Top 10 MSN Degree Specialties

By Staff Writer

Earning a master's degree in nursing (MSN) with a specialization can expand your job opportunities and increase your earning potential in the field. In the sections below, we offer details on 10 MSN degree specialties, including psychiatry, midwifery, gerontology, and neonatal care.

We provide details on the educational paths and certifications you need to pursue rewarding careers in these areas. We also supply the average salaries and expected job growth rates for each path.

Certified Nurse Midwife

These professionals specialize in women's reproductive health and the child birthing process. They are typically responsible for conducting annual exams, providing patient counseling, attending births, and writing prescriptions as needed.

How to Become One

Each learner needs a master's degree in addition to the appropriate licensure as a registered nurse (RN). Students need to complete a four-year bachelor's degree and gain one year of work experience in the field before they enter their graduate programs.

Job Growth Trends: 26% from 2018-28

Salary: $105,030

Certified Critical-Care Registered Nurse

These nurses work in many different health settings, including emergency and critical care units, interventional or procedural care, and trauma care. They assess patient health and determine the best course of treatment in critical care scenarios.

How to Become One

These nurses need to earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and obtain RN licensure. They also need certifications in critical care, an MSN, and a nurse practitioner (NP) license.

Job Growth Trends: 12% from 2018-28

Salary: $91,000

Family Nurse Practitioner

FNPs provide primary healthcare services to patients of all ages. They perform diagnostic tests, physical exams, prescribe medications, diagnose and treat illnesses, and teach their patients about healthy lifestyles.

How to Become One

An FNP typically holds an MSN or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. Each aspiring FNP needs a BSN and RN licensure before applying to MSN programs. Many degree-holders pursue this certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Job Growth Trends: 26% from 2018-28

Salary: $94,232

Adult-Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

These professionals train to provide primary care for patients 13 years of age and older. They can develop specialty areas in primary care or acute care and typically focus on stabilizing patients, providing palliative care, prescribing medications, ordering diagnostic tests, and developing long-term patient treatment plans.

How to Become One

A student pursuing this career must possess a bachelor of science degree, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, earn an MSN, and obtain NP certification from AANP.

Job Growth Trends: 26% from 2018-28

Salary: $90,102

Nurse Anesthetist

These advanced practice registered nurses treat patients before, during, and after medical procedures. They determine which type of anesthesia each patient needs and administers the treatment through oral medication, injections, or inhalants.

How to Become One

An individual interested in pursuing this career needs to earn a bachelor's degree, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, and complete at least one year of full-time work as an RN in a clinical care setting before enrolling in a master's program. They usually need an MSN with a certified nurse anesthetist specialization.

Job Growth Trends: 26% from 2018-28

Salary: $174,790

Nurse Educator

Nurse educators work with hospital administrators and others in leadership roles to develop continuing education programs for nursing staff and caregivers. They may also help to create training guides, manuals, and other educational materials.

How to Become One

Prospective nurse educators need at least a master of science in nursing and an unrestricted RN license. Many nurse educators today also pursue a DNP or doctor of nursing philosophy degree.

Job Growth Trends: 24% from 2016-26

Salary: $75,399

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

These professionals treat newborn infants with minor or life-threatening health issues. They usually work in hospital settings alongside other medical professionals, including doctors and technicians. Specialty areas for these workers include inpatient obstetric nursing, maternal newborn nursing, low-risk neonatal intensive care nursing, and neonatal intensive care nursing.

How to Become One

A neonatal nurse practitioner needs an RN license and at least two years of clinical experience before earning an MSN. They also need to earn state certification as a neonatal nurse.

Job Growth Trends: 26% from 2018-28

Salary: $101,155

Clinical Research Nurse

These nurses work in hospitals and other care facilities. They often specialize in caring for patients who are part of clinical trials. They may also take on research-focused roles that investigate treatment plans, pharmaceuticals, and patient care methods.

How to Become One

Prospective clinical research nurses need to obtain a bachelor's degree in nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN. Many professionals elect to pursue the certified clinical research professional credential.

Job Growth Trends: 12% from 2018-28

Salary: $71,672

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

These nurses provide care for children from their birth to young adulthood. They specialize in primary care for this demographic, including managing acute and chronic illnesses, along with monitoring growth and development.

How to Become One

These professionals need MSNs with a specialization in pediatric care. They also need certification from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board or AANC to practice.

Job Growth Trends: 26% from 2018-28

Salary: $89,764

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

These professionals specialize in helping their patients deal with psychiatric disorders and other ailments. Some of the common health issues they treat include ADHD, substance abuse, mood disorders, schizophrenia, and anxiety. They may work with individuals or families and can specialize in areas, such as addiction, forensic psychiatry, adolescent psychiatry, and gerontological psychiatry.

How to Become One

Learners need to obtain a BSN and pass the NCLEX exam to become an RN. They often must possess on-the-job experience before entering a master's program. After finishing an MSN or DNP with a specialization in psychiatry, these professionals usually seek AANC certification in psychiatric-mental health.

Job Growth Trends: 26% from 2018-28

Salary: $106,787