The door is open for many exciting career opportunities within nursing. Advanced nursing degrees prepare licensed nurses for expanded roles in clinical practice, leadership, and more. This post explores the two primary graduate nursing degrees, as well as specializations offered within some degree programs.
Why Get an Advanced Nursing Degree?
The demand for nurses with advanced nursing degrees creates exciting opportunities for nurses with graduate-level education.
In 2010, the Institute of Medicine released the landmark report “The Future of Nursing,” calling for doubling the number of U.S. nurses who have doctoral degrees by 2020. The report, which is still influential today, argues that higher levels of nursing education leads to improved patient care. Now 2020 is here, and the current nursing workforce falls far short of these recommendations. Given this shortage of doctoral-qualified candidates, having an advanced degree can make you more competitive and desirable in the job market.
For nurse practitioners, who are advanced practice RNs with graduate-level nursing education, employment growth is projected to grow 52.4 percent between 2019 and 2029, with an estimated 110,700 jobs being added during that period. ((Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment Projections 2019-2020,” Sep. 1, 2019: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecopro.pdf)) The demand for nurse practitioners is projected to grow so dramatically for several reasons, including a heightened emphasis on preventive care, growing rates of chronic health conditions, and increased life expectancies.
Although graduate school can be challenging, an advanced nursing degree can help propel your career forward and offer opportunities that are both personally and financially rewarding.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for nurse practitioners was $109,820 in 2019.
Advanced Nursing Degrees: MSN & DNP
You can earn an advanced nursing degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), through an accredited university. There is a lot you can do with an MSN or DNP, including working in clinical, educational, leadership, and executive roles.
You can also choose to specialize in a particular area of nursing. Nursing specialties such as nurse educator, nurse executive, and family nurse practitioner give you the opportunity to play a vital role in the future of the profession.
16 Nursing Specialties to Pursue with an Advanced Nursing Degree
Below are examples of nursing specialties you can pursue with an advanced nursing degree.
1. Nurse Educator
Nurse educators work to educate students, practicing nurses, and other healthcare providers about patient care and best practices.
2. Nurse Executive
Nurse executives take on leadership roles in nursing, helping to coordinate patient care delivery and build relationships among staff. In this role, nurse executives advance the profession of nursing even as they manage financial and economic operations at their workplace. They are critical thinkers who lead teams and promote the mission and vision of their organization.
3. Nurse Informaticist
Nurse informaticists oversee healthcare technology systems, including electronic health records and business analytics software. They use technology to assist patients, providers, and organizations.
4. Family Nurse Practitioner
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) work with people of all ages to treat acute and chronic illnesses and promote preventative care. FNPs have a variety of responsibilities, including performing physical exams, administering immunizations, prescribing medications, and providing family planning services.
5. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatric nurse practitioners work with patients who suffer from mental health conditions, such as depression and bipolar disorder.
6. Nurse Anesthetist
Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia to patients and monitor their vital signs during procedures. They are also responsible for overseeing patient recovery.
7. Clinical Nurse Specialist
Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) can be certified in a variety of clinical specialties. They are distinct from nurse practitioners in that in addition to focusing on clinical practice, they also take on roles related to education, research, and consulting. In this leadership capacity, CNSs work to mentor and advocate for both nurses and patients.
8. Clinical Nurse Leader
Clinical nurse leaders (CNLs) coordinate direct care activities, alter plans of care if necessary, and evaluate patient outcomes. This relatively new role was created by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN); to become a CNL, candidates must earn a master’s degree that meets the AACN’s requirements.
9. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Pediatric nurse practitioners specialize in children’s health conditions. They provide children and their family members with the tools they need to remain healthy.
10. Public Health Nurse
Public health nurses keep communities safe through policy reform and community building. They focus on preventing disease, reducing health risks of the populations they serve, and ensuring that underserved and at-risk individuals have access to care.
11. Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
Orthopedic nurse practitioners treat patients with joint, bone, and muscle problems. They work with physicians and other healthcare providers to develop patient care and discharge plans.
12. Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
Gerontological nurse practitioners work with elderly patients suffering from acute and chronic illnesses. They administer memory care to patients and are skilled in end-of-life measures.
13. Health Policy Nurse
Health policy nurses analyze healthcare laws and regulations, advocate for positive change, and promote healthcare reform. Health policy nurses may find positions in healthcare, nonprofit, and government organizations.
14. Dialysis Nurse
Dialysis nurses administer dialysis and medication to patients with kidney disease. They also are responsible for educating patients and maintaining patient records.
15. Dermatology Nurse
Dermatology nurses conduct skin exams and diagnose and treat various skin injuries and conditions, such as melanoma, burns, acne, and warts. They are also trained in administering cosmetic procedures, such as chemical peels and laser treatments. Dermatology nurses teach patients about proper skin care to prevent damage.
16. Nurse Midwife
Nurse midwives focus on women’s reproductive health and childbirth. They assist patients with delivery, provide postpartum care, perform gynecological exams, educate patients on infant care, and more.
Advanced nursing degrees open doors for nurses in clinical care, education, and leadership. If you’re interested in earning an advanced nursing degree, check out the graduate programs offered at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences.
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, and Post-Graduate Nursing Certificates designed for working nurses. Our degrees are offered online, with optional on-campus immersions.* Role specialties include Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Nurse Educator,** and Nurse Executive. The MSN has several options to accelerate your time to degree completion. Complete coursework when and where you want—and earn your advanced nursing degree while keeping your work and life in balance.
*The FNP role specialty includes two required hands-on clinical intensives as part of the curriculum.
**The Nurse Educator role specialty is not available for the DNP program.