Highest Paying Nursing Careers

By Steve Bailey

This guide offers insight into which types of nurses are paid the most, how to enter these careers, advancing in the workplace, salary information, and job growth data. You may enter these careers with a bachelor's degree, but many require at least a master's or doctoral degree.

While other factors, such as location, education, and experience, affect a nurse's pay, by advancing your knowledge through education and gaining more experience in the field, nurses can pursue more lucrative roles in this growing field.

In addition to information on the highest-paid nurses, readers will find guidance on boosting their income without pursuing a more advanced degree.

Position Median Annual Salary
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist $151,138
Nurse Researcher $81,500
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner 106,277
Certified Nurse Midwife $102,390
Pediatric Nurse $60,814
Orthopedic Nurse $100,035
Nurse Practitioner $110,030
Clinical Nurse Specialist $90,050
Geriatric Nurse $97,000
Neonatal Nurse $64,980

Top Paying Careers for Nurses

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists handle the administration of anesthesia and pain management for healthcare organizations, along with ensuring that patients maintain healthy vital signs. Each aspiring CRNA must receive a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), obtain a registered nurse (RN) license, and gain nursing experience. A prospective CRNA must then secure a master's degree in nursing anesthesia. CNRAs must be organized, knowledgeable, and detail-oriented workers.

Median Annual Salary: $151,138

Nurse Researchers

These professionals design research studies, collect and analyze data, and report the results. They must obtain education and training in research methods and tools -- typically through a master's or doctorate. Nurse researchers' findings help medical professionals advance the level of care they deliver to patients.

Median Annual Salary: $81,500

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

These compassionate NPs focus on patients exhibiting signs of mental illness and neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and dementia. They provide care and administer medication, along with engaging in individual or group counseling. An aspiring psychiatric NP must secure a master's degree in nursing and pass the national licensing examination.

Median Annual Salary: $106,277

Certified Nurse Midwife

Nurse midwives focus on women's healthcare through preventive care, screenings, and guidance on pregnancies, menopause, and postpartum care. CNMs also monitor and treat newborns. Each nurse midwife must obtain a master's degree and secure a license by taking the American Midwifery Certification Board exam.

Mean Annual Salary: $102,390

Pediatric Nurses

An ideal career path for individuals who enjoy working with children, pediatric nursing involves providing screenings, immunizations, and treatment to young patients. They also consult with parents to keep them updated on their children's health and wellness. A pediatric nurse must secure a master's degree in nursing and hold an unencumbered RN license before applying for an advanced nursing practice license.

Median Annual Salary: $60,814

Orthopedic Nurses

These nurses assist patients with musculoskeletal conditions like broken bones, joint replacements, arthritis, and osteoporosis. They provide treatment, keep track of medication dosage, and monitor vital signs. Each orthopedic nurse must secure a BSN and an RN license. They also must pass the Orthopedic Nurse Certification exam.

Median Annual Salary: $100,035

Nurse Practitioner

Also known as advanced practice nurses, these professionals often work independently to diagnose illnesses, provide treatment, and prescribe medications. In some areas, they may serve as primary care providers. An NP must secure a master's or doctorate and may specialize in areas like acute care, pediatrics, family practice, and geriatrics.

Mean Annual Salary: $110,030

Clinical Nurse Specialist

A CNS assesses, diagnoses, and treats illnesses while working to improve healthcare systems and processes. They tend to work within specialties like pediatrics, mental health, women's health, family nursing, or adult-gerontology. To secure a state license, a CNS must obtain a master's degree in nursing and pass a national certification exam.

Median Annual Salary: $90,050

Geriatric Nurses

Geriatric nurses provide care to elderly populations and help patients manage health conditions to maintain active lifestyles and independence. These nurses may administer medications, monitor vitals, and discuss treatment options with patients. While most geriatric nurses possess master's degrees, some practice with just a BSN and an RN license.
Median Annual Salary: $97,000

Neonatal Nurses

Neonatal nurses focus on newborns and typically work in NICU units. They assist with illnesses and medical issues, which requires quick thinking and knowhow to provide life-saving care. A neonatal nurse must hold at least a BSN and an RN license.

Median Annual Salary: $64,980

Ways to Boost Your Nursing Salary

There are several ways to begin earning more as a nurse, even if you do not plan to pursue an advanced degree.

In the short term, you can take on more shifts each week, which can dramatically boost your total income over time. You can also look into travel nursing, which provides more flexibility and comes with salaries close to $73,500 per year, according to PayScale. RNs in the United States, meanwhile, earn a median pay of $63,000 annually. Securing an additional license or certification in a new specialty can also make you more valuable to a healthcare organization.

If you decide to pursue further education, earning a master's or doctoral degree, can lead to a career as an NP. These professionals often work independently and earn significantly higher salaries than most RNs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, NPs make a median salary of $113,930, with a projected job growth rate of 26% from 2018-2028.