Top Nursing Jobs According to Salary

Nursing is a rewarding profession that enables people to provide compassionate care for individuals who are going through difficult situations. It is also one of the highest-paying professions in the United States. In fact, nurses who choose to specialize in specific fields could earn nearly $160,000 per year, and even the lowest-paying nursing jobs pay roughly $90,000. This guide will provide information about the duties and average salaries of different nursing roles so that you can make the choice that is right for you.

1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (Average Salary: $183,789)

A certified registered nurse anesthetist is responsible for prescribing and administering anesthesia to patients. These nursing professionals typically administer general anesthesia for major operations, and their duties can also include the administration of epidurals, spinal anesthesia, and nerve blocks. 

Nurse anesthetists work in many different clinical settings, including hospitals, military medical facilities, and outpatient surgical centers. While they have a large degree of autonomy, nurse anesthetists could choose to work alongside dentists, podiatrists, plastic surgeons, or pain management specialists to provide anesthesia services at these clinics. 

In addition to administering anesthesia, the nurse anesthetist must take the patient’s complete health history to identify any potential allergens or medical issues that could affect the dosage, type, or administration route for the anesthesia. The nurse anesthetist provides patient care before, during, and after the procedure in which the anesthesia is used. He or she answers the patient’s questions prior to the operation, monitors the patient’s vital signs during the surgery, and accompanies the patient to the recovery room after the procedure. 

Due to the advanced clinical skills required for this specialty, nurse anesthetists normally complete at least two or three more years of training than registered nurses or licensed practitioner nurses. While graduate degrees are not specifically required for registered nurses or licensed practitioner nurses, certified registered nurse anesthetists are required to be licensed as registered nurses, and they must have at least one year of nursing experience in an acute care setting such as an emergency room or an intensive care unit. They must have a master’s degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia program, and the degree can take between 24 to 36 months to complete. In addition, nurse anesthetists must pass the national certification exam, and they must earn at least 100 continuing education credits every four years to maintain their certification. 

Across the United States, salaries for nurse anesthetists range from $168,906 to $200,493. California, New York, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia are the highest-paying areas in the nation. For example, certified nurse anesthetists working in San Francisco currently earn an average annual salary of $230,288 (25 percent above the national average), and salaries in the city range from $211,639 to $251,218. Those working in New York City make roughly $222,385, and salaries there generally range between $204,376 and $242,597. In Massachusetts, nurse anesthetists in Boston can expect to earn an annual salary of $207,443, and salaries in this location typically fall somewhere between $190,644 and $226,297. The District of Columbia pays nurse anesthetists $203,399 on average, and salaries in the capital range from $186,928 and $221,886. Chicago, Miami, and Dallas are other high-paying areas for this specialty. 

2. Nurse Practitioner (Average Salary: $112,402)

Nurse practitioners are among the highest paid nurses in the country. Individuals who work in this specialty typically work in family medicine clinics and provide basic preventative care to patients. Like physicians, nurse practitioners can perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat conditions, and prescribe medication. Depending on the state in which the nurse practitioner works, he or she may be able to do all of these tasks with complete autonomy. In certain states, including New York, nurse practitioners operate under reduced practice rules and must collaborate with a second healthcare provider in at least one of these aspects of patient care. In California, Texas, Florida, and other restricted practice states, nurse practitioners are required to work with direct supervision or under the management of a team for certain aspects of patient care.

Roughly 55 percent of nurse practitioners specialize in family medicine, and they provide primary care services to patients of all ages. More than 20 percent of nurse practitioners choose gerontology as their specialty, providing care for seniors. Other popular specialties include pediatrics, acute care, women’s health, and psychiatric mental health. Nurse practitioners have an especially wide variety of specializations available to them, and many professionals working in this field have reported that the versatility of the position was one of their main reasons for choosing to become a nurse practitioner. In addition to the specializations outlined above, nurse practitioners can specialize in cardiology, neurology, neonatology, oncology, surgery, occupational health, dermatology, and many other disciplines. 

Like nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners must complete a master’s degree, and it is now recommended that they complete a doctoral degree in nursing practice to be competitive within the field. Prospective nurse practitioners must be certified as registered nurses and gain one to two years of nursing experience in their chosen specialty before applying to graduate school. After completing their graduate degree, nurse practitioners will need to obtain a regional license and a specialty certification.

So, how much does a nurse practitioner make? That depends on the specialty. General nurse practitioners and emergency medicine nurse practitioners earn an average np salary of $112,400 and those specializing in family medicine make a nurse practitioner salary of roughly $108,978. Nurse practitioners in the area of mental health make approximately $125,496. 

While national averages are useful, many prospective entrants to the nurse practitioner field might wonder which areas of the country offer the highest np salary. They might ask, “How much does a nurse practitioner make in my state, and what could I make if I practiced in another state?” Nurse practitioners in California currently enjoy salaries that are more than 20 percent above the national average for a nurse practitioner salary, making around $128,031. Practitioners in Hawaii earn around $130,437 and those in Alaska earn $136,485. New York, New Jersey, and New Hampshire all offer salaries between $112,455 and $116,294. The lowest-paying states are West Virginia, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, and Florida. Nurse practitioners in these states typically earn salaries between $95,000 to $100,000. 

3. Certified Nurse Midwife (Average Salary: $109,040)

A certified nurse midwife is a nursing professional who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology. These professionals provide family planning services, perform gynecological exams, and attend births. They provide care for patients before, during, and after childbirth, and they also treat newborns. They measure and monitor fetal development, and they provide education on newborn nutrition and health for both expectant and new parents.

Certified nurse midwives are typically salaried employees at hospitals, physician’s offices, outpatient care centers, specialty clinics, or universities. Physician’s offices are the largest employer for certified nurse midwives, and hospitals are the second-largest employer for this profession. To become a nurse midwife, one must have a bachelor’s degree and be certified as a registered nurse. After gaining at least one year of experience as a registered nurse, students can apply to a master’s program in nurse midwifery. The program generally takes two years to complete. Enrolling in a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission of Midwifery Education is advisable so that students are eligible to take the national certification exam that is offered by the American Midwifery Certification Board. Many employers require this certification as a condition of practice, and it can be renewed every five years by retaking the certification exam or by completing continuing education.

Nurse midwives working in San Francisco are currently the highest paid nurses in this field in the nation, earning roughly $136,627 (more than 25 percent above the national average). Nurse midwives who practice in the Washington, D.C. area earn approximately $120,675 (10 percent more than the national average), and those working in New York City earn around $131,938 (12 percent more than the national average). 

4. Clinical Nurse Specialist (Average Salary: $105,642)

Clinical nurse specialists provide patient care and serve as leaders and managers for other nurses. In addition to assessing patients, ordering diagnostic tests, and developing a treatment plan, clinical nurse specialists serve as supervisors for nursing staff. They can set policies and are responsible for maintaining compliance with patient care regulations. These professionals work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, clinics, and other medical facilities, and they can choose from a number of specialization areas. For example, some clinical nurse specialists focus on pediatrics or community health, and others might choose to become experts in cardiology, behavioral health, critical care, or hospice. 

To become a clinical nurse specialist, one must be a registered nurse and obtain a master’s degree or doctoral degree in nursing. Doctoral degrees are required for those who want to focus primarily on research. The candidate must also pass a certification exam in a specific patient population area. Currently, certification exams are offered in adult care, gerontology, neonatology, and pediatrics. Additional requirements may be in place in certain states. 

Clinical nurse specialists practicing in the United States earn a salary that ranges from $95,516 to $115,717. Those working in San Francisco earn among the highest salaries in the country. The average salary in that area is $132,369, and salaries in the vicinity range from $119,681 to $144,994. Clinical nurse specialists in the New York City area earn 21 percent more than the national average; a typical salary in that city is $127,826, and salaries generally range between $115,574 to $140,018. Chicago is another top-paying area for clinical nurse specialists. Salaries in the area average roughly $111,980, and area employees could receive between $101,247 and $122,660 depending on experience and specific employer. 

5. Pain Management Nurse (Average Salary: $103,556)

Pain management nurses specialize in caring for patients with chronic pain. They assist patients in managing pain caused by a variety of conditions, including fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, cancer, strokes, and headaches. They also help individuals who are recovering from accidents and injuries. Pain management nurses are qualified to administer intravenous, intramuscular, and intrathecal pain relievers, and they often administer medications used for conscious sedation. They are responsible for monitoring patients who have been sedated, and they assist patients in the recovery room after sedation. In addition to medication administration, pain management nurses may use alternative treatment techniques such as acupuncture, massage, relaxation techniques, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.

Nurses who specialize in pain management often work in oncology, sports medicine, and rehabilitation. They are primarily employed in hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, and private medical offices.

To become a pain management nurse, individuals must have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. They must then pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed as a registered nurse. To obtain board certification in pain management, registered nurses are required to have an active, current registered nurse license, and they must have at least two years of full-time work experience as a registered nurse. Their work experience must be in a position that incorporates pain management in some way, and they must have accumulated at least 2,000 hours of experience in the previous three years. In addition, candidates must show that they have completed at least 30 hours of continuing education within the past three years, and 15 of the 30 hours must have been completed in the area of pain management. Once these requirements are met, the candidate can take the computer-based exam for board certification in pain management. Certification is valid for five years. Pain management nurses who hope to perform invasive pain management techniques may need to have additional certifications in the areas of sedation and advanced cardiac life support. 

Pain management nurses practicing in the state of New York earn an average of $120,465, and they can earn up to $184,000 in New York City. In Utica, New York, pain management nurses earn roughly $131,252, more than 25 percent above the national average. The top salary for pain management nurses in Utica is 198,000. In Nevada, the average salary for nurses specializing in this field is $115,860. Those working in North Carolina earn just over $71,000, and employees in Texas earn roughly $83,000.

Nursing has many fulfilling and enjoyable career options. If you are considering a career in nursing or looking to advance your nursing career, consider applying to our Pre-Nursing or Nursing Internship Programs. We offer aspiring and current nurses valuable opportunities to learn and practice their skills in underserved communities around the world, including East Africa, the Caribbean, and South America. Pre-nursing students, current nursing students, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and licensed practical nurses can join our program, and we offer opportunities to specialize in areas such as critical care, cardiac nursing, pediatric nursing, neonatal nursing, community health, and orthopedic nursing. We would love to have you on our team!