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Top 10 highest paying nursing specialties

psychiatric nurse practitioner salary

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This information has been updated in a new infographic.

After you finish nursing school, or if you’re considering going back for more training, choosing the right nursing specialty becomes your chief focus.

With so many specialties to choose from, many prospective nurses find it difficult to just pick one, but with nearly every specialty requiring candidates to pass a series of exams and fulfill a period of on-the-job training, time is of the essence!

Pay should not be your only consideration when deciding on a specialty, but the list below of the highest paying nursing specialties, provided by our friends at NursingLink.com, is a good primer on which types of nurses have the greatest earning potential.

A special note on gender and pay here. Many contend that there is an income disparity between male nurses and female nurses. With so many myths and gender stereotypes about male nurses floating around, we thought we’d try to set the record straight. Although it isn’t definitive, most salary surveys we reviewed show that male and female nurses earn roughly equal pay (averaging at $45K-$55K year). Pay should be based on duties performed. Not gender. Unless it is earned through years of service or specialty, we all agree that increased pay based on a person’s sex is a form of discrimination that should have gone out of the window years ago!

You worked hard to get where you are. Now you want to make the most of your career by obtaining the highest salary possible!

#10: Neonatal Nurse, Average Salary: $74,000

Neonatal nurses care for sick and/or premature newborn babies. They also provide consultation to the newborn’s family during what can be an emotionally draining period.

#9: Gerontological Nurse Practitioner, Average Annual Salary: $75,000

Gerontological Nurse Practitioners (GNPs) hold advanced degrees specializing in geriatrics. They are able to diagnose and manage their patients’ often long-term and debilitating conditions and provide regular assessments to patients’ family members. Similar to all geriatric nurses, GNPs must approach nursing holistically and pay special attention to maintaining a comforting bedside manner for their elderly patients.

#8: Clinical Nurse Specialist, Average Salary: $76,000

Clinical Nurse Specialists develop uniform standards for quality care and work with staff nurses to ensure that those standards are being met. They are required to possess strong managerial skills and an ability to anticipate potential staff/patient conflicts.

#7: Nurse Practitioner, Average Salary: $78,000

Nurse practitioners provide basic preventive health care to patients, and increasingly serve as primary and specialty care providers in mainly medically underserved areas. The most common areas of specialty for nurse practitioners are family practice, adult practice, women’s health, pediatrics, acute care, and gerontology; however, there are many other specialties. In most states, advanced practice nurses can prescribe medications.

#6: Orthopedic Nurse,  Average Salary: $81,000

Orthopedic nurses provide care for patients suffering for musculoskeletal ailments, such as arthritis, joint replacement and diabetes. They are responsible for educating patients on these disorders and on available self-care and support systems.

#5: Pediatric Endocrinology Nurse, Average Salary: $81,000

Pediatric endocrinology nurses provide care to young children who are suffering from diseases and disorders of the endocrine system. This often involves educating both parents and children on the the physical and sexual development issues that arise from these disorders.

#4: Certified Nurse Midwife, Average Salary $84,000

Nurse midwives provide primary care to women, including gynecological exams, family planning advice, prenatal care, assistance in labor and delivery, and neonatal care. CNMs work in hospitals, clinics, health departments, homes and private practices. Midwives will often have to work unpredictable hours (due to the unpredictable nature of childbirth). They should have good communications skills and be willing to commit to a holistic approach to patient care.

#3: Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Average Salary: $95,000

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners are advanced practice nurses who provide care and consultation to patients suffering from psychiatric and mental health disorders.

#2: Nurse Researcher, Average Salary: $95,000

Nurse researchers work as analysts for private companies or health policy nonprofits. They publish research studies based on data collected on specific pharmaceutical/medical/nursing product and practices.

#1:  Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Average Salary: $135,000

A certified registered nurse anesthetist administers anesthesia to patients. They collaborate with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists and podiatrists to safely administer anesthesia medications.

See all of our articles on nurse salaries, including salary maps, salary projections, hourly and yearly salary reports for top nurse jobs, and more!!!

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Nursing infomatics — another career avenue

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38 Responses to Top 10 highest paying nursing specialties

  1. i thank the Nursing link for all information given on web especiallly chosing a nursing specialty.i will like to always have current information about new nursing pratice.
    i,m indid looking for a specialty area in nursing after finishing from school of nursing 3 years ago..and i wish to be a member of the nursing link.
    thanks, eteng Edet (R.N)

  2. Tina

    great online mag!

  3. Leslie

    These are great clinical arenas for nurses to practice. There are also countless opportunities for nurses to work in administration in a variety of settings, even becoming CNO’s and CEO’s of organizations. The possibilities are endless.

  4. I noticed the Nurse Practitioner category says we deal with basic patient care. I’m not sure listening, interpreting, cajoling, coaching, diagnosing, educating, coordinating, prescribing, mental health caring, for Diabetics, hypertensive, renal failure, chronic pain, post traumatic brain injuries, disenfranchised, trauma, endocrinology, infectious diseases is really describable as Basic. I have been told my various practices woudl be an internal medicine residents dream because of the variety of pathology in my ‘basic’ patients.

    • jflamingo

      The reason it is basic patient care is because without an MD, there is a limit to the amount of care you can provide. If I have a nagging productive cough I can go to the APN and get some antibiotics for possible pneumonia sure, but if I have a nagging cough that turns out to be a small cell carcinoma, I don’t think my APN has the skills/training to really coordinate my care let alone not miss the diagnosis altogether.

      The bottom line is that when a person is actually sick they don’t want a ‘cajoler’ or a ‘coach’ they want a doctor, because doctors have been known to provide the best care to the truly (not basic) sick. Anyone who disagrees can save a few dollars and go to the APN or the PA but when the @#!*& hits the fan everyone will be looking to the MD for answers.

  5. I noticed the Nurse Practitioner category says we deal with basic patient care. I’m not sure listening, interpreting, cajoling, coaching, diagnosing, educating, coordinating, prescribing, mental health caring, for Diabetics, hypertensive, renal failure, chronic pain, post traumatic brain injuries, disenfranchised, trauma, endocrinology, infectious diseases is really describable as Basic. I have been told my various practices woudl be an internal medicine residents dream because of the variety of pathology in my ‘basic’ patients.

  6. Cindy

    As a new grad, I’m starting from the bottom and working my way up. I recently secured a position in proctology (assisting with rectal exams, and such). However, I look forward to a better job later on.

  7. joan johnson

    thanks for the above information but where can i get more information about the job description of a nurse practioner?

  8. michelene

    With having Just an associates degree as a RN, it really does seem limited as far as specialties I can pursue.. It seems unless I have my BA I will be stuck in limbo.. There is so much more that I want to do, I’m 45 and want to be done with school.. It’s not that I don’t love learning and education; I do But I just graduated 2.5 yrs. ago and couldn’t breath for thoses 4 years of the RN program.. So I’m really bummed.. I just don’t want to be a floor nurse in a Hosp. I am currently a nsging supervisor for a sub acute/LTC facility…
    Any suggestions for maybe certification programs I can do??? Like a transplant nurse; you have to be a postgrad student then go on for more certs???
    help….I have so much to offer my patients and I am soooo limited as where I can work.

    • Mona78

      Your use of the word “just” is disturbing . I am one of those and have worked with nurses with their BSN and honestly as far as nursing care goes their is no difference. I have watched fellow nurses go on for their BSN and basically it focuses on careers in management,community health, and the law.If a nursing student were to go straight through all 4 years at once, odds are they didn’t start an IV or insert a catheter in those last 2 years.. I say find an area of nursing you love and become a specialist in that area. Get the certifications, take the extra classes and pursue that area. I have noticed a lot of postings by other nurses using the word ” just “? That is a very judgemental lil’ word. All nurses are important ! Whether they are just a floor nurse or just a home care nurse. Nursing is a hard job, not to be taken lightly.

  9. Michelene

    thanks for your input in advance
    Michelene,RN Supervisor

  10. Jayne Cox-Olson

    I’m thinking about becoming a CRNA!!

  11. Carla M. Goodhart

    To : michelene on October 2, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    I am an RN with an ADN into my 10th year and love it, I work on a Specialty intense Pediatric Hematology Oncology BMT / plus Transplant unit……we have taken care of liver , kidney, intestinal, lung transplants….. and soon will be taking care of the heart transplants post PICU care. I have a Pediatric certification through ANCC, i am certified to give Chemo, I was just finished orientation for care of our BMT pt’s. I eventually will take the Ped Oncology Certification exam. So you say ” just an ADN ” yikes……guess thats how some people perceive that level of education…and thats to bad….. I will eventually get my BSN for a teaching position someday…..as for now still love what i do :D BTW i’m 46yrs young …… There is no age limit for educational opportunities :D

  12. Carla M. Goodhart

    To : michelene on October 2, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    I am an RN with an ADN into my 10th year and love it, I work on a Specialty intense Pediatric Hematology Oncology BMT / plus Transplant unit……we have taken care of liver , kidney, intestinal, lung transplants….. and soon will be taking care of the heart transplants post PICU care. I have a Pediatric certification through ANCC, i am certified to give Chemo, I was just finished orientation for care of our BMT pt’s. I eventually will take the Ped Oncology Certification exam. So you say ” just an ADN ” yikes……guess thats how some people perceive that level of education…and thats to bad….. I will eventually get my BSN for a teaching position someday…..as for now still love what i do :D BTW i’m 46yrs young …… There are no age limits for educational opportunities :D

  13. Adam

    Can anyone direct me in the way of becoming a Nurse Researcher? I didn’t even choose it because it paid well. I just love reseraching healthcare progression and the various methods orf treating things. Now I see the pay is decent and that just makes it that much better. Please reply hear or emailme if anyone has any ideas. I am currently wrapping up my Nursing program and I also have a degree in health administration. Thanks alot!

  14. cindie

    Thanksfully, some states and entities pay more than the article listed. Michelene, you are correct in that educational opportunities have no expiration date. Sadly, we do. The body and mind make it harder as we age. None the less, keep on learning, that is what I do.

  15. Norma R.N.

    If I was a younger nurse when specility certification only required your nursing license and and your hours of experience I would get certified but in my area of intensive care to get a CCRN u get no monetary incentives just the tittle so I would only do it for myself but with all my years of experience it doesn’t change anything except a tittle to add on plus I have to pay the $ to test out of it.

  16. Colleen G, RN

    You left out Surgical Services Nurses (OR/PACU). With all the required call and overtime, we make more than Ortho or Peds staff.

  17. n20man

    if you have an AD you are limited – HIGHER PAYING NURSING CAREERS REQUIRE BSN to MSN sorry

    • tds

      Not true. In ICU where I work. Only 1/3 of the RN’s are BSN. We make top RN pay at the hospital.

      • Mona78

        You are definitely correct! You can put all the credentials you want behind your name but i
        if you are a circulator in the OR we are all payed on same scale. And another excellent point you made was working in OR the opportunity for overtime is unreal… Your base pay may be in the 50′s but come tax time it’s possible to be looking at up to $10-15k extra.

  18. Kim

    With the extremely high demand for nurses, especially those with experience….how come there is such limited financial assistance offered to a 2 year RN that wants very much to raise her level of education in the field, but does not have the money. Student loans are not an option, and I dont qualify for any financial aid that could really help me complete furthering me formally raising my education level.

  19. clarissa

    yeah,your right Colleen G, RN..you forgot ’bout the SURGICAL Nurses (OR/PACU)..

  20. rhona davis

    Having been injured on the job and not compensated for that injury, not able to work since, I am disgusted with my lack of salary. I worked neurosurgical nursing and although it was not listed, or I did not see it listed, I am just sick of all the money I could have earned these past 21 years…! My life in pain is not worth any amount of money. Whatever job you have, if you do not have enough physical assistance….DO NOT loose your health. I had to move a very obese patient after she broke the bed, the hoyer lift, and only three of us were there to prevent her aspirating b/c her husband sat the bed in upright position. The bed would not move up or down. It was a nightmare that I live with every day. Please, keep yourself safe. you are no good to anyone when you end up living like I do and no income. If I had not moved her, I would have been sued. so I was in a loose loose situation….I worked on MSN but did not complete because I can no longer sit in classroom for the length of time a class lasts. BELIEVE ME, LOOK OUT FOR YOU…LIKE THE AIRLINES SAY….GET YOUR OXYGEN MASKS ON FIRST THEN HELP THE OTHERS….B/C YOU ARE NO GOOD BROKEN OR DEAD.

  21. SHELLY BSN

    FOR THOSE WHO HAVE AN ADN , HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT HOSPICE? DIFFERENT TYPE OF NURSING BUT VERY REWARDING, ABLE TO USE YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF DISEASE PROCESS, NURSING SKILLS, AND NOT ONLY PROVIDING CARE TO THE PATIENT BUT THE FAMILY AS WELL.MONEY ISN’T BAD EITHER.

  22. AWOYADE FUNMILOLA TOSIN

    thanks 4 posting this on your website.am a RN,going for orthopaedic nursing as an area of speciality and want to know more about orthopedic nursing.thanks

  23. andrew

    Most of these figures seem to be highly inflated. Avg RN pay at @ 74-81k?

    • Conuan61 APN

      Andrew…those were mostly the advanced practice nurse positions (nurse anesthetist (CRNA), nurse midwife (CNM), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), and nurse practitioner (CNP) …and yes,, most APNs start at $75-80K average today…unless you are a CRNA…they start around $130-150K. But, these all are minimal of a masters degree and many now have doctoral degrees.

  24. Darlene RN

    Andrew….do I know you???
    I would like to be involved with Nursing Regulations, ect. State Board of Nursing, JACHO, and/or Nursing Research. How does one get a job like that? What Degrees do one Need? Any Suggestions Out There.???
    Also, I wanted to Retire in Las Vegas…What are the Nursing Salaries/Potentials in Las Vegas???? Thank you in advance for any Input!!!

  25. ericlkey RN

    Associates degree nurses fair VERY well in California,I earnes $225,000 last year alone on my full-time and per-diem jobs. Advanced degree for what. I’m a ED RN and I always make a killing and I vacation well. It’s not all work.

    • august

      You are an exeption and very lucky. It also looks like you have a full time and a per diem job. Add all the hours you have worked and divide your salary, and found out your hourly rate!

  26. BecomeNursePractitioner

    There is a high demand for Nurse Practitioners today. Pharmacies are opening up urgent care clinics and more and more healthcare is being provided outside of the hospital. This requires healthcare leaders such as the advanced nurse, the nurse practitioner.

    • dpowls

      Hi, I am a psychology major at a major university. I have decided I want to be a pediatric psychiatric nurse practitioner. What degrees will I need to achieve this goal?

    • Conuan61 APN

      Just remember there are 3 other “advanced” nurses out there too :) CRNAs, CNSs, and CNMs.The clinical nurse specialist and the nurse practitioner function very similarly in many states. I am a CRNA who owns his own anesthesia practice in a 100 bed hospital, but have a CNS friend who functions in a cardiology practice managing all her own patients…she diagnoses, prescribes, and takes call. Another CNS friend works in a large community hospital hospitalist program taking house call on a routine 12 shift basis, doing H&Ps, prescribing, managing crises, putting in central venous lines, doing spinal taps, etc…AND my best friend is an NP who works in a large city hospital education department managing staff education and competency. APNs are a very versatile group!

  27. krishma

    what about the carrier after masters in mental health nursing in austarlia??????

  28. august

    Although the hourly pay between a male and a female nurse could be the same, but most of the times the higher positions are given to male nurses vs female nurses, even with the same qualifications!

  29. I think the amount of education needed for each specialty will be a nice addition to this article and the infographic. Some of these specialties only require a BSN while others require a masters degree or more.

  30. nicki8228

    I am about to apply to a 2 year nursing program. I work full time in sales and go to school which is why I am doing a two year and then transferring to the BSN program at Rutgers. My goal is to eventually go to the CRNA program at Rutgers. Someone mentioned that they may look down on the 2 year route I am taking to begin my path. Are there any suggestions out there on how to build my “resume” to help get into a CRNA program? Or maybe recommendation on jobs in hospitals so I can go to the Rutgers 4 year program. I am new to nursing and medical in general. Becoming a CRNA is important to me and I am willing to do whatever it takes without jeopardizing my grades because I have to work while in school.