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What is a Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary?

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Nurse practitioners (NPs) rank among the highest paid nurses, alongside clinical nurse specialists and nurse midwives. NPs earn an annual average salary of $111,840, although this figure depends on several factors. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), variables like certification, clinical focus, and practice setting impact nurse practitioner pay. Compensation also differs for those serving in administrative roles and by experience and degree level.

NPs, as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), deliver primary and specialty healthcare in a variety of settings, including physicians’ offices, hospitals, outpatient clinics, urgent care settings, and other types of medical centers. Working independently or collaborating with a physician, NPs assess patient health, perform medical exams, order diagnostic tests, assess test results, develop treatment plans, and prescribe medication.

Like other APRNs, these nursing professionals must hold either a master of science in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice and a valid RN license. Depending on the degree level, most RNs can finish their training in 2-3 years. In response to the growing interest in the field, attractive salaries, and strong career prospects, many nursing programs offer affordable MSN and DNP degrees, with accelerated and online options for working nurses looking to advance professionally through graduate training.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can RNs be licensed in several states?

Yes. The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) allows RNs to practice with their original license in any participating state. The majority of states now participate in the NLC; you can find the full list here. If your state has not signed on for the NLC, you can still apply for additional licensure in a second state.

Can nurse practitioners prescribe?

Nurse practitioners hold prescriptive authority in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. They may prescribe medication, including controlled substances, medical devices, durable medical equipment, and supplies. Each state board of nursing regulates the extent of NP prescriptive authority depending on the NP role, education, and certification. Some states allow a greater degree of independence than others.

Can nurse practitioners have licenses in multiple states?

The Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Compact, established in 2015, allows registered nurses in the four recognized APRN roles — clinical nurse specialist, certified registered nurse anesthetist, certified nurse midwife, and certified nurse practitioner — to hold one multistate license. This grants them the ability to practice in all compact states without having to obtain additional licenses.

What degree do I need to be a nurse practitioner?

NPs must complete at least an MSN to receive state licensure and certification. According to the 2019 Nurse Practitioner Compensation Survey of 5,770 NPs, only 16% have earned a DNP. As the most advanced level of education available for these professionals, a DNP results in higher median base salaries and higher total annual income than a master’s degree.

Is a nurse practitioner job worth it?

Not only do graduate-trained APRNs earn higher salaries than RNs, they operate with more autonomy in an array of fulfilling specialized roles. Nurse practitioner training costs considerably less than medical school, with many programs offering convenient accelerated and online degree options.The high level of compensation and expanding opportunities make the NP degree worth the return on investment.

Average Starting Salary for Nurse Practitioners

Salaries for nurse practitioners rank among the highest in the field. Even NPs just starting their careers earn top salaries — well over $100,000 a year — compared to RNs without graduate training. The 2019 NP Compensation Survey reports a median base annual salary of $104,000 for NPs with five or fewer years on the job. While overall compensation increases with work experience, prospective NPs should also consider how certifications, practice settings, and clinical focus may impact their earnings and career advancement.

Nurse Practitioner Salaries by Specialization

While NPs in full-time practice earn an annual median base salary of $110,000, earnings vary considerably across practice areas. NPs with psychiatric/mental health certifications earn the highest median base salaries overall. For instance, family nurse practitioners earn a median salary of $119,000 annually, while psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners receive median salaries of $125,000 per year.

According to the AANP NP compensation report, the family nurse practitioner with primary care focus ranks as the most frequently reported certification, held by over 65% of practicing NPs. The next most popular certifications include family nurse practitioner, adult gerontology primary care, pediatric acute care, and women’s health.

Salary levels remain competitive among the most popular nursing certifications, with salaries ranging from $108,000-$124,000.

What Kind of Salary Growth Can I Expect?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 28% job growth rate for NPs between 2018-28, faster than all other APRNs. This strong employment outlook is expected to continue as baby boomers age, the number of patients with acute or chronic medical conditions increases, and NPs retire or leave the workforce for other occupations.

Employment experience also positively impacts nurse practitioner salary levels. Full-time NPs with 6-10 years of experience can expect a median base salary of $110,000, gradually rising to $120,000 for NPs with over two decades of work experience.

Highest and Lowest Paying States for Nurse Practitioners

Job seekers

may find significant differences in NP salary by geographic area. For instance, California boasts the highest median total annual income ($145,000), followed by Hawaii ($140,000). Southern states that offer lower costs of living pay the lowest median total incomes. Alabama NPs earn a median income of $104,000, ranking the state second-to-last. Kentucky pays its NPs a median income of $100,000, the lowest of all 50 states.

The AANP’s regional compensation snapshot shows the highest median income ($133,000) for NPs working in the western region of the U.S., consisting of Arizona, California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Nevada. Community size also impacts NP salary levels. The BLS reports that nurses employed in urban centers can expect the highest pay. NPs employed in California’s Vallejo-Fairfield area earn a mean annual salary of $175,060, the top pay rate for all U.S. metropolitan areas.

Highest Paying Industries for Nurse Practitioners

The type of work site and specialty also affect one’s earning potential. Currently, NPs working in inpatient care settings receive the highest total annual incomes.

The salary boost associated with some NP practice areas reflects the investment of time and additional training needed for certification. Of all certifications, mental health practice areas or specialized population foci offer the most competitive salaries. Adult psychiatric/mental health NPs earn the highest median annual base salary ($125,000). The next highest pay grades include pediatrics primary care mental health ($124,000); neonatal ($122,500); adult care ($120,000); and general psychiatric/mental health ($120,000).

NPs can be compensated either through a salary or by hourly pay. Among these non-salaried nurses, emergency NPs earn the highest hourly wage ($70).

How Do Nurse Practitioner Salaries Compare?

Registered nurses can easily find ample employment prospects that pay a median annual salary of $73,000, well above the national average for all occupations. Graduate-trained NPs encounter even higher rates of compensation and job growth, primarily because they provide more patient services and operate independently.

Most APRN specializations offer six figure salaries. Nurse midwives earn a median salary of $105,080. The highest paid APRNs, nurse anesthetists, receive median yearly earnings of $174,780.

The BLS reports comparable salaries and employment growth for NPs and physician’s assistants. NPs earn a median salary of $109,820, ranking slightly below $112,260 for PAs. While PAs and NPs provide many of the same services, their education differs. PAs attend PA schools, which follow the medical model, and acquire general training in medicine, while NPs attend graduate nursing programs, which follow the nursing model. The nursing model encompasses a holistic approach that focuses on promoting health, preventing/treating disease, and education.

Next Steps for Nurse Practitioners?

NPs rank among the most educated nursing professionals, with 81% holding an MSN and a growing number completing a DNP. Their advanced training and the opportunity to acquire additional certifications contribute to greater job mobility and salary prospects.

As the highest level of nursing education, a campus-based or online DNP opens the door to high-paying positions in administration, nurse education, research, and policy. Several online MSN-to-DNP programs offer NPs the opportunity to maintain their current employment while advancing their careers.

NPs may add additional certifications to boost their careers or transition into a high-demand field. For example, NPs with the popular family nurse practitioner certification earn an annual median salary of $107,000, while those who’ve completed training in hospice and palliative care or oncology make $116,000 and $119,000, respectively. Depending on the field, licensed NPs can acquire post-degree certifications by completing clinical practice hours, specific graduate courses, and/or continuing education credits in a specialty area.

Reviewed by:

Karen Luu, MSN, PMHNP-BC
Expert Reviewer: Karen Luu, MSN, PMHNP-BC Karen Luu is a board-certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Luu holds a master of science degree in nursing from Azusa Pacific University as well as an undergraduate degree in public health science. She has seven years of nursing experience, which includes working at the Level II Trauma Center, community hospitals, mental health urgent care, and private practice. Luu is currently working at a private practice which specializes in bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. She emphasizes the importance of incorporating the recovery-based model in her everyday practice.
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