This article has been updated on May 11, 2023.
Nursing as a whole can be a very rewarding profession. Nurses take great satisfaction in their ability to deliver outstanding health care and make a difference in the lives of patients and their families. Of course, monetary compensation also plays a role in how nurses feel about their current positions and in their decisions about upskilling for career development. There are many opportunities today for well-qualified nurses. Hospitals, in particular, are looking to alleviate personnel shortages in their nursing departments. Many care settings are working to address health care staffing needs that may have taken a backseat during the height of the pandemic. That means there are more opportunities for experienced registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses to take up positions that suit their talents, interests and education. The more nurses know about the choices available to them, the better they can assess what career best suits them and where they should invest their time. Those who are interested in some of the highest paying nursing careers should consider the benefits of an advanced degree and certification to prepare for these lucrative roles.
What Are the Highest Paying Nursing Careers?
Compensation for nurses can vary widely depending on the candidate’s education level, the specializations they choose, the type of facility they work in and their geographic location. Roles that are more focused on clinical work, research, teaching or leadership represent different opportunities and different salary levels. Here are 16 of the highest paying nursing careers, any of which might present exciting opportunities depending on a nurse’s individual interests and goals.
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Informatics Nurse
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Oncology Nurse Practitioner
- Critical Care Nurse
- Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Adult-Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Practitioner
- Travel Nurse
- Clinical Research Nurse
- Nurse Administrator
- Nurse Educator
1. Nurse Anesthetist
A nurse anesthetist is responsible for perioperative, intraoperative and postoperative anesthesia care. Using established guidelines, anesthesia care must be age-appropriate and tailored to account for any of a patients’ comorbidities. The primary goal is patient safety throughout the procedure and afterward. The nurse anesthetist is also responsible for documentation and may be asked to supervise student nurse anesthetists. The nurse anesthetist must also be able to collaborate with other care providers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a higher than average job growth rate, indicating a 12% increase in job opportunities for this career from 2021 through 2031.
How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist
To become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), a nurse must be a graduate of an accredited master’s program, then pass the certification exam given by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.
What Is a Typical Nurse Anesthetist Salary?
Nurse anesthetists are at the highest end of the nursing wage scale. According to 2021 data from the BLS, the median annual salary for a nurse anesthetist was $195,610.
2. Informatics Nurse
Informatics nurses play a pivotal role as more and more health care entities rely on digital technologies. Informatics may involve and impact data from electronic medical records and other sources for analysis; communication; and decision-making to improve health systems, care delivery and patient safety.
How to Become an Informatics Nurse
Some nurse informaticists begin work in the field with a BSN and RN credentials, but most now also pursue a master’s degree in either nursing, nursing informatics or computer science. Others go on to pursue a doctorate. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers a certification credential for nurse informaticists upon passing a competency-based exam.
What Is the Typical Informatics Nurse Salary?
The average salary for informatics nurses is $154,509, according to 2023 data from Glassdoor. A 2020 survey from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society showed 49% of informatics nurses earned salaries above $100,000, making it likely to be a high paying nursing career.
3. Family Nurse Practitioner
A family nurse practitioner (FNP) cares for patients across the lifespan, from birth to old age. The majority of FNPs provide primary care services, managing patients through illness and injury and educating them on how to maintain wellness. FNPs can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practice offices, community clinics and more. The BLS projects a 46% job growth rate for nurse practitioners from 2021 to 2031.
How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner
Those looking to become a family nurse practitioner must follow typical steps. This includes becoming a registered nurse by earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), earning a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) and gaining state nursing certification. Family nurse practitioners may require additional credentials depending on the state in which they practice.
What Is the Typical Family Nurse Practitioner Salary?
The average salary for family nurse practitioners is $149,738 as of April 2023, according to data from Glassdoor.
4. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
A pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) is one of the many types of nurse practitioners. These professionals are differentiated by the patient population they care for or the disease state they treat. PNPs care for patients from birth to late adolescence. The PNP may have a focus and certification in primary care or acute care, and may work in a hospital, outpatient clinic, school or university or in independent practice.
How to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Requirements for this high paying nursing career include an MSN or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, or post-master’s certification with a program focus on pediatrics. Also required is board certification through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. A PNP may also seek further education and specialization in fields like cardiology, surgery or emergency medicine.
What Is a Typical Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Salary?
According to 2023 data from Glassdoor, the average salary for a pediatric nurse practitioner is $146,267.
5. Oncology Nurse Practitioner
An oncology nurse practitioner is an APRN who specializes in caring for cancer patients, providing independent clinical assessment and patient care management. They examine and assess patients, develop plans of care and consult with physicians and other providers. They initiate orders and educate and counsel patients regarding health promotion, disease prevention and managing illness. Specific services vary according to the treatment methodology, including surgical, medical and radiation oncology, as well as palliative medicine. Patient groups can range across the lifespan, from pediatric to gerontological.
How to Become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner
Nurses interested in becoming an oncology nurse practitioner must have a BSN and then complete an accredited MSN, post-master’s certificate or DNP program with a focus on oncology. They should also typically possess two to three years of oncology nursing experience as a registered nurse. After passing the certification exam given by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation, the nurse practitioner can apply for state licensure.
What Is a Typical Oncology Nurse Practitioner Salary?
According to 2023 data from Glassdoor, the average salary for an oncology nurse practitioner is $145,117.
6. Critical Care Nurse
Critical care nurses (CCNs) are assigned to hospital departments where patients are in the most serious conditions, including intensive care or critical care units, trauma or transport/flight units, cardiac care or surgical units. Care includes monitoring and managing patients, many of whom may be on life-support equipment. CCNs must also be able to communicate clearly in high-stress environments with other nursing and medical staff, as well as with patients’ families and loved ones.
How to Become a Critical Care Nurse
After receiving their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing, nurses will then need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed registered nurses. Most RNs have to work a minimum of two years in critical care before becoming eligible for certification by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, at which point they can apply for critical care nurse positions.
What Is a Typical Critical Care Nurse Salary?
The average salary for critical care nurses is $136,021, according to 2023 data from Glassdoor. This figure can fluctuate depending on experience, making them one of the highest paying nursing careers.
7. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
A psychiatric nurse practitioner conducts therapy sessions and otherwise works with individuals who suffer from various psychiatric disorders, from ADHD to schizophrenia. They frequently work with multidisciplinary teams, often consisting of a psychiatrist, doctors of psychology and licensed clinical social workers to provide a wide scope of care for their patients. The job outlook for psychiatric nurse practitioners should remain stable or grow, as more entities embrace the need for mental health services, according to a 2020 article from Minority Nurse.
How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
A candidate must be an RN who completes an MSN degree, post-master’s certificate or DNP with a focus on psychiatry/mental health. Education must reflect an accredited program centered on nursing science, pharmacology, patient assessment and behavioral science, including 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours. An aspiring psychiatric nurse practitioner must then pass the board certification exam given by the American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC) and be licensed to practice in their state.
What Is a Typical Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Salary?
According to 2023 data from Glassdoor, the average salary for a psychiatric nurse practitioner is $130,068.
8. Clinical Nurse Specialist
The clinical nurse specialist (CNS) role is multifaceted, with the potential for a combination of clinical and administrative responsibilities in a variety of care settings. On the clinical side, they examine patients, diagnose illnesses, order tests and promote wellness. On the policy and administrative side, CNSs develop and revise policies, manage staff, design evaluation tools and extract data from patient records to improve care delivery systems.
How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist
A CNS is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) educated at the master’s or doctoral level. Graduate and post-graduate programs usually offer focus tracks, such as pediatrics, community health or acute care. Additional coursework may be required for certification in a specialty area from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) depending on state requirements and the specialty area.
What Is a Typical Clinical Nurse Specialist Salary?
According to 2023 data from Glassdoor, the average salary for a clinical nurse specialist is $128,466.
9. Adult-Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
Adult-gerontological nurse practitioners (AGNPs) care for young adults, older adults and the elderly. Depending on the area of focus — primary care or acute care — an AGNP is responsible for care assessment, management, treatment and wellness education. AGNPs work in a variety of settings, including private practices, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities and more. Acute care AGNPs may work in hospital ICUs, critical care, cardiology departments or as hospitalists.
How to Become an Adult-Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
To become an AGNP, an RN with a BSN must complete a master’s or doctoral degree program with an adult-gerontology focus and a specialization in primary or acute care. They will also need certification from the ANCC.
What Is a Typical Adult-Gerontological Nurse Practitioner Salary?
According to 2023 data from Glassdoor, the median annual salary for an adult-gerontological nurse practitioner is $127,046.
10. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
Neonatal nurse practitioners care for high-risk newborns and their families, diagnosing and managing acute and chronic illnesses that may result from birth defects or genetic disorders.
How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
RNs with an MSN, post-master’s certificate or DNP with a focus on neonatal care can be certified by the National Certification Corporation and apply for state licensure as a neonatal nurse practitioner.
What Is a Typical Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Salary?
According to 2023 data from Glassdoor, the average salary for a neonatal nurse practitioner is $120,703.
11. Nurse Practitioner
Although many nurse practitioners (NPs) specialize in a particular area of care, some function as general NPs. General NPs tend to provide primary care services, focusing on patient care and medication and health management. Depending on the rules that govern practice authority in their state, a general NP may have their own independent clinic or work in a multidisciplinary office. Not only are they one of the highest paying nursing careers, but general NPs are in one of the highest-ranking professions for job opportunities, with the BLS estimating 46% job growth between 2021 through 2031.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
A general nurse practitioner needs to have completed at least a Master of Science in Nursing program and passed the certification exam recognized by the state in which they wish to practice.
What Is a Typical Nurse Practitioner Salary?
According to 2021 data from the BLS, the median annual salary for a nurse practitioner was $120,680.
A certified nurse-midwife (CNM) is an APRN who specializes in the care of pregnant mothers, monitoring them prenatally, through labor and delivery and with post-delivery care. Many CNMs are affiliated with hospitals, clinics or OB/GYN offices or have established independent practices depending on the practice rules in their state. The BLS notes a positive job outlook, projecting 7% job growth for this role from 2021 through 2031.
How to Become a Nurse-Midwife
To be certified as a nurse-midwife, an RN must complete an MSN or DNP, pass a certification exam given by the American Midwifery Certification Board and apply for state licensure.
What Is a Typical Nurse-Midwife Salary?
According to 2023 data from the BLS, nurse-midwives can expect a median annual salary of $112,830.
13. Travel Nurse
Travel nurses can provide care to patients in various locations. They typically only spend a few weeks or months at any given workplace. These professionals are highly desirable, as they can help mitigate nursing shortages in geographic locations, fill in during demanding nursing schedules and help reduce the strain felt by permanent nurses. Many of these nurses also have the luxury of choosing their hours, allowing them to work part-time or make additional money if a full-time nursing career isn’t their current goal.
How to Become a Travel Nurse
Travel nurses follow the traditional path to their career by earning a bachelor’s degree, before going on to become an RN. RNs who then desire to become travel nurses should earn as much experience as they can and build a broad knowledge base, as their particular duties may change with each new temporary position.
Typical Travel Nurse Salary
According to 2023 data from Glassdoor, the average salary for a travel nurse is $104,458. However, this number can fluctuate depending on a variety of factors. These include the locations in which a nurse chooses to work, how many hours they work, their level of experience and specialization. making it another high paying nursing career.
14. Clinical Research Nurse
Clinical research nurses are frequently part of medical research teams that investigate new therapies through clinical trials. These nurses may be tasked with subject recruitment, protocol adherence, informed consent and monitoring subject health status, reporting any changes to the team.
How to Become a Clinical Research Nurse
A clinical research nurse will generally be required to have either an MSN or doctoral degree and an active RN license. Most research nurses focus on a specialization, such as cardiac or neurological research, and will need experience in a clinical setting as a registered nurse. Once they’ve earned the necessary experience, nurses will need to qualify for their research certification through organizations such as the Association for Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) or the Society of Clinical Research Associates (SCRA). These certifications are a requirement to apply for research nursing positions. Certification not only indicates a nurse’s knowledge of their field but demonstrates they can uphold the stringent ethical standards to perform clinical research in medical or pharmaceutical industries.
What Is a Typical Clinical Research Nurse Salary?
The average salary for clinical research nurses is $103,459, according to 2023 data from Glassdoor. There may be a wide range of salaries for nurses engaged in research; some of this is attributable to the differences in titles and educational requirements.
15. Nurse Administrator
Nurse administrators are responsible for ensuring operations run smoothly in the setting in which they work, whether that is a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, long-term care facility or another care environment. Nurse administrators are usually expected to excel at nurse leadership and may function as operations managers for clinical staff. They may also be in charge of patient/staff data analysis to maintain efficiency, financial stability and performance standards. The career outlook for nurse administrators is very strong, with job growth projected to be a robust 28% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.
How to Become a Nurse Administrator
RNs with a BSN or MSN are eligible for this type of position, particularly if they have nursing and business experience. Most nurse administrators come to the role after significant experience in a clinical setting.
What Is a Typical Nurse Administrator Salary?
The BLS lists the median annual salary for nurse administrators as $101,340, according to 2021 data.
16. Nurse Educator
A nurse educator instructs nursing students in clinical patient care. This can be at the collegiate level, an aspect of staff education at a hospital or through an organization offering continuing education. Some nurse educators are also involved in research. The job outlook for nurse educators is very good. The BLS projects a 22% job growth for postsecondary nursing educators between 2021 and 2031. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there is a significant shortage of nursing faculty. Employment opportunities exist nationwide, with the greatest need for instructors at the doctoral level.
How to Become a Nurse Educator
Nurse educators must have at least an MSN, but many also pursue a doctoral degree. If the educator has a clinical specialty, they may also be required to seek and maintain certification in that field, especially if it is the focus of the curriculum they teach.
What Is a Typical Nurse Educator Salary?
The BLS reports a median annual salary for nurse educators as $77,440, as of May 2021. Those looking for the highest paying nursing careers in nurse education should consider the type of employer as a factor. The BLS reports slightly different figures based on the institution. The median annual salary for nurse educators at colleges and professional schools was $83,340, while nurse educators at hospitals made a median of $95,720.
Begin Your Journey to a High-Paying Career with an Online Master’s Program
Nurses are in high demand, with many opportunities to land a number of the highest paying nursing careers for those who’ve received the necessary education. If you are thinking about advancing your career in a nurse practitioner role, consider the benefits of Carson-Newman University’s online Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner and online Post-Master’s Certification - Family Nurse Practitioner programs.
Carson-Newman’s MSN-FNP and PMC-FNP programs can prepare you for a new nursing role in as little as 32 months (MSN-FNP) or 24 months (PMC-FNP), with all online classes (except for clinicals and one on-campus residency). The MSN-FNP program is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and has a dedicated faculty committed to student success. Discover what you’re capable of. Reach your career goals in nursing with Carson-Newman University.
By the Numbers: Nursing Statistics 2023
How Much Do RNs Make With a Master’s Degree?
Why Are Nurses the Most Trusted Profession?
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “Fact Sheet: Nursing Faculty Shortage”
American Association of Critical Care Nurses, CCRN (Adult)
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, “2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey”
Glassdoor, How Much Does an Adult Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Make?
Glassdoor, How Much Does a Clinical Nurse Specialist Make?
Glassdoor, How Much Does a Clinical Research Nurse Make?
Glassdoor, How Much Does a Critical Care Nurse Make?
Glassdoor, How Much Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Make?
Glassdoor, How Much Does a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Make?
Glassdoor, How Much Does a Nursing Informatics Make?
Glassdoor, How Much Does an Oncology Nurse Practitioner Make?
Glassdoor, How Much Does a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Make?
Glassdoor, How Much Does a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Make?
Glassdoor, How Much Does a Travel Nurse Make?
Indeed, “A Definitive Guide to Critical Care Nursing”
Indeed, “Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): The Path To Become One”
Indeed, “How To Become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner in 6 Steps”
Indeed, “How To Become a Research Nurse: A Step-by-Step Guide”
Indeed, “Nursing Informatics: Salary, Qualifications and Job Duties”
Indeed, “What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner? Definition, Salary, Sub-Specialties and Career Guide”
Minority Nurse, “4 Reasons Why There Is a High Demand For Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Teachers