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Choosing the MSN Specialization That's Right for You

Walden’s online learning program for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is designed to help those in the nursing profession who wish to make a greater difference in the field of healthcare, within their own communities, in their organizations, and in the lives of patients. In addition, no other school graduates more MSN students than Walden University.1

Choosing the MSN Specialization That's Right for You

Walden University offers a helpful MSN Specialization Finder tool, however, when selecting a specialization, it is also helpful to first consider what your passion is, and then consider a few questions:

  • What would you like to see yourself doing in 3–5 years?
  • Which groups do you prefer working with (large, small, patients, senior leaders)?
  • What are your strengths (technology, communication, analytics, health)?
  • What type of work setting do you prefer (hospital, primary care, healthcare organization, university, insurance company)?

Walden’s online MSN program offers nine distinct specializations, which fall into one of two groups: nurse practitioner and specialty. Many people believe that the role of a nurse practitioner is limited to a family practice. That is not the case. Walden offers four very different nurse practitioner specializations, and each can help qualify you to take on additional responsibilities that include prescribing medication, examining patients, diagnosing illnesses, and providing treatment. Those choosing one of the specialty specializations generally wish to focus their nursing careers on leadership, management, or the education of other healthcare professionals.

Regardless of your choice, these specializations will help to differentiate you in the field and enable you to align your interests with your career goals. Here is an overview of each specialization within the MSN program:

Nurse Practitioner Specializations

MSN—Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGNP): AGNPs are trained to assess, diagnose, treat, and manage a variety of health issues among patients aged 13 and older in a variety of settings, and also have the option to specialize in a certain area, such as cardiology, dermatology, and orthopedics, to name a few. This specialization explores strategies for improving health outcomes through effective communication and collaboration. You’ll have the opportunity to explore current health topics through a curriculum developed in collaboration with experts who serve in leading healthcare systems and institutions.

MSN—Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: This specialization focuses on the advanced care of acutely or chronically ill adolescents through older adults. In addition to learning how to conduct initial assessments, make diagnoses, and develop treatment and care plans, these nurse practitioners can apply their skills in surgical and medical intensive care units or in hospital settings.

MSN—Family Nurse Practitioner: Care for infants, young children, and other family members as a family nurse practitioner. Discover how to assess, diagnose, and treat routine medical conditions and explore strategies for practicing preventive healthcare. You will be positioned to work in a broad spectrum of settings, including primary care clinics, urgent care clinics, worksite-based health clinics, private medical practices, and public health departments.

MSN – Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) Primary Care: Oversee the health and well-being of patients from birth to 21 in a variety of pediatric primary care settings. This specialization prepares you with the skills and knowledge you need to provide well-child care and preventive healthcare, manage acute/chronic conditions, oversee the mental health of patients, and manage your own practice. This specialization also prepares you to sit for the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Primary Care exam.

MSN—Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: As a psychiatric nurse and mental health practitioner you can access, examine, diagnose, and treat patients with mental illness. You will also be able to prescribe medications and your scope of work could include suicide prevention, anxiety, depression, and drug addiction. Psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners work with children, adults, and groups and often teach families about a patient’s condition and how best to support them.

Specialty Practice Specializations

MSN—Nurse Executive: Gain essential skills that can make you an effective leader in decision-making, planning, finance, and human resources. You will prepare to help ensure the delivery of safe, effective healthcare through coursework designed to hone skills in coaching, motivating, and leading a professional team while developing administrative expertise and decision-making skills in the areas of quality assurance and effective oversight of organizational resources.

MSN—Nursing Education: Play a pivotal role in strengthening the nursing workforce and serve as a role model by educating others. You can learn to design, implement, evaluate, and revise educational programs for nurses, including formal academic programs that lead to a degree or certificate and more informal continuing education programs designed to meet individual learning needs.

MSN—Nursing Informatics: The American Nurses Association defines nursing informatics as “a specialty that integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, and knowledge in nursing practice.” Graduates of this specialization are expected to be able to integrate data, information, and knowledge to support decision-making by patients, nurses, and other caregivers in all roles and settings. This specialization is designed to prepare graduates to qualify to sit for the nursing informatics board certification exam.

MSN—Public Health Nursing: Nursing often goes beyond caring for individuals. Instead of treating one patient at a time, public health nurses use their skills to help entire communities live better, healthier lives. Public health nurses design and implement health education campaigns, develop programs for illness and disease prevention, act as advocates for underserved communities, educate groups about available healthcare programs and services, monitor health trends, and more.

A Walden Master of Science in Nursing degree can help open doors to a number of fast-paced career options, bringing new opportunities to those who possess the appropriate skills, knowledge, and passion. If you’re still not sure which specialization in Walden’s online MSN program is right for you, visit the MSN Specialization Finder to take a five-question quiz that might help you decide.

Note on Certification and Licensure, Authorization, Endorsement, or Other State Credential Necessary to Practice as a Nurse Practitioner:

The MSN nurse practitioner specializations are designed to prepare graduates to qualify to sit for national nurse practitioner certification exams and to prepare graduates who possess an active registered nurse (RN) license to practice as nurse practitioners. However, each state Board of Nursing has its own academic and certification requirements and issues its own credential for an RN to be permitted to practice as a nurse practitioner in that state. Walden Enrollment Specialists can provide information relating to national certification exams and guidance relating to the state-by-state requirements for practice as a nurse practitioner; however, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand, evaluate, and comply with all requirements relating to national certification exams for the state in which he or she intends to practice as requirements vary widely. Walden makes no representations or guarantee that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to obtain national certification or to obtain state licensure, authorization, endorsement, or other state credential.

1Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Based on the most recent year of completions survey data available, using CIP code family 51.38 “Registered Nursing, Nursing Administration, Nursing Research, and Clinical Nursing” for master’s degrees (Award level 7). Available at (Retrieved January 2021; may consist of or include provisional release data.)