What Are the Nurse Practitioner Specialties Nurses Can Pursue?

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Two nurses laugh with a patient.Those who specialize in a specific element of nursing not only get to work in a space that they prefer, they typically do so in tandem with earning more pay due to their leadership capabilities and better training. Nurses who specialize in gerontology, for example, provide their elderly patients with care appropriate to their needs. As such, patients interact with professionals who they can trust because patient outcomes accurately reflect that trust. Nurses may have more opportunities than ever to be clinical care leaders. Nurses who have advanced education and certification can find these opportunities more easily than others. In particular, those certified in nurse practitioner specialties may find ample opportunity to not only provide high standards of care but also advance their careers. The best place to begin is with enrollment in an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, where the necessary skills can be formed.

Advanced Nurse Practitioners in Healthcare

With an anticipated shortage of doctors and nurses, the need for advanced nurse practitioners has never been more acute. America may soon experience a significant gap in medical staff, but highly qualified nurse leaders can bridge that gap and minimize lapses in care.

The Expected Shortage of Physicians and Nurses

Many factors help to explain the expected shortage of nurses, starting with simple demographics. Members of the baby-boom generation are reaching an age where many of them will need more regular or more consistent healthcare, and the current pool of providers simply isn’t large enough to accommodate this need. While medical colleges and nursing schools are aware of this problem, they face challenges in expanding their operations to fill the need, particularly with many unsure of what future healthcare reforms may bring.

All of this means that there’s a population increasingly reliant on qualified caregivers, but not enough caregivers to go around.

Opportunities for Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners are in a unique position to fill the void, which means there will likely soon be ample opportunity for those who have formal training in nurse practitioner specialties. As the American Association of Nurse Practitioners notes, these professionals “have been providing primary, acute and specialty health care to patients of all ages and walks of life for nearly half a century.” Nurse practitioners have the autonomy to develop, implement, and adapt patient care plans, and they can serve as resources to nurses and providers alike. In a healthcare environment where providers are in short supply, nurse practitioners may have the requisite flexibility and the holistic clinical understanding necessary to address the burgeoning clinical needs of a changing population.

Important Nurse Practitioner Specialties

For those equipped with an MSN, three career paths are particularly common: adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP), family nurse practitioner (FNP) and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP).

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

AGACNPs are equipped to provide treatment for patients with complex, acute conditions from adolescence into adulthood, including elderly patients. While professionals with the adult-gerontology nurse practitioner certification may work in either a primary or an acute care setting, many work in fast-paced care environments such as intensive care, acute care or trauma units.

AGACNPs are often tasked with collaborating with different health care professionals to stabilize and improve patient health in acute or traumatic situations. These professionals can also work in long-term care facilities, where they can help develop treatment plans to improve patient help while mitigating future complications and monitoring chronic conditions.

The median annual salary for AGACNPs is around $96,000, according to December 2020 data from the compensation site PayScale. The job outlook is very positive; in fact, the job growth rate for nurse practitioner specialties is projected to grow by 45% between 2019 and 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Family Nurse Practitioner

The biggest distinction between AGACNPs and FNPs is that an FNP may also provide care for children, seeing them into adolescence and adulthood. Otherwise, the basic responsibilities of both roles are comparable and include diagnosing illness, developing and implementing treatment plans, promoting wellness, and guiding healthy lifestyle decisions for patients.

According to PayScale data from December 2020, FNPs earn a median annual salary of about $95,500.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

PMHNPs deliver advanced care to individuals with mental health issues through assessment and diagnosis. They can also treat individuals of all ages struggling to overcome substance abuse. Many PMHNPs can provide therapeutic treatments and prescribe medications, and may work in private practice or in a healthcare facility setting. They are also able to help administer emergency psychiatric care if needed.

The job outlook for PMHNPs falls within the BLS projection for the nurse practitioner profession. As of December 2020, PayScale data lists the median annual salary for PMHNPs at approximately $108,800.

Why Attain a Master of Science in Nursing?

A way to qualify for these promising career opportunities is to pursue an online Master of Science in Nursing degree. Those who attain an MSN will be eligible to sit for certification from nationally recognized certification bodies. Not only that, but they will cultivate critical skills that will be invaluable in a clinical care setting, making them valued providers and helping them to advance their careers. Some of these skills include:

  • Applying critical thinking and an evidence-based approach to improving patient outcomes
  • Forming meaningful, lasting relationships with patients and their families
  • Collaborating seamlessly and effectively with other healthcare professionals
  • Assessing and monitoring the healthcare of patients and guiding them in healthy lifestyle choices.

Discover More About Nurse Practitioner Specialties

Earning an advanced nursing degree can help students gain the clinical knowledge and skills needed to excel in a variety of nursing specialties. Duquesne University’s online MSN program, which offers AGACNP, FNP, and PMHNP tracks, enables students to cultivate these skills through discussion groups, group projects, independent assignments, and even clinical field study

As you pursue your professional goals, learn more about Duquesne University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program.

Recommended Readings

Working as a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Nurse Practitioners Turned Entrepreneurs: How NPs are Changing the World
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners Treating COVID-19 Patients


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, All About NPs
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Are You Considering a Career as an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Are You Considering a Career as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NP Fact Sheet
Association of American Medical Colleges, New Findings Confirm Predictions on Physician Shortage
PayScale, Average Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Salary
PayScale, Average Family Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary
PayScale, Average Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners