Practical Advice for Choosing Your Nursing Specialty

Staff Writer
Apr 25, 2022

Nurses work in every corner of the earth. They can be found walking the halls of big city hospitals, suburban urgent care facilities, and just about any doctor’s office and clinic in rural towns in between. Even in the same facility, nurses work in a variety of fields, with every kind of patient, which is why so many nurses decide to choose a specialty.

At Joyce, our registered nurse program in Draper prepares nursing students to work as generalists, in a variety of settings — a foundation upon which any specialty may be built. Online students in our RN-BSN degree completion program graduate with a holistic nursing specialty, again prepared for a variety of work. If you’re wondering what nursing specialty to pursue yourself, consider the following questions as you think about your options.

Why you decided to become a nurse?

For most nurses, some event or experience inspired them to listen to the calling and become a nurse. It may have been watching a sick relative and the nurses who took care of them, or feeling drawn to make a personal impact on others’ lives, or seeing the state of healthcare and wanting to improve things. Whatever compelled you can direct you toward an area of nursing specialties where you would feel most fulfilled, so ask yourself: Why did you want to become a nurse?

Most nursing specialties work directly with patients, but some non-clinical nursing jobs would put you behind a desk or in an office, working on policies, IT, and best practices, steering the future of healthcare, or managing others in direct patient care. Knowing the kind of work you want to do, and the demographics of the patients you may want to serve, is the first step in directing your choice of nursing specialty.

Related Resource: Why Nurses Should Consider Non-Direct Patient Care Positions

Where would you love to work as a nurse?

Nurses with the same specialty can be found in small town Idaho or an enormous facility in the Bronx, but generally knowing the kind of work environment where you thrive can direct the kind of nursing specialty you should pursue.

Do you love an energetic atmosphere? Then working in an ER as a Trauma Nurse or Critical Care Nurse or, eventually, becoming a Flight Nurse might suit you well. If you prefer a calmer pace and opportunities to build long-term relationships with your patients, you should look into specialties like Geriatric Nursing or becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner. For nurses who long to leave the corridors and immerse themselves in their communities, dozens of specialties exist, many of which have a 9-5 schedule — or something close to it — like a School Nurse or Occupational Health Nurse.

Discover Nursing has a quiz that can direct nurses toward a list of specialties based on their interests and passions. There are 104 areas a nurse can specialize in, all of them valuable and fulfilling in their own ways.

Related Resource: 5 Things You Should Know About Psychiatric Nursing

What education does your desired nursing specialty require?

Many specialties require no more than an ASN degree, though every step of education you ascend will open more doors to more nursing jobs, all of which come with unique benefits, many of which offer a higher salary. Some of our nursing students decide to complete their BSN degree as soon as they graduated from an RN program — and from there upward to Masters and Doctorate level programs. Others are drawn to nursing specialties they can pursue after they pass the NCLEX. Every nurse’s path is unique, and every nursing specialty is necessary to the health of populations all over the world.

You don’t have to decide on an educational path the day you start nursing school, but it’s important to keep higher degrees in mind as you consider what nursing specialty to pursue. If your primary goal is to finish an RN program and then go to work, look at specialties based on your passions and interests in that degree level. If, however, educational requirements do not intimidate you, and if your primary goal is to work in a specialized field with a higher degree, you should pursue it.

The world needs nurses: the more impassioned by their specialties, the better.

Related Resource: 15 Highest Paying Nursing Specialties


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