Which Nursing Specialty Is The Right Fit For You?

As the healthcare industry in the US expands, the demand for nurses is ever increasing. From emergency room and operating room nurses to orthopedic and pediatric nurses, these trained professionals are required to demonstrate their skills in a variety of different roles.

However, for aspiring nurses, choosing which field they want to specialize in can be a difficult task. Factors such as marketability, demand, pay scales, opportunities for growth, education requirements etc. all play a major role in this decision-making process.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors that can help you answer the question – how to choose a nursing specialty?

Your Interests:

The most important thing to consider is the kind of work you are interested in doing. Try and choose a nursing specialty that complements your personal style and fits your pace and professional preferences. Ask yourself a few questions like do you love a rush of adrenaline and constant challenges? Are you detail-oriented and methodological? Do you love working with children or old people? By choosing a career that has some personal interest involved, you will be more comfortable at your job and will most certainly be able to contribute a lot more.

Kind of Job Role:

This is correlated with your personality type. If you are more of the leader type, you might be better suited for the role of a nurse manager. Would you prefer working by the patients’ bedsides or something more research oriented? If being directly in touch with patients is not the kind of role you want, you can always go for other positions in case management, infection control, education or informatics.

Job Environment:

Even though this may not be your top concern, you might still want to consider what the working conditions would be like. Most nursing jobs are set in hospitals and require working in close collaboration with doctors. However, other possible settings could be schools, government agencies or corporations. Even if you choose the traditional hospital nurse job, you would want to dig a little deeper into the exact specifications – for instance, intensive care units would be very different than the delivery rooms, the psychiatric ward would be nothing like the emergency room and so on. The pace, environment, staff and work intensity would all be different in different settings.

Levels of Pressure:

More often than not, high pressure jobs come with more monetary benefits or a better designation. While the money and career perks might be, attractive and rewarding, you need to be really sure about the level of pressure you are capable of handling. Can you handle being on call 24/7? Would you be okay with long and irregular hours with very little sleep in between? If you can’t handle the stress of a particular nursing specialty, you are advised not to go for it.

Salary Range:

Salary is of course a big part of any job decision. If you are ambitious and want to make more money than a nurse typically does, you might want to aim for executive level positions, in a nursing specialty that is high in demand. Here is a list of some of the highest paying nursing jobs:

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • General Nurse Practitioner
  • Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
  • Pain Management Nurse
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Informatics Nurse
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nursing Administrator

Certifications Required:

Certain nursing specialties require nurses to have specific skills or certifications. So, before you choose your nursing specialty, you should take a deeper look into the specific requirements. You might be expected to clear a certification exam or receive training from a specified institute. In addition to that, some nursing specialties have a continuing education requirement, where you have to update your knowledge on a regular basis and get new certifications.

Job Market Demands:

Even though the job market is good to nurses, you will have to make a little extra effort if you want to get the job of your choice in a location of your choice as well. If you are okay with relocating for your ideal nursing specialty, then you are good to go. However, if you don’t want to move for your job, you will have to look at the options you have in your local medical centers. Whether you move or not, be sure to keep yourself updated on the relevant state’s licensure requirements for nurses.

Engagement with People:

As a nurse, your interaction with patients and their families would be quite frequent. You will constantly have to meet and quickly get to know new people. However, not everyone is such a ‘people’s person’. For those aspiring nurses who are interested in the field, but are not exactly extroverts, nursing careers as researchers, legal nurse consultants, forensic nurses and informatics specialists are also available.

Education Requirements:

Before you can finalize your choice of specialty in nursing, you will need to consider the education requirements associated with it. Nurses who want to specialize will typically need a master’s degree. An RN-to-MSN degree would be a step in the right direction towards any nursing specialty. After this, you will need to check the specific requirements of the certification you are interested in. For instance, you can become a certified Medical-Surgical Nurse through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, or a Critical-Care Registered Nurse through the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

Getting a certification in a particular field of nursing can help you become an expert in that field. It goes to show your employer that you possess advanced knowledge on the subject and are capable of carrying out procedures that junior nurses may not be able to. Certifications often result in promotions, greater salaries and greater responsibilities. However, you would be advised to conduct in-detail research on the nursing specialty that you intend to opt for.


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