a salary of $76,200.
- Public Health Nurse:
As a public health nurse, you will devote most of your time to educating communities and advocating for public health. It is your job to collect data during disease outbreaks, create educational campaigns for the general public, and influence the overall health of a community. Therefore, your communication skills must be excellent and persuasive.
You will need an ADN or BSN degree along with passing NCLEX-RN. The average salary for a public health nurse is $65,300/ year.
- Forensic Nurse:
As a forensic nurse, you will be helping clients that have been victims of physical or sexual abuse. You will be working in the ERs. Along with the typical nurse duties, you will also collect evidence and take photographs of the clients. This specialty will need you to have the utmost compassion and professionalism towards clients.
To become a forensic nurse, you must pass the NCLEX-RN while holding an associate's or bachelor's degree. You may also choose to get certified as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). The average annual pay for a forensic nurse is $87,960/ yr.
- Labor and Delivery Nurse:
Your job as a labor and delivery nurse involves caring for expecting parents. It will include assisting in C-sections and providing postpartum care. You should be confident as you will have to support parents in a highly emotional state.
To work as a labor and delivery nurse, you must earn an associate's or bachelor's degree and pass NCLEX. After which, you must work as an RN for a year before becoming a labor and delivery nurse. You can expect a salary of $70,042 per year.
- Orthopedic Nurse:
When you become an orthopedic nurse, you will be helping people who have musculoskeletal issues. You will work more with the older population as they are more prone to developing these issues. You will help these patients recover from injuries, manage pain and educate their families.
To become an orthopedic nurse, you must pass the NCLEX-RN while holding an associate's or bachelor's degree. Some jobs may also need you to get the Orthopedic Nurse Certification (ONC). The average salary of orthopedic nurses is $73,681/ year.
- Surgical/ Perioperative Nurse:
After becoming a Surgical nurse, you will assist the surgeons in the Operating Room (OR). You will be taking care of patients before and after surgery. One of your main jobs in the OR will be to pass instruments to the surgeons.
You will need to acquire your BSN along with passing NCLEX-RN. You will have to gain experience working as an RN and get some certifications before becoming a surgical nurse. On average, you can expect to earn $102,284 a year.
- Clinical Nurse Specialist:
CNSs are advanced practice nurses specializing in areas such as critical care or pediatrics. You will work in leadership roles and directly with clients when you become a CNS.
To become a CNS, you must pass the NCLEX-RN and an advanced practice certification, such as the NCE or Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC). In addition, some states allow CNSs to practice and prescribe medication without physician supervision. An average salary of a CNS is $114,124 per year.
- Nurse Educator:
As a nurse educator, you will teach the next generation of nurses in colleges, universities, or hospitals. You may also provide continuing education to current nurses. Your responsibilities will include creating lesson plans, teaching students, and researching healthcare innovations.
To become a nurse educator, you will have to earn a Master's degree in nursing along with passing NCLEX-RN and getting experience working as an RN. You can expect a salary of $105,597/ year.
- Nurse Practitioners:
As a Nurse practitioner, you will be the primary caregiver in private practice or hospital settings. You can prescribe medication, diagnose clients, and do minor procedures. Once you become an NP, you will need strong communication and critical thinking skills. You will be qualified to make many decisions regarding client care without needing to consult a physician.
To become an NP, you must pass the NCLEX-RN and hold a master's degree. After which, you will have to pass the certification exams depending upon your specialties. On average, NPs earn around $119,387 per year.
- Nurse Anesthetist:
When you become a Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), you will provide patient anesthesia and pain management. Your duties will include evaluating patients' medical histories preoperatively, monitoring, assessing, and administering medications to clients during procedures, and counseling them on pain management.
To become a CRNA, you must pass the NCLEX-RN and have at least one year of critical care experience (ICU or ER). You can then apply to a CRNA program where you must obtain a master's degree and pass the National Certification Examination (NCE) from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists. This is the nursing specialty that makes the most money. You can expect to earn an average salary of $172,330/year.
Now that you understand all the nursing specialties and know the right questions to ask yourself, you can make the right decision. Choosing a specialty is an important and challenging decision. Hence, without rushing, it would be best to give it enough time and thought. It will ensure you choose the right specialty and achieve high career growth.