Choosing a Nursing Specialty: Find the Right Fit For You

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If you’re uncertain about choosing a nursing specialty, learn more about how you can make the best choice for yourself and see how Marquette University’s Second Degree Direct Entry MSN program can prepare you for in-demand nursing specialties including nurse practitioner and critical care nurse, among others.

doctor with nurses around a patient on bed with monitors

Nursing is a vast and diverse profession, offering an array of specialties that cater to various skill sets, interests and personality types. As the nursing profession continues to evolve and expand, the range of specialties available to nurses has grown substantially. When considering a career in nursing, you should examine various nursing specialties and determine which best aligns with your interests, strengths and goals.

With the increasing demand for highly skilled and specialized nurses, choosing the right nursing specialty is essential for both personal and professional satisfaction. If you decide to become a nurse, Marquette University’s Second Degree Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing program can be your pathway to earning a nursing degree in 19-21 months. Having a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) teaches you the skills to work as a practicing RN and lays the foundation to continue your education and pursue an array of in-demand nursing specialties.

Read on as we discuss nursing specialties, choosing the right specialty based on your skills and interests, and provide an overview of several in-demand nursing specialties.

Factors in Evaluating Nursing Specialties

Nursing specialties are areas of nursing practice that focus on a specific population, health issue or healthcare setting. These specialties often require additional education, training and certification beyond the standard nursing degree. Selecting a nursing specialty allows you to focus your knowledge and skills and enhances your career by opening future opportunities.

Before researching individual roles, you should weigh several factors, including your interests, skill set, preferred work environment and career advancement opportunities. If you feel comfortable and secure in your interests and goals, choosing a nursing specialty will be easier.

Personal Interests

Your personal interests play a significant role in answering the question, “What kind of nurse should I be?” Reflect on the aspects of nursing that genuinely appeal to you, whether caring for a specific population, such as pediatrics or geriatrics or working in a particular healthcare setting like a hospital or community clinic. Consider the health issues or conditions you find most intriguing or rewarding to address. Choosing a nursing specialty that aligns with your interests makes you more likely to experience job satisfaction and long-term career success.

miling portrait of nursing student holding clipboard

Skill Set

You should also consider your unique skills and strengths when selecting a nursing specialty. Some nursing specialties require strong clinical skills and advanced knowledge in a specific area, while others demand exceptional communication and interpersonal abilities. Reflect on your natural talents and acquired skills to determine which nursing specialty would allow you to excel and contribute meaningfully to patient care.

Work Environment Preferences

The work environment you prefer is another crucial factor to consider when choosing a nursing specialty. Different nursing specialties may have distinct work settings, such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, community health centers or private practices. Further, do you want to pursue a position at a Magnet-recognized organization? Consider the pace of the work, the level of autonomy you desire and the type of healthcare team you prefer to collaborate with when evaluating a specialty.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Lastly, think about the level of career advancement you want to achieve. Evaluate which areas of the job market have pathways for advancement. Consider the balance you want to strike between factors like salary potential and the time and effort spent pursuing a future specialty. Consider how different specialties or areas of nursing practice would align with your long-term career goals.

nurse smiling and shaking hands with coworkers

Learn more about the opportunities you can access with an MSN degree.

How to Choose the Right Advanced Practice Nursing Specialty

Selecting the appropriate nursing specialty is a crucial decision that can significantly influence your career trajectory and personal satisfaction. With numerous nursing specialties available, it can be challenging to determine the one most suitable for your interests, skills and goals. With a firm grasp of your skills, desires and career goals, you can better review specific options for nursing specialties. See how you can hone in on a particular area of nursing practice.

Complete a Self-Assessment

Before diving into the research on nursing specialties, it is essential to conduct a thorough self-assessment. This process involves identifying your strengths and weaknesses and evaluating your values and long-term goals. Think about the factors you have already evaluated and consider writing down your answers to examine and compare them against different specialties. By understanding what motivates you and what you hope to achieve, you will be better equipped to choose a nursing specialty that aligns with your unique strengths and passions.

Research Nursing Specialties

After completing your self-assessment, begin researching various nursing specialties. This exploration should involve reviewing the roles and responsibilities of each specialty, the patient populations they serve and the healthcare settings they work in. Networking with professionals in the field can provide valuable insights into the day-to-day realities of various nursing specialties. Your time participating in clinical courses through Marquette could expose you to some specialties, and shadowing experiences can also help you gain a firsthand understanding of what different practice specialties entail.

Consider Educational Requirements

As you research various nursing specialties, don’t forget to consider the educational requirements for each. Advanced practice nursing specialties often require additional training, certification and licensure beyond a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Evaluate the time and cost of obtaining specialized education and weigh these factors against your personal and financial circumstances.

smiling nursing students studying

In-Demand Nursing Specialties

With a framework for evaluating nursing specialties through the lens of your personal goals and skillset, the choice of which to pursue will be easier. If you’re wondering where to start in terms of research, the following are just a few prominent and in-demand examples, both advanced practice and non, among many nursing specialties.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who provide primary and specialty care to patients according to a holistic model. NPs evaluate the whole patient beyond symptoms alone and can diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions, prescribe medications and provide comprehensive care. In many states, they can open their own practices. There are also nurse practitioner subspecialties within the field to encompass many practice areas.

The demand for NPs is rising due to a growing need for primary care providers and a greater emphasis on preventive care and community health. To thrive as an NP, you will need strong clinical skills and robust critical thinking, as well as communication and leadership abilities.

Nurse looking at clipboard with patients

Find out how to become a nurse practitioner and discover some of the subspecialties within the field.

Critical Care Nurse (CCN)

Critical Care Nurses are specialized registered nurses who work in intensive care units (ICUs), providing care to patients with life-threatening conditions. These nurses are trained to provide fast-paced and compassionate care with an array of distinct tasks. CCNs must handle a high-stress environment where patients require complex assessments and high-intensity interventions. CCNs must possess a solid knowledge base, excellent decision-making skills and the ability to work in a high-pressure environment.

The demand for CCNs is always high due to the high proportion of patients requiring intensive care, whether from the effects of chronic conditions, surgical recovery or acute illnesses. As medical technology advances and allows for the treatment of more complex conditions, the need for skilled CCNs is projected to increase.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists are APRNs who specialize in administering anesthesia for surgical procedures, pain management, and diagnostic tests. Their responsibilities include evaluating patients prior to procedures, administering anesthesia during surgical or diagnostic procedures and monitoring recovery from anesthesia. CRNAs work across a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, surgical centers, dental offices and outpatient facilities. They collaborate closely with anesthesiologists, surgeons and other healthcare professionals to ensure patient safety during anesthesia administration.

CRNAs operate with a high level of autonomy and are a crucial nursing subspecialty due to their role in ensuring patient safety and comfort during medical procedures. Those who take on this nursing specialty role should be attentive to details and able to work under pressure while maintaining high-level decision-making skills.

Oncology Nurse

Oncology nurses specialize in the care and treatment of individuals with cancer. They assist in administering chemotherapy and radiation treatments, manage symptoms and side effects, provide emotional support to patients and their families and educate patients about their disease and treatment plans. Oncology nurses are empathetic, supporting their patients and the loved ones surrounding them. They can work in various settings, including hospitals, oncology clinics and hospice centers. With the advancement in cancer treatments and the increasing survival rates of cancer patients, the need for skilled oncology nurses is projected to increase in the coming years.

nurse comforting older patient

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs)

Certified Nurse Midwives are advanced practice registered nurses who specialize in women's reproductive health and childbirth. They provide a range of healthcare services, including prenatal and postnatal care, delivery assistance, gynecological check-ups, contraceptive counseling, and newborn care. CNMs can work in various settings, such as hospitals, birthing centers, health clinics and private practices.

CNMs are a critical nursing subspecialty due to their comprehensive approach to childbirth and women's health. They prioritize patient-centered care, offering women a natural and personalized birthing experience. CNMs also play a vital role in addressing healthcare disparities by providing high-quality care to underserved populations. As the demand for healthcare providers in obstetrics and gynecology continues to rise, the role of CNMs will become increasingly important in meeting these healthcare needs.

Ready to Become a Nurse and Find Your Specialty?

Choosing a nursing specialty is crucial in building a rewarding and fulfilling career. By considering your interests, skill set, preferred work environment and career advancement opportunities, you can make an informed decision that supports your unique strengths and passions. Conducting a thorough self-assessment, researching various nursing specialties and considering educational requirements will help guide you toward the specialty that best suits your goals and aspirations.

Set the foundation for a successful future nursing career through Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program. Contact us and start the conversation with an admissions adviser today.