15 Highest Paying Nursing Careers [Infographic]

The highest paying nursing jobs are:

  1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  2. General Nurse Practitioner
  3. Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
  4. Pain Management Nurse
  5. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  6. Certified Nurse Midwife
  7. Family Nurse Practitioner
  8. Informatics Nurse
  9. Clinical Nurse Specialist
  10. Nursing Administrator
  11. Nursing Educator
  12. Neonatal Nurse
  13. Critical Care Nurse
  14. Health Policy Nurse
  15. Medical-Surgical Nurse

If you’re an aspiring nurse, you already know that nursing credentials and skills offer you a career path with staying power. In general, Registered Nurses are in demand, commanding a median annual wage of $67,490 1 as of May 2015 — and job projections are strong.

To really thrive however, many RNs earn additional certifications, go for an advanced degree, and specialize in one particular area of nursing. This increases their earning potential by helping them qualify for positions at more prestigious hospitals. Some advanced practice RNs can even open their own clinics.

To help you decide which career direction is right for you, take a look at some of the highest paying specialties for RNs, what you can earn and how to get started as an advanced practice nurse . Keep in mind that salaries do vary greatly based on location and employer, so the earnings listed below are just a baseline to help with your research.

15. Medical-Surgical Nurse

Medical-Surgical Nurses are on the front lines of the nursing profession. Because so much is required of them, those who excel and decide to advance are considered to have entered a specialty area.

Salary: Nurses who stay as medical-surgical team members will earn a basic RN salary. However, advanced certification and experience will increase earning potential.

Growth outlook: Medical-surgical nurses will always be in demand at hospitals and other healthcare settings. The sharper your skills, the more likely you are to be hired.

Requirements: After working at least two years as an RN, you can take the Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN®) exam through the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses’ (AMSN) Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board (MSNCB).

Jobs: View 2,541 High Paying Medical-Surgical Nurse JobsEmployers include hospitals, clinics and staffing agencies.

14. Health Policy Nurse

If you are passionate about health and public policies, becoming a health policy nurse will let you take on the tasks of advocacy, research, analysis, policy development, implementation and evaluation, as explained by DiscoverNursing.com 13 .

Salary: While there is no specific salary survey for this track, the income potential is strong.

Growth outlook: With so much attention on the Affordable Health Care Act, there is no better time to take this career route. 

Requirements: After earning your MSN, you’ll have to complete a 10-week health policy residency program in government offices, advocacy organizations, or community groups. Learn more about how specializing in Health Policy can advance your nursing career.

Jobs: Search 19,325 open nursing positions nowEmployers include hospitals, clinics and staffing agencies. 

13. Critical Care Nurse

Critical care nurses require a specialized set of skills since you’re literally dealing with life-and-death matters. Often, they work in ICUs of hospitals

Salary: The average salary for ICU Nurses was $68,028 as of January 2013, according to NurseZone.com 12 .

Growth outlook: When you hear about nursing shortages, the biggest areas in need include adult critical care units, pediatric and neonatal ICUs, and emergency departments. That’s why critical care nurses should have no problems finding work.

Requirements: While no specific credentials are needed to begin working in critical care, to advance you should consider the CCRN certification exam.

Jobs: Employers include hospitals, clinics and staffing agencies. Critical care nurses are urgently needed. Submit your application for 4,058 critical care or ICU nursing positions

12. Neonatal Nurse

If you have a real love of babies, caring for newborn is your main job as a neonatal nurse. This specialty commands a strong salary, especially for advanced practice nurses.

Salary: The average hourly wage for neonatal nurses as per Payscale 10 , is $29.60 per hour. Those who work in the neonatal intensive care unit have the potential to earn more, as do those with advanced certifications.

Growth outlook: Both advances in technology and the frequency of premature births have contributed to a strong job outlook for neonatal nurses.

Requirements: While you can get neonatal unit experience as a staff RN, earning either the neonatal nurse practitioner (NNPs) or neonatal clinical nurse specialist (CNS) designation is how the real advancement takes place.

Jobs: Employers include hospitals, clinics and staffing agencies. Critical care nurses are urgently needed. View 578 open jobs for Neonatal nurses

11. Nurse Educator

At some point, you may wish to transition from patient care to nurse education. If working directly with other nurses to train them or facilitate continuing education sounds appealing, becoming a nursing educator could be a good fit.

Salary: Nursing educators can earn an average yearly salary of $73,633, as reported by the AACN 9 in March 2014.

Growth outlook: There is a shortage of nurse educators and that is expected to continue, making this a smart choice if you wish to get off the hospital floor and go to the head of the class.

Requirements: Nurse educators must hold a master's degree at minimum, although many do earn a doctoral degree as well. See this informative profile for further information on becoming a Nurse Educator .

Jobs: Search 19,325 open nursing positions nowEmployers include hospitals, clinics and staffing agencies. 

10. Nursing Administrator

A nursing administrator deals with the backstage operations of nursing, from budgeting to staff management, to HR functions.

Salary: Nursing administrators earn an average salary of $79,064, as per PayScale 14 .

Growth outlook: Employment of medical and health services managers (of which nursing administrators are part) is projected to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS.

Requirements: Usually, a master’s degree in health care administration is required, as is state licensing.

Jobs: Search 19,325 open nursing positions nowEmployers include hospitals, clinics and staffing agencies. 

9. Clinical Nurse Specialist

Those who wish to work within a specialized unit or clinic should consider the Clinical nurse specialist (CNS) path. In addition to diagnosing and treating various conditions, you’ll be looked upon as an expert within your health care team. You might also specialize in a specific illness.

Salary: As per PayScale 11 , the median salary for clinical nurse specialists is $81,305.

Growth outlook: Because clinical nurse specialists can offer specialized care at a lower cost than a physician, more and more hospitals and institutions will be seeking to add these professionals onto their teams.

Requirements: A clinical nurse specialist must earn a master’s of science in nursing, with a specialization in clinical nursing. Learn more about Clinical Nurse Specialists.

Jobs: There are currently 3,014 clinical nurse jobs for nurses of various specialties and experience.

8. Informatics Nurse

Nursing, meet technology. According to the American Medical Informatics Association 7 , an informatics nursing integrates nursing , its information and knowledge, with management of information and communication technologies to promote the public health.

Salary: Average salary of $83,000 8 for informatics nurses.

Growth outlook: The AMIA estimates that up to 70,000 nursing informatics specialists/analysts may be needed in the next five years.

Requirements: To get into nursing informatics, expect to earn a master of science in nursing, or a master’s in information or computer science. Learn more about Informatics Nurses.

Jobs: There are currently 19,325 job openings for nurses of various specialties and experience.

7. Family Nurse Practitioner

Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) is probably the type of nursing that is closest to being a doctor that there is. FNPs typically perform many of the same functions as an MD, working in a medical office, hospital, clinic, or nursing facility. Among their responsibilities include patient consultations, assessments, prescribing medications and treatment, and more.

Salary: Family nurse practitioners earn an average of $84,240 per year 6 .

Growth outlook: As stated above, nurse practitioner jobs are expected to grow 34 percent from 2012 to 2022, says the BLS. Those who focus on family practice will always be in demand since there are a variety of health care institutions for which they can work.

Requirements : FNPs must earn the Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (FNP-BC), and most who go in this direction also earn a master’s degree. Learn more about Family Nurse Practitioners!

Jobs: Employers include hospitals, clinics and staffing agencies. View 86 Nurse Practitioner jobs now.

6. Certified Nurse Midwife

For RNs who love obstetrics, labor and delivery, and prenatal care, becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife is the perfect career path to nurture. CNMs mostly work in OB/Gyn offices, clinics, or hospital settings, but many open their own practices.

Salary: Certified nurse midwives can expect to earn an average salary of $89,600, as per the BLS 5 .

Growth outlook: The job outlook for midwives is beyond good, with expectations that openings will grow 29 percent during the 2012 to 2022 decade. That is much faster than the average for all occupations, and for RNs without a specialization.

Requirement: To practice certified nurse midwifery, nurses can go through the American Midwifery Certification Board to earn the Certified Nurse-Midwife and Certified Midwife designations. Learn more about Certified Nurse Midwives.

Jobs: Employers include hospitals, clinics and staffing agencies. View 19,325 job openings for nurses of various specialties and experience.

5. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

For nurses with an interest in mental health, working as a psychiatric nurse practitioner will give you the opportunity to work under a psychiatric physician and counsel patients regarding mental health disorders.

Salary: A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners earns on average $90,376 per year, according to PayScale 4 .

Growth outlook: As the need for improved mental health care gains more and more national attention, and the demand for adolescent and child psychiatric services increases, PNPs will be highly sought after.

Requirements: Because of the complexities involved in this advanced position, in order to break in, plan to earn a master’s degree with a specialty in psychiatric nursing. Learn more about Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners.

Jobs: Employers include hospitals, clinics and staffing agencies. View 306 psych nurse jobs now.

4. Pain Management Nurse

Pain Management Nurses help manage patient pain post-surgery, or work with patients who have chronic pain issues. They work within a health care team help determine the cause of the pain and the proper course of treatment, while also educating patients about pain management to avoid addiction or dependence on medication.

Salary: The average yearly salary for pain management nurses is $90,288 per year.

Growth outlook: Because pain management nurses can work in a variety of healthcare settings, from hospitals to clinics, to rehabilitation centers, to nursing homes, the demand for this skill is strong.

Requirements: While an advanced degree isn’t necessary, sufficient experience as an RN is required to vie for the Nurse Practitioner certification for Pain Management Specialists.

Jobs: Employers include hospitals, clinics and staffing agencies. View 19,325 job openings for nurses of various specialties and experience.s

3. Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

Older patients have a unique set of health issues, requiring specialized health care. RNs who prefer working with elderly patients should look no further than the gerontological nurse practitioner track.

Salary: The BLS reports the median annual salary for this specialty to be $95,070 as of May 2013.

Growth outlook: The aging population, longer life spans, and more access to long term care options means there will be a greater need for nurses who specialize in caring for the aging.

Requirements: To practice this specialty, RNs must become Certified Gerontological Nurse Practitioners (CGNP).

Jobs: Employers include hospitals, clinics and staffing agencies. View 19,325 job openings for nurses of various specialties and experience.

2. General Nurse Practitioner

The advanced designation of general nurse practitioner means that you’ll likely do much of the same work as you did with your RN license. However, you can choose to open an independent practice, and your advanced skills will offer lots of earning potential.

Salary: General nurse practitioners can earn up to $97,990, as of the May 2014 occupational employment statistics 3 .

Growth outlook: Nurse practitioner jobs (which includes general) are expected to experience a 34 percent growth through 2022. Add to that the option to work independently, and the outlook for this specialty is robust.

Requirements: A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is the minimum degree requirement for becoming a nurse practitioner, followed by earning Nurse practitioner licensure as specified by your state.

Jobs: Employers include hospitals, clinics and staffing agencies. View 1,875 general practice nursing jobs now.

1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

This highly skilled profession involves prepping and administering anesthesia to patients in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, podiatrists, and other qualified healthcare professionals, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.

Salary: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists earn an average of $133,000 per year, as reported by PayScale 2 , making it the top paying nursing specialty.

Growth outlook: According to the BLS, the expected growth for CRNAs is 25 percent from 2012 to 2022.

Requirements: Be prepared to hit the books in order to achieve a minimum of a master’s degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia educational program, and upon completion, passing the National Certification Examination.

Jobs: Employers include hospitals, clinics and staffing agencies. View high-paying CRNA jobs now.

 

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Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle, WomansDay.com, Parents, CreditCards.com, and more.

 

1. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm
2. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=Certified_Registered_Nurse_Anesthetist_%28CRNA%29/Salary
3. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291171.htm
4. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Psychiatric_Nurse_Practitioner_%28NP%29/Salary
5. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-5
6. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Family_Nurse_Practitioner_%28NP%29/Salary
7. https://www.amia.org/programs/working-groups/nursing-informatics
8. http://www.indeed.com/salary/Nurse-Informatics.html
9. http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/nursing-faculty-shortage
10. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Neonatal_Nurse_%28RN%29/Hourly_Rate
11. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Clinical_Nurse_Specialist_%28CNS%29/Salary
12. http://www.nursezone.com/Explore-Travel-Nursing/icu-ccu.aspx
13. https://www.discovernursing.com/specialty/health-policy-nurse#.VdNzs87YfKA
14. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Nurse_Administrator/Salary

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