The epitome of nursing practice for many nurses is becoming an advanced practice registered nurse, or APRN. Becoming an APRN usually requires a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree, although there’s a growing shift for many new APRNs to have a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, especially to become a nurse practitioner (NP).
Regardless of which degree you get, becoming an APRN often means you can you can provide a higher level of medical care. You can also focus on a specialized area of nursing, such as anesthesiology, adult gerontology, or women’s health.
The American Nurses Association identifies four main specialty roles for APRNs, including nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, and certified registered nurse anesthetist.
All of these offer tremendous promise of not just a fulfilling career, but a lucrative one. There are also additional specializations in these roles, especially for NPs. We’ll examine some of the specialized roles for APRNS that offer the most promise for future professional growth in terms of compensation and clinical responsibility.
Specialization #1: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is an APRN that specializes in pain management for patients. This can include the administration of local and general anesthesia. Depending on where and how they practice, CRNAs may have many responsibilities that overlap with anesthesiologists, who are medical doctors.
CRNAs have great potential for professional advancement because of the healthy projected job growth of 9% from 2022 to 2032 and high earnings. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median income for CRNAs in 2022 was $203,090.
Nurse anesthetists are necessary in so many healthcare settings, from elective outpatient procedures to the treatment of serious illnesses like cancer to emergency medical care. The strong job demand reflects this.
Specialization #2: Family Nurse Practitioner
The projected demand for nurse practitioners (in general) is huge. Projected 2022 to 2032 growth is 45%. To put this into perspective, the national average for all occupations during that time frame is 3%.
There are many specializations for NPs, but family nurse practitioner has some of the strongest demand. This is due to the fact that there is a rising need for primary care health services. Data from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) indicates that the demand for primary care services will far outstrip supply for the foreseeable future.
Besides having great job security, family NPs have a wide range of patients. This diversity of practice provides ample opportunities for family NPs to deal with a vast array of medical conditions. As a result, family NPs will need to stay up-to-date on best practices and newly developed treatments and diagnostic tools.
Specialization #3: Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Unfortunately, there is prejudice attached to mental health problems. Fortunately, this prejudice has been fading somewhat due to societal efforts to reduce the stigma. There’s now less shame for someone to admit they have a mental health issue and active encouragement to seek help and engage in self-care.
All of this means that any mental health provider can anticipate a growing demand for their services. At the forefront of meeting this demand are psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. These licensed and certified mental health professionals can provide psychiatric care to patients who have recognized mental illnesses, yet do not have to obtain a medical degree to offer this care.
Specialization #4: Adult/Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist
Whether you’re a nurse, lawyer, accountant, soldier, engineer, or in almost any other profession, specializing in a particular niche will usually lead to professional growth and advancement. This is why becoming a clinical nurse specialist offers so much promise. Clinical nurse specialists stand out from their peers because they focus on the specialized delivery of acute care.
Adult-gerontological clinical nurse specialists provide this critical inpatient care to adults and older adult patients. Because of the aging population of the United States, the need for acute care practitioners who focus on mature patients is essential. This should provide clinical nurse specialists who focus on adult and gerontological patients ample job security and high pay for years to come.
Specialization #5: Nurse Informaticist
The delivery of efficient healthcare services is reliant on the efficient use of data. Informatics refers to the use, analysis, and storage of healthcare-related information to improve patient outcomes and boost the bottom line of medical providers. As you can imagine, this is a highly technical field and there are plenty of information technology professionals needed to help create these systems used by hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare organizations.
The problem is that many of these information professionals lack the medical experience to best implement and utilize these information technologies. Nurse informaticists help bridge the gap between the information technology needs of an organization and the capabilities of available technology. These bridge-gapping professionals will be more important than ever as new technological innovations enter society, such as big data, blockchain, and artificial intelligence.
Specialization #6: Nurse Educator
If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware that there is a pressing need for more healthcare professionals, especially registered nurses. You almost might know that much of the reason for this unmet demand is because there aren’t enough nurse educators. But what you may not know is how bad this bottleneck is.
For example, in 2021, nursing schools rejected more than 90,000 qualified applicants because they didn’t have the facilities, funding, and most importantly, the nursing faculty, to teach these prospective nursing students. Imagine what an extra 90,000 registered nurses, licensed practical/vocational nurses, and APRNs could do for the healthcare system. This demonstrates the importance of having more nurse educators and why there is so much potential for growth and satisfaction training future nurses.
Specialization #7: Nurse Administrator
Most of the specializations identified so far will serve APRNs well in terms of advancing their nursing career because of the strong demand for their expertise. And this strong demand is largely the result of an aging population and greater overall access to medical care.
To provide these services, you’ll need practitioners to provide the care, educators to train future practitioners, and the nurse informaticists to help provide this care more efficiently. This leaves one more role: the administrators to manage how this care gets delivered and how the limited resources of a healthcare organization get allocated.
A nurse administrator won’t usually care for patients and will instead handle the business-end of healthcare. This includes hiring and scheduling nurses, as well as implementing policies and budgets within departments. Because of their importance, nurse administrators can expect job growth of around 28% over the next 10 or so years and a median annual income of $104,830.