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How Much Do Pain Management Nurses Make?

Maura Deering, J.D.
Updated July 5, 2022
As a registered nursing specialty area, pain management nursing focuses on chronic and short-term pain relief. Learn about pain management nurse salaries here.
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Pain management nurses practice in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, oncology units, rehabilitation centers, and sports medicine facilities. They help patients experiencing pain from cancer, injuries, and surgeries by using treatment methods, such as medication, massage, exercise, or chiropractic care. As a growing field, pain management nursing offers potential career advancement in anesthesiology and advanced nursing practice.

This guide explores average pain management nurse salaries, the highest-paying states, and advice on ways to increase your income.

Average Salary for Pain Management Nurses

Pain management nurses are often registered nurses (RNs). Payscale data from June 2022 shows the average annual RN salary at $68,620, or $31.24 per hour. Salaries vary by geographical location, work setting, education level, experience, and certification. Looking at the range of salaries, RNs with less than a year of experience earn $28.00 per hour, while those with 20+ years on the job make $36.78 hourly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median annual RN salaries range from $59,450 for the lowest 10% of earners to $120,250 and above for the highest 10%.

Similar RN specialties include critical care, with an average annual pay of $75,731. Payscale data from June 2022 shows salaries for emergency room nurses at $73,520, hospice nurses at $69,470, oncology nurses at $76,650, and operating room nurses at $76,650.

Average Annual Salary
Source:Payscale, June 2022

Average Hourly Wage
Source:Payscale, June 2022

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The Highest-Paying States for Pain Management Nurses

Geographic locations can play a major role in pain management nurse pay. State-specific salary information is not available for pain management nursing, but state salary data for RNs can offer pain management nurse salary guidance. The top-paying states for all RNs are California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and Alaska, with average wages of $97,230-$124,000.

Factors that can affect salaries in different regions include cost of living, supply and demand, and employment growth. All of the highest-paying states sit among the top 10 for the highest cost of living. In addition, California ranks third for the number of nurses per 1,000 people, at 9.25, indicating a nursing shortage in the state. The BLS reports that Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles have among the lowest concentrations of nurses compared to national nurse employment.

4 Ways to Increase Pay As a Pain Management Nurse

If you can’t relocate, there are other ways to increase your pain management nurse pay. Certifications, high education, administrative nursing experience, and different work settings can help you earn more.

  1. 1

    Consider Pursuing Certifications

    Certification is not mandatory for pain management nurses, but nurses with certifications in their specialty areas can earn higher pay. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers pain management nursing certification by examination for RNs with two years of practice experience, 2,000 hours of pain management clinical nursing, and 30 hours of pain management continuing education.

  2. 2

    Increase Your Education Level

    RNs who pursue graduate degrees in nursing can become pain management nurse practitioners or nurse anesthetists. Depending on their career goals, RNs can pursue a master of science in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice. Accelerated or bridge programs can shorten the time in school. NP salaries average $118,040 and nurse anesthetists average $202,470.

  3. 3

    Gain Experience in Administrative Roles

    Pain management nurses can earn more money by taking on administrative roles. According to February 2022 Payscale data, nurse administrators average $88,620 per year. These professionals have RN backgrounds and oversee critical care units or long-term care facilities, such as those for patients with chronic pain. RNs can gain leadership experience through hospital training or certificate programs.

  4. 4

    Change Practice Setting

    Switching practice settings or industries can increase average pain management nurse salaries. For example, the BLS lists pharmaceutical medicine and manufacturing, merchant wholesalers, the federal executive branch, and office administrative services among the five top-paying industries for RNs. Average salaries in these industries range from $96,630 to $105,270 and can offer opportunities for pain management nurses.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pain Management Nurse Salaries

question-mark-circleWhere do pain management nurses work?

The most common workplaces for pain management nurses include hospitals, oncology departments, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, and sports medicine clinics. Other settings include physician’s offices and outpatient clinics.

question-mark-circleAre pain management nurses in demand?

A nationwide nursing shortage includes RNs and pain management nurses. RNs can expect a 9% employment growth rate during 2020-2030, according to the BLS, but the biggest increase is projected for nurse practitioners at 45%. Nurse anesthesia, with a 13% projected growth rate, is another pathway for pain management nurses.

question-mark-circleWhat do pain management nurses do?

Pain management nurses offer pain relief through medications and other therapies, such as massage, chiropractic care, exercise, and meditation. They work with patients with chronic pain and illness, as well as those with short-term injuries and conditions.

question-mark-circleDo pain management nurses need an advanced degree?

Pain management nurses can enter the field with an RN license and experience and training in the specialty. An RN license requires a nursing diploma or associate degree. RNs with a bachelor of science in nursing tend to earn more and take on more responsibility. While not required, graduate degrees open doors to nurse practitioner roles.

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