12 Best Nurse Practitioner Specialties for the Next Decade


Written By: Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C


Nurse practitioners are in demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for nurse practitioners is expected to increase by 40% between 2021 and 2031—indicating significant growth in the profession. In other words, the demand for NPs is very high—evident in all aspects and specialties of the profession.

Now that you know the demand, are you wondering what are the best nurse practitioner specialties? Below you will find a list of the 12 best nurse practitioner specialties for the next decade.


WHAT ARE THE BEST NURSE PRACTITIONER SPECIALTIES?


There are many specialties for the nurse practitioner to pursue—many of them depend on the NP's board certification. Below, you will find the 12 best nurse practitioner specialties for the next decade.


1. Family Nurse Practitioner


What Do They Do:

The family nurse practitioner (FNP) is one of the best nurse practitioner specialties for many reasons. FNPs provide primary care with an emphasis on preventative care to patients across their lifespans.

The FNP cares for acute and chronic problems, annual physicals, well-child checks, and Medicare wellness visits. They achieve this through completing assessments, ordering and interpreting tests, forming a diagnosis, and initiating treatment when indicated. They also educate their patients on their diagnoses, medications, and ways to improve their health and well-being.

How Much Do They Make:

A family nurse practitioner's average annual nationwide salary is 111,193.

What Makes it One of the Best:

Working as an FNP, you have the opportunity to deliver primary care to a person throughout their lifespan—from birth to death. And not many other specialties can say they can do this in their job. This allows for developing great relationships with patients and their families, leading to increased trust, compliance, and overall health. FNPs also have great hours that are primarily daytime with very few weekends or on-call coverage.


2. Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner


What Do They Do:

The adult-gerontology nurse practitioner cares for adult and geriatric patients—which in most places means those 18 years or older. They provide primary and preventative care to the adult and aging population. This includes performing detailed assessments, interpreting results, and formulating individualized diagnoses and treatment plans for each patient. They manage acute and chronic problems throughout their day, all while educating patients to improve their overall quality of life.

How Much Do They Make:

An adult-gerontology nurse practitioner’s average annual nationwide salary is
$153,319.

What Makes it One of the Best:

One of the reasons for becoming an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner for many people is that it is age specific. Many NPS do not wish to care for patients across their lifespans. Therefore, becoming an adult-gerontology primary care NP will allow you to provide primary and preventative care to the adult patient only—while still allowing you to form strong, trusting relationships with your patients.

The adult-gerontology primary care NP hours are also typically daytime hours with few Saturday morning or on-call coverage.


3. Pulmonary Nurse Practitioner


What Do They Do:

A pulmonary nurse practitioner is one of the best nurse practitioner specialties to pursue. They provide care to patients experiencing acute and chronic respiratory problems. The pulmonology NP could provide this care in the acute or outpatient setting. They will assess patients, order diagnostic tests, and treat various respiratory conditions, including asthma, COPD, sleep apnea, lung cancer, etc.

How Much Do They Make:

A pulmonary nurse practitioner’s average annual nationwide salary is $108,384.

What Makes it One of the Best:

The opportunity to help patients breathe better is one of the reasons this is one of the best NP specialties. You also get the opportunity to care for patients in both the acute care and outpatient setting, providing flexibility and variety throughout the day.


4. Adult Acute Care Nurse Practitioner


What Do They Do:

The adult acute care nurse practitioner provides care to the adult patient while admitted to the hospital. This means they care for patients with various problems, including chronic exacerbations of chronic diseases and acute problems.

Adult acute care nurse practitioners will round on their patients—perform assessments, evaluate the effectiveness of their treatment plans, and alter the treatment plans as needed. They work closely with interdisciplinary teams, including physical and occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, social workers, and other specialties, to ensure their patients receive the best care possible.

How Much Do They Make:

An adult acute care nurse practitioner’s average annual nationwide salary is
$105,590.

What Makes it One of the Best:

One thing that makes being an adult acute care nurse practitioner one of the best NP specialties to pursue is being able to care for the adult population in the acute care setting only. You get to provide care to a multitude of different diagnoses and problems. Many people find their hours desirable because they work 10-12 hour shifts 3-4 times a week.


5. House-Call Nurse Practitioner


What Do They Do:

A house-call NP is one of the best nurse practitioner specialties for many reasons. Most house-call nurse practitioners specialize in family practice, pediatric or adult-gerontology. Their job duties include going to people’s homes to provide individualized primary care to various patients. Their patients may be unable to leave the house due to a mobility problem, time constraints, caring for an ill family member, etc. This may include annual physicals, medicare wellness, and acute care visits. The house-call NP will assess, order diagnostic tests, and diagnose and treat their patients.

How Much Do They Make:

A house-call nurse practitioner’s average annual nationwide salary is $107,841.

What Makes it One of the Best:

You get to care for patients in the environment they feel the most comfortable with—which may lead to a more relaxed and comfortable appointment. There is also a lot of predicted growth and demand in this field.


6. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner


What Do They Do:

Psychiatric mental health NPs provide care to patients with mental health disorders in the acute and outpatient setting—and care for patients with a wide range of diagnoses, including ADHD, anxiety, depression, bipolar, PTSD, schizophrenia, etc. This is achieved through assessment, diagnosis, and treatment—along with counseling, close follow-ups, and alterations to the treatment plan when indicated.

How Much Do They Make:

A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner’s average annual nationwide salary is $121,780.

What Makes it One of the Best:

The demand for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners is significant, making this one of the best NP psychiatric specialties to pursue. The need for this specialty has increased over the last several years, and I believe it will continue to rise for the adult and pediatric populations.


7. Cardiology Nurse Practitioner


What Do They Do:

Cardiology nurse practitioners care for patients experiencing a cardiac problem or concern such as palpitations, edema, and irregular heart rhythm, history of heart attack, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia— making it one of the best nurse practitioner specialties.

The cardiac NP will assess the patient and order appropriate diagnostic tests, including EKGs, lab work, Holter monitors, echocardiograms, and stress tests to evaluate the heart and determine appropriate treatment plans—which also include education to improve their heart health. They often work closely with other specialties, including pulmonology, nephrology, and family medicine, to ensure the patient is cared for appropriately.

How Much Do They Make:

A cardiology nurse practitioner’s average annual nationwide salary is $130,244.

What Makes it One of the Best:

As a cardiac NP, you care for one of the most essential organs in our body—the heart! With the medical advancements over the last several decades, people are living longer, leading to an increased need to ensure their hearts are functioning at their highest capacity—leading to a greater need for cardiologists and cardiac NPs.


8. Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner


What Do They Do:

Aesthetic nurse practitioners provide cosmetic procedures to help improve or enhance their patient’s physical appearance—and can be done alongside a physician, or, in some states, the NP can own and operate their practice. They may perform aesthetic procedures, including botox, laser hair removal, chemical peels, lip fillers, etc.

How Much Do They Make:

An aesthetic nurse practitioner’s average annual nationwide salary is $112,321.

What Makes it One of the Best:

As an aesthetic NP, you get to help patients boost their confidence through their overall appearance and happiness. The demand for this specialty is increasing as well. The technology of these procedures has improved over the years--leading to changes that appear more natural and cost-effective. Plus, they have become more accepted throughout the general population, making people feel more comfortable seeking out these procedures.


9. Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner


What Do They Do:

Pediatric primary care NPs provide care to the pediatric population, typically newborns to young adults (18 years old). Working in primary care, the pediatric NP will perform well child checks, ensure patients are current with immunizations, and manage acute and chronic problems. Educating family and patients is also an essential duty and ensuring patients are meeting appropriate milestones—promptly issuing referrals to other specialties if there are concerns.

How Much Do They Make:

A pediatric primary care nurse practitioner’s average annual nationwide salary is $113,145.

What Makes it One of the Best:

As a pediatric primary care NP you get the opportunity to care for kids and adolescents every day! Working in primary care also means you get to perform annual well-child checks allowing you to form relationships with your pediatric patients and their families, leading to increased trust and compliance—along with the fun of watching the kids grow.


10. Pain Management Nurse Practitioner


What Do They Do:

Pain management NPs help manage patients' pain. This is a growing industry as appropriate chronic pain management is becoming more and more of a hot topic in medicine.

Pain management NPs assist physicians with managing both acute and chronic pain through medications, injections, placement of pain pumps, and other techniques. They also strongly encourage the use of pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic methods to complement each other to achieve the highest level of pain management—ie. physical therapy and oral pain medicine.

How Much Do They Make:

A pain management nurse practitioner's average annual nationwide salary is $137,135.

What Makes it One of the Best:

Pain management is a growing specialty in medicine, so the demand for pain management NPs is excellent! Many specialties, including family practice, will manage acute pain, but once a patient's pain is considered chronic, they will seek recommendations from pain management NPs to manage their patient's pain better.


11. Emergency Department Nurse Practitioner


What Do They Do:

An emergency department NP cares for patients seeking care in the emergency department. They must have a vast knowledge base to quickly assess, diagnose, and treat a multitude of problems ranging from ear aches to lacerations to heart attacks. They are typically quick on their feet, good multitaskers, and enjoy working in high-stress environments.

How Much Do They Make:

An emergency department nurse practitioner's average annual nationwide salary is $115,298

What Makes it One of the Best:

Working as an emergency department NP, you never know what will "walk through your door." You may be caring for a patient experiencing abdominal pain, chest pain, and a broken wrist simultaneously. This leads to much excitement and variety throughout the day—making the job never dull or predictable.


12. Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner


What Do They Do:

Pediatric acute care NPs care for pediatric patients admitted to the hospital. This allows the pediatric acute care NP to care for patients with various diagnoses, including acute problems and exacerbations or worsening of chronic problems. They round on their patients by completing assessments, interpreting lab results, and working closely with specialty teams to provide the best care possible.

How Much Do They Make:

A pediatric acute care nurse practitioner's average annual nationwide salary is $99,432.

What Makes it One of the Best:

The daily opportunity to care for pediatric patients makes this one of the best nurse practitioner specialties. As a pediatric acute care NP, you get to impact your pediatric patients' lives and their families as well—working closely with the interdisciplinary team daily to ensure the kids are receiving the best care possible. Working in acute care also leads to variety throughout the day and week which may help minimize burnout and improve overall job satisfaction.


My Final Thoughts


Patients are living longer, and advancements in medicine are leading to the ability to diagnose, treat and manage chronic health problems more effectively and efficiently—leading to an increased demand for high-quality nurse practitioners in every healthcare specialty.

After reading the article above, can you answer what are the best nurse practitioner specialties? I have provided a list of the 12 best nurse practitioner specialties for the next decade, but please note this list only scratches the surface regarding the impact the NP can leave on a person’s health and life.


Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C
Kasee Wiesen is a practicing family nurse practitioner. Her nursing background includes emergency medicine, pediatrics and peri-op. Education is a passion of Kasee’s, and she has taught BSN, RN-BSN and DNP students, and has enjoyed every moment of it!