Top Specialties for Nurse Practitioners

Nursing has been in a state of crisis for the last several years. While current labor shortages are often attributed to the ravaging effects of the pandemic, the truth isn’t quite so simple.

Nurse practitioners command high salaries and get to dive deeper into the medical specialties that interest them the most. Though the road to becoming an NP can be long and challenging, the work is rewarding, making it a worthwhile avenue for people interested in expanding their medical careers to consider. 

In this article, we talk about salaries, qualification requirements, and specializations. Read on for a quick but comprehensive primer on what it takes to be a nurse practitioner.

What Does it Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Becoming an NP usually takes at least six years of school, though sometimes the number can be as high as eight years. This includes the four years that it typically takes to become an RN, plus all of the graduate school necessary for getting your final professional endorsements. 

Your specialty, as well as local laws, may also influence how long you spend trying to become a nurse practitioner. 


A Family Nurse Practitioner or FNP is a nurse who essentially performs the same duties as a general practitioner. They see patients. Evaluate their health. Make lifestyle recommendations. They even perform diagnostic work and can prescribe medicine in certain parts of the country. 

In fact, FNPs can even open their own practices in some states. These arrangements allow FNPs to effectively become small business owners, providing them with higher earning potentials, and significant freedom. 

As with all things pertaining to nurse practitioners, where you live will have a big impact on what you can do. Some states give nurse practitioners a significant amount of freedom when it comes to building their own businesses. 

Others allow NPs to qualify for new professional privileges over time, while still others relegate NPs primarily to the responsibilities typical to other nurses. It is always a good idea to find out what your local laws will allow for before making any significant professional decisions. 

Neonatal NP

Neonatal NPs work with at-risk infants. Usually, patients who fall into this category were born with low birth rates, infections, heart abnormalities, or other complications that infants suffer from. Care in this category is often short-term, though there are chronic conditions that may cause a patient to see a neonatal NP for up to two years. 

It usually takes at least six years to become a neonatal nurse practitioner. This time frame estimates for the amount of schooling it will take to first become an RN. However strenuous the requirements may be, it’s worth mentioning that neonatal NPs experience high demand, and higher than average salaries, making it a worthwhile career avenue to consider. 

Acute Care

As the title suggests, acute care nurse practitioners focus on conditions that came up very suddenly. For example, if a person has a heart attack, they may eventually become the patient of an acute care nurse practitioner. 

Acute care NPs work in emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, ICU wards, and so on. Basically, anywhere that treats emergencies will probably require the services of an acute care nurse practitioner. 

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric nurse practitioners work with patients from birth all the way to age eighteen. They may perform health assessments, make lifestyle recommendations, evaluate health conditions, administer vaccines, perform diagnostic work, and (depending on the state) prescribe antibiotics. 

Sound familiar? It should. Pediatric nurses ostensibly perform the same responsibilities as any pediatrician. Once again, this is a situation where you will want to read up on your local laws. In some states, a pediatric nurse practitioner will have an enormous amount of freedom. In others, they may be quite limited in what they can do. 

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Women’s health nurse practitioners perform a wide range of health services for females. This includes things like breast examinations, pregnancy testing, fertility evaluations, and other things relating to female health needs. 

They may also perform STD testing and other services that are vital to the overall health and wellness of females at every age and stage in their lives. 

Salary Expectations

While all of the jobs described above will vary in their expected salary, most hover in the early six-figure range. While nurse practitioners don’t make as much as doctors, their salaries dwarf those of NPs, sometimes as much as doubling the income that bedside nurses make. 

For more granular salary information, look into not just the specific specialty that you are interested in, but also the average income figures for your area. Location can have a significant impact on your earning potential as a nurse practitioner. The higher in demand your services are, the more you will usually make. 

A Vital Pivot in the Right Direction?

Nursing has been in a state of crisis for the last several years. While current labor shortages are often attributed to the ravaging effects of the pandemic, the truth isn’t quite so simple. For years, people have been leaving the profession in droves, and not enough students have been coming up through the ranks of nursing school to replace them.

Naturally, most RNs who are considering a career change probably won’t pivot into becoming nurse practitioners. It’s more school, the work is more complicated, and it takes time and money to earn the qualifications. 

All of that said, NPing can be a rewarding alternative to bedside nursing that will allow professionals to stay in medicine without the punishing twelve-hour shifts that are so common to being a floor nurse. 

Becoming a nurse practitioner allows you to zero in on the aspects of medicine that you are most interested in. it provides you with more freedom, more flexibility, and more money to pursue the lifestyle that you want. 

In a profession that is known for chewing people up and spitting them back out, these are boons not to be taken lightly. If you are interested in changing or expanding your career in medicine, consider researching what it will take to become a nurse practitioner. 

Think you want to become a nurse practitioner but aren’t sure you can swing the financial aspect of going back to school? Think about researching scholarship, grant, and loan opportunities that could make the journey more approachable. 

Sophia Carlisle
Sophia Carlisle is a professional writer.
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