Seven high-paying nursing jobs
Want to earn a healthy paycheck in nursing? Get the right advanced education and training to pursue one of these seven well-paying careers.
Nursing may be a labor of love, but it is also a profession in which some additional education and training can go a long way toward taking your job title—and salary—to the next level. We gathered seven of the highest-paid nurses in the profession, covering a range of positions and requiring various degrees and certifications, with salary data from PayScale.
In addition to your specialty, salary will also depend on your experience level and where in the country you're employed. For example, a certified nurse midwife salary in Henderson, Nevada, is 20% higher than the national average; a nurse director salary in Brooklyn is 2% higher than the national average; and a nurse practitioner salary in Boston is 2% higher than the national average.
Head of nursing / Chief Nursing Officer
Typical requirements: Master’s degree in area of specialty and at least 15 years of experience
Average annual salary: $127,762
Combining strong nursing experience with the overall planning, personnel oversight and policy-making duties of a top executive, one of nursing’s top big-picture positions is also one that brings home the biggest bucks. While the position leans strongly toward the executive end (most hospitals require a master’s degree in nursing and many are hoping for an MBA as well), hands-on nursing experience is also important for conveying the nursing staff’s needs to top management. The head of nursing—also called chief nursing officer (CNO) or chief nursing executive—reflects the senior nurse management position in an organization.
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Typical requirements: Master’s degree plus certification
Average annual salary: $150,699
The highest-paid nurses of all nursing specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) also require the most education and training. In addition to a four-year nursing or science degree, CRNAs must be licensed RNs with at least a year of experience in an acute-care setting. Then it’s another two-plus years in an anesthesia education program before passing the certification exam. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the nation’s 39,000 CRNAs administer 30 million anesthetics to patients annually. And they practice everywhere anesthesia is administered, such as surgical suites, dentist offices and plastic surgery centers. Chief nurse anesthetists, who are also responsible for managing, scheduling and training staff anesthetists, earn an additional $10,000 to $20,000 annually.
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Typical requirements: RN, advanced degree in nursing
Average annual salary: $88,848
From budgeting to policy setting to scheduling, the nursing director oversees all aspects of a department’s nursing staff and often serves as a liaison between the staff and hospital administrators. Like any direct supervisory role, the nursing director —also called the nursing supervisor in some organizations—usually rises through the ranks with people skills, project-management ability and leadership aspirations. The nursing director often serves as the nursing program administrator, setting policies and performance standards and directly supervising nursing staff.
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Certified nurse midwife
Typical requirements: RN program followed by midwifery program for either certification or a master’s degree
Average annual salary: $94,375
Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) attend an estimated 300,000 births per year in settings ranging from hospitals to homes, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But CNMs do more than deliver babies. They also provide a wide range of care to female patients, including family-planning education, gynecological exams, and prenatal and postnatal care. In hospitals, CNMs often work closely with OB/GYNs. While the educational requirements vary by state, as of 2010, all CNMs are required to hold a master’s degree (such as a master of science in nursing).
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Typical requirements: Master’s degree and certification as a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner (CRNP) in specialty area
Average annual salary: $94,771
Most states require nurse practitioners (NPs) to work collaboratively with physicians; however, roughly a dozen states allow NPs to open their own clinics, while a dozen or so others require NPs to work under the supervision of a physician. Regardless of the physician relationship, nurse practitioners provide a wide range of health services, usually specializing in areas such as family practice, women’s health or pediatrics in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and private practice. (Emergency room and pediatric NPs tend to earn the highest salaries.) Depending on the state, NPs often diagnose and treat acute illnesses, injuries and infections.
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Typical requirements: RN with at least five years of direct experience
Average annual salary: $68,984
Whether it’s in an ICU, CCU, OR, ER or obstetrics department, if there’s more than one nurse, there’s usually a head nurse. While still dealing directly with patients, the head nurse is also responsible for patient records, performance reports, inventory levels and the day-to-day duties important to every nursing department.
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Clinical nurse specialist
Typical requirements: Master’s degree and at least five years of experience
Average annual salary: $89,900
If you like your nursing infused with some scholarly research, number crunching and data evaluation, the clinical nurse specialist (CNS) job might be for you. In addition to treating and diagnosing patients, CNSes also focus on assessing a hospital’s procedures, processes and personnel. The job of a CNS is often broken down into three spheres of influence as defined by the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists: patient/family, nursing personnel/practice and system/network organization.
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The highest-paid nurses are also some of the highest in demand nurses. So if you qualify for one of these jobs, you're a hot commodity. Could you use some help getting in front of top hiring managers? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads.