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The nursing profession provides many job opportunities across multiple disciplines and specialties, with salaries varying by region, company, and certifications. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for registered nurses is likely to increase by 6% by 2031.
Over the next nine years, an average of 203,200 positions for registered nurses will be available annually. Salaries can reach up to $129,500, according to ZipRecruiter, but the national average is around $77,000 a year. This article discusses the seven highest-paying nursing jobs, including nursing job duties, tasks and educational qualifications.
Our Top 7 Picks for the Highest-Paying Nursing Jobs
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Family nurse practitioner
- Hospice nurse
- Pediatric nurse
- Nurse administrator
- Nurse anesthetist
- Oncology nurse
Clinical Nurse Specialist
A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) with advanced education and training in a particular area of nursing practice. This may include a MSN or DNP degree.
A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) performs various duties, including ordering tests, diagnosing and treating patients and prescribing medications, as allowed by state regulations. They also provide expertise and support to teams of nurses and work to implement best practices and evidence-based care within an organization.
In addition to being expert clinicians, CNSs also serve as educators, researchers and consultants. They may provide consultation services, communicate with patients and families, monitor care, design and implement interventions and evaluate the overall delivery of health care.
To become a clinical nurse specialist (CNS), you must complete several steps. First, you’ll need to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and become a registered nurse (RN). Next, you’ll also need a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. After that, you must complete at least 500 supervised clinical hours in a specialty area.
Finally, you must obtain a CNS certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. This certification requires you pass an exam and meet other requirements, such as continuing education.
The average annual salary for a clinical nurse specialist in the United States is $124,414.
Family Nurse Practitioner
A family nurse practitioner (FNP) is a health professional with additional education and training in primary care. FNPs provide a wide range of preventive and acute healthcare services to individuals of all ages. They see patients who are sick, are admitted to hospitals, have injuries or have undergone surgical procedures. FNPs are responsible for the care of their patients, from admission to discharge and work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals to develop a treatment plan and follow-up care.
Apart from treating patients, FNPs can order diagnostic and laboratory tests to help diagnose diseases. They may also perform certain procedures, such as intubation and putting casts on injuries. FNPs mostly work alone or alongside a physician.
To become an FNP, you must first complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program., and then an MSN or DNP degree. NPs must also obtain a license to practice in their state. Requirements for licensure differ from state to state and include renewal of the license or fulfillment of a certain amount of continuing education hours annually.
The average annual salary of a family nurse practitioner is $119,390.
A hospice nurse is a healthcare professional who provides care and support to individuals facing a terminal illness and in the end stages of life. Hospice nurses work with patients and their families to manage symptoms and provide comfort and support during this difficult time. They may work in a hospice facility, a hospital or in the patient's home.
Hospice nurses often provide a wide range of services, including:
- Administering medication to manage symptoms and improve quality of life
- Providing emotional support and counseling to patients and their families
- Assessing and monitoring the patient's physical and emotional status
- Collaborating with other healthcare professionals to develop and implement a care plan
- Educating patients and their families about their condition and treatment options
- Assisting with activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing
To become a hospice nurse, you must first become a registered nurse by earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Then you should gain two to three years of experience in an acute care setting before seeking certification from the National Board for the Certification of Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses. These certifications include ACHPN, CHPN and CHPPN specializations based on degree level.
The average annual salary of a hospice nurse is $97,392.
A pediatric nurse is a registered nurse (RN) or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who specializes in the care of children, typically from birth to adolescence. Pediatric nurses may work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics and private practice.
Pediatric nurses are responsible for assessing and monitoring children's health, administering medications and treatments and educating families about children's health and well-being. They also play a crucial role in supporting and advocating for the physical, emotional and developmental needs of children and their families. In addition to their clinical responsibilities, pediatric nurses may also be involved in research, education and policy development related to children's health.
To become a pediatric nurse, individuals must first obtain a nursing degree and pass the NCLEX-RN examination to become a registered nurse. Some pediatric nurses also pursue advanced education and training, such as a master's degree in nursing or a certification as an APRN, which may allow them to practice as nurse practitioners or in other advanced nursing roles.
The average annual salary of a pediatric nurse is $76,200.
Nursing administration involves a range of executive-level tasks, including managing staff and departments, completing administrative tasks and reporting to higher levels of management. Nurse administrators may oversee nurse managers and other healthcare professionals and work closely with hospital CEOs or other top executives to ensure that the organization runs smoothly.
In this role, nurse administrators will likely have little to no direct patient interaction, focusing on managing and coordinating healthcare services rather than providing hands-on patient care. However, their clinical knowledge and experience as a nurse will be valuable in helping them understand the needs and concerns of healthcare professionals and in developing policies and procedures that support the delivery of high-quality care.
Some of the specific duties of a nurse administrator may include the following:
- Developing and implementing policies and procedures to ensure the delivery of high-quality healthcare services
- Managing budgets and financial resources
- Hiring, training and supervising staff
- Developing and implementing quality improvement initiatives
- Representing the healthcare organization in the community and working to promote the organization's services
- Ensuring compliance with federal and state regulations
To become a nurse administrator, you must first become a registered nurse by earning a bachelor's degree in nursing and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. You can then pursue further education, such as an MSN or MHA, for post-graduate studies. Skills such as communication, problem-solving, budget management and financial reporting are also necessary.
Nurse administrators fall under medical and health services managers; according to BLS, their median annual salary is $101,340.
Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) are responsible for providing anesthesia and pain management treatments, such as nerve blocks and epidurals, to patients. They may work with other medical professionals, including anesthesiologists, surgeons, dentists, podiatrists and other specialists, to prepare patients for procedures, stabilize them during surgery and monitor their recovery after the procedure. CRNAs can find employment in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, surgical centers, ambulatory care centers and pain management centers.
To become a certified registered nurse anesthetist, you must first receive an associate degree or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, become a Registered Nurse and then complete a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. You can obtain a CRNA certification from the (National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists) NBCRNA, which will allow you to get certified as a CRNA by the state.
The average annual salary of a nurse anesthetist is $196,610.
Oncology nurses are healthcare professionals who specialize in working with patients who have cancer or are at risk of developing cancer. These nurses are responsible for performing necessary assessments, administering treatments, and communicating with other healthcare providers to create personalized care plans for each patient. In addition to providing medical care, oncology nurses also offer emotional support and help patients and their families cope with the challenges of a cancer diagnosis.
To become an oncology nurse, you’ll need to earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s Degree in the Science of Nursing (BSN). You can then obtain your license as a Registered Nurse (RN) by passing the NCLEX-RN exam. It’s also necessary to gain practical experience in the field, including at least 1,000 hours of contact experience with at least 10 hours in oncology. Finally, you’ll need to get certified as an oncology nurse through the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC). This requires a current RN license and at least 1,000 hours of clinical practice as an RN in oncology within the past two years.
The annual average salary of an oncology nurse is $90,140.
Highest-Paying Nursing Jobs Guide
Nursing is a rewarding and in-demand career field with various specialties to choose from. While all nursing jobs are important and require dedicated professionals, some specialties may offer higher salaries due to the specialized nature of the work or the demand for certain skills. This guide will explore the information you need about the highest-paying nursing jobs.
What does nursing encompass?
Nursing is a healthcare profession focused on providing care for individuals, families and communities so they may attain, maintain or recover optimal health. Nurses work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities and private homes. They may specialize in different areas of care, such as pediatrics, gerontology or oncology.
Nursing encompasses a wide range of responsibilities, including:
- Providing patient care, including administering medication and performing diagnostic tests
- Collaborating with other healthcare professionals to develop and implement treatment plans
- Educating patients and families about their health and how to manage their conditions
- Advocating for patients and promoting their rights
- Assessing patients' physical, psychological and social needs
- Providing emotional support to patients and their families
- Coordinating care with other healthcare professionals
- Managing patient records and documentation
Overall, nursing is a dynamic and multifaceted profession that requires critical thinking, excellent communication skills and a strong commitment to patient care.
Types of nursing jobs
There are many different types of nursing jobs available, including registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), certified nursing assistants (CNAs), clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), nurse practitioners (NPs) and nurse midwives.
RNs provide patient care, administer medication and collaborate with other healthcare professionals to develop and implement treatment plans. LPNs provide basic nursing care and assist RNs and physicians in providing patient care. CNAs provide basic care to patients, including helping with activities of daily living.
CNSs are advanced practice nurses specializing in a specific care area, such as pediatrics, gerontology, or oncology. NPs are advanced practice nurses trained to diagnose and treat medical conditions, prescribe medication and provide preventative care. Nurse midwives are advanced practice nurses who care for women during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.
The specific responsibilities and requirements for each type of nursing job may vary depending on the location, setting and specialty.
Requirements for a nursing job
To be a nurse, you will typically need to meet the following requirements:
- Earn a nursing degree: You will need to earn a degree in nursing from an accredited nursing program. This can be a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. Some employers may prefer or require a BSN.
- Pass the NCLEX-RN exam: After earning your nursing degree, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This standardized exam tests your knowledge and skills in nursing practice. You must pass the NCLEX-RN to become a licensed registered nurse (RN).
- Obtain a nursing license: To practice as a nurse, you must obtain a license from the state where you plan to work. Each state has its nursing board that issues nursing licenses and sets the requirements for obtaining a license. In most cases, you will need to meet the requirements for education, pass a criminal background check and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to be eligible for a nursing license.
- Consider an advanced degree: In some cases, you may need to obtain an advanced degree or specialty certification to progress your nursing career. Depending on your career goals for nursing, you may want to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
- Continue your education: Nurses must keep their knowledge up to date. Many states require nurses to complete a certain number of continuing education hours each year to maintain their licenses. You can take courses, attend seminars and participate in other activities that help you stay up-to-date on the latest nursing news and best practices.
- Maintain strong communication and interpersonal skills: Nurses must effectively communicate with patients, family members and other healthcare professionals to provide the best care possible. You must have strong verbal and written communication and good interpersonal skills to work successfully with others.
- Stay physically fit: Nurses often must be on their feet for long periods. You should stay physically fit and be able to lift, carry and move patients as needed.
How to find the highest-paying nursing jobs
There are several ways to find the highest-paying nursing jobs, beginning with researching salary data: Finding out how much a job pays in the market is essential in getting the highest-paying nursing job. You can research salary data from reputable sources such as the BLS and individual hospital websites.
Once you have an idea of salary ranges, using job search sites such as ZipRecruiter can be helpful in finding jobs near you (or wherever you’d like to locate to). Another possibility is using a nursing job agency, which specialize in matching nurses with employers. Professional organizations can also be a great place to network and learn about opportunities.
When you’re offered a nursing position, don't hesitate to negotiate your salary. Be prepared to back up your request with data on industry standards and your qualifications and experience. If you’ve earned a higher degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), that can also lead to higher-paying nursing jobs.
Consider looking for a travel nursing job. Travel nurses typically earn higher salaries than staff nurses, as they are often hired to fill short-term staffing shortages at hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Travel nurses can leverage that flexibility into higher pay, while staff nurses earn $66,787 annually.
Finally, make sure you know how to prepare for an interview so that you can make a good impression on potential employers. Research the position thoroughly, practice answering frequently asked nursing job interview questions and create an attractive portfolio of your work.
Highest-Paying Nursing Jobs FAQ
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How We Chose the Highest-Paying Nursing Jobs
Money Group selected the highest-paying nursing jobs by looking at the annual national average salaries for different nursing specialties on reputable US government sites such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.