What are the best paying nursing jobs? 6 worth considering
It didn’t take you long to recognize that becoming a nurse was the right choice for you. There’s an undeniable sense of satisfaction you gain from providing excellent patient care each and every day. Nursing also appeals to your insatiable appetite for knowledge, because there’s always more to learn.
But while you enjoy working as a registered nurse, you’re also interested in pursuing a more advanced position. Maybe you’re eager to expand your scope of practice or add a new specialization to your resume. Perhaps you’re even thinking about transitioning to an alternative career path.
The good news is there are plenty of opportunities for providers like you who are eager to advance. You’ll find information about some of these best-paying nursing jobs below. As you review these roles, keep your professional and financial goals in mind. You may just discover your future career.
6 of the best-paying nursing jobs for practitioners looking to advance
The first four roles below are types of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), expert clinicians who are trained to provide exceptional patient care. But you’ll also notice there are some alternative nursing jobs with a higher earning potential. Regardless of which direction you want to take your career, being a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a crucial starting point.
“Advanced practice nurses may be found in a wide variety of clinical settings where they provide primary, emergency, and specialty care for patients across the lifespan. They have the training to assess, diagnose, and provide treatment in their role.” Dr. April Dobroth, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, DNP, FNP-c, PMHNP-B
1. Nurse anesthetist
Nurse anesthetists are highly trained providers who administer anesthesia, monitor patients during procedures and oversee the recovery process that follows. They work closely with surgeons and other members of the health care team to coordinate patient care. Because nurse anesthetists work with patients of all different ages and backgrounds, they need outstanding bedside manner.
Anyone interested in pursuing this career path who begins their education on or after January 1, 2022 will be required to pursue a terminal degree like a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and complete education and training specifically focused on anesthesia. Some students do this by pursuing a doctoral program with an anesthesia emphasis, while others complete a post-graduate certificate after obtaining a DNP. You’ll also need to pass the National Certification Examination from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists and obtain licensure in your state.
Earning potential: The median annual salary for nurse anesthetists in 2019 was $174,790.
2. Nurse practitioner
Probably the best-known health care professionals on this list, nurse practitioners are APRNs who are qualified to treat a wide range of conditions. Depending on their state, they may work autonomously or under the supervision of a physician. Nurse practitioners can also choose to become certified in a number of specialties through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), including the following:
- Family nurse practitioner
- Emergency nurse practitioner
- Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner
- Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner
- Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner
To become a nurse practitioner, you’ll need at least a master’s degree. That said, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has recommended making the DNP the entry-level standard for all APRNs, including nurse practitioners, since 2004. Before you can practice as one of these providers, you’ll also need to obtain the corresponding specialty certification and become licensed in your state.
Earning potential: The median annual salary for nurse practitioners in 2019 was $109,820.
3. Nurse midwife
Midwifery is a profession that’s been around for hundreds of years, but it’s evolved significantly over time. Nurses who specialize in this field today provide care for women through pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum recovery. But they also focus on many other aspects of reproductive health, and some even work with their patients’ partners.
As with all other APRN roles, a master’s degree is required to pursue a career as a nurse midwife. A DNP can further prepare you for this career by providing a more extensive education that can equip you to navigate complex patient care and fill the void left by physician shortages. Nurse midwifes also need to pass the American Midwifery Certification Board certification exam and obtain state licensure.
Earning potential: The median annual salary for nurse midwives in 2019 was $105,030.
4. Clinical nurse specialist
The fourth and final type of APRN, a clinical nurse specialist, is an expert provider who focuses on a specialty like a particular population, a specific disease or a type of care. These nurses serve a unique role that includes treating patients, sharing their expertise with other nurses and driving change across their organizations. As both leaders and clinicians, they’re able to identify gaps in care and help design, implement and assess interventions that aim to improve patient outcomes.
A master’s degree is the minimum education required to become a clinical nurse specialist. But it can be beneficial to obtain a doctoral degree not just because the AACN supports it, but because DNP programs tend to emphasize the leadership, administration and technology skills clinical nurse specialists rely on. Additional requirements can vary by specialty, but every aspiring clinical nurse specialist will need to pass a certification exam like those offered by the ANCC and become licensed in their state.
Earning potential: The median annual salary for clinical nurse specialists in 2019 was $73,300.
5. Nurse administrator
If you’re interested in stepping into more of a leadership role, you might want to consider becoming a nurse administrator. This role involves overseeing a medical department or even an entire health care facility. In a typical day, a nurse administrator may complete any of the following duties:
- Recruiting and hiring new nurses
- Creating budgets and managing finances
- Making purchasing decisions
- Developing and ensuring adherence to policies
- Conducting performance reviews
- Managing nurses and other medical staff
Every nurse administrator needs to have at least a master’s degree as well as a substantial amount of nursing experience. But you might find it’s worth it to obtain a DNP because it can further improve your job prospects, particularly if you also earn a specialty certification. Both the ANCC and the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) offer relevant certification exams.
Earning potential: The median annual salary for nurse administrators in 2019 was $100,980.
6. Nursing instructor
Perhaps the nursing instructors you learned from have inspired you to consider going into teaching. While responsibilities will vary depending on the specific role, nursing instructors generally work with students in classrooms and labs to help students develop the knowledge and clinical skills they need to succeed. As with most nursing professions, instructors can focus on any number of specialties. Some even participate in research.
As with every other profession on this list, you’ll need a minimum of a master’s degree to become a nursing instructor. But if you have your sights set on teaching at the graduate level, you’ll need to obtain a doctoral degree like a DNP. Nursing experience and specialty certifications can also help you secure a position.
Earning potential: The median annual salary for nursing instructors in 2019 was $74,600.
Achieve the advanced nursing career you crave
Now that you’ve had time to explore some of the best-paying nursing jobs, you might recognize there are one or more positions that catch your eye. If so, it’s a good idea to think about how your current qualifications stack up against the typical expectations. It’s not uncommon to find that the roles you’re most interested in require additional education.
While having a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is usually sufficient for pursuing an advanced nursing career, you might want to think about going a step further and obtaining a DNP. The latter type of degree can benefit your career in many ways.
Learn more by reading Brandman’s article “MSN vs. DNP: Which advanced nursing degree is right for you.”
*Salary figures are based on national averages, and more detailed breakdowns are often available through industry-specific professional associations reports.
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