7 High Paying Nursing Jobs

googleplus 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.

Pay should not be your only consideration when deciding on a specialty, but the list below of the highest paying nursing jobs is a good primer on which types of nurses have the greatest earning potential.

You worked hard to get where you are. Now you want to make the most of your career by obtaining the highest salary possible! Here are seven top-paying jobs in the profession, covering a range of positions and requiring various degrees and certifications, with salary data from the Salary Wizard:


> Clinical Nurse Specialist

Median Salary: $81,489
Typical Requirements: Master’s degree and at least five years of experience

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.


> Nurse Practitioner

Median Salary: $83,194
Typical Requirements: Master’s degree and certification as a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner (CRNP) in specialty area

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.


> Head Nurse

Median Salary: $87,322, higher in certain departments
Typical Requirements: RN with at least five years of direct experience

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.


> Certified Nurse Midwife

Median Salary: $89,975
Typical Requirements: RN program followed by midwifery program for either certification or a master’s degree

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, all CNMs will be required to hold a master’s degree (such as a master of science in nursing) by 2010.


> Nursing Director

Median Salary: $109,669
Typical Requirements: RN, advanced degree in nursing

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.


> Nurse Anesthetist

Median Salary: $146,349
Typical Requirements: Master’s degree plus certification

The highest paid 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.


> Head of Nursing

Median Salary: $178,884
Typical Requirements: Master’s degree in area of specialty and at least 15 years of experience

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 or chief nursing executive — reflects the senior nurse management position in an organization.

Now that you've read through the list, let us know what you think. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


  1. The commentator above is exactly right! The salaries listed for NP’s were very low. That is a starting salary right out of school in over saturated areas. NP’s in Anesthesia, Psych and Orthopaedics routinely make in the 140-160 range – and earn every penny.

  2. You are correct, this article lists very low salary levels for NP’s. NP specialties are pushing into the 150-160 range for Orthopaedics, Nurse Anesthesia and Psych specialties.

  3. After reading thru your list I find inaccuracies. Average Nurse Practitioner salaries are in the 100-120k range of course depending on state much higher for anesthetists and some midwife positions. Psychiatric NPs are also pushing the tops salaries.

    Nurse practitioners are independent in 22 states (see map at: https://www.aanp.org/images/documents/state-leg-reg/stateregulatorymap.pdf ) for the green states. For specific state practice environments see http://www.bartonassociates.com/nurse-practitioners/nurse-practitioner-scope-of-practice-laws/ for what types of limitations exist.

    The sooner NPs can be independent of doctors, the sooner we can stop giving up income we earn to those who unnecessarily oppress our practice for the sake of protecting their own turf. Federal anti-trust is also sending letters to states intending on further restricting practice without research to indicate said need. They are also looking at state practices that impede interstate trade such as individual state licensing creating artificial boundaries. When these issues are resolve, the compensation of NPs will sore.

  4. After reading thru this information..I am sure that I want to advance my career education until I get to the epitome of nursing as a professional. Thank you for this information.


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