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Nursing jobs pay well above the U.S. median annual wage, with the industry's top earners bringing in six figures each year. This page explores the highest-paying nursing jobs and the education and training necessary for each role. While these jobs require at least six years of study to earn a master's or doctoral degree in nursing, high salaries and positive job growth make this education a good investment.
High-Paying Careers for Nurses
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are the highest paid nurses and, like physicians, are licensed to diagnose and treat patients. Nurse practitioners must complete a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) and a licensing examination. Their continuing education (CE) requirements are generally more involved than those for registered nurses (RNs).
The list below surveys some of the highest-paying RN jobs.
|Rank||Position||Median Annual Salary|
|1||Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist||$189,190|
|2||Neonatal Nurse Practitioner||$122,500|
|3||Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner||$120,000|
|4||Geriatric Nurse Practitioner||$118,000|
|5||Certified Nurse Midwife||$115,540|
|6||Pediatric Nurse Practitioner||$115,000|
|7||Family Nurse Practitioner||$114,000|
|10||Clinical Nurse Specialist||$91,720|
Featured Online MSN Programs
1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia and pain management therapies while ensuring that patients maintain healthy vital signs. Aspiring CRNAs must secure a master's degree in nursing anesthesia, although they will soon be required to hold a doctoral degree. CNRAs must be organized, knowledgeable, and detail-oriented workers.
Median Annual Salary: $189,190
2. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
Neonatal nurse practitioners treat newborns and often care for infants with serious health problems. They must hold at least an MSN, complete a certification program, and pass a speciality certification examination. NNPs must thrive under pressure and make good decisions quickly.
Median Annual Salary: $122,500
3. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
PMHNPs treat patients with mental health conditions. They are required to hold a master's or doctoral degree and pass a certification course and examination. PNPs must establish trust with patients and their families.
Median Annual Salary: $120,000
Geriatric NPs help elderly patients maintain their physical and mental health as they age. These NPs must earn a master's or doctorate from an accredited program and pass a certification examination. They must be empathetic communicators, especially those who treat patients with cognitive impairments.
Median Annual Salary: $118,000
5. Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
CNMs focus on women's healthcare, offering preventive care, screenings, and guidance on pregnancy, menopause, and postpartum health. They also monitor and treat newborns. Nurse midwives must obtain a master's degree and pass the American Midwifery Certification Board exam to obtain licensure.
Median Annual Salary: $115,540
6. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
PNPs diagnose and treat children, providing patients' families with healthcare support and education. They must hold at least an MSN and complete a specialized certification program. PNPs must communicate well with pediatric patients and their families, demonstrating empathy while remaining professional.
Median Annual Salary: $115,000
7. Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
These NPs care for patients of all ages. While many are generalists, others specialize in areas such as pain management or orthopedics. FNPs must earn an MSN or higher from an accredited program and pass the accompanying certification exam. Generalists in particular must be committed to ongoing education, because they treat so many different conditions and needs.
Median Annual Salary: 4,000
These professionals work independently or under a physician's supervision to diagnose illnesses, provide treatment, and prescribe medications. In some areas, they may serve as primary care providers. An NP must earn a master's degree or doctorate, and many specialize in areas like acute care, pediatrics, family practice, and geriatrics.
Median Annual Salary: 1,680
Nurse administrators must hold at least a bachelor's degree in nursing or healthcare administration. While this role does not legally require certification or licensure, employers may require or prefer candidates with certain credentials or a nursing license. Nurse administrators must be adept at handling paperwork and fulfilling legal requirements.
Median Annual Salary: $104,280
10. Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
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: $91,720
Ways to Boost Your Nursing Salary
While the highest-paying nursing jobs require advanced education and experience, all nurses can boost their salaries by working additional shifts, taking on administrative or leadership responsibilities, and earning specialty certifications. Although RNs make salaries well above the national average, most of the highest-paying nursing jobs are NP positions.
While NPs complete extensive education and carry heavy responsibilities, the professional autonomy, strong job market, and high salaries make the challenge worth it for most NPs. If clinical nursing is not for you, a master's degree in healthcare management can lead to an equally rewarding career in nursing administration.
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