When U.S. News & World Report came out with its list of Best Jobs of 2015, registered nurse ranked No. 9, thanks to an unemployment rate of just 2 percent, an expected growth rate of 19.4 percent (by 2022), and an average annual income of $68,910. Nurse practitioners (including advanced-practice registered nurses) earned the No. 2 spot on the list, with a very low unemployment rate (0.7 percent), a high expected growth rate (33.7 percent by 2022), and an annual average income of $95,070.
Still, RN and NP salaries can vary widely depending on specialty, education, geography, and, according to a study recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, gender. Across most settings, specialties, and positions, male registered nurses make more than $5,000 a year above what their female counterparts do—a gap that has persisted for more than three decades.
So if you’re thinking about pursuing an advanced degree or gaining certification in a nursing specialty, you’ll want to review the job market before investing your time and money in education. Fortunately, we’ve done some of the homework. Here, divided into RN and APRN, are some specialties that command high salaries with projected double-digit job growth in the next
Changes for APRN specialties
Recently, adoption of the Consensus Model for APRN Regulation, Licensure, Accreditation, Certification and Education (LACE) has changed how many nursing schools organize their advanced degree programs, how employers recruit APRNs, and how APRNs practice, says Lynn Doering, PhD, associate dean for academic affairs at UCLA School of Nursing. “In the past, nurses might have become family nurse practitioners as a way of keeping their options open,” she says. Now, there’s an increased demand for nurses whose education, certification and licensure align with their practice. “So we tell students to be very careful which specialty they select,” since they won’t be hired—nor will they be able to bill—outside of their population specialty, explains Doering.