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The Top 20 Career Path Options for Nurse Practitioners

NurseJournal Staff
Updated July 25, 2023
    Review a detailed list of common nurse practitioner specialties that are increasingly in demand and offering some of the highest salaries in the field.
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    According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the demand for nurse practitioners (NPs) is projected to grow by 45% from 2020-2030, significantly faster than the average job growth for all other professions.

    This guide explores some of the best nurse practitioner jobs with the highest demand and highest pay. Each of these positions provides a different focus for NPs, offering a variety of specialty options.

    1. Cardiac Nurse Practitioner

    Cardiac NPs provide care to patients who have either acute or chronic diseases related to the heart. These professionals assess the health of patients, prescribe medication (depending on their practice authority), promote nonpharmacological treatments, and collaborate with the entire healthcare team. Cardiac NPs typically work in private practices, in-patient hospitals, and outpatient clinics.

    Salary: $117,030

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Perform therapeutic procedures
    • Develop treatment plans
    • Conduct and interpret stress tests
    • Monitor postoperative cardiac patients
    • Assess risks of cardiovascular diseases

    2. Emergency Nurse Practitioner

    Emergency NPs administer care to acutely ill or injured patients of all ages. These nurses work in a fast-paced environment with patients in immediate need of care. Emergency NPs find employment in hospitals, trauma centers, urgent care facilities, and ambulatory care.

    Salary: $117,010

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Diagnose and treat patients with acute symptoms
    • Access patient’s physical symptoms
    • Collect psychosocial and environmental information from patients
    • Educate patients and family members on proper care

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    3. Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

    Orthopedic NPs focus on treating patients with musculoskeletal issues, including injuries to the bones, muscles, joints, and connective tissue. They can either provide general services that encompass aspects of orthopedic care, or they can specialize in areas, such as sports medicine, orthopedic oncology, and metabolic disorders.

    Salary: $115,860

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Conduct physical exams
    • Order tests and prescribe medications (depending on their practice authority)
    • Analyze test results
    • Provide rehabilitation services

    4. Oncology Nurse Practitioner

    Oncology NPs (ONPs) provide care to patients diagnosed with cancer. They interact with patients frequently, becoming a friendly and familiar face during a difficult time. ONPs coordinate most of the patient’s care throughout the treatment process. While they work in a variety of settings, they are most often employed by oncology departments that focus on medical, radiation, or surgical care.

    Salary: $115,800

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Conduct physical exams
    • Create and manage treatment plans
    • Administer cancer therapies
    • Prescribe medications (depending on practice authority)

    5. Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner

    Palliative care NPs provide care to patients with terminal diagnoses. They typically find employment within hospitals, medical offices, patient homes, and inpatient hospice facilities. These professionals generally work with adults and geriatric patients. Palliative care NPs commonly encounter patients with cancer, advanced heart disease, neurological disorders, and dementia. Palliative care begins at the diagnosis stage and continues into treatment.

    Salary: $113,600

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Develop treatment plans
    • Arrange comfort measures to reduce pain
    • Execute multifaceted treatment plans
    • Assess and treat symptoms to promote wellness

    6. Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

    Primary care nurse practitioners (PCNPs) provide care to individuals, families, or groups. As a primary care provider, PCNPs help patients with common health concerns. In this capacity, they can work either independently or in collaboration with other health professionals.

    Salary: $112,890

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Assess patients’ health
    • Administer preventative care, such as immunizations and vaccinations
    • Diagnose and treat general health conditions

    7. Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

    Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) provide care for those coping with different psychiatric conditions, such as mood disorders, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression. PMHNPs often work with primary care or specialty providers.

    Salary: $115,590

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Assess, diagnose, and treat mental health disorders
    • Provide physical and psychosocial assessments
    • Deliver emergency psychiatric care and treatment
    • Evaluate the effectiveness of treatments

    8. Surgical Nurse Practitioner

    Surgical NPs work in operating rooms alongside a larger medical team. To support surgical staff, surgical NPs perform a variety of duties before, during, and after surgery. SNPs have extensive training in operating room processes and are often recognized as one of the most important assistants during surgical procedures.

    Salary: $109,790

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Assess new patients
    • Discuss surgical options
    • Administer medications
    • Monitor patients’ vital signs
    • Assist during surgical procedures

    9. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

    Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) tend to newborns in neonatal intensive care units to support infants in a variety of critical conditions. NNPs can also work in nonacute settings supervising and assisting with the delivery of infants. They can help in addressing conditions that arise due to genetic disorders, drug addiction, premature birth, HIV infection, and a variety of other issues.

    Salary: $107,670

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Start and maintain IV lines
    • Monitor specialized equipment
    • Order and/or perform diagnostic tests
    • Design treatment plans
    • Guide and advise new parents

    10. Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

    Acute care nurse practitioners (ACNPs) deal with patients who experience sudden critical illnesses or injuries. They work in a variety of environments, including emergency rooms, urgent-care clinics, and operating rooms. ACNPs focus on the short-term care of adults and children.

    Salary: $104,180

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Provide physical exams
    • Record patient histories
    • Diagnose and treat patients
    • Prescribe medication and therapy treatments (depending on practice authority)
    • Stabilize patients in critical conditions
    • Collaborate with healthcare teams

    Pediatric acute care NPs provide comprehensive care to children and adolescents experiencing critical, acute, and chronic conditions. They often work in both inpatient and outpatient hospitals, emergency departments, and homecare settings. Pediatric acute care NPs help meet specific physiological and psychological needs of children and adolescents.

    Salary: $101,490

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Provide family-centered care
    • Conduct advanced physical examinations
    • Interpret lab and diagnostic tests
    • Manage pediatric patients from admission to discharge
    • Coordinate post-care options with families

    12. Adult Nurse Practitioner

    Adult nurse practitioners (ANPs) evaluate and diagnose common, acute, and chronic health issues among adolescents, adults, and the elderly. ANPs often choose to specialize in areas ranging from women’s health to cardiovascular care to psychiatry. However, they typically work with a broad population, allowing them to find success working with primary care providers.

    Salary: $101,330

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Educate patients on wellness practices
    • Diagnose and evaluate common, acute, and chronic health issues
    • Counsel patients on diet, exercise, and/or physical therapy
    • Evaluate test results and the impact of treatment

    13. Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

    Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AG-ACNPs) provide care to adults and elderly patients with acute, chronic, or critical conditions. AG-ACNPs typically work in clinics, physician offices, hospitals, retirement homes, and private practices. They can write prescriptions (depending on practice authority), interpret ECG monitoring, and assess patient responses to medications and treatment.

    Salary: $99,790

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Collect information regarding patient history
    • Evaluate patient symptoms
    • Assess diagnostic information
    • Determine treatment methods
    • Track the condition of the patient

    14. Family Nurse Practitioner

    Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) provide family-based health services that focus on a range of patients. FNPs work with infants, adolescents, adults, and the elderly in a variety of settings, including community health centers, private practices, healthcare systems, and universities.

    Salary: $97,210

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Maintaining patient records
    • Prescribe medications (depending on practice authority)
    • Develop treatment plans
    • Treat acute and chronic illnesses and injuries

    15. Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

    Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) specialize in both continuing and comprehensive healthcare services for women. They provide reproductive, gynecological, prenatal, and postpartum care. WHNPs focus on health promotion, disease prevention, and preventative maintenance at facilities that specialize in women’s healthcare, family planning, and reproductive services.

    Salary: $95,230

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Review preventative health needs
    • Diagnose reproductive diseases
    • Prescribe medication/contraception (depending on practice authority)
    • Address fertility issues
    • Screen for domestic violence and substance abuse

    16. Hospice Nurse Practitioner

    Hospice NPs help patients and their families prepare for end-of-life circumstances. Hospice care revolves around pain management to improve the patient’s quality of life. Hospice NPs typically only work with patients who will not recover from their illness.

    Salary: $94,510

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Advocate for patients and their families
    • Administer and translate diagnostic screenings
    • Create, manage, and update patient care plans
    • Perform physical exams
    • Monitor and record symptoms

    17. Dermatology Nurse Practitioner

    Dermatology NPs treat medical conditions or diseases related to the surface of the skin. While they work with all ages, dermatology NPs can choose to specialize in specific age groups, such as children or the elderly, or focus on certain diseases, like cancer.

    Salary: $94,200

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Identify patients’ needs for dermatological care
    • Conduct comprehensive health histories
    • Review prescribed medication
    • Interpret lab studies and pathology reports
    • Establish diagnosis

    18. Nephrology Nurse Practitioner

    Nephrology NPs care for patients suffering from kidney diseases and injuries. While some nephrology NPs focus on treating patients through dialysis, others work within the area of patient education to ensure successful at-home care.

    Salary: $92,000

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Provide comprehensive health assessments
    • Order treatments and tests
    • Discuss diet
    • Evaluate effectiveness of treatments

    19. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

    Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) specialize in caring for newborns, infants, toddlers, adolescents, and young adults. They primarily focus on the prevention or management of common acute and chronic pediatric conditions. PNPs typically work in private practice offices, hospitals, specialty clinics, school-based health centers, and urgent care clinics.

    Salary: $91,540

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Assess growth patterns
    • Track developmental milestones
    • Educate parents about growth and development
    • Diagnose and treat illnesses
    • Prescribe medications (depending on practice authority)
    • Order immunizations

    20. Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

    Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AG-PCNPs) specialize in helping patients ages 13 and older. They provide care to patients experiencing chronic or episodic illnesses. Many AG-PCNPs work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, private practices, nursing homes, universities, pharmacies, and health clinics.

    Salary: $89,520

    Key Responsibilities:

    • Perform routine examinations
    • Administer immunizations
    • Provide one-on-one health counseling
    • Develop and implement disease prevention plans

    FAQs: Places to Work as an NP

    Which nurse practitioner specialty is in highest demand?

    NP specialties in the highest demand include emergency and PMHNPs. To accommodate the growing population, the demand for emergency healthcare workers continues to increase. As psychiatric and mental health disorders become less taboo, and with the stress and anxiety stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for PMHNPs is also expected to increase.

    What is the least stressful nurse practitioner job?

    While all NP specialties can be stressful, focusing on primary care can relieve some of that stress. FNPs, PCNPs, and AG-PCNPs work with patients experiencing common health issues rather than emergency medical situations. If you are seeking NP work in a slower-paced environment, consider primary care.

    Where is the best place to work as a nurse practitioner?

    The best place to work as an NP is dependent upon the nurse’s personal and professional goals. For those looking to maximize their pay, California, New York, and Texas offer the highest average annual salary. The top-paying industries include community food and housing and emergency and other relief services, or religious organizations.

    For those looking for areas that have the highest demand, California, Texas, and Florida are projected to have the highest need for NPs over the course of the next decade.

    Where are NPs paid the most?

    According to the BLS, NPs enjoy a higher annual salary in California than in any other state, with an average of $145,970 per year. Within California, the metropolitan region that pays the highest annual salary is Vallejo-Fairfield, where NPs earn an average of $188,070 per year. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward and Salinas follow Vallejo-Fairfield with $177,800 and $155,310 per year, respectively.

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