If you’re looking to make more money as a nurse, one of the best things you can do is pursue one of the highest paying nursing specialties.
After all, there are a lot of different types of nurses, and healthcare facilities need specialized workers to fulfill these roles. The more you can specialize your knowledge and skill set, the more valuable and in-demand you’ll become to employers.
Now, there are a lot of ways to increase your salary as a nurse, like travel nursing, moving to a higher cost of living area, and more. However, advancing your education and specializing in a specific area is likely the most impactful and sustainable option.
So, in this article we’ll explore the highest paying nursing specialties to help you find ways to earn more money.
Table of contents
- What Nursing Specialty Makes The Most Money?
- 10 Highest Paying Nursing Specialties
- 1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- 2. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- 3. Emergency Nurse Practitioner
- 4. Cardiac Nurse Practitioner
- 5. Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
- 6. Oncology Nurse Practitioner
- 7. Clinical Nurse Specialist
- 8. Family Nurse Practitioner
- 9. Nurse Midwife
- 10. Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- Highest Paying Nursing Specialities FAQs
- Where Do RNs Make The Most Money?
- What Is The Lowest Paying Nursing Speciality?
- What Kinds of Nurses Make Six Figures?
- Do Most Nurses Make Six Figures?
- Can Nurses Make 200k A Year?
- Can Nurses Make $500,000 A Year?
- Can I Be A Millionaire In Nursing?
- Do Nurses Struggle Financially?
- Is Being A Nurse Worth It Financially?
What Nursing Specialty Makes The Most Money?
The highest paying nursing specialty is Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists. On average, they make $205,770 per year, though some can make much more than this.
However, keep in mind that several factors will determine how much money you can make, including your speciality, location, experience, and more.
Additionally, just because CRNA is the highest-paying nursing speciality doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best fit for you. When choosing a nursing career path, be sure to consider other factors, like:
- Your personal interests
- Work-life balance
- Education investment
- Time investment
Of course, salary is also a key factor in figuring out what you want to pursue. So, keep reading to learn more about nurse anesthetists, and discover the other highest paying nursing specialities.
10 Highest Paying Nursing Specialties
Below we discuss the top ten highest paying nursing specialties, providing information about the role, average salary, and education requirements.
While salaries for RNs with a BSN are good , all the roles listed here require an advanced degree. Many of the highest-paying nursing specialties are Nurse Practitioners, while all of them are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs).
1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
As we mentioned above, the highest paid nursing speciality is Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, and the average CRNA salary is $205,770.
While they do make the most money, they also require advanced education and training. In fact, starting in 2025, a doctorate will be necessary for CRNAs to practice. However, existing CRNAs won’t be required to hold the degree.
Additionally, you have to pass the CRNA National Certification Exam (NCE) after earning your terminal degree. Overall, becoming a Nurse Anesthetist typically takes about eight to ten years with no prior degree.
However, it is a worthwhile career, and you play a key role in surgery by administering anesthesia to patients. You’d also be responsible for monitoring patients’ vital signs as they recover from the anesthesia.
So, while this is the highest paying nursing specialty, you need to consider whether you’re willing to make the time and financial investment in a doctoral degree.
2. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
The second highest paying nursing specialty is neonatal nurse practitioners. According to Salary.com, this type of nurse makes an average salary of $136,101 per year. Meanwhile, the top 10% of earners make upwards of $157,000 per year.
NNPs specialize in the care of newborn infants, particularly those with medical complications or born prematurely. They also provide vital support and education to families during their infant’s stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
This nursing career requires an advanced degree, which may be a master’s- or doctoral-level program. Additionally, admission into these programs typically requires at least two years of RN experience, preferably in a NICU or with pediatric patients.
Once you’ve obtained your advanced degree, you’ll also need to sit for the NNP exam, which is administered by the National Certification Corporation, and gain state NP licensure.
Overall, becoming a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner typically takes around eight to ten years, assuming you’re starting with a high school diploma or GED. If you want to make a difference in the lives of babies and families, this is an excellent career path.
3. Emergency Nurse Practitioner
Emergency Nurse Practitioner is the next highest paying nursing specialty on our list. According to Salary.com, the average annual salary is $131,994. The top 10% of earners can expect to make about $159,643 per year, while the bottom 10% typically make about $109,331 per year.
Emergency NPs provide acute care for urgent health conditions across the lifespan in emergency departments and urgent care settings.
To become an emergency nurse practitioner, you’ll first need to earn your BSN degree. Then, once you gain some experience as an RN, preferably in ER, critical care, or urgent care settings, you can pursue a master’s degree.
Many of the nurses in this speciality earn their MSN on a track like Family Nurse Practitioner. From there, you can pursue a post-master’s certificate in emergency care.
You also have the option to earn an ENP certification awarded by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board.
This career pathway typically takes about seven to eleven years to achieve. If you like the idea of helping patients when they need you most, this could be a good option for you.
4. Cardiac Nurse Practitioner
Cardiac Nurse Practitioner is another one of the highest paying nursing specialties. According to Salary.com, on average they make $125,041 per year. While the highest 10% of earners usually make around $141,027 a year, the lowest 10% typically make about $110,904 per year.
These nurses specialize in managing and providing advanced care to patients with various types of heart conditions. Often collaborating closely with cardiologists, they can help diagnose and treat both acute and chronic cardiovascular conditions.
To become a cardiac nurse practitioner, you first need to earn your BSN degree. Then, you must gain some experience as an RN, preferably in a cardiovascular or critical care setting. You may also try to earn your Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification.
Once you’ve got some experience, you can apply to an MSN program. You’ll likely need to enroll in either a Family Nurse Practitioner program or adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program.
While getting your degree, try focusing on cardiology throughout your coursework and clinical experiences. Lastly, once you complete your program, you must earn your NP certification, likely in an area like acute care through the ACNPC.
Overall, it typically takes about seven to nine years to become a Cardiac NP. It’s a great career path for those interested in cardiovascular health.
5. Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
Another one of the top ten highest paying nursing jobs is Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners. According to Salary.com, on average they make $123,800 per year. While the top 10% can expect to make $138,893 per year, the bottom 10% usually make around $108,325 per year.
Orthopedic NPs work with patients with musculoskeletal issues. For example, they can help diagnose, treat, and manage injuries and chronic conditions affecting bones, muscles, and joints.
To become an orthopedic nurse practitioner, you first need to earn your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. Then, you’ll need to gain some experience as an RN. If you can, search for roles in which you can help patients with musculoskeletal conditions.
From there, you’ll have to earn your master’s degree on a track like Family Nurse Practitioner or Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP. If possible, try choosing a program that offers courses or electives related to orthopedics.
Finally, you may choose to pursue the ONP-C certification awarded by Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board.
Overall, becoming an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner typically takes about seven to nine years. It’s a great option if you’re interested in helping patients overcome injuries and bone conditions.
6. Oncology Nurse Practitioner
Oncology Nurse Practitioner is next on our list of high-paying nursing careers. According to Salary.com, on average these nurses make $123,658 per year. While the top 10% of earners usually make around $132,346 per year, the bottom 10% typically earn $109,912 per year.
This type of nurse focuses on providing care to patients with cancer. Their duties can include all of the following:
- Assessment and diagnosis
- Treatment planning
- Symptom management
- Patient and family education
To become an oncology NP, the first step is earning your BSN and gaining some RN experience. Ideally, you’ll be able to get experience in areas related to oncology, like medical-surgical, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy departments.
After that, you’ll need to earn your MSN degree in a more broad speciality like Family Nurse Practitioner or AGACNP. If possible, try finding a program offering courses or electives covering areas related to oncology.
Finally, you have the option of getting certified as an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP). You just need to pass a certification exam offered by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation.
7. Clinical Nurse Specialist
The next top paying nursing job is one of the few on our list that isn’t a Nurse Practitioner. However, this specialty is still an APRN, meaning you’ll need an advanced degree.
We’re talking about Clinical Nurse Specialists, who, according to Glassdoor, make an average salary of about $123,000 per year.
A CNS focuses on improving patient outcomes by taking on a number of important duties, including:
- Providing expert advice related to specific medical conditions or types of treatment
- Performing research
- Implementing best practices in further specialized areas of nursing, like pediatrics, gerontology, neonatal, women’s health, etc.
- Working a primary care providers
To become a Clinical Nurse Specialist, the first step is earning your BSN degree and gaining experience.
If possible, try gaining experience in the area you want to further specialize in. This could be based on population (eg, pediatrics), condition (eg, cardiology), or type of care (eg, critical care).
Once you have some experience, look for MSN programs that include a CNS track suiting your interests.
Finally, you can earn your CNS certification. There are a few different ones depending on your pathway, so be sure to do a little research and select the right one.
Overall, becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist typically takes around seven to nine years. It’s a great career path for those interested in acting as resident nursing experts for their healthcare facility.
8. Family Nurse Practitioner
Family Nurse Practitioner is another top paying nursing speciality, with an average annual salary of $122,530, according to Salary.com. While the top 10% of earners make $142,743 per year on average, the bottom 10% make $105,661 per year.
FNPs are qualified to provide comprehensive primary care to patients of all ages. They help diagnose, treat, and manage both acute and chronic conditions. Perhaps most notably, they often serve as patients’ primary healthcare providers.
To become a Family Nurse Practitioner, you need to earn your BSN and gain at least one to two years of experience as an RN. Then, you can apply to MSN programs offering an FNP track. Ideally, you should also think about looking for programs offering courses related to any further specialities you may want to pursue.
Once you’ve earned your Master’s Degree In Nursing, you need to obtain your Family Nurse Practitioner Certification, awarded by ANCC. Finally, acquire your state licensure and you can begin working as an FNP.
Overall, it typically takes about seven to nine years to become a licensed FNP.
While this nursing specialty is great on its own, it’s also often a first step toward a more concentrated NP speciality. By further focusing your specialty, you can often increase your salary as well.
In fact, many of the nurse practitioner specialties we’ve discussed above often require you to earn your degree on an FNP or AGACNP track before earning certification.
9. Nurse Midwife
Next up we have another nursing specialty that’s an APRN, but not a nurse practitioner.
According to BLS, Nurse Midwives make an average annual salary of $122,450 per year. While the top 10% of earners made an average salary of $171,230 per year, the bottom 10% made an average of $77,510 per year.
A Nurse Midwife provides care and guidance to women throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Additionally, they offer gynecological care, family planning, and primary healthcare services to women.
To become this type of nurse, you first need to obtain your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree and gain experience as a Registered Nurse. Ideally, you’d find work in areas related to women’s health, gynecology, or labor and delivery.
From there, you can apply to either an MSN or DNP Midwifery program. Once you earn your advanced degree, you’ll also need to obtain certification by passing an exam. There are a few different certifications available, so be sure to check which ones your state licensing board recognizes.
Overall, it typically takes about seven to nine years to become a Nurse Midwife. If you’re passionate about helping women start or grow their families, this is an excellent career path.
10. Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Closing out our list of the ten highest paying nursing specialties is Acute Care Nurse Practitioner.
According to Salary.com, the average annual salary for this nurse speciality is $121,263 per year. The top 10% of earners make an average salary of $137,913, while the bottom 10% of earners make about $108,059 per year.
Acute Care Nurse Practitioners specialize in providing care to patients with severe or critical conditions. They typically work in hospital settings, like emergency departments or intensive care units.
To pursue this nursing speciality, the first step is earning you BSN and gaining experience as an RN. You’ll want to look for opportunities in settings like ICUs and emergency departments.
From there, you can search for Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP MSN programs. Upon earning your degree, you’ll be able to sit for the ACNPC-AG (Adult-Gerontology) Certification exam. Once you’re certified, you can begin practicing as an Acute Care NP.
Overall, this career path typically takes about seven to nine years. If you’re interested in treating severely ill or injured patients, this is a great nursing specialty.
Highest Paying Nursing Specialities FAQs
Where Do RNs Make The Most Money?
The average annual salary for RNs can vary a lot from location to location. However, according to BLS, the highest-paying states for Registered Nurses are:
- California: $133,340
- Hawaii: $113,220
- Oregon: $106,610
- Massachusetts: $104,150
- Alaska: $103,310
Ultimately, your location has a huge impact on your earning potential. However, it’s also worth noting that travel nurses can make significantly more money than their resident nurse counterparts.
Also keep in mind that some of the cities with the highest salaries also have the highest costs of living. So, it’s important to keep a range of factors in mind when selecting where you want to work as an RN.
What Is The Lowest Paying Nursing Speciality?
The lowest paying nursing jobs tend to be positions like nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses. This is because these jobs don’t require the extensive education that more advanced roles do.
As far as lowest-paying registered nurse specialties go, school nurses tend to be one of the lowest paid. According to Salary.com, the average annual salary is only $55,028 per year.
Compared to the average annual RN salary of $81,220 per year, the salary for School Nurses and Public Health Nurses is significantly lower.
What Kinds of Nurses Make Six Figures?
If you want to make six figures working as a nurse, your best option is to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.
Also called APRNs, these nurses require advanced education and training, and include the following types of nurses:
- Nurse Practitioners
- Nurse Midwives
- Clinical Nurse Specialists
All of these types of nurses ranked in our top ten highest paying nursing specialties. In fact, according to BLS, the average annual salary for Nurse Anesthetists, NPs, and Nurse Midwives was $125,900.
Do Most Nurses Make Six Figures?
Most nurses do not make six figures. In fact, according to BLS, the median annual salary for registered nurses is $81,220. However, it’s worth noting that at least 25% of RNs do make six figures.
Meanwhile, BLS reports that the majority of Nurse Practitioners do make over six figures. In fact, 75% of them make over $103,250. They also report that about 75% of Nurse Midwives earn over six figures.
Finally, if you opt to pursue the high-paying nursing specialty of CRNA, you’re virtually guaranteed to make over six figures. Even the bottom 10% of Nurse Anesthetists earn about $143,870 a year.
Can Nurses Make 200k A Year?
Earning $200,000 a year as a nurse would be difficult, but it’s certainly possible. The best way to earn this type of salary in nursing is to become a CRNA. According to BLS, over 50% of Nurse Anesthetists make over $200,000.
Generally speaking, other types of nurses don’t tend to break the $200,000 barrier. However, it’s more attainable in cities with a higher cost of living.
This type of salary is also achievable through certain contract roles and travel nursing, depending on your specialty.
One more way to approach a salary of 200k is by working a lot of overtime.
Can Nurses Make $500,000 A Year?
Earning $500,000 a year from nursing isn’t likely. Highly-experienced CRNAs may be able to approach this level of income in areas with a high cost of living, but it’s not the norm.
Additionally, in times of crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic, highly-specialized contract roles may get you close to this salary. However, earning this kind of money in a contract position probably isn’t sustainable in the long run.
The only other path to making a salary of half a million dollars a year is through executive roles or entrepreneurship. For example, a Chief Nursing Officer at a prestigious hospital may be able to earn this type of salary.
So, even if you take on one of the highest paying nursing specialties, it would be very diffcult to make 500k in a year.
Can I Be A Millionaire In Nursing?
You won’t become a millionaire in nursing in a year unless you start an extremely successful entrepreneurial venture. However, becoming a millionaire as a nurse is possible over time.
This goal requires more than just a high-paying job though. You’ll need to be an effective financial planner and make sound investments. How long it takes will depend on all these factors and more.
For example, say you’re a CRNA making a salary of $200,000 per year. If you save and invest 20% of your income annually ($40,000), with an average yearly return of 7%, you could make $1 million in just over 15 years.
Do Nurses Struggle Financially?
Whether or not a nurse struggles financially is dependent on a number of factors. While salary is a key component of this, nurses also need to think about cost of living, debt, lifestyle choices, and more.
However, it’s worth noting that, on average, Registered Nurses make more than the average salary for all occupations. According to BLS, the average annual salary for all occupations is $61,900, while the average for RNs is $89,010.
Better yet, if you pursue a high paying nursing specialty, you can make much more, which should lessen any financial burdens.
Additionally, nursing provides a stable job outlook. The number of job openings for RNs is expected to increase by 6% over the next ten years, which is faster compared to the average for other occupations.
Is Being A Nurse Worth It Financially?
Becoming a nurse can definitely be worth it financially, but it depends on your own personal circumstances.
For example, if you want to prioritize making as much money as possible, becoming a CRNA is a great way to start earning six figures as soon as you have your credentials.
However, just because it’s the highest paying nursing specialty doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best pathway. You also need to think about things like your work-life balance and how much you’re willing to invest in your education.
If you prefer to prioritize time with your family or other personal goals, opting for lower-paying careers can be the best option. Even if you do go this route, as a nurse you’re still likely to make more money than the overall average in your area.
Nurse Luke is a CRNA who specializes in Nursing content and still enjoys a very busy career with Locum, Per Diem and Travel nursing in the greater midwest. He has over 25 years of experience in the healthcare field and received his CRNA masters degree from the Mayo Clinic School of Healthcare. He is passionate about helping nurses explore the options of becoming a travel nurse as well as spending time with his Family.