The 3 Highest Paying Nursing Careers

Nancy Burgess

Beyond the inpatient caregiver and the outpatient RN, there are three top paying nursing careers awaiting those RNs who choose to continue their education.

Three nurses.

There are nurses and then there are nurses. What does that really mean? In looking at a career as a registered nurse (RN), the role of a traditional bedside nurse comes quickly to mind. This healthcare field is evolving in several directions.

Gone are the days when RNs had somewhat limited career options and worked mostly in hospitals. Currently, there are a wide variety of outpatient RN positions across many medical specialties, in addition to diverse and creative inpatient jobs.

Beyond the inpatient caregiver and the outpatient RN, there are three top paying nursing careers awaiting those RNs who choose to continue their education. A growing number of RNs are continuing beyond the standard hospital-based diploma, Associates Degree in Nursing or the Bachelor of Science in Nursing and choosing to become an advanced practice nurse.

The Top 3 Paying Nursing Careers

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there are 2.7 million registered nurses currently practicing. Of that number, 13.2 percent hold a master’s degree or higher. The more advanced the nursing degree, the higher the salary and the more advanced the job responsibilities.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

CRNAs work as an extension of the anesthesiologist during surgery. This is a highly technical specialty. Administering and maintaining anesthesia and closely monitoring a patient’s vital statistics are the key components of this job.

With patients being anesthetized for the duration of the contact time with a CRNA, there is little or no interpersonal interaction in this job.

This advanced practice specialty is available for RNs who qualify to enter the specific graduate program for the specialty.

Average salary: $100,000+

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

In most states, a nurse practitioner delivers patient care under the supervision of a licensed physician. There are some states in which an NP can function independently and deliver primary care to the patient. A nurse practitioner’s duties can include, but are not limited to:

  • Physical examinations
  • Limited minor procedures
  • Prescribing some medications, excluding controlled substances

A nurse practitioner has the satisfaction of providing continuity of care to a base of patients whom they can prescribe care on a regular basis.

Average salary: $80,000-$95,000

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

Clinical nurse specialists are highly-trained and educated in one of the following clinical specialties, according to the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS):

  • Adult Health
  • Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health
  • Child/Adolescent Psych & Mental Health
  • Diabetes Management-Advanced
  • Gerontological
  • Home Health
  • Pediatric
  • Public/Community Health

This advanced practice nurse has several requirements in order to practice:

  • Licensed RN
  • Master’s of Science or Doctorate degree in Nursing
  • CSN certification in area of expertise

The job responsibilities include direct patient care, acting as a significant resource and consultant for staff members, and implementing healthcare delivery improvements in their area of expertise.

Average salary: $70,000-$90,000

The Benefits

Nursing is a rewarding, challenging and in-demand career choice. Touching the lives of vulnerable patients, working and learning along side a competent medical team of physicians and witnessing the outcomes of medical research are a few of the main benefits of the job.

Taking a nursing career to the next level by adding an advanced practice nursing degree and ensuing clinical expertise adds, not only professional satisfaction and reward but also significant financial compensation.

The three top choices for financial gain in a nursing career are Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Nurse Specialist. Which will you pursue?