what are nursing specialties

What are the Different Types of Nursing Specialties?

Nurses are an essential and integral part of the healthcare industry. They are often the first person a patient or family comes in contact with, and this in-demand career is continuously growing.

In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment rate for registered nurses (RNs) is projected to grow six percent by 2031, resulting in about 203,200 openings each year.

Furthermore, the role of a nurse varies widely depending on that nurse’s specialty. Depending on your interests, passions, and career goals, candidates can pursue various nursing specialties.

Let’s look at several types of the most popular nursing specialties.

What is a Nurse?

Nurses are trained and licensed medical care professionals who provide care to individuals, families, and communities by responding to the needs of their patients in hospitals, homes, and other healthcare settings.

They ensure their patients understand, are prepared for treatment, and make sure prescriptions don’t negatively affect one another. Nurses also play an intermediary and advocate role between patients and doctors, as they are typically the first to read a patient’s diagnostic results.

Common duties and responsibilities include:

  • Record patients’ medical histories and symptoms
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment
  • Help perform diagnostic tests and analyze the results
  • Teach patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries

5 Types of Nursing Specialities

There are various types of nurses and nursing specialties, each with its own distinct focus, responsibilities, and requirements in order to provide expert and specialized care in their respective areas.

1. Registered Nurses (RNs)

One of the most popular and primary entry points into the nursing profession, registered nurses (RNs) are licensed, registered nursing professionals who medically treat patients and provide educational and emotional support for patients and their families.

Registered nurses administer medications and treatment, monitor and evaluate patients, and maintain medical records for other healthcare providers. They also often work alongside other physicians and other healthcare specialists.

This is the specialty for you if you want to become a registered nurse in a short period of time, often between two to four years, have an excellent bedside manner, and are passionate about caring for patients and their families.

The pathways to a career as a registered nurse include:

  • Associate degree in Nursing (ADN): Associate degree in Nursing programs typically take about two years to complete and focus primarily on clinical skills application. While they are the shortest and quickest way to start a career as a nurse, many employers prefer to hire nurses with more extensive training, especially those wanting to hold leadership positions.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): Four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs offer more profound and comprehensive curriculums for nurses to make an even greater impact in healthcare. They do so by offering instruction in disease prevention, informatics, patient advocacy, and more.
  • Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN): Designed for candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, accelerated nursing programs allow them to become nurses and enter the healthcare field in as little as fifteen months.
  • Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-to-BSN): Another accelerated option, this pathway offers candidates holding an Associate degree in Nursing (ADN) and registered nurse (RN) license the ability to complete their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The RN to BSN degree is best suited for registered nurses looking to expand their career opportunities and educational mobility.

Lastly, upon completing the above-mentioned pathways, candidates must apply for licensure and take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), governed by the National Council of States Board of Nursing (NCSBN). Candidates should also do their research to understand their desired state’s licensure requirements.


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2. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs)

A career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) is best for those possessing strong interpersonal and observational skills, as they must pay attention to details when monitoring changes in their patient’s conditions and exhibit compassion and patience.

These professionals provide medical care under the supervision of senior nursing staff and do not require an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

Instead, candidates only need a high school diploma or equivalent, complete a one-year, state-approved educational program, and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN).

3. Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs)

Another nursing specialty that offers a fast way into healthcare is that of a certified nursing assistant (CNA). These individuals are part of the healthcare team and work under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs).

Nursing assistants help patients with basic activities like moving, eating, and dressing and support nurses and other healthcare providers by taking vital signs like temperature and blood pressure. Certified nursing assistants, however, do not provide medical care.

Candidates must typically complete a state-approved education program focusing on the principles of nursing, supervised clinical work, and passing their desired state competency exam. They then go on to find work in nursing care facilities, hospitals, continuing care retirement communities, home healthcare services, and more.

4. Nurse Manager

A career as a nurse manager is a great option for those desiring an administrative position and one responsible for managing others.

After obtaining their degree and registered nurse (RN) licensure, nurse managers recruit nurses, create schedules, and even make decisions regarding budget and management. This nursing specialty best suits strategic thinkers with strong management and personnel skills.

5. Oncology Nurse

Working as an oncology nurse is a challenging yet incredibly rewarding nursing specialty. It requires an immense amount of compassion and emotional resilience as these nurses care for cancer patients, administer medication and treatments, and provide information and support to patients and family members.

Oncology nurses can also obtain additional certifications, including oncology certified nurse (OCN), advanced oncology, certified nurse (AOCN), and certified pediatric oncology nurse (CPON).

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the different types of nursing specialties available. Additional types of nursing specialties include:

  • Cardiac nurse
  • Critical care nurse
  • Nurse midwife
  • Pediatric nurse
  • Public health nurse
  • Travel nurse

No matter your passions, interests, or goals, there is a nursing specialty for you. It all starts by enrolling in a nursing program that will provide you with the foundation you need to be a highly skilled nurse, no matter your chosen specialty.

Contact us today to learn more about our nursing programs at University of Bridgeport. Our faculty, staff, and comprehensive support services are here to ensure you get through college and into a great career.

Don’t wait. Start your journey toward a career as a nurse today!