October 31, 2017

Top 4 Highest Paying Specialties - For Nurse Practitioners

Doctor holding stethoscope over heart of child
Dawn Papandrea By: Dawn Papandrea

Becoming a Nurse Practitioner is a great way to take your nursing career to new heights. Beyond deciding that you want to go into an advanced nursing route, you can also choose an NP specialty certification that will allow you to begin practicing in a specific area of nursing.

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Just as it is with Registered Nurses, NPs can choose a more general path of practice, or one that serves a particular patient population or offers a specific type of care. As for typical salaries amongst NP specialties, what they all have in common is strong earning power.

Whether you’re an RN seeking to advance your career or an NP who is thinking about changing specialties, there are several options to consider. They all require enrolling in an accredited NP master’s or doctoral degree program, followed up by a certification exam.

Take a closer look at the major NP specialty programs that are approved by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). They have been updated in recent years to reflect specific patient populations and areas of focus. Check out what they’re all about to decide which one is right for you. 

>> Related: Nurse Practitioner (NP) Jobs, Salary, Work Environment

Psychiatric–Mental Health NP

Psychiatrist with clipboard comforting patient

A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner focuses on mental illnesses in the same way in which psychiatrists do. You’ll treat patients, prescribe medication, and/or counsel those who suffer from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and other disorders. The official credential you’ll earn via the ANCC is Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PMHNP-BC).

Salary outlook: According to PayScale, the reported median salary for this specialty area is $106,454.

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner 

Elderly patient with oxygen and doctor checking heartbeat

If you want to focus on providing care of a more serious nature to adults and to the elderly, you can choose to become an ACNPC-AG, which stands for Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Adult-Gerontology. Acute care refers to working with patients who have more serious health issues, which is why these NPs typically work in hospital emergency rooms or ICUs. To sit for the certification exam, you must first complete a graduate-level program to become an adult-gerontology ACNP at a nationally accredited school of nursing.  

Salary outlook: PayScale reports that Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners earn average salary of $96,063.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Pregnant woman with father holding stomach

If you want to be a “jack of all trades” type of NP, the FNP-BC (Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified) designation allows you the most flexibility to work within a healthcare setting, or to open your own practice. These NPs work in a similar way to family doctors. Most often, they work in hospitals, medical offices, or clinics, but some have their own practices. They diagnose and treat patients, provide wellness check-ups, prescribe medication, and more.

Salary outlook: The average nurse practitioner salary was $94,081 per year according to PayScale.

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Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Child at doctor's office with stethoscope over heart

If you love working with children, from infants to adolescents, becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner is the perfect fit for you. Your practice will focus on the primary health care of young patients to help them achieve healthy physical and emotional development. Upon completing the certification exam, you’ll earn the designation of PPCNP-BC (Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified). 

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Salary outlook: PayScale reports that the average median salary for Pediatric NPs is $89,644. 

Now that you have a better understanding of the ANCC-approved NP specialties in demand, you can choose the one that best aligns with your passions and interests. 

Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner 

Elderly man with crossed hands, cane, and wedding band

If you’re not interested in treating younger patients, you might consider choosing to become an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. Like the Family NP, you’ll provide primary care, usually in outpatient settings like clinics or medical offices. You’ll typically work with adults, but mostly aging patients who come in for routine visits, or who have minor or chronic illnesses. Completing this certification will earn you the AGPCNP-BC credential, which means Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified.

Salary outlook: While there is no particular salary data available for this NP specialty, expect compensation to be similar to what Family NPs earn. As with any nursing role, salary is often dependent on your location and the type of employer you have. 

According to PayScale, and Adult Health Primary Care Nurse Practitioner averages $89,637/year.

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