The health care system offers a number of employment opportunities for qualified nurses of all educational and training levels. Nurses make up the largest workforce within the U.S. economy. The highest-paying nursing careers offer advancement opportunities through continued learning and specialization programs. Many nurses begin their careers as Licensed Practical Nurses or Registered Nurses and seek additional education to advance their knowledge, careers, and salaries.
Ranking the Top 10 Highest Paying Jobs for Nurses
We’ve ranked the Top 10 Highest Paying Careers For Nurses to assist in selecting an educational path best suited to match their capabilities, interests, and aspirations, based on data from the BLS.
1. Nurse Anesthetist
Nurse Anesthetists are highly skilled advanced practice registered nurses who work closely with medical and nursing staff assisting during medical procedures which require anesthesia. Nurse anesthetists must complete specialized graduate-level Master’s degrees accredited by Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs in order to qualify for employment. Graduates must also be board certified by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists to advance to careers earning average annual salaries of $144,000 to $165,000.
2. Chief Nursing Officers
Chief Nursing Officers are important executives within the health care industry offering administrative leadership, strategic planning, and senior nurse management expertise within a number of health care organizations. Chief nursing officers develop means of improving patient care and staff relations, recruit and retain nurses, manage daily operations of nursing departments, maintain regulations and compliance with laws or accreditations, and develop nursing polices. Chief nursing officers must complete graduate programs in nursing and often gain certification through the American Organization of Nurse Executives as determined by organization of employment and state regulations. Salaries for chief nursing officers generally range from $90,000 to $134,000 annually.
3. Nurse Midwife
Nurse-Midwives offer women’s health services to women throughout their lives with gynecological care, contraception, childbirth and delivery, newborn and family care, and education. Nurse-midwives must complete master’s degree studies accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). Additionally, nurse midwives must complete clinical experiences to gain hands-on practice before going on to state and employer-required certification programs offered by the American Midwifery Certification Board. Nurse-midwives generally earn $83,070 to $98,225 annually.
4. Nurse Managers/Administrators
Nurse Managers and Nursing Administrators offer specialized human resource and management support within medical facilities. Nurse managers perform as administrators who recruit, hire, and train staff and handle the business aspects of health care organizations with strategic planning, leadership, and devise means of improving patient care. Training to become a nurse manager requires completion of a graduate-level nursing degree combined with work experience. Nurse managers and administrators earn salaries of $79,000 to $99,000 annually in one of the highest-paying nursing careers.
5. Nurse Researcher
Nurse Researchers collect, analyze, and publish data for health policy organizations and private companies based upon pharmaceutical, medical, and nursing innovations, methods, and products. Nurse researchers must complete a master’s or doctoral degree in Nursing as well as gain certification through the Society of Research Associates to establish careers with salaries of $70,000 to $95,000 annually.
6. Legal Nurse Consultants
Legal Nurse Consultants are registered nurses with specialized training who offer their expertise for legal cases based in medical claims, medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and health care issues. Legal nurse consultants work closely with attorneys as a professional in litigation teams preparing reports regarding illness and injury, establishing evidence, and helping find or acting as expert witnesses, based upon the health care system, medical terminology, and medical records. Legal nurse consultants must generally complete a bachelor degree in nursing combined with a minimum of three years of work experience or a master’s degree. All legal nurse consultants must also complete certification programs offered through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants to advance as professionals in the field. Earnings for most legal nurse consultants, one of the highest paying nursing careers, range from $62,000 to $80,000 annually.
7. Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners are upper-level advanced nursing professionals who provide health care via diagnoses, treatments, and the administration of medications to patients. Nurse practitioners are required to complete intensive Master’s degree programs, including specializations within family, pediatric, or geriatric nursing, and licensing programs to advance as professionals. Earnings for nurse practitioners range from $54,000 to $82,000 annually.
8. Clinical Nurse Specialist
Clinical Nurse Specialists are advanced nursing professionals who have completed graduate-level nursing degrees and offer their clinical expertise to populations, settings, diseases, specific health problems like pediatrics, geriatrics, women’s health, critical care, emergency room, diabetes, oncology, psychiatric, rehabilitation, pain management, or wound care. Clinical nurse specialists provide patient care by diagnosing and treating disease, illness, and injuries, act as consultants for nursing staff, and devise ways of improving the overall delivery of health care. Clinical nurse specialists complete master’s or doctoral degrees approved by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists to gain employment. Clinical nurse specialists generally earn salaries of $50,000 to $100,000 depending upon geographic location, area of specialty, and other factors.
9. Nurse Educators
Nurse Educators work within the classroom and clinical practice environments training future nurses. Nurse educators prepare lesson plans, offer instruction, advance research, and cultivate learning by offering the most current knowledge within the field of nursing and the health care industry. Nurse educators are required to obtain a graduate degree in nursing, work experience, and certification through the National League of Nursing to qualify for employment. As one of the highest paying nursing careers, salaries for nurse educators is $47,000 to $93,000 annually.
10. Nurse Case Managers
Nurse Case Managers are registered nurses with specialized knowledge and training responsible for monitoring the treatment and coordinating the care of patients who have major illnesses or injuries. Nurse case managers work within hospitals, medical facilities, long-term facilities, and worker’s compensation organizations scheduling primary care, surgeries, radiation treatments, chemotherapy, and other medical care. Nurse case managers often specialize in training within specific demographics or health conditions and illnesses during bachelor degree studies. Nurse case managers also must gain and maintain certification offered by the Case Management Society of America. Earnings for nurse case managers are generally $47,000 to $85,000 yearly.