Exploring the Types of Nursing Specialties and Salaries of Nurse Practitioners

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A family nurse practitioner gives a high five to a child sitting on his father’s lap.A nurse practitioner (NP) is a specialized nursing professional who plays a deeply consequential role in treating patients of all ages. They help diagnose illness, promote wellness, manage chronic and acute conditions, and assume other key responsibilities. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners reports there are 290,000 licensed nurse practitioners in the United States today.

Their role in our health care system is already significant, and the level of responsibility assumed by nurse practitioners may soon increase considerably. It is projected that in coming years the United States will see a major shortage of physicians, as medical schools struggle to keep pace with the rapidly aging baby boomer population and their many health concerns.

Nurse practitioners can play a role in filling the gap by providing primary care services as needed, and by shouldering some of the load from overworked physicians while working closely with other nurse leaders. In fact, a majority of nurse practitioners (72.6%) are already serving as primary care providers. Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that job opportunities for nurse practitioners of all specialties will grow by 26% between 2018 and 2028.

Those entering the field with a Master of Science in Nursing will find many potential career paths, each enabling them to play a critical role in treating patients and supporting doctors and nurses. Here we will look closely at different types of nursing specialties, reviewing the responsibilities as well as the salary ranges associated with each.

What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?

A family nurse practitioner, or FNP, is a registered nurse who has advanced clinical training and specialized education, equipping them to provide a range of diagnostic, treatment and case management services to patients of all ages. FNPs are trained to work with both children and adults, and will generally work in a family practice context.

Responsibilities of a Family Nurse Practitioner

Because an FNP sees patients of all ages, the scope of their responsibilities can be diverse. A few of the core responsibilities of an FNP include the following:

  • Evaluating patients, providing full check-ups and taking medical histories, all in the service of correctly diagnosing diseases or chronic health conditions
  • Educating and guiding patients on how to live healthy lifestyles and manage their risk of disease
  • Understanding the physical and emotional changes that come at different stages of the aging process, and guiding patients through them
  • Developing and implementing treatment plans on behalf of patients, including prescribing medications
  • Conducting follow-ups and managing the case of each patient, ensuring they are on the right trajectory toward health and well-being
  • Providing screenings for cancer and other diseases, and administering other types of preventive service
  • Assisting patients with the management of acute and chronic conditions

Also note that FNPs often provide care for patients who are still legal minors. In these cases, an important part of the job is communicating the care plan to parents and ensuring they have the knowledge to care for their children at home.

Skills of a Family Nurse Practitioner

Success in the FNP role requires a number of important skills.

Clinical Skills

FNPs play a direct, hands-on role in evaluating, diagnosing and treating patients. A high level of clinical judgment is critical. This is why FNPs require additional clinical training beyond what’s required for RNs or LPNs.


A successful FNP must convey treatment plans to patients, and potentially to the parents or guardians of patients. Additionally, FNPs play an important role in communicating wellness lifestyles and disease prevention plans. Patient education is a large part of the job.


FNPs often see patients who are struggling either with acute health concerns or the long-term management of chronic conditions. Being able to extend empathy and concern is an important part of effective treatment.

Critical Thinking and Decision-Making

FNPs are required to review all available data, reach a diagnosis and plot the best approach to ongoing care. This requires nuanced thinking in arriving at a decision point.

Interpersonal Skills

To be effective in a clinical setting, FNPs should know how to work well with doctors, nurses and technicians. This may mean collaborating, delegating or sometimes working in a more supportive role.

Honing these core competencies is an important step toward success as an FNP.

Different Types of Practice

An FNP may work in a range of different medical settings.

  • Some FNPs own their own practices and essentially work solo.
  • Other FNPs work in larger practices or medical groups, treating patients alongside other FNPs or physicians.
  • Some FNPs may work in hospitals or outpatient care clinics.

What distinguishes the FNP? No matter the practice setting, the goal is generally to provide family care.

What Is the Family Nurse Practitioner Salary?

Those who are interested in a career as an FNP will naturally want to know about the profession’s salary range.

It’s worth noting that an FNP is a popular career path for those in the nursing profession. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, family nurse practitioners comprise 65.4% of advanced practice registered nurses, the largest percentage of all NP specialties. FNPs can also expect a job market that is rich in opportunity.

Average Family Nurse Practitioner Salary

According to the compensation source PayScale, the average median salary for an FNP was approximately $94,000 as of June 2019, with the potential for bonuses and commissions.

There are several factors that can determine the specific salary of an FNP.

  • Experience level. Generally, those who have longer tenures in nursing or in the FNP role will receive more competitive salary offers.
  • Education. FNPs who receive advanced certificates in different nursing specialties will usually command higher salary offers.
  • Geography. Some markets pay higher salaries, often to match the local cost of living. As a general rule of thumb, larger geographic areas come with higher salary ranges.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Job Description

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, or PMHNPs, help patients cope with a range of psychiatric conditions. These may include mood disorders, substance abuse issues, depression, anxiety and beyond. Some PMHNPs focus primarily on adult patients, while others work mostly with children and adolescents.

Responsibilities of a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Those who work in the PMHNP role have several significant responsibilities.

  • PMHNPs evaluate patients, take full medical histories and provide specific diagnoses.
  • PMHNPs also develop, implement and monitor treatment plans. Often, treatment for mental health disorders will include psychotherapy. In some cases, it may also involve pharmaceutical intervention. PMHNPs prescribe medications and monitor medication use, as needed.
  • When working with patients who are in the grip of addiction, PMHNPs may recommend inpatient detox and rehab. This includes finding a suitable facility and providing the admitting paperwork.
  • Many PMHNPs take a holistic approach to mental health care. Thus, in addition to medications, the nurse practitioner may also recommend changes to diet, sleep patterns and daily habits, all with the goal of promoting overall mental and physical well-being.
  • A big part of a PMHNP’s role is communicating a diagnosis and treatment plan to the patient, and educating them on what it means to live with a mental health disorder. For those who work with children and adolescents, part of the job is communicating these important details to parents or guardians.
  • Many mental health conditions are chronic in nature, meaning they can’t necessarily be cured but must be managed over time. As such, one of the key responsibilities of the PMHNP is to provide ongoing case management.

Core Skills of a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Success in this field requires several important skills, which may be honed in the classroom as well as through clinical practice. Some of the most significant skills for the PMHNP include the following.

Emotional Stability and Composure

Working in mental health care can take a toll on the emotions, as it often means working with patients who exhibit extreme behavior. The ability to maintain poise, even in the face of hostility or belligerence, is essential.

Clinical Skills

It is crucial for the PMHNP to be adept at diagnosing mental health conditions, and sometimes physical issues as well. Developing the right treatment plan is another core part of the profession.

Verbal Communication and Listening

For those who work in the mental health field, success depends on the ability to listen closely to what patients are saying, and to respond with empathetic and clinically sound information about treatment and disease management.

Interpersonal Skills

PMHNPs may work closely with other doctors and nurses, and in some cases collaborate on patient care with a substance abuse expert. As such, interpersonal skills are necessary for effective care.

The Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Salary

Compared with FNPs, PMHNPs represent a relatively small job market. They make up just about 1.8% of all nurse practitioners in the U.S., according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Average Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Salary

According to PayScale, the median annual salary for a PMHNP was around $107,000 as of June 2020, with potential for bonuses depending on the facility.

There are multiple factors that can determine PMHNP salary:

  • Years of experience. Those with several years of experience providing mental health treatment can usually anticipate receiving higher salaries.
  • Geographic area. Some markets provide higher salary ranges, typically to match the area’s cost of living. Generally, larger geographic markets afford higher salary opportunities.
  • Facility. Salary may also be determined by the size of the facility. A larger private practice may pay higher salaries than community mental health clinics or smaller practices.

The Role of an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

Adult gerontology nurse practitioners, or AGNPs, overlap in many ways with FNPs. Both provide a range of diagnostic, treatment and case management services for a diverse group of patients.

However, there are also some key distinctions. An FNP may provide care to patients of all ages, from childhood through adulthood. As such, pediatric care is part of their job description. The AGNP, on the other hand, is primarily focused on adults. Also, AGNPs have a special emphasis on the treatment of geriatric patients and the different physical and cognitive health concerns that come with age.

Responsibilities of the Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

AGNPs have several core responsibilities:

  • Evaluating patients and providing diagnosis, which may entail diagnosing physical or cognitive conditions particularly when working with geriatric populations
  • Developing and implementing treatment plans, which may include pharmaceutical intervention, physical therapy, lifestyle changes and more
  • Communicating care plans to patients and educating them on basic wellness and disease prevention
  • Assisting patients with the management of chronic conditions, especially those associated with age that may include dementia, cognitive impairment or physical maladies
  • Communicating care plans to spouses, adult children or other caregivers when working with patients who exhibit dementia or cognitive decline

Significant Skills for the Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

Success in the AGNP role hinges on a number of core competencies.

Clinical Skills

Strong clinical judgment is required of AGNPs, who may be required to diagnose and treat a range of conditions including cognitive, chronic and acute conditions.

Communication Skills

AGNPs may be required to communicate care plans and lifestyle suggestions to their patients, and in some cases, to caregivers as well.

Critical Thinking and Decision-Making

AGNPs are also required to critically evaluate patient conditions and make the right decision regarding treatment.


When working with geriatric patients, AGNPs may have to provide insight into handling chronic or even terminal conditions, which requires a deep reservoir of compassion.

Different Types of Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

A final note about the AGNP role: nurse practitioners in this field may work in one of two basic capacities. Some AGNPs work as primary care providers. They may offer routine care to patients from adolescence through old age, and help them deal with some of the physical changes to their bodies over the years. Others work in acute settings, which means their expertise is enlisted only to help deal with specific medical issues.

What Is the Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Salary?

Before pursuing work as an AGNP, it is important to consider the typical salary range. AGNPs comprise a total of 11.2% of nurse practitioners, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Average Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Salary

According to PayScale, the median annual salary for AGNPs was around $90,000 as of June 2020.

There are a number of factors that can determine an AGNP’s salary:

  • Experience level. Those who have practiced longer will typically command more competitive salaries.
  • Education. Advanced certifications in different clinical specialties can help AGNPs command higher salaries.
  • Geographic area. Larger markets may also offer higher salaries, either to reflect demand or to keep up with the local cost of living.

Explore Nurse Practitioner Career Opportunities

For nursing professionals, the nurse practitioner role offers ample opportunity to help patients, pursue career advancement and help fill the expected physician shortage. One of the best ways to prepare for these opportunities is to seek an advanced education in one of the types of nursing specialties.

The University of North Dakota’s online Master of Science in Nursing program offers an opportunity to hone key skills, choose an area of specialization and ultimately pursue advanced career opportunities. Take the next step toward an exciting and rewarding career as a nurse practitioner. Choose from specialty areas including Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology and Psychiatric Mental Health practice.

Learn more about the University of North Dakota today and embark on your new career.

Recommended Readings:

BSN vs. MSN: What Are the Benefits of a Master’s in Nursing?

What Is Health Policy and What Role Does It Play in Nursing?

Chief Nursing Officer: The Steps to Becoming a Key Health Care Leader


American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NP Fact Sheet 

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Nurse Practitioner Role Grows to More Than 270,000”

American Mobile, “5 Essential Steps to Finding the Right Nurse Specialty for You”

Health Leaders Media, “3 Ways Nurse Leaders Influence Change in Healthcare”

PayScale, Average Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP) Salary

PayScale, Average Family Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary

PayScale, Average Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners