Highest-Paying Nursing Careers
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- Jobs for nurses are projected to grow substantially in the coming years.
- Many nurses can earn six-figure salaries.
- Working as a travel nurse requires only an ADN or BSN but can lead to well-paid jobs.
The highest-paying nursing jobs available can vary based on title, specialty area, location, training, and experience. However, one thing is certain: The United States needs more of these qualified professionals.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives will grow by 45% between 2020 and 2030. The BLS projects positions for registered nurses will grow 9% during the same period. Now is a great time to enter the field.
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Many nursing professionals in this field earn six-figure salaries but spend a fraction of the time in school that physicians spend. Becoming a nurse can allow you to help others and make a difference while still earning an above-average salary. Read on to learn about the 15 highest-paying nursing jobs currently available.
What Are the Highest-Paying Jobs Nursing Jobs?
2021 Median Annual Salary: $195,610
These professionals must complete an MSN degree to become advanced practice registered nurses. They spend their days working under the supervision of anesthesiologists who administer anesthesiology during procedures and treatments. Nurse anesthetists work with patients before, during, and after procedures to ensure they have the correct medication and come off the anesthesiology properly. They also observe patients to make sure they resume normal functions as the medicine leaves their system.
The BLS projects positions for nurse anesthetists to increase by 13% between 2020 and 2030. So aspiring nursing professionals will see about 5,600 job openings.
2021 Median Annual Salary: $120,680
General nurse practitioners work in a wide variety of care settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, inpatient facilities, and physician clinics. Often serving as the first point of contact, NPs record patient medical histories, identify symptoms through diagnostic tests and physical exams, and work in concert with physicians to develop treatment plans. They have the qualifications needed to prescribe medications and treatments and must earn a master's degree in nursing to practice.
The BLS projects positions for nurse practitioners to grow 52% between 2020 and 2030, resulting in about 114,900 new job openings.
2021 Median Annual Salary: $112,830
Nurse-midwives focus their services on pregnant patients, providing gynecological examinations, family planning information and prescriptions, and education on birthing and prenatal care. During pregnancies, these professionals also provide information on health, diet, and exercise routines and monitor patient levels at regular appointments. Nurse-midwives may also assist physicians with cesarean sections and provide emergency labor care as needed — including repairing tears and lacerations. Nurse-midwives need an MSN degree at minimum to practice.
The BLS projects positions for nurse-midwives to grow by 11% between 2020 and 2030, resulting in 800 new positions across the U.S.
Medical and Health Services Manager
2021 Median Annual Salary: $104,280
After completing a master's degree in nursing administration, some individuals may decide they want to work in more administrative positions focused on management and oversight. Medical and health services managers ensure the day-to-day running of individual departments or entire facilities, depending on the scope of their work. They set goals and objectives, manage budgets, oversee staffing needs, develop training programs, and communicate with senior staff regarding the attainment of goals.
The BLS projects positions for medical and health services managers will grow by 32% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than average. Aspiring professionals in this industry can expect 139,600 new job openings from 2020 to 2030.
2022 Average Annual Salary: $84,000
Travel nurses are registered nurses who spend their days working on short-term assignments in different parts of the country — or world — with nursing staff shortages. They perform the same tasks as standard RNs but may encounter unusual work environments such as temporary medical buildings, disaster sites, or even helicopters. Travel nurses must be flexible, quick-thinking medical professionals ready to handle any situation at a moment's notice. Due to the nature of the work, they typically earn more than standard RNs.
Family Nurse Practitioner
2022 Average Annual Salary: $97,920
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) must earn a master's degree in nursing and complete specialized coursework in FNP topics. They possess the credentials required to perform some of the same tasks as doctors, including prescribing medicine and diagnosing illnesses and diseases. They work with patients across the lifespan, treating basic maladies and making referrals to specialists as needed. They typically work alongside physicians to provide complementary care.
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
2022 Average Annual Salary: $105,050
Acute care nurse practitioners (ACNPs) hold master's degrees in nursing and specialize their services to those in need of short-term care as opposed to more chronic illnesses requiring long-term care. Acute care NPs may work in emergency rooms, surgery, or other areas where urgent and active medical care is required. Aside from administering medicine, performing treatments, and working alongside doctors and other medical professionals, ACNPs create care plans and advise patients on care procedures after they are discharged.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
2022 Average Annual Salary: $112,870
Psychiatric nurse practitioners complete master's degrees in nursing and focus their studies on psychiatric conditions and treatment options. They work with patients managing anxiety, depression, ADHD, substance misuse, schizophrenia, and other types of mental health and psychiatric conditions under the supervision of psychiatrists and other medical doctors. In addition to evaluating patients to decide on a course of treatment, psychiatric NPs can also administer medication and other therapeutic services.
Clinical Nurse Specialist
2022 Average Annual Salary: $93,930
Clinical nurse specialists must complete at least a master's degree in nursing, though some pursue a doctor of nursing. They possess targeted, nuanced clinical knowledge in their specialty areas, examples of which include population, setting, disease area, care type, or problem type. While clinical nurse specialists can be found in many different areas of a hospital or clinic, they usually focus their knowledge on a narrow area.
Oncology Nurse Practitioner
2022 Average Annual Salary: $101,280
Oncology nurse practitioners work with patients who have been diagnosed with cancer. They must possess at minimum a master's degree in nursing. Common job responsibilities include ordering diagnostic tests and reviewing them to confirm diagnoses, working with physicians to develop plans of treatment while offering primary care, writing prescriptions as needed to manage pain, fatigue, nausea, and other side effects, and keeping up with records to ensure patients do not have any drug interactions or dangerous issues.
Cardiovascular Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner
2022 Average Annual Salary: $102,410
Cardiovascular advanced registered nurse practitioners work with patients facing heart disease or heart-related illnesses and hold at minimum a master's degree in nursing. Cardiovascular ARNPs work directly with patients and physicians to diagnose diseases and illnesses, develop treatment plans, and prescribe medication as needed. They may also work with nutritionists, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals to create plans for necessary lifestyle changes.
Hospitalist Nurse Practitioner
2022 Average Annual Salary: $107,850
Hospitalist nurse practitioners specifically work with inpatients, meaning those who have been admitted to a hospital or facility. Whether caring for patients recovering from medical procedures, being treated after accidents, or participating in diagnostic studies, hospitalists use the knowledge gained from completing a master's degree in nursing to ensure their patients receive top-tier generalist care while admitted. They work with other members of the patient's care team to ensure they take the correct medications and receive proper care while in their charge.
Adult Nurse Practitioner
2022 Average Average Salary: $102,250
As their title implies, adult nurse practitioners work with patients aged 21 and over to deliver healthcare services. Whether addressing acute or chronic diseases or illnesses, adult NPs work in consultation with physicians to assess ailments by using diagnostic tests, develop treatment plans based on findings, and write prescriptions or other types of treatment as needed. They may work in either inpatient or outpatient settings, but all must hold at least a master's in nursing.
Pediatrics Nurse Practitioner
2022 Average Annual Salary: $93,050
Pediatric nurse practitioners work with patients from birth through early adulthood, often serving as primary care providers in consultation with other physicians. They may work in acute, short-term settings or chronic, long-term settings and must possess specialized knowledge to serve this population. They also work closely with families of underage patients to develop treatment plans and help educate them to make informed decisions on care. As with other NPs, these professionals need at minimum a master's in nursing to qualify.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
2022 Average Annual Salary: $108,890
While pediatric NPs work with all patients under the age of 18, neonatal nurse practitioners focus their services on newborns and infants. Often working in newborn intensive care units (NICUs), neonatal NPs provide medical services to infants born with health issues. Whether treating premature patients or those with acute conditions, these NPs work closely with pediatricians and other medical providers to offer sensitive, developmentally appropriate care. They must possess a master's degree in nursing at minimum to practice.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Highest-Paying Nursing Jobs
Where are the highest-paid RN jobs?
The highest paying nurse jobs depend on many factors, including experience level, location, employer type, and specialty area. While many of the jobs highlighted on this page require candidates with at least a master's degree in nursing, some high-paying nurse jobs require applicants to be registered nurses.
According to Payscale, travel nurses earned an annual average salary of $84,000 as of March 2022, however, salaries for these professionals can be higher based on location and demand. Conversely, general registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $77,600 in May 2021, according to the BLS.
Which nursing specialty is in highest demand?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many nursing specialties are currently in high demand. The BLS projects jobs for nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists will increase by 45% between 2020 and 2030, leading to the creation of 121,400 new jobs by the end of the decade.
Similarly, the BLS projects jobs for medical and health services managers will grow 32% during the same time frame, creating 139,600 new jobs. Students interested in pursuing this career can find many areas of the discipline growing rapidly.
What type of nursing is the hardest?
The answer to this question depends on the individual student and can vary substantially. Some learners may find studies in anesthesiology extremely difficult, while others feel overwhelmed by the specialty courses required to become a neonatal nurse practitioner. Before selecting any type of specialty, students should speak with their academic advisors to get a better sense of what certain disciplines entail.
Just because one nursing job may pay substantially more than another does not mean it is the right fit for every student. Take time to consider your interests and strengths before making a decision.
Where are nurses needed most?
According to a report by Drexel University, California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania currently have the highest need for nurses. These states have been hit hard by the pandemic and also have some of the largest populations in the country. Because of this, a higher number of nurses is necessary to meet the demand for care.
If you do not want to live in one of these states on a permanent basis, working as a travel nurse and spending a limited amount of time can help you earn substantially more than staying put in your current role. These states may also offer higher salaries to help attract more qualified nurses.