How to Decide Which Nursing Specialty is Right for You

June 28, 2017

Choosing a nursing specialty is serious business, but selecting a specific route doesn’t have to stress you out. We’ve made a list of the most important considerations to help you tailor your career path to suit your personal preferences.

10 Important Factors to Consider When Choosing a Nursing Specialty

  1. What’s your ideal patient?

When it comes to choosing a nursing specialty, it’s important to pay attention to what populations you’d most like to work with on a day-to-day basis.

Do you love tending to newborns, or would you prefer helping the elderly? Maybe you’re drawn to cardiac patients because of a loved one’s struggles, or perhaps you’d enjoy helping those in correctional facilities instead.

Take some time to figure out what patients you’d like to work with most, and get some practical experience with this particular population to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

  1. Are you squeamish?

Does the sight of even a drop of blood turn your stomach, or are you totally fine with seeing the most gruesome of injuries? Be honest! If blood, vomit and needles are dealbreakers for you, that’s perfectly fine — just pursue a more sterile career path rather than a job in, say, an emergency room.

  1. Do you like predictable routines?

Are you a creature of habit, or do you love career spontaneity? The nursing field is full of different specialty tracks that can cater to your preferences, so give this consideration some thought before deciding on one specific career path. Your daily routine plays a huge role in your job satisfaction, and finding the right fit is imperative to your overall happiness.

  1. Do you enjoy traveling?

Similarly, you’ll want to consider whether or not you’d like to stay in one spot or hop from job to job as a travel nurse. Many young professionals are drawn to travel nursing, as it lets you see the country (and even the world) while gaining experience in a variety of healthcare settings.

On the contrary, other nurses (particularly those with family responsibilities) may want the stability of a permanent placement that affords them a consistent and steady routine.

  1. What’s your approach to learning?

Another question to ask yourself concerns your personal approach to learning new things. Do you love to read about a wide range of nursing topics, or do you prefer to focus on a single area instead?

Generalists may prefer to work as family nurses, while others may gravitate toward very specific niches in their chosen fields.

  1. What’s your preferred type of workplace setting?

Does a bustling ER sound heavenly or nightmare-inducing? Figuring out what type of healthcare facility you’d want to work in is a big part of the equation, whether it’s a nursing home, a school, a rehab center or a doctor’s office.

  1. How much do you want to earn?

Okay, okay — everyone enjoys a big paycheck. But you’ll need to consider what kind of salary range you’re comfortable with and what specialty can offer you that kind of range. The average salary for an RN is just over $64,000, while CRNAs earn an average salary of $173,210.

  1. Are you tech-savvy?

If you’re a people person, nursing is obviously a great field for you. However, if you’re drawn to the technological side of healthcare, a career in health information technology or nursing informatics may be right up your alley.

  1. Do you lead or follow?

All specialties need leaders in the field, but it’s important to know what your comfort level is regarding management positions.

Some people love the idea of being in charge, while others shy away from the added stress and responsibilities associated with a higher rung on the ladder. Ultimately, your preferences can guide you toward obtaining special certifications and higher degrees… or saving yourself the hassle altogether.

  1. Do you enjoy school?

Likewise, your love of education can directly influence your career path. If the idea of extended academic coursework appeals to you, then you may love the idea of becoming a nurse anesthetist. Otherwise, you may feel the time commitment and educational requirements simply aren’t worth it.

How Do You Compare to Your Nursing Peers?

Curious how you compare to your contemporaries? In a research study conducted, over 10,000 nursing professionals weighed in on the aforementioned considerations. The findings included the following trends:

  • Only 26% of respondents deemed themselves tech-savvy.
  • A whopping 92% agreed that they’re moderately emotional.
  • More than half of respondents said they love to learn.
  • 95% of those surveyed said they’d enjoy working in a hospital (with 60% currently working in one)
  • 35% of nurses said they’d love to travel.
  • 40% of respondents said they prefer to lead, while almost half of those surveyed said they’re at least comfortable in leadership positions. (Only 840 preferred to follow the leader instead.)
  • Just 4% of those surveyed said they have no tolerance for blood.
  • 45% of nurses prefer a moderately-paced work setting that offers some variation in its day-to-day tasks.
  • 32% prefer to study anything and everything, while 38% like to study a few general topics. 30% of nurses said they prefer to focus on a single specialty.

Popular Nursing Specialties

Among those surveyed by, these were the top ten most common nursing specialties:

  1. Pulmonary Care
    2. Pediatric Care
    3. Perinatal Care
    4. PeriAnesthesia
    5. Cardiac Cath Lab
    6. Midwifery
    7. Cardiac Care
    8. Emergency (ER)
    9. Veterans Affairs (VA)
    10. Rehabilitation

Additionally, here are some of the leading nursing specialties across the U.S.:

  • General Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
  • Oncology Nurse
  • Pain Management Nurse
  • Travel Nurse
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Informatics Nurse
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nursing Administrator
  • Nurse Educator
  • Health Policy Nurse
  • Medical-Surgical Nurse

What specialties interest you most, and which one are you currently leaning toward? We’d love to know! Share your thoughts with us in the comments section, or connect with us via our social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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