Best Nursing Specialty For a New Grad

Finding the best nursing specialty as a new grad is a challenge. Most nursing students are told to stop dreaming about becoming a perioperative nurse right out of school. Instead,  they should work at least 2 years in med-surg before daring to dream of working on a specialty unit. However many nurses, myself included, think that this is outdated information that may not be relevant to you. You read that correctly. It is a myth that new nurses have to work in med-surg before pursuing a specialty.

Is There a Best Nursing Specialty for a New Grad?

The simple answer is no.

There are some specialties that new grads can’t pursue, such as being a CRNA or Nurse Midwife, because they require additional training and certifications. However, there’s nothing written in stone that says that a nurse must work a year or more in any given area to pursue a specialty in critical care, emergency nursing, or otherwise. It really just depends on the nurse manager for that unit and whether or not you can impress them enough to get your foot in the door.

So if your heart is set on working in labor and delivery, it certainly doesn’t hurt to put in an application and do your best to get noticed by the manager of that department. Even if you hear through the grapevine that you won’t get a job in that unit as a new grad, unless you hear it from the hiring manager directly, it is worth pursuing.

Picking What’s Right For You

As stated above, there is really no wrong answer when it comes to picking a nursing specialty as a new grad. However, I would recommend that you invest some time into your decision. If you want to pursue a nursing specialty that you’ve heard is hard to get into (think OR, ER, L&D, Pediatrics, and ICU) then you’ll want to make sure it is really right for you.

I would recommend taking some time to observe or shadow in these areas well before your senior year of nursing school. If you find yourself bored or overwhelmed at the thought of working in that unit after a single day of observation then you might want to reconsider that specialty. If you find that you’re still just as excited and passionate about that specialty after 8-12 hours of watching someone else do it, then saddle up sister, you’re on your way to your dream job.

Getting Your Foot In The Door

So if you’ve determined that the nursing specialty you want to work in is not opposed to hiring new grads and you’ve taken the time to observe the type of work done of this unit: Now What?

Here are a few things you can do to get yourself noticed and increase your odds of getting a job in your chosen nursing specialty fresh out of nursing school:

Precept on the Unit

This can sometimes be difficult to get done, but with enough begging and pleading you may be able to do your senior precepting on the nursing unit you want to work on after graduation. If this is not possible, don’t fret, there are other things you can do.

Work as a Tech or Aide on the unit

One of the best ways to get a job in a specialty as a new grad is to work on that unit a tech during nursing school. I’ll be honest with on this one: it’s hard to get these jobs. There are usually only 1 or 2 of these nurse tech jobs available for students, and they get snatched up quick.

Make Friends with Nurses on the Unit

A labor and delivery nurse once told me that the best way to get a job in a specialty as a new grad is to make friends with the nurses you want to work with. Many of them can bend the ear of the nurse manager that does the hiring, and it can give you an edge over other applicants. This is one of the easiest ways to get your foot in the door.

Don’t Put Your Eggs All In One Basket

It t is naive to assume that you’ll get your dream job right out of nursing school. There were several nurses in my class that graduated with dreams of working in the ER, and they were confronted with the harsh reality that there just weren’t any jobs available in that area at the time. They had 2 choices at that point. They could either attempt to relocate for a job in their dream nursing specialty or they could look for something else and transfer after they had some experience under their belt. Most already had families and life’s established and chose they later. If you can get a job in our chosen specialty right out of school, then by all means, go for it. However, if you can’t, there’s no shame in practicing another specialty for a while. You might be surprised with how much you like it or where your nursing path may lead you later.

I personally wanted to jump feet first into OR right after graduating, but there just weren’t any jobs available. After all was said and done, I never worked in the OR and ended up pursuing an entirely different path including nursing informatics and now social media for healthcare professionals. I couldn’t be any happier with my career. Sometimes we are given paths to take because we are meant to be somewhere else in life. So don’t be discouraged by not getting your dream job immediately. There’s always time to pursue your first nursing love or find a new one altogether. Who knows, your dream job may even lead you to being one of the highest paid nurses.

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This post was written as part of the Nurse Blog Carnival. More posts on this topic can be found at If you are interested in participating, find out more details and sign up.

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6 thoughts on “Best Nursing Specialty For a New Grad”

  1. Great write-up. To expand on that I think there is a ton of value in starting in a department with a broad range of patients like med-surg or telemetry (which is where my new grad job was).

    These often have certain skills that are more utilized in one department vs another. For example:

    Med-Surg you might find skills featured over time like time-management / pain management / bedside manner / motivating patients to ambulate


    Telemetry/DOU: Critical Assessment / Prioritizing in a Crisis / Treating Cardiac / Diabetes symptoms out of control / Comforting family members after the sudden death of their loved one…

    If new nurses focus less on their disappointment from getting a less-desirable department or location, and opened themselves up to the unique learning experiences every hospital and every department present, they may find themselves pleasantly surprised at the knowledge they gained and the opportunities that result.

    Daniel Diaz, RN, BSN, Founder

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