Nurses who want to further their careers have many options thanks to certifications. Whether you’re passionate about pediatrics or want to work in the ICU, there’s a specialty for you. And the best part is that you can earn these certifications at different points in your career.
In this guide, we’ve broken down specific types of nursing specialties by title and which certifications you can earn for each. We also have a complete list of every nurse certification available, so you can discover all the unique opportunities out there.
What are nursing certifications?
Nursing certifications show employers that a nurse is a specialist in a specific type of care. They may be experts in the ICU, specialize in trauma, or know a lot about a certain disease.
Most nursing certifications require several years of experience working with patients in your target specialty. They may also require additional training.
Why pursue a nursing specialty?
Earning certifications helps you do what you love the most. For so many nurses, getting their RN is just the beginning. They may have their heart set on working with children, treating patients with a particular disease, or working in a certain hospital ward.
Certifications allow nurses to create new career opportunities and earn more. Nursing specialists are highly sought-after, and they can use their expertise to put their skills to the greatest use.
The full table of nursing specialty certifications in the USA
Link to organization
Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
Advanced HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse
Clinical Nurse Specialist; Wellness through Acute Care (Adult-Gerontology)
Clinical Nurse Specialist; Wellness through Acute Care (Neonatal)
Clinical Nurse Specialist, Wellness through Acute Care (Pediatric)
Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (Adult-Gerontology)
Adult Health Clinical Nurse Specialist
HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse
Advanced Diabetes Management (specialty certification, retired exam)
Advanced Diabetes Management
Certified Asthma Educator
Forensic Nursing, Advanced
Advanced Forensic Nursing
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist
Genetics Nursing, Advanced
Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
Advanced Holistic Nurse, Board Certified
Adult Nurse Practitioner
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (Adult)
Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse
Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner
Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist
Advanced Practice Holistic Nurse
Board Certified-Advanced Diabetes Management
Blood & Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse
Electronic Fetal Monitoring
Neonatal Pediatric Transport
Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist
Certified Ambulatory Perianesthesia Nurse
Certified Addictions Registered Nurse
Certified Addictions Registered Nurse – Advanced Practice
Certified Breast Care Nurse
Correctional Behavioral Health Certification
Certified Continence Care Nurse
Certified Continence Care Nurse-Advanced Practice
Certified Correctional Health Professional-Advanced
Certified Correctional Health Professional-RN
Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technician
Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technician-Advanced
Acute/Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist (Adult, Pediatric & Neonatal)
Certified Clinical Research Associate
Certified Clinical Research Coordinator
Acute/Critical Care Nursing (Adult, Pediatric & Neonatal)
Tele-ICU Acute/Critical Care Nursing (Adult)
Acute/Critical Care Knowledge Professional (Adult, Pediatric & Neonatal)
Certified Clinical Research Professional
Certified in Care Coordination and Transition Management
Certified Dialysis Licensed Practical Nurse
Certified Dialysis Licensed Vocational Nurse
Certified Diabetes Educator
Certified Dialysis Nurse
Certified Emergency Nurse
Certified in Executive Nursing Practice
Certified Foot Care Nurse
Certified Flight Registered Nurse
Certified Gastroenterology Registered Nurse
Certified Heart Failure Nurse
Non-Clinical HeartFailure Nurse
Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator
Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurse
Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse
Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant
Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurse
Certified Health Service Administrator
Certified in Infection Control
Occupational Health Nursing Case Management
Cardiac Medicine (Adult)
Certification in Managed Care Nursing
Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse
Certified Nurse Educator
Clinical Nurse Leader
Nurse Manager and Leader
Certified Nurse Manager and Leader
Certified Corrections Nurse
Certified Nephrology Nurse
Certified Nephrology Nurse-Nurse Practitioner
Certified Corrections Nurse/Manager
Certified Nurse, Operating Room
Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse
Clinical Nurse Specialist, Core
Clinical Nurse Specialist Perioperative Certification
Certified Ostomy Care Nurse
Certified Ostomy Care Nurse-Advanced Practice
Certified Occupational Health Nurse
Certified Occupational Health Nurse-Specialist
Certified Otorhinolaryngology Nurse
Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse
Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse
Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse
Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality
Certified Professional in Healthcare Risk Management
Certified in Perinatal Loss Care
Certified Pediatric Nurse
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care
Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care
Certified Plastic Surgical Nurse
Certified Radiologic Nurse
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant
Certified Registered Nurse Infusion
Certification for Registered Nurses of Ophthalmology
Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse
Cardiac Surgery (Adult)
Certified Transport Registered Nurse
Certified Urologic Nurse Practitioner
Certified Urologic Registered Nurse
Certified Wound Care Nurse
Certified Wound Care Nurse-Advanced Practice
Certified Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse
Certified Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse-Advanced Practice
Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse
Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse-Advanced Practice
Dermatology Certified Nurse Practitioner
Dermatology Nurse Certified
Emergency Nurse Practitioner (specialty certification)
Family Nurse Practitioner
Family Nurse Practitioner
Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist (retired exam)
Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
Home Health Clinical Nurse Specialist (retired exam)
Holistic Nurse, Board Certified
Holistic Baccalaureate Nurse, Board Certified
Health and Wellness Nurse Coach, Board Certified
Legal Nurse Consultant Certified
Nurse Coach, Board Certified
National Certified School Nurse
Nurse Executive, Advanced
NNP-BC – Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
Adult Nurse Practitioner
Oncology Certified Nurse
Orthopaedic Clinical Nurse Specialist – Certified
Orthopaedic Nurse Certified
Orthopaedic Nurse Practitioner-Certified
Progressive Care Nursing (Adult)
Progressive Care Knowledge Professional (Adult)
Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist
Public/Community Health Clinical Nurse Specialist
Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist
Public Health Nursing, Advanced
Adult Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist
Child/Adolescent Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist
Adult Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (across the lifespan)
Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
Ambulatory Care Nursing
Certified Vascular Nurse (retired exam)
College Health Nursing (retired exam)
Community Health Nursing (retired exam)
Faith Community Nursing
General Nursing, Practice (retired exam)
High-Risk Perinatal Nursing (retired exam)
Home Health Nursing (retired exam)
Nursing Case Management
Nursing Professional Development
Pain Management Nursing
Perinatal Nursing (retired exam)
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing
School Nursing (retired exam)
RNC-LRN – Low Risk Neonatal Nursing
RNC-MNN – Maternal Newborn Nursing
RNC-NIC – Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing
RNC-OB – Inpatient Obstetric Nursing
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner – Adult/Adolescent
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner – Pediatric
Stroke Certified Registered Nurse
School Nurse Practitioner (retired exam)
Trauma Certified Registered Nurse
WHNP-BC – Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner
Nursing specialties and certifications
Here is a list of nursing jobs by title and certifications you might hold in each one.
A certified nursing assistant (CNA) helps patients by assisting registered nurses (RNs) with various treatments. They also help people with everyday activities, like bathing, feeding, and personal hygiene.
CNAs must earn their certification by completing an accredited training program and applying for a license through their state. They can also choose to specialize in hospice and palliative care and earn their certified hospice and palliative nursing assistant (CHPNA) certification.
Geriatric nursing assistants (GNAs) are much like CNAs, only they specialize in caring for the elderly. Most GNAs work in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Some work in hospitals and others work in home care.
A GNA must complete an accredited program and register with their state’s board of nursing. They can also pursue certification as a CHPNA if they want to work with patients in hospice or palliative care settings.
A state-tested nursing aide (STNA) is the name of a CNA in the state of Ohio. It’s the same as a CNA and requires the same training procedure. Like CNAs and GNAs, STNAs may go on to pursue CHPNA certification if they want to work with patients who need pain management or end-of-life care.
A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is called a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) in Texas and California. LPNs/LVNs can pursue certifications as certified respiratory therapists (CRT) or certified hemodialysis technicians. They can also specialize in skills like IV therapy, long-term care, pharmacology, corrections, and more.
LPNs that want to further specialize in a particular area of nursing must first earn their RN license.
Registered nurses have dozens of options when it comes to specializing. They could become a specific type of nurse, like a certified emergency nurse (CEN) or certified medical-surgical registered nurse (CMSRN). Or, they can pursue certifications that allow them to perform new types of procedures or work with a specific set of patients.
For example, an RN could get certified in advanced diabetes management (ADM-BC) or work in addictions, mental health, forensics, labor and delivery, transport, trauma, and more.
Home health aides (HHAs) work in people’s homes to help them lead a better quality of life. They might work with the elderly, or they could help people who have chronic conditions, disabilities, or patients recovering from an injury.
A home health aide works beneath a registered nurse (RN) and/or LPN/LVN. They may be able to pursue certifications as a technician, such as a respiratory technician, so long as they complete the appropriate training.
Travel nurses take short-term assignments wherever they’re needed the most. They must be an RN with at least 3 years of experience and may also have certifications.
Specialist travel nurses can use their experience and skills to treat specific types of patients in need. For example, you could become a certified operating room nurse (CNOR) and assist surgeons in hospitals around the country with staff shortages.
ICU nurses can be certified as a critical care registered nurse (CCRN) for adults, children, or infants. They can also earn their CCRN-E, a specialized certificate for ICU nurses that treat patients in teleICU settings.
CRNAs are certified registered nurse anesthetists. They collaborate with an anesthesiologist or, in some states, work alone as the attending anesthetist. They may work in a hospital, outpatient surgical center, or dental office to help give patients general or localized anesthesia. CRNAs must earn an undergraduate master's degree and CRNA certification to practice.
As of 2025, all new CRNAs will have to complete a CRNA doctoral program instead of a master’s degree.
Nothing’s more fast-paced than the life of an emergency nurse. Earning your CEN (Certified Emergency Nurse) certification is the best option if you want to specialize in acute care. You could also pursue a TCRN to become a Trauma Certified Registered Nurse and work with the most severe cases that enter the ER.
Other specialties that could benefit ER nurses include SCRN (Stroke Certified Registered Nurse), CHFN (Certified Heart Failure Nurse), and CCNS (Acute/Critical Care Nurse Specialist for Adults, Pediatrics, or Neonatal).
In the NICU, the tiniest, most vulnerable patients are your daily responsibility. NICU nurses must hold a neonatal CCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse) certification. They can also earn certification as a C-NPT (Certified Neonatal Pediatric Transport nurse) and help transport sick babies from one hospital to another.
Labor and delivery (L&D) nurses care for mothers and newborns. They’re skilled in caring for patients with a variety of conditions, such as gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension. You could pursue certification as an inpatient obstetric nurse (RNC-OB) to prove your commitment and knowledge in caring for expectant mothers and their babies.
A scrub nurse helps the surgical team prepare for operations by helping them scrub in — this process includes hand-washing, putting on masks, gloves, and gowns. They also help maintain a sterile surgical environment throughout procedures.
A scrub nurse could earn certified registered nurse first assistant (CRNFA) certification. This certification marks them as experts in helping surgeons and the operating team.
Pediatric nurses work exclusively with babies, toddlers, children, and adolescents. Patients range from just a few weeks old to 21 in some settings. Being a pediatric nurse is a rewarding job, and you can further your career by earning your certification as a certified pediatric nurse (CPN).
Pediatric nurses can also specialize in acute or critical care, hematology and oncology, and hospice and palliative care. You can also apply other areas of specialty to pediatrics, like surgical nursing, by getting a job in a children’s hospital.
A charge nurse oversees the nursing staff on their floor during their shifts. They can be RNs, but helpful credentials include clinical nurse leader (CNL) and clinical nurse manager and leader (CNML) certifications.
With your CFRN (Certified Registered Flight Nurse), you can help patients who need medical evacuation or transportation in an aircraft. Flight nurses also specialize in trauma care since most of their patients are in life-threatening conditions.
Triage nurses can be RNs or CENS (Certified Emergency Nurses) who help keep the emergency room running smoothly during their shifts. They assess new patients, provide any acute care or interventions, and help stabilize them until a physician can see them.
PRN stands for Pro Re Nata. These are registered nurses who work on an as-needed basis. Hospitals can keep PRN nurses in a pool, then call them in when they experience a shortage. PRN nurses only need an RN, but they may hold additional certifications to work in certain parts of the hospital.
BSN stands for Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Nurses with a BSN have completed a four-year undergraduate degree in nursing from an accredited nursing school.
An NP is a nurse practitioner. These are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with a master’s degree and certifications in their area of clinical focus. Their certifications are marked with an “NP.”
An NP could specialize in family medicine, acute/critical care, gerontology, pediatrics, urology, dermatology, nephrology, emergency nursing, neonatal care, orthopedics, women’s health, psychiatry, and mental health.
A hospice nurse works with patients who have terminal conditions. They can specialize in hospice care by earning their certification as a certified hospice and palliative care nurse (CHPN).
Surgical nurses are also known as perioperative nurses. Their most common certification is the CNOR, which recognizes their skill and knowledge in assisting surgeons during various operations.
Trauma nurses work with patients who have come to the ER or a trauma unit. They can become trauma-certified registered nurses (TCRN) to showcase their skills working with patients in critical condition.
Nurse administrators work in office settings. They oversee the entire nursing staff of a healthcare facility. You can become a nurse administrator as an RN, but additional certifications are the CHSA (Certified Health Services Administrator), CHPCA (Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator), or the CNML (Certified Nurse Manager and Leader).
Managed care coordinator
Managing patient care is a skill that can become a specialty. If you’re interested in overseeing patients’ care and connecting them with the right services, consider earning your certification as a certified managed care nurse (CMCN).
Holding a CNS-BC will certify you as a certified nurse specialist, also known as a nurse clinician. CNS manages other nurses, offers more in-depth patient care, and oversees care planning like a nurse practitioner.
Acute care physician
An acute care physician is a doctor who holds a medical license. If you don’t want to attend med school, you can still become an acute care specialist by becoming an acute/critical care nurse practitioner (ACNP-BC).
Burn unit nurse
Burn unit nurses treat patients in often critical conditions who have suffered burns.The CBRN (Certified Burn Registered Nurse) certification will be available in 2023.
Nutrition specialists help patients manage medical conditions through diet. Nurses can become health and wellness nurse coaches (HWNC-BC) or board-certified holistic nurses (HN-BC).
Another option is to pursue separate certified nutrition specialist certification through the American Nutrition Association. This credential requires a master’s or doctoral in nursing, nutrition, or a similar field.
Paramedics are not nurses but still play a vital role in health care. They’re first responders who keep people alive and stabilize them until they reach the hospital. To become a paramedic, you must complete an accredited training program in your state.
An advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) holds a master’s or doctoral degree. They can earn different certifications depending on their clinical focus. Some are nurse practitioners, some are clinical nurse specialists, and others are nurse educators and administrators.
Forensic nurses help victims of violent crime. They also assist law enforcement officers as they conduct investigations. Forensic nurses must hold a SANE-A or SANE-P certification, which makes them certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners for adults or children, respectively.
You can also earn an AFN, which is an advanced forensic nursing certification.
Nurse case manager
Nurse case managers oversee their patients’ care and coordinate access to different health resources. They also help patients access affordable treatment, reach out to insurance companies, and help people stay consistent with their care plans.
An RN-BC in nurse case management is the best certification for this career path.
Oncology certified nurse
An OCN certification demonstrates a registered nurse’s experience and skill in working with cancer patients. OCNs are trained to help oncology patients manage their conditions and administer cancer-treating drugs through chemotherapy.
Home health nurse (HHN)
RNs specializing in home healthcare are HHNs. They can pursue additional certifications to align with their patient's needs, such as mental health nursing or gerontology.
Post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) nurse
PACU nurses care for patients who have immediately left the operating room or just gone under anesthesia for an outpatient surgical procedure. They care for their immediate needs, help them manage any uncomfortable symptoms, and watch out for any warning signs of complications. Working in this line of work requires a CPAN or a certified post-anesthesia Nurse certification.
FNP (Family nurse practitioner)
Family nurse practitioners treat people across the lifespan. They’re experts in primary care at all ages and hold a master’s degree or doctoral in family medicine. FNPs have the FNP-BC certification.
Mental health nurse (MHN)
A mental health nurse is certified with the PMH-BC. They work with patients who suffer from psychiatric conditions, such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and schizophrenia. They can also help care for patients who have severe anxiety, depression, or other mental health symptoms.
A certified nurse midwife (CNM) certification allows an RN to work as a midwife for pregnant women. They also treat patients with various reproductive problems and can diagnose and treat sexually transmitted diseases.
Orthopedic nurses work with patients with conditions affecting their bones and musculoskeletal system. You can specialize in orthopedic nursing by earning your RN, then working toward your ONC certification. Additional studies can qualify you to become an orthopedic clinical nurse specialist (OCNS-C) or an orthopedic nurse practitioner (ONP-C).
Certified nurse educators (CNEs) train nursing school students and other nurses. They can work at the undergraduate or graduate level. They help students learn the ropes of nursing and help registered nurses develop new skills in a specialty area.
Public health nurse
Public health nurses work for local, state, and government organizations. They go where they’re needed, develop healthcare plans for different communities, and treat people who cannot easily access care.
Public health nurses are RNs. With enough experience, they may hold certification as an advanced public health nurse (PHNA-BC).
FAQs about specialty nursing certifications
What is the easiest nursing certification to obtain?
The CNA takes the least amount of time to earn. Most CNAs have to complete between 80 and 130 hours of training before they’re licensed.
What nursing certifications are the most valuable?
Some of the most in-demand nursing certifications are CEN (Certified Emergency Nurse), CNOR (Certified Nurse, Operating Room), and Acute/Critical Care Nursing (CCRN).
Do nurses in private clinics need any special certifications?
It depends on the clinic. Some physicians may request that nurses hold certification in their areas of expertise, such as orthopedics, gerontology, or pediatrics. However, many nurses can get great jobs in private practices with only their RN license.