What are the Best MSN Specialties in 2024?

Current and future nurses know a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) is one of the most advanced nursing degrees available. While many nurses have decades-long careers without ever earning their MSN, earning yours can be the ticket to increased responsibility in your workplace, higher pay (many MSN holders make well over six-figure salaries), and a more specialized role in the nursing field.

More specialized role? You might be wondering, how does that work? Well, not all MSNs are the same–and that’s why many universities offer multiple types of MSN programs. Even within the same university, many MSN programs offer options to specialize, and become an expert in a particular area of nursing. Taking on a specialty in your MSN can involve learning to use specific technical equipment, becoming licensed to perform more advanced-level procedures and handle sensitive patient interactions, and more.

But which specialty should you study? Well, only you can decide for certain, but there are a few especially intriguing options to consider. Whether you want to work directly with patients at the front lines of healthcare, or are interested in bringing your nursing career and credentials to research and academia, there are MSN specialties to help you get there. Let’s have a look at seven different MSN specialties for you to study in 2024:

Nurse Practitioner

Are you looking to explore the line between nurse and general practitioner (GP) physician? The field of nurse practitioners, which is to say, nurses who provide many of the same patient-facing services as GPs, is a fast-growing area of medicine. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the profession will grow by a whopping 38% over the next ten years–over seven times the national average for professions!

If you study a nurse practitioner MSN, you’ll be preparing for a highly patient-centric nursing role, with not only a lot of responsibility, but also the opportunity to be a patient’s “front line” when it comes to medical care.

Nurse Anesthetist

Anesthesiology is a highly technical, specialized role in medicine, and one in which focus and attention to detail are critical. Nurse anesthetists are highly-trained nurses who are licensed to administer anesthesia and pain medicine to patients before, during, and after surgery. This is a highly lucrative field of nursing, financially speaking–the average nurse anesthetist, per the BLS, makes well over six figures as of 2022. Further, you’ll be at the front lines of a surgical suite, and be working with some of the newest and most high-stakes medical technology.

Nurse Leadership

While nursing as a field relies on scientific and interpersonal fields, one more critical aspect of the profession that can be overlooked is the importance of skilled management. An MSN in Nurse Leadership, like the one offered by The George Washington University, includes not only courses in nursing and public health, but business and management, while teaching you how to apply them in a nursing context. This degree can lead to a managerial role in a hospital or other clinical setting, or even healthcare consultancy work.

Nurse Educator

If you admired your professors in nursing school, why not consider joining their number? In an MSN in Nurse Education, you’ll be preparing for a career in the classroom, training the next generation of nurses. As a health educator, you’ll be able to look forward to a faster-than-average job growth rate, meaning you’re likely to have plenty of employment opportunities after graduation. Further, this degree is not only applicable for those who want to work in universities–as Duke University’s MSN in nursing education points out, this degree can also lead to a role in clinical instruction or staff development in a healthcare setting.

Family Nursing

If you’ve always been drawn to pediatrics, working as a specialized family nurse, or family nurse practitioner, may be a great fit for you. Family nursing, and the role of a family nurse practitioner, is to deliver primary nursing and care to patients of all ages–sometimes acting in a role similar to that of a pediatric or adolescent general practitioner. Nurses who want both the opportunity to work with children and adolescents, and the primary-care position of a general nurse practitioner may be especially interested in MSN programs in family nursing with a family nurse practitioner focus.

Your MSN in family nursing will include courses in pediatric and adolescent medicine, to prepare you for working with juvenile patients. Family nurse practitioners require specialized licensing, which many MSN programs like the MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of North Georgia, specifically prepare you for, with study programs to ensure you pass your licensure exam.

Gerontology Nursing

Nations around the world are dealing with the realities of aging populations and increased life spans–making gerontology nursing a more important field than ever. In the United States, the over-65-year-old population is projected to increase by 47% by the year 2050.

Gerontology nurses work with senior patients, who can have both highly diverse and highly specialized health and nursing needs. Many universities, like Drexel in Philadelphia, offer Adult-Gerontology MSN programs that lead to credentials as a specialized nurse practitioner, meaning that upon graduation, you’ll be eligible to work as a primary care provider for aging and elderly patients, and have the knowledge to meet their unique needs.

Nursing/Health Informatics

Nursing may already be a STEM subject in itself, but if you study nursing and health informatics, you’ll be taking your applied STEM skills to the next level. The University of Pittsburgh, which offers an online MSN in Nursing Informatics, describes the field as “a combination of cognitive science, computer science, information science, and nursing science.” Your MSN program will likely include a computer science requirement alongside your advanced nursing classes.

Informatics nurses, which is what your title will be upon graduation, don’t just work in clinical settings, although there are opportunities for you there. You may also find yourself working in public health, consultancy, health research, or health education.