Being a registered nurse is a rewarding career path with a median annual salary of $68.45. However, if you're looking to advance your career and thrive, consider earning additional certifications, obtaining advanced degrees and developing skills within a specialized area of nursing. Not only can advancing your skillsets potentially help you increase your earnings but it can also help you qualify for positions within prestigious healthcare organizations.
Factors That Affect Nurses' Salaries
There are a variety of factors that can affect the salary of a nurse. If you are interested in a career as a nurse or are a nurse looking to advance your career, it’s important to know how you can potentially increase your earnings.
- Education: This should come as no surprise, but the more advanced your education is, the more qualified you'll be for high-paying nursing specialties.
- Work Experience: The more nursing experience you have, the more value you have to offer to an employer.
- Location: When it comes to pay rate, your location matters. If you live in an area with a higher cost of living, your pay rate may be higher to compensate.
- Shifts: Nurses who work the less ideal shifts like the night shift will typically make more than those on the day-shift. In addition, working holidays or filling in to earn overtime will also increase your shift pay.
- Employer: The salary of nurses also varies based on your employer. For example, nurses employed at hospital typically get paid more than nurses at doctors’ offices.
- Specialty: Perhaps the single biggest impact on earning potential for a nurse is your area of specialization. As you can see below, education, experience and market demand combine to increase pay dramatically for key specialties.
High Paying Nursing Specialties
Note: All salaries mentioned below are average earnings to be used a baseline to help with your research. Actual salaries will vary.
1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
CRNAs are highly skilled nurses who work in conjunction with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists and other healthcare professionals to prepare and administer anesthesia to patients.
Requirements: To become a CRNA, you must obtain a minimum of a Master's degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia program and pass the National Certification Exam upon completion.
Average salary: $133,00 per year.
Job outlook: The projected growth outlook for CRNAs is 31% from 2016 to 2026.
2. Certified Nurse Midwife
For nurses interested in labor and delivery and prenatal care, becoming a certified nurse midwife is the perfect specialization field. CNMs can work in OB/GYN offices, hospital settings, clinics or even open their own practice.
Requirement: To become a certified nurse midwife, nurses must go through the American Midwifery Certification Board to obtain the Certified Nurse-Midwife designations.
Average salary: $102,390 per year
Job Outlook: The projected growth outlook for CNMs is 31% from 2016 to 2026.
3. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners offer mental, emotional and physiological support to patients and their families during a crisis or ongoing mental treatment. The work of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners often helps patients avoid poverty or isolation as a result of their conditions.
Requirements: To become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, nurses must obtain either a MSN or DNP degree as well as be certified through the American Nurse Credentialing Center.
Average salary: $102,000 per year
Job Outlook: Psychiatric nurse practitioners show a predicted growth rate of 26% by 2020.
4. Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners are in extremely high demand. Depending on the state, nurse practitioners can operate their own family care practices and prescribe controlled substances. This role works in collaboration with primary care physicians.
Requirements: To become a nurse practitioner, nurses must obtain either a MSN or DNP degree.
Average salary: $95,350 per year
Job Outlook: The projected growth outlook for is 31% from 2016 to 2026.
5. Pain Management Nurse
Pain management nurses work with patients who suffer from chronic pain or post-surgery patients to help determine the cause of pain and provide treatment. Pain management nurses also help educate the patients about effective, safe pain management to avoid prescription medication dependency.
Requirements: To become a pain management nurse, you'll need a bachelor's degree in nursing and at least 2,000 hours of nursing pain management field experience.
Average salary: $90,288 per year
Job Outlook: The projected growth outlook is 15% by 2026.
6. Nurse Researcher
Nurse researchers are essentially scientist that research issues dealing with nursing. Nurse researchers work closely with medical and research organizations to perform clinical studies. Another key part of this position is writing grant proposals to obtain funding for the studies.
Requirements: To become a nurse researcher, you'll need a minimum of a MSN. However, a doctorate in nursing is often required. In addition, experience or further training in clinical studies is preferred.
Salary average: $90,000 per year
Job Outlook: The projected growth outlook for a nurse researcher is 26% by 2022.
7. Clinical Nurse Specialist
As a clinical nurse specialist, you’ll be working in specialized units or clinics to diagnose or treat various conditions. Clinical nurse specialist can also become specialized in a specific illness.
Requirements: In order to become a clinical nurse specialist, you'll need a MSN with a specialization in clinical nursing.
Average salary: $75,000 - $85,000 per year.
Job Outlook: The projected growth outlook for a clinical nurse specialist is 26% by 2022.
8. Critical Care Nurse
Critical care nurses typically work within hospitals’ ICUs dealing with life-and-death situations on a daily basis.
Requirements: While there are no specific requirements beyond a bachelor’s degree to work in critical care, you should consider taking the CCRN certification exam.
Average salary: $76,563 per year
Job Outlook: The projected growth outlook for critical care nurses is 16% by 2022.
9. Nursing Administrator
A nursing administrator works within the back-end operations of nursing including staff management and budgeting.
Requirements: To become a nursing administrator, you’ll typically need a Master’s degree in healthcare administration as well as state licensing.
Average salary: $79,064 per year
Job Outlook: The projected growth outlook for a nursing administrator is 23% by 2022.
10. Medical-Surgical Nurse
Medical-surgical nurses are seen as the front lines of the nursing profession. These nurses work directly with patients of all ages and conditions before and after medical procedures. Due to the varying demands, Medical surgical nurses must remain diverse and sharp in all realms of nursing.
Requirements: After two years of field experience as a RN, nurses can take the Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse exam.
Average salary: $77,492
Job Outlook: The projected growth outlook for medical-surgical nurses is 16% by 2022.