Look, we know that you haven’t chosen nursing as a profession based on pay alone (you haven’t, have you?), but equally, it’s important to understand not only what you can expect financially from your chosen profession, but also what kind of work you can expect to do in choosing a high-paying nursing career. So without further ado (and in no particular order), here are ten of the highest-paying nursing specialties currently available within the nursing profession.
Nursing Specialties – Highest Paying
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) has been at the top of the nursing specialty pay scale for quite a few years running. CRNAs are a part of a surgical team that work out of an operating theater delivering anesthesia to patients during surgical procedures. A CRNA can work with an anesthesiologist, or may work independently, depending on the particular laws of the state in which you reside or the policy of a particular institution.
A CRNA is an advanced-practice career track, so you will need to follow a path that leads to your certification as a nurse practitioner. You’ll start by earning a Bachelors degree in nursing, and must gain experience in ICU/Critical Care before going on to apply to CRNA school, where you will earn a Masters degree in nurse anesthesia. You must also pass a national board certification exam in order to practice.
CRNA school is notoriously tough – one of the toughest programs a nurse can opt for, but the payoff is rewarding. Salaries for CRNAs range from $100,000 to $160,000, depending on experience. Yes, it’s an exceptionally good salary, but trust us, you will earn every penny.
Nurse Practitioner (NP)
Lumping all Nurse Practitioners (NPs) into one category is a little bit misleading, because within the profession, there’s a wide range of NP jobs out there: Family Nurse Practitioners work in GP offices and clinics, Acute Care Nurse Practitioners work in hospitals, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners work in psychiatric hospitals and clinics, as well as outpatient facilities and in the community. Gerontological Nurse Practitioners work in care homes and hospitals, Emergency Nurse Practitioners work in Emergency Rooms and urgent care centers…the list goes on and on. There is a lot of crossover within the profession, depending on the particular experience of the particular NP.
What is consistent however, is the educational process. As with the CRNA career path, the NP is an advanced practice specialty, and you must earn both a Bachelors and a Masters degree as well as gain the relevant experience and pass a national board certification exam in order to practice. Average salaries range form $75,000 to $100,000.
Certified Nurse Midwives
The path to become a Certified Nurse Midwife is similar to that of the other advanced practice specialties, and requires a Bachelors and a Masters degree, relevant experience, and the passing of a nurse-midwife certification program. In the past, nurses without a Bachelors degree could become midwives through experience-based entry to a course by the American College of Nurses and Midwives, but this practice has widely fallen out of favor.
Nurse Midwives not only help to deliver babies, they also provide women’s health exams, pre and post-natal health checks and education, and family planning counselling. Salaries range from $75,000 to $100,000.
Nurse researchers design and implement scientific studies that aim to improve health or systems that are in place. Nurse Researchers can work in a variety of environments from labs and research facilities to hospitals and universities.
While there is no educational requirement above a Bachelors degree per se, you’ll likely find it difficult to land one of these positions without a Masters, or even a PhD. Relevant experience is a must, and most nurses looking to go down this career path will have experience in clinical data coordination, research monitoring, or as a research assistant. Average pay ranges from $65,000 to $100,000, depending on experience.
Certified Legal Nurse Consultant (CLNC)
Certified Legal Nurse Consultants provide legal counsel on medical matters. They often review medical charts, and may occasionally appear in court to testify in maters such as malpractice, personal injury, negligence, or wrongful death. They often work in law firms, although many may also work from home.
An Associate or Bachelors degree is required, along with current RN licensure in the state that you are practicing. Nurses must have at least 5 years of clinical nursing experience, and 2,000 documented hours of legal nurse consulting in order to become certified as a CLNC. While certification is not required in all states to practice as a CLNC, you may find it difficult to gain employment without it. Many CLNCs find their way to certification by working as an intern for a law firm. The average salary range for a CLNC is $50,000 to $80,000.
Nurse Managers, sometimes also referred to as ward managers, oversee the day to day operations of hospital wards. They must posses a unique blend of both clinical and managerial skills, as well as possess a fairly high tolerance for the administrative aspect of running a ward (in other words, paperwork).
While not all employers set an educational requirement for becoming a nurse manager, but your nest bet is to earn your Bachelors degree and familiarize yourself with the management principals, either by taking a class or shadowing a manager who does the type of work you aspire to. If you wish to rise through the ranks of an institution and arrive in a position as an administrator, you will definitely need a Masters degree in either healthcare or business administration. The American Organization of Nurse executives has a certification exam for nursing administrators that your employer may require once you rise in the ranks. Salary averages for Nursing Management range from $75,000 to $100,000.
Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE)
This is another nursing specialty title that is quite a broad sweep of the brush, but generally speaking, a Clinical Nurse Educator refers to a nurse who is charged with the education and hands-on clinical training of student nurses. There are other nurse educator positions within large hospitals that encompass the continuing education and ongoing training of staff, but by and large most clinical Nurse Educators will be found teaching in an accredited nursing program.
A Bachelors and a Masters degree is required to become a CNE, as is active licensure in the state where you intend to practice. Once you have completed these, you will need to pass a CNE examination that is offered by one of the professional nursing associations such as the National League of Nursing or the American Nurses Association. Salaries are variable and depend on type and prestige of position, and level of experience, but on average, a CNE can expect to make between $60,000 and $100,000.
Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
A Clinical Nurse Specialist is just that; an advanced-practice nurse that practices within a specific specialty and has advanced clinical knowledge and skills. These jobs exist in hospitals, specialty clinics, and in other specialty medical services and include a wide variety of specialties. Cardiology, gastroenterology, oncology, pediatrics, vascular surgery – the list of possibilities is endless. Quite often, a CNS will also be charged with overseeing a clinic or supervising nurses in a specific clinical area of focus.
To become a clinical nurse specialist, you need to be a registered nurse, and undertake the specialty-specific training that your discipline offers. Average salaries range form $55,000 to $90,000.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners are advanced-practice nurses who work in mental health. Often, they function independently as a mental health primary care providers, diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. There are however, also a number of PNPs working in inpatient mental health facilities and in the community.
The educational process is similar to that of other nurse practitioners; a Bachelors and Masters degree is required along with passing a certification board examination. PNPs need to be strong autonomous workers, and have a strong background in mental health nursing, and an understanding of the intricacies of the discipline. Average salaries for PNPs range from $79,000 to $100,000.
Neonatal Nurse / Neonatal ICU (NICU)
Neonatal nursing is a highly specialized nursing discipline that enables nurses to look after critically ill and premature babies. There is a large learning curve, specialized equipment, and very specific and often delicate family dynamics to deal with in this position, as well as the rather fragile nature of the patients themselves.
Like Clinical Nurse Specialists, Neonatal nurses must hold a valid RN licensure and have undertaken the specialty-specific training for their discipline. There is often an extended shadowing or mentoring period for newly-qualified neonatal nurses, as there is so much to take in, and oftentimes in a very stressful environment. Average Salaries for neonatal nurses range from $60,000 to $75,000, depending on qualifications, experience, and the nature of the job.
Interested in more nursing specialties? Let us know in the comments…