Nurse Practitioner Ranked Top Healthcare Job for 2024

Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
Updated February 27, 2024
Edited by
    Nurse practitioners are among the highest-paid nurses. Learn why nurse practitioners landed the #1 spot in healthcare job rankings for 2024.
    Nurse speaking to mother and baby in exam roomCredit: Getty Images
    • Nurse practitioners garnered the No. 1 spot in three job-ranking categories for 2024.
    • Strong demand and high salaries landed NPs at the top.
    • Several other nursing professions ranked among the top healthcare jobs.

    Healthcare jobs may attract job seekers because of high demand, above-average salaries, and the opportunity to help others.

    But what’s the best healthcare job for 2024?

    Nurse practitioners (NP) top the list, according to U.S. News & World Report, with two other nursing professions also ranking in the top 10.

    Nurse practitioner jobs stood out not only in the healthcare field but also among STEM jobs, taking the top spot in two other U.S. News job rankings.

    “The NP profession is thrilled to be recognized as the top job across three of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Jobs rankings this year,” said Stephen Ferrara, DNP, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) in a press release. “The future is bright for NPs — and the millions of patients who choose them.”

    Nurse Practitioner: Why Is it the Best Healthcare Job?

    What makes NP programs and jobs stand out? In its scorecard, U.S. News & World Report ranked nurse practitioners high for future growth, awarding the advanced-practice nursing profession a 9.9 out of 10.

    The near-perfect score for future growth draws on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS’) employment growth projections. NP jobs are projected to grow 45% from 2022 to 2032, much faster than average.

    Nurse practitioner specializations are projected to add an estimated 118,600 additional jobs by 2032, higher than any other healthcare job on the 2024 list except one. (Registered nurses will add 177,400 jobs, earning the No. 10 on the list. However, due to the higher employment numbers, RN jobs are projected to grow 6% from 2022-2023.)

    NPs also stand out because of their high median salary. In May 2022, the median annual pay for NPs was $121,610, according to BLS data. As U.S. News noted, the field has a low 0.6% unemployment rate.

    High demand and six-figure median salaries landed NPs at the top of the list of the best healthcare jobs for 2024. They also ranked #1 for the best STEM jobs and the best jobs overall.

    NPs beat out in-demand careers like software developers and data scientists to take the top spot in the STEM jobs ranking. Other jobs that made the 100 best jobs top 10 include financial manager and physician assistant.

    Top Healthcare Jobs for 2024: The Full List

    Which other jobs ranked among the top healthcare roles for 2024? According to U.S. News & World Report, several nursing roles made the cut, including RNs and nurse anesthetists.

    Allied health professionals also ranked highly, including speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, and respiratory therapists. Several top jobs do not require a graduate degree, including RNs, respiratory therapists, and radiation therapists.

    Here are the top healthcare jobs for 2024:

    1. Nurse Practitioner
    2. Physician Assistant
    3. Speech-Language Pathologist
    4. Occupational Therapist
    5. Veterinarian
    6. Nurse Anesthetist
    7. Physical Therapist
    8. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
    9. Psychiatrist
    10. Registered Nurse
    11. Optometrist
    12. Respiratory Therapist
    13. Anesthesiologist
    14. Obstetrician and Gynecologist
    15. Pharmacist
    16. Dietitian and Nutritionist
    17. Dentist
    18. Orthodontist
    19. Podiatrist
    20. Audiologist
    21. Nurse Midwife
    22. Pediatrician
    23. Chiropractor
    24. Radiation Therapist
    25. Esthetician and Skin Care Specialist
    26. Rehabilitation Counselor

    Nurse practitioners also came in at No. 23 for the best-paying jobs. Eleven of the higher-ranking jobs require a doctorate, while NPs can practice with a master’s degree in nursing.

    U.S. News & World Report: Aren’t They Controversial?

    U.S. News & World Report is known largely for its school rankings. Some have criticized these rankings for allegedly prioritizing schools that come with high price tags.

    Several institutions have noted problems with the rankings. For example, Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier complained about a “lack of rigor and competence” after U.S. News changed its methodology in 2023. Also that year, Columbia University officially withdrew from the undergraduate rankings.

    But do the same issues apply to job rankings?

    While the “best jobs” are subjective, U.S. News draws on reputable data sources to create its job rankings, including data from the BLS on job growth, occupational openings, and wages.

    U.S. News weighs the following factors to rank jobs:

    • 30% — Future prospects
    • 25% — Wage potential
    • 20% — Employment
    • 15% — Job safety and stability
    • 10% — Work/life balance

    Each healthcare profession received scores out of 10 for salary, job market, future growth, stress, and work-life balance. The composite score determined the rankings.

    Ferrara, president of the AANP, has a message for the nation’s 385,000 licensed NPs.

    “AANP extends its deepest congratulations to all NPs and students in NP degree programs for this well-deserved recognition and remains committed to supporting and advocating for the NP community as it continues to deliver high-quality, evidence-based, and culturally competent care to patients,” he said.