Home » Career » 15 Highest Paying Nursing Careers

15 Highest Paying Nursing Careers

Updated on
By Gil Wayne BSN, R.N.

[no_toc]Once student nurses finish nursing school, choosing the right nursing career becomes their primary concern. In the modern world, there are a number of nursing specialities. And with so many specialties, most nurses are having the dilemma to just pick one, following the need to qualify and pass series of exams.

Apart from those, the salary might also be one of the contributing factors that may help you in choosing the nursing sub-specialization you may want to pursue. Nursing careers are financially and personally rewarding, but the salary greatly differs from one and the other.

If compensation and job security are at the top of your list of deciding factors, this list may help you narrow the field of options for you. We’ve come up with the list of the top 15 highest paying nursing jobs and careers based on their average annual salaries.

The salaries listed in this article are based from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), though some are also drawn from other sources.

1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Description: A nurse anesthetist is an advanced practice nurse specialist who is part of the surgery team working with, or in place of, anesthesiologists, delivering anesthesia during surgical operations. CRNAs collaborate with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and dentists to administer anesthesia medications. They work in hospitals, pain clinics, doctor’s offices, dentist offices and ambulatory surgery centers.

Qualification: A prospective CRNA must earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, gain experience working as a registered nurse in critical care and complete a master’s degree program in nurse anesthesia. They also need certification from the National Board on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). If you are already a licensed registered nurse (RN), you may be qualified to enter a graduate education program to become a CRNA.

Growth Outlook: Job growth for nurse anesthetists is expected to increase by 22% through 2018.

Annual Salary Range: CRNAs have one of the highest salaries among the nursing field with an annual salary range of $100,000 to $160,000. A CRNA’s salary can vary based on his or her level of experience.

2. Nurse Attorney

Description: A nurse attorney is a registered nurse (RN) with a law degree (Juris Doctorate or JD). In short, a nurse who has gone back to school to become an attorney. With a joint degrees in both nursing and law, a nurse attorney concentrates in situations where the interests of the healthcare industry need legal representation. A nurse attorney’s dual areas of specialization can provide an edge in a legal, corporate or policy-related career.

Qualification: After completing either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN), a person must then graduate from an accredited law school and pass the state bar licensing exam.

Growth Outlook: Job growth for all attorneys is expected to be about 10% through 2020, but the nurse attorney specialization is likely to grow more quickly than the average for the legal profession.

Annual Salary Range: Nurse attorneys are unique. Their salaries vary depending on the location, size and type of law firm, and whether the person is a partner at a law firm or the owner of his or her own practice. But in general, they are one of the highest paid nurses of all time with an annual salary between $100,000 to $120,000.

3. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Description: A psychiatric nurse practitioner also known as mental health nurse practitioner, is an advanced practice nurse who serves as primary care mental health provider. These nursing professionals diagnose and treat patients with mental illnesses and can also serve as educators or counselors for medical patients and their families. They may collaborate with a doctor or psychiatrist, but they generally don’t have to work under supervision. Psychiatric nurse practitioners work in medical care settings, including hospitals, clinics, and mental health in-patient centers. They are at risk for injury when treating patients who may become violent or emotionally agitated.

Qualification: In order to pursue this career, one must be a registered nurse (RN) who have completed a psychiatric nurse practitioner graduate degree program and obtained certification as an adult psychiatric nurse practitioner or a family psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner. He or she must possess skills including social awareness and perceptiveness, problem-solving abilities, ability to monitor and assess patients, sensitivity, reasoning and critical thinking skills, and compassion. To further develop your knowledge about psychiatric nursing, try to browse these topics about Psychiatric Nursing which covers care of patients with mental disabilities, mental disorders, personality problems, behavioral problems, and care of the well-minded clients.

Growth Outlook: The demand for psychiatric nurses is expected to increase in the coming years with the reported shortage of all registered nurses as the baby boomer generation is nearing retirement age. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) agreed, predicting employment opportunities for RNs to increase by 19% from 2012-2022.

Annual Salary Range: The annual salary for a psychiatric nurse practitioner is around $90,000 to $100,000.

4. Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

Description: A certified nurse-midwife (CNM) is an advanced practice nurse. These nursing professionals hold master’s degrees and have more autonomy than registered nurses. CNMs do more than deliver babies; they provide a variety of healthcare to female patients such as gynecological exams, family-planning education, and prenatal and postnatal care. Nurse-midwives differ from direct-entry midwives in that the latter are not nurses.

Qualification: Anyone wishing to begin a career as a nurse-midwife needs to first become a registered nurse and gain experience, then complete a Master of Science in Nursing degree program at an accredited nurse-midwifery program. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is ultimately part of the requirement for CNM certification, though it is not always required for acceptance into accredited nurse-midwife master’s degree programs. One can also acquire Nurse-Midwife certification through the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM).

Growth Outlook: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the demand for nurse midwives in general is expected to rise by 29% from 2012 to 2022.

Annual Salary Range: The annual salary of a certified nurse midwife ranges from $80,000 to $100,000.

5. Nurse Manager

Description: A nurse manager is one that is responsible for supervising the nursing staff underneath them. They work as bridges between the nurses working for them and the hospital administration. They are not always completely removed from patient care; a nurse manager responsible for a particular shift in a hospital will work beside his or her staff nurses helping patients. Nurse managers will be expected to keep up with paperwork and disciplinary matters.

Qualification: Nurse managers need two sets of skills: the nursing skills that every RN is expected to have and also management skills. You will need to earn your bachelor’s degree in nursing and then take management classes. Ideally, you will also get a bachelor’s degree in management or at a minimum, a minor in business. You need to obtain your Registered Nurse license and work in clinical nursing to gain experience. You also will need a master’s degree in nursing, healthcare, or business administration. Finally, you will need to pass the proper certification exam, which is administered through the American Organization of Nurse Executives.

Growth Outlook: Job growth for all health service managers is projected to be 22% through 2020.

Annual Salary Range: The annual salary of a nurse manager ranges from $80,000 to $100,000.

6. Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Description: A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse who works in primary and specialty patient care. These professionals are highly skilled and highly educated primary medical care providers who diagnose and treat a wide range of medical problems and prescribe medications.

Qualification: This career requires a master’s degree in nursing, and a bachelor’s degree in nursing and registered nurse licensure are typical prerequisites to admission to a master’s program. ANPs may obtain voluntary certification in adult nursing through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Growth Outlook: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), that the demand for nurse practitioners in general is expected to rise by 34% from 2012 to 2022.

Annual Salary Range: The annual salary of a nurse practitioner is around $90,000 to $100,000.

7. Nurse Researcher

Description: Nurse researchers are scientists who study various aspects of health, illness, and health care. By designing and implementing scientific studies, they look for ways to improve health, healthcare services, and healthcare outcomes. They begin their research careers in positions such as research assistant, clinical data coordinator, and clinical research monitor. Nurse researchers may work in diverse healthcare settings, universities, research organizations, laboratories, and other settings.

Qualification: Registered nurses with a BSN are eligible for these jobs, but the standard preparatory education for those who aspire to advance nursing research positions is a research-focused MSN or PhD. Advanced degrees held by nurse researchers include MSN in Clinical Trials Research, MSN in Clinical Research Administration, MSN in Clinical Research Management and PhD in Nursing Science.

Growth Outlook: Job growth for all medical scientists is expected to increase by 36% through 2020, making nurse researcher one of the fields with the greatest potential for growth in all of nursing.

Annual Salary Range: The annual salary range for a nurse researcher is from $75,000 to $95,000. In addition to research activities, nurse researchers with advanced degrees can supplement their income by writing books, teaching, consulting and professional speaking engagements.

8. Informatics Nurse

Description: Informatics nurse specialists are registered nurses who have completed graduate courses in nursing informatics. Their dual training enables them – often in administrative positions – to design, manage and apply technology to meet the needs of the healthcare industry.

Qualification: Registered nurses can earn their education through bachelor’s or associate’s degree programs, though a bachelor’s degree is typical for those like informatics nurse specialists, who must go on for graduate work. You then will need to spend time working as a clinical RN. While you do so, you need to take courses on how to be an informatics nurse; the required courses are usually given as CLE courses. When you feel ready, apply to the American Nurses Credentialing Center to receive your informatics certification.

Growth Outlook: Job growth for medical records administrators is expected to be 22% in general; however, the field is changing fast, and it is not yet guaranteed how technology can affect the demand for informatics nurses.

Annual Salary Range: An informatics nurse earns an annual salary around $50,000 to $90,000 per year.

9. Clinical Nurse Educator

Description: Clinical nurse educators also referred as clinical instructors are healthcare professionals who have gained a high level of expertise in nursing. They educate and train aspiring nurses or newly graduated nurses the broad aspect to the tiniest detail involving the field of nursing. Clinical nurse educators hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nursing and also have completed a nurse educator training program. They commonly have several years of hands-on nursing experience as well.

Qualification: Becoming a clinical nurse educator requires a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in nursing and your RN license by completing your national licensure exam. It is not necessary to have a doctorate in nursing, but the better paid and more prestigious positions are usually offered first to candidates with doctorates. You also will need to pass a nursing educator’s certification exam from one of nursing’s professional organizations such as the National League of Nursing.

Growth Outlook: The outlook for nurse educators is very positive because their demand should continue to be high for many years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many nursing students are being turned away from programs due to a lack of qualified nurse educators. While the BLS does not provide data specific to nurse educators, the BLS estimates that there will be openings for 526,800 nurses added between 2012 and 2022.

Annual Salary Range: The annual salary of a clinical nurse educator is around $60,000 to $90,000.

10. Clinical Nurse Specialist

Description: A clinical nurse specialist is an advanced-practice expert who provides patient care and consultation services for a variety of health care areas. These professionals typically practice medicine, conduct research and manage staff within a specific type of patient population, medical specialty or setting. They are licensed registered nurses who must also have a master’s or doctoral degree in the field. They work in hospitals, clinics, medical offices and other health care facilities. They are usually experts in a specific area, such as gerontology, cardiovascular health or public policy. Also, they often serve in a supervisory capacity over other nurses, and they may be directly involved in the management or administration of a clinic or facility.

Qualification: A clinical nurse specialist must be a registered nurse who obtains the additional education and experience to specialize. Graduate programs typically offer specific areas of specialization such as oncology, women’s health or stem cell transplants.

Growth Outlook: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job prospects for nurses are expected to grow 19% from 2012 to 2022, which is a higher rate than the average for all professions.

Annual Salary Range: The annual salary range of a clinical nurse specialist is around $60,000 to $90,000.

11. Pediatric Endocrinology Nurse

Description: Pediatric endocrinology is a type of medical specialty dealing with children who have metabolic or growth disorders. They help young children suffering from disorders and diseases of the endocrine system such as type one diabetes, growth disorders, intersex disorders, hypoglycemia, and other disorders relating to the adrenal, thyroid, and pituitary glands.

Qualification: Before you can work as a pediatric endocrinology nurse, you must earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), an associate degree in nursing, or complete a nursing diploma program. Those who want to further their education in pediatric endocrinology, as well as have more options for career advancement, can earn a master’s degree or doctorate in nursing. Before beginning your career as a pediatric endocrinology nurse, it is important to gain experience working in areas such as pediatric nursing, diabetes education, endocrinology and internal medicine.

Growth Outlook: The career outlook for pediatric endocrinology nurse is good according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment in this field is expected to grow from 2012-2022.

Annual Salary Range: The annual salary of a pediatric endocrinology nurse ranges from $60,000 to $90,000. The salary outlook for these highly qualified nurses depends on the rank of position, as well as the type, size and location of the employer.

12. Orthopedic Nurse

Description: Orthopedic nurses provide crucial care to patients with musculoskeletal conditions. These nurses play an important role in providing care to patients who have bone fractures, degenerative diseases, joint replacement surgery or other conditions that affect the bones and muscles, in conjunction with orthopedic doctors and surgeons.

Qualification: To become a certified orthopedic nurse, you must first complete a registered nursing program at an accredited school. Once you have obtained your RN license, you can then take the orthopedic certification exam given by the Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board. Passing this exam and receiving certification will provide you with the credentials that indicate your expertise in this specialized field. Optional certifications in the area of specialization are available and might be preferred by employers.

Growth Outlook: Because orthopedic nurses are registered nurses and can be utilized in a variety of different medical settings, registered nurses remain one of the fastest growing professions in the nation. Due to the rising numbers of the aging population, the need for orthopedic nurses is expected to continue to grow.

Annual Salary Range: The annual salary range for a certified orthopedic nurse is around $60,000 to $85,000 although salaries can vary according to the nurse’s position and experience, the employer and the location. Most employers offer excellent benefit packages including paid sick days, holidays and vacation days.

13. Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

Description: Geriatric nurses conform medical care to the specific needs of elderly patients since the need for nursing homes, residential care facilities, and home care resources is growing exponentially. These medical practitioners must have the common education of a nurse, but specialize in gerontology upon completion of general studies.

Qualification: Nurses wishing to specialize in geriatric medicine have more options in degree programs as well as continuing education courses. Applicants for board certification as a geriatric nurse from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) should have two years of experience as an RN and 2,000 hours of clinical practice in geriatrics and must pass a certification exam. Geriatric nurses must be physically fit, able to stand and walk for extended periods, and strong enough to support the weight of patients who may be disoriented. Like most healthcare positions, a geriatric nurse job requires attention to detail, patience, understanding, empathy, and considerable resistance to physical and emotional stress.

Growth Outlook: Job opportunities for RNs are predicted to grow faster than average from 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Annual Salary Range: Unfortunately, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has no specific salary data for geriatric nurses, but the annual salary in general ranges from $60,000 to $75,000.

14. Pediatric Nurse

Description: A pediatric nurse is a registered nurse who specializes in the care of infants, children and adolescents. Their specialized training allows them to provide young patients and their families with emotional support and medical care. Pediatric RNs may work in a doctor’s office, clinic or outpatient care center, immunization center or hospital.

Qualification: In order to work in pediatric nursing, students must become registered nurses (RN). An RN education may be achieved in a few different ways – through hospitals or educational institutions. Although the coursework may be slightly different, graduates from these programs are eligible to take the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered nurse.

Growth Outlook: Projected job growth is 19% for all registered nurses from 2012 to 2022.

Annual Salary Range: The annual salary of a pediatric nurse ranges from $50,000 to $70,000.

15. Certified Dialysis Nurse

Description: A renal dialysis nurse, also referred to as nephrology nurse, is a certified registered nurse specializing in caring for patients with inherited or acquired kidney disease who need hemodialysis treatment. They can work in acute or chronic care settings like hospitals, homes, clinics or doctor’s offices.

Qualification: To become a dialysis nurse one must be a registered nurse and pass the state licensing exam for nursing. Specialty certification for dialysis nurses is also available. Additionally, some employers may require previous work experience. Working as a dialysis nurse also requires some formal education.

Growth Outlook: Projected job growth is 19% for all registered nurses from 2012 to 2022.

Annual Salary Range: The annual salary of a certified dialysis nurse is around $50,000 to $80,000.

16. Certified Legal Nurse Consultant (CLNC)

Can’t get enough of these nursing career specialties? Here’s another nursing career that may just be a right fit for you.

Description: Legal nurse consultants (CLNCs) are registered nurses who provide medical counsel on legal matters. often review medical records and reports for cases that involve personal injury, negligence, workers’ compensation, malpractice, or wrongful deaths. Some CLNCs work in law offices or from their homes. Others work for government agencies, insurance companies, or private corporations. CLNC is an excellent career for nurses not interested in working in a hospital.

Qualification: To become certified CLNCs, nurses must meet training requirements, pass certification exams, a current RN license, but a BSN is not required.

Growth Outlook: Legal nurse consulting is a specialty within the nursing field, and although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t collect data specifically on legal nurse consultants, it does gather data for RNs in general. According to the BLS’s 2010-2020 projections, employment of RNs was expected to increase by 26%.

Annual Salary Range: The annual salary of a legal nurse consultant is around $50,000 to $70,000.

Some people work for personal fulfillment; others work for love of what they do. Others work to accomplish goals and to feel as if they are contributing to something larger than themselves. But the bottom line is that we all work for money. In short, salary is important in the most basic sense.

There is no doubt that a career with a good pay can attract employees as well as motivate someone’s eagerness to perform in the best way they can because only if employees are motivated can they be more productive.

Gil Wayne ignites the minds of future nurses through his work as a part-time nurse instructor, writer, and contributor for Nurseslabs, striving to inspire the next generation to reach their full potential and elevate the nursing profession.

1 thought on “15 Highest Paying Nursing Careers”

  1. Great article. Gentle suggestion to think broader. What kind of jobs does a nursing degree lend itself to? Where else can the way a nurse thinks and their experience provide a valuable asset?
    An option – after getting a good grip on patient care, work as a Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC,) conducting pharma studies in hospitals/academic setting. After a few years, apply to Pharma or CROs to work as a CRA (travel job overseeing the research conduct done at sites, or in-house at the Pharma/CRO, which is increasingly remote. (Work from home!) Then transition to Clinical Operations planning and overseeing Pharma studies. You will never make under $150,000 again… to work from home, while supporting studies on drugs/devices which are the future of tomorrow’s treatments. Love my job. Best of luck!


Leave a Comment

Share to...