Nurse Practitioner 2021 Salary Guide icon

Nurse Practitioner 2021 Salary Guide

| Maura Deering

Nurse Practitioner 2021 Salary Guide mini logo

Highly trained nurse practitioners (NPs) rank among the highest-paid nurses, typically earning salaries exceeding $100,000. With licensure as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), these professionals care for patient populations within their specialty areas.

This guide uses 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), along with select surveys, to break down nurse practitioner salary information by degree level, geography, specialty focus, and workplace.

Fast Facts About Nurse Practitioners

  • In 2020, the median salary for nurse practitioners working full-time reached $110,000.
  • Most full-time NPs see a minimum of three patients per hour.
  • Most NPs have been in practice for an average of 11 years.

Source: AANP Fact Sheet

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Average Salary for Nurse Practitioners

According to a 2020 Clinical Advisor Salary Survey, most responding NPs (73%) hold master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees. Many NPs continue to earn doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degrees, as well.

As the graphic below shows, DNP degree-holders experience a significant jump in their average annual salaries. While the MSN remains the current minimum educational requirement for NPs, the requirement may soon shift to the DNP.



$111,260

Master of Science in Nursing

SOURCE: Clinical Advisor Salary Survey, 2020



$120,660

Doctor of Nursing Practice

SOURCE: Clinical Advisor Salary Survey, 2020

COVID-19 Effects on NP Salary and Employment

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected NPs' work lives. About 20% of APRNs cited in Medscape's 2020 Compensation Report said they worked fewer hours in 2020 because of COVID-19, and nearly 75% of 2020 Clinical Advisor Salary Survey respondents worked 31-50 hours per week. Prior to the pandemic, most NPs worked an average of 40 hours per week. According to the Medscape report, 8% of APRNs were furloughed or lost their jobs, while others transitioned to different practice areas.

Just over 40% of NPs reported earning more in 2020, with a similar percentage of respondents expecting their salaries to remain the same next year. Over 50% of NP respondents did not experience reduced salaries, but of the NPs and physician assistants who did see a drop in salary, nearly 30% were NPs.

Nurse Practitioner Salaries by Specialization

Nurse practitioner pay also varies by specialization area, as shown in the chart below. Psychiatric NPs earn the highest average salaries, making nearly $40,000 more than NPs who focus on pediatric nurse practice.

What Kind of Salary Growth Can NPs Expect?

Nurse practitioner salary rates and growth projections depend on several factors, including certification, education level, clinical focus, and practice setting, along with whether NPs hold administrative or leadership roles.

Experience also greatly affects NP salaries, with average annual incomes increasing almost 35% following the first five years in practice and climbing 9%-18.5% afterward. The graphic below shows average nurse practitioner salaries rising with experience levels.

Average Annual Salary of Nurse Practitioners by Experience

4 Ways to Increase Pay as an NP

Highest-Paying and Lowest-Paying States for Nurse Practitioners

Geography also plays a big role in how much an NP makes. NPs in the Western U.S. earn an average salary of $127,120, followed by those in the Northeast at $114,560 and the South and Midwest at close to $108,370.

Compensation also varies at the state level. The top-paying states follow the regional trends, with two in the West and three in the Northeast. Likewise, the lowest-paying states reside in the South.

Top-Paying States for Nurse Practitioners

State Average Salary
California $145,970
New Jersey $130,890
Washington $126,480
New York $126,440
Massachusetts $126,050
Source: BLS, 2020

Lowest-Paying States for Nurse Practitioners

State Average Salary
Tennessee $99,370
Alabama $99,790
Florida $101,060
South Carolina $101,190
Kentucky $102,460
Source: BLS, 2020

Highest-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Nurse Practitioners

Aspiring NPs should also consider how salaries vary among metropolitan areas. Northern California boasts the five top-paying metro areas for NPs, with most located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Employment level statistics also indicate strong job opportunities for NPs. The BLS ranks the top five metro areas for highest employment level as New York-Newark-Jersey City, Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim. Large urban areas offer the most options for NPs.

The top-paying metropolitan areas for nurse practitioners are:

Highest-Paying Cities Average Salary
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA $188,070
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $177,800
Salinas, CA $155,310
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $153,240
Napa, CA $152,640
Source: BLS, 2020

Highest-Paying Workplaces for Nurse Practitioners

NP salaries also vary by workplace settings, but the most common industries that employ NPs, including physicians' offices, hospitals, and higher educational institutions, do not necessarily offer the highest salaries. Job-seekers hoping to earn top dollar may want to explore the workplaces listed in the table below.

Workplace Setting Average Salary
Community, Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services $143,480
Religious Organizations $131,710
Residential, Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities $130,830
Social Advocacy Organizations $127,970
Outpatient Care Centers $123,850
Source: BLS, 2020

How Do Nurse Practitioner Salaries Compare to Other Nurses?

With a mean annual wage of $114,510, NPs earn significantly more money than registered nurses (RNs) and clinical nurse specialists (CNSs). The chart below compares RN, CNS, and APRN salaries, along with pay for nurse administrators, anesthetists, and midwives.

Physician assistants, also listed below, perform similar duties as NPs. These professionals follow a different educational path and credentialing process that requires more practical experience and clinical hours. Certification, education, and specialization areas also affect NP compensation.

Find Out More About How Much Nurses Earned in 2020

4 Ways to Increase Pay as an NP

According to BLS data, NPs can expect a general salary range of $82,960 for the lowest 10% up to $156,160 for the highest 10%. Within this range, however, several factors influence NP salary levels, such as certifications, education level, years of experience or experience type, and practice setting.

Key ways for NPs to earn higher wages include:

1. Consider Pursuing Certifications
NPs earn national board certification in specific patient populations, such as critical care, hospice and palliative nursing, oncology, and pediatrics. State licensure boards require NPs to obtain and maintain their certification, which permits them to practice as APRNs and earn higher pay.
2. Increase Education Level
While an MSN constitutes the minimum degree needed to become an NP, many NPs pursue DNPs. Earning a DNP opens doors to more roles with increased responsibility and compensation. In addition, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners endorses a shift from an MSN to a DNP as the minimum degree for APRN licensure.
3. Gain Experience in Administrative Roles
Nurse administrators earn an average salary of $118,800. These professionals take on management and leadership roles in hospitals, healthcare facilities, and physician group practices and receive higher compensation. Nurse administrators often pursue MSN/MBA or MSN/master of health administration dual degrees and apply for certification as nurse executives.
4. Switch Practice Setting
While many NPs specialize in family nurse practice, as well as pediatrics, primary care, and obstetrics/gynecology, these positions do not offer the highest salaries. NPs looking to maximize their income when choosing a specialty should consider areas like psychiatry, urgent care, acute care, and adult medicine.

Frequently Asked Questions: NP Salaries


What nurse practitioner specialty is the highest paid?

NPs who specialize in psychiatric nursing earn the highest average salary of $138,450 on average. Psychiatric NPs care for patients with mental health challenges by diagnosing their conditions, managing medication, and referring patients to psychotherapists and other mental health professionals.

Who gets paid more, PAs or NPs?

Physician assistants earn a median annual salary of $115,390 compared to $111,680 for NPs. NPs and PAs fill similar roles in physicians' offices, hospitals, and clinics. They both must earn graduate degrees and certifications, but each PA needs to log at least 2,000 hours of clinical experience to maintain their certification, compared to the 500-hour NP requirement.

How much is the starting salary for a nurse practitioner?

The starting NP salary averages $104,440 per year, but compensation rates vary with education level, certification, practice specialty area, workplace setting, and geography. NPs in California will likely earn higher starting salaries than their peers in Kentucky, and psychiatric NPs earn more than family nurse practitioners, on average.

How much do NPs make an hour?

NPs earn a mean hourly wage of $55. The median wage estimates show a range of $40 an hour earned by the lowest 10%, increasing to $75 for the top 10%. The highest hourly pay goes to NPs in community food and housing, and emergency and other relief services.

Learn More About Nurse Practitioners

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