The Highest Paying Nursing Specialties

nursing salaries

If you’re a nurse, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “no one ever goes into nursing for the money,” but there are ways to make an above average living and enjoy a career in nursing. Medscape recently surveyed 3,545 Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) and 7,145 nurses (LPN/RNs) in two separate reports to evaluate nursing trends in salaries. The following are the highest paid nursing salaries, based on specialty. 

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist 

The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is the highest paid clinical specialty in nursing overall. Annually, CRNAs brought home roughly $188K per year according the the Medscape survey, far exceeding any other specialty. Seventy-eight percent of CRNAs are employed in an inpatient setting and many do work on-call hours as well as a full-time regular schedule. To become a CRNA, registered nurses must typically have a minimum of two years of critical care nursing experience plus a Masters degree or Doctorate degree obtained in an accredited CRNA program. They also must pass their specialty specific board certification exam. Another consideration regarding CRNA school is that clinicals are intense. It is impossible to work while going to school. Therefore, the cost of going to CRNA school is more upfront, but because the return is so high, a CRNA will likely be able to catch up in the long run. 

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners are the next highest paid clinical specialty in nursing, earning roughly $114K per year according to the Medscape survey. However, many other sources indicate that Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners can earn in upwards of $120K per year. To become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner from most programs, one must have experience as a psychiatric RN and a Masters or Doctorate degree obtained from an accredited program and pass their specific board certification exam. Regarding the experience, some programs will accept nurses without psychiatric RN experience. It’s important to note the different requirements prior to applying.

Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner 

According to the Medscape survey, Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNPs) earn roughly $114K per year. Thirty-seven percent work in hospital settings and earn more than their outpatient counterparts. To become an AGACNP, nurses must have around two years of experience depending on the school. AGACNPs must have a Masters or Doctorate degree obtained from an accredited program and pass their specialty board certification exam

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

The Medscape survey ranks Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners (AGPCNP) as the next highest paid nursing specialty, earning $111K annually. The path to become an AGPCNP is similar to that of an AGACNP, but the areas of practice are different. Typically bedside experience is required, a Master’s or Doctorate is required from an accredited program, and a board certification is required as well. However, while the AGACNP works mostly inpatient, the AGPCNP works mostly outpatient. If outpatient care is something you’re interested in, consider becoming an AGACNP. 

Travel Nurse

By this point, you have probably noticed that the specialties on this list all require advanced degrees. However, with travel nursing, bedside nurses can earn anywhere from $2K-3K per week without an advanced degree. Although location does matter, travel nurses can easily make a living that rivals a nurse with an advanced practice degree. To be a travel nurse, you typically need two years of experience in the specialty you would like to travel. Next, you reach out to an agency and start the process of traveling. Contracts are 7-13 weeks and usually can be renewed. A travel nurse will make more money the more flexible she or he is. 

Some Considerations

Although Medscape has released a salary report for nurses and advanced practice nurses, there are exceptions to every rule. Of note, experience matters. The more experience one has, the more money she or he will make as a bedside nurse. The schedule you choose to work also matters. If a nurse works night shifts, holidays, and weekends, salary will be higher. Finally, nurses working in higher paying states, like California, will make much more as a bedside nurse than a nurse in Oklahoma. Thus, location matters when it comes to nursing salaries. Overall, there are countless ways to make a great living as a nurse and have a fulfilling career. The specialties listed above are just a few. 

nursing salaries

Ms. LeVeck is a cardiovascular surgical intensive care unit Nurse Practitioner in the Midwest and is the writer and creator behind Nurse Abnormalities blog and brand. She can be found at @nurseabnormalities on Instagram.

Try BoardVitals free for 10 days.

Free Trial. No credit card required.