From certified nurse anesthetists to advanced practice registered nurses, the highest paying nurse jobs command average annual salaries exceeding $110,000 and a lifetime of prestige.
Choosing the right specialization is key to landing the highest-paying jobs. However, going through available options can be a chore.
Keep reading to learn more about the highest-paying nursing jobs. We’ll discuss the top-five paying nursing jobs, minimum level of education required, average salaries, and other helpful information to help you expand your horizons.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), here are the highest paying nursing jobs:
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists are responsible for administering anesthesia and other sedatives to patients during minor or major surgery, working alongside anesthesiologists, surgeons, and other medical professionals.
In addition to administering anesthesia, CRNAs assess patient response, identify potential risk, provide exact stages, and educate patients on what to expect before and after treatment.
One of the best things about being a CRNA is higher than average salaries in rural areas, where it isn’t easy to find qualified personnel. Do not be surprised if a CRNA with five years of experience eclipses the $200,000 per year mark.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists make an average annual salary of $189,190. It’s an excellent boost over traditional registered nurses who make a median yearly salary of $75,330.
However, this salary is subject to change based on several factors, including state, years of experience, education, skills, and specializations.
In 2020, the top five highest paying states for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists were Oregon ($236,540), Wisconsin ($231,520), Wyoming ($231,250), Nevada ($223,680), and Connecticut ($217,360)
To become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, nurses must obtain a Ph.D., pass the National Boards of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists certification exam, and go through hundreds of clinical hours.
The employment growth rate of CRNAs for the next decade is 45%. That’s much faster than average for most professions.
Neonatal nurse practitioners work to assess, diagnose, and treat newborns. Some newborns are susceptible to different kinds of health issues, from premature births to congenital disabilities.
Neonatal nurse practitioners help to manage these conditions. They work in all healthcare settings, from delivery rooms to emergency units.
Like certified registered nurse anesthetists, neonatal nurse practitioners are in high demand.
According to salary.com, neonatal nurse practitioners make a median annual income of $129,309.
The top five highest-paying metropolitan areas for neonatal nurse practitioners include San Francisco (25% higher salary than the national average), New York (20.3%), Boston (12.7%), Washington DC (11.3%), and Chicago (6.1%).
To become a neonatal nurse practitioner, nurses must complete a doctorate in nursing practice (DNP) and pass the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner exam by the National Certification Corporation.
A typical neonatal nurse practitioner program may consist of the following courses:
The job outlook for neonatal nurse practitioners is very favorable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, NNPs should expect 45% job growth through 2029.
Cardiac nurse practitioners are responsible for cardiovascular health and disease management, focusing on chronic and acute cardiac diseases. In addition, they work to assess and diagnose patients, providing them with life-saving medication and keeping them informed about heart health.
With heart disease being one of the leading causes of death in the country, nursing professionals entering this field are a godsend.
According to Indeed.com, cardiac nurse practitioners make an average of $111,000 per year. This figure is subject to change based on state, years of experience, and additional certifications like all nursing jobs.
Based on Indeed.com’s figures, Alaska’s average annual salary for cardiac nurse practitioners was among the lowest in the country (48th among all 50 states), compared to Arkansas with a $114,000 average yearly wage, ranking it 12th in the country.
Becoming a cardiac nurse practitioner is a very rigorous affair, requiring an RN license and application to a cardiac nursing
program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
From there, cardiac NP students are expected to gather as much as 2,000 hours of clinical practice and complete hours of continuing education to get their certifications.
Once you become a certified cardiac nurse, you’re expected to adhere to your state licensing board’s requirements to renew your certification every five years.
Cardiac nurse practitioners are in very high demand. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurse job growth is expected to increase 9% per year through 2030.
Orthopedic nurse practitioners provide musculoskeletal healthcare to patients, working to remedy broken bones by conducting x-rays, prescribing pain medications, and educating patients on bone health.
Other orthopedic nurse practitioner responsibilities include setting fractures, treating wounds, providing postoperative care, and helping patients improve strength and regain mobility.
The average salary for orthopedic nurse practitioners is $115,687 per year, nearly double that of first-year registered nurses in some low-paying states.
Earning an orthopedic nurse practitioner certification requires becoming a registered nurse by passing the NCLEX-RN exam.
The next step is applying for a nurse practitioner program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
After completing the nurse practitioner program, students will have to take the Orthopaedic Nurse Practitioner-Certified (ONP-C) exam to become certified as orthopedic nurse practitioners.
Like cardiac nurse practitioners, students must have completed 2,000 clinical hours as an orthopedic nurse practitioner to be eligible for the certification exam.
Renewals require that you have at least 1,000 hours of experience working as a nurse practitioner in the five years before renewing, along with 65 clinical orthopedic contact hours and 35 general nursing contact hours.
Oncology nurse practitioners specialize in treating patients with cancer and cancer-related ailments. They do this by conducting physical exams, creating treatment plans, administering therapies, and prescribing medications,
According to indeed.com, oncology nurse practitioners make an average annual salary of $108,000.
To become an oncology nurse practitioner, you must first become a registered nurse. The next steps would be applying to an oncology nurse practitioner program and passing the oncology nurse exam by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC).
Be sure that your oncology program is accredited by the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) to ensure the highest educational standards.
With over one million new cancer cases each year, the job outlook for oncology nurse practitioners has never been better.
Here are the steps required to qualify for the highest-paying nursing jobs.
On average, BSNs take four years to complete, with accelerated BSN degree programs taking as little as two years to finish.
Compared to other registered nurses, BSNs enjoy better clinical outcomes and lower patient mortality rates due to higher pay, greater responsibilities, and the ability to move into different areas of specialization.
To become a registered nurse, you must graduate with an Associate Degree in Nursing or Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Then pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).
An MSN takes one to two years to complete, whereas DNPs take up to six years.
The next step is to seek board certification in the specialty area you wish to pursue.
Many organizations oversee specialty-area exams, such as the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board, and American Association of Critical-Care Nurse.
Once you’ve obtained your RN license, completed a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)/ Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, and passed the exam related to your specialization, you are free to seek employment in the field.
According to a fact sheet by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, there are more than 300,000 licensed nurse practitioners in the country, with 36,000+ new nurse practitioners in 2019-2020.
Of all nurse practitioners, close to 90% are primary care certified, with a little over 70% delivering primary care.
See the table below to learn the distribution of nurse practitioners by primary certification area.
Percent of NPs
Adult–Gerontology Primary Care
Adult–Gerontology Acute Care
Adult–Gerontology Acute Care
Source: AANP National Nurse Practitioner Database (2021)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners earn an average annual salary of $114,510.
See breakdown below on the average nurse practitioner salary by state.
All nurse practitioners must obtain a Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN) and earn a nurse practitioner license in the state where they plan to practice.
They can also participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact, which allows them to obtain one multi-state license for free movement between regions. This option is popular with travel nurses.
When choosing a high-paying nursing job, here are our top recommendations based on experience and research in the field.
Nurses work in hospital settings, from private clinics to large outpatient centers. Each setting is radically different regarding patient volume, stress levels, and interaction with doctors and nurses.
Salaries between the highest paying nursing jobs vary significantly, depending on the specialization, years of experience, skills, and certifications.
For example, entry-level registered nurses make a median salary of under $75,330 per year, whereas certified registered nurse anesthetists earn as high as $200,000 per year.
There are many highest-paying nursing jobs due to the great depth of specializations. Different interests and specialty areas cover the entire spectrum from direct patient care (nurse practitioner) to backend administrative and staffing responsibilities ( nurse administrator)
Love the mind? Think about becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner with an average salary of $117,670 per year and a 45% job growth by 2030 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Prefer to flex your management muscle? Become a nursing home administrator for roughly $104,280 a year and 32% job growth through 2030.
If salary is not important to you, pursue becoming a registered nurse.
If salary is very important to you, go for a high-level degree (e.g., Doctor of Nursing Practice) and work towards a specialty. Specialties cover a particular area. For example, geriatric patient health for adult gerontology nurse practitioners and young children’s health through acute care pediatric nurse practitioners (CPNP-AC)
In short, advancing your nursing career is all about meeting high educational standards beyond a registered nurse license and BSN.
The highest paying nursing jobs require a master’s degree or Ph.D. as a minimum level of education. This requirement is followed by certification required by state boards such as the American Organization of Nurse Executives for certified nurse manager and leader (CNML) and executive nursing practice (CENP) certifications.
Outside of obtaining a master’s or Ph.D., another way to advance your career and earn even more money is to work as a travel nurse.
Travel nurses address temporary nursing positions in high demand and understaffed hospitals and other health care settings. These temporary positions can last from a few days to several months, with contracts ending or extended based on both parties’ needs.
Travel nurses can make as much as $5,000 a week when working with a travel nurse agency.
Becoming a travel nurse is less restrictive than the highest paying nursing jobs addressed earlier, which require a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
Simply pass the NCLEX, gain experience as a registered nurse or BSN, and sign with a travel nursing staffing agency to learn new opportunities.
Signing on with the right travel nursing agency is critical, as they are aligned with sp
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