Top 15 Highest Paying Nursing Jobs in 2020

By Mike Simpson

Nurses aren’t just medical professionals; they are healthcare heroes. Many want to join their ranks because they want to help people, and that’s always admirable. But there’s also no shame in wanting a strong salary. If you want the best of both worlds, exploring the highest paying nursing jobs is a smart move.

Many people are initially surprised at how many nursing jobs there are. CNAs, RNs, NPs, and so many other titles are part of the field; it can quickly become overwhelming.

Luckily, we have your back. If you want to become one of the highest-paid nurses, here’s what you need to know…

A Quick Nursing Breakdown

Nursing isn’t a small field, and describing it can be a bit complicated. But, at its simplest, nursing is part of the medical profession that’s dedicated to the treatment of patients.

Which duties a nurse has beyond offering exceptional patient care varies depending on the role. Some work independently, while others are directly supervised. Additionally, some nurses specialize in particular niches though others are more general. However, as Merriam-Webster puts it, nurses are “skilled in promoting and maintaining health.”

Jobs in the nursing field are plentiful. For years, news agencies and industry analysts have been shouting that there’s a shortage of nursing talent.

Source: BLS.gov

For example, while there are more than 3 million registered nurse positions, the number needed is expected to grow by 371,500 between 2018 and 2028.

That’s over a 12 percent increase, and it isn’t one that’ll end up fully covered. And that doesn’t include all of the other nursing levels.

Now, even with a shortage, that doesn’t mean nursing candidates can skimp when answering nursing interview questions. Hiring managers always want to find the best possible new hires, so not bringing it when you meet means you won’t get an offer. Remember, many hiring managers would rather hire no one than bring in a subpar nurse.

MIKE'S TIP: If you want to explore any nursing job, you need to head to school. Even CNAs – one of the few healthcare jobs that don’t require at least a Bachelor’s degree – need to complete vocational or community college programs. So, some higher education is unavoidable if you want to go this route.

Top 15 Highest Paying Nursing Jobs

Alright, so you don’t just want to become a nurse; you want to land one of the high paying nursing jobs? That’s a great goal. There are plenty of options that bring lucrative salaries with them.

Here’s a look at the top 15 highest paying nursing jobs around:

1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

Easily one of the highest-paid nurses around, this specialty focuses on preparing and administering anesthesia. Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) work closely with anesthesiologists, surgeons, dentists, and other healthcare professionals, ensuring patients are properly sedated for the procedure they are about to have.

The median annual salary for a CRNA comes in at $174,790, essentially making these professionals the highest-paid nurses around. Plus, the top 10 percent can earn much more, including a salary in excess of $208,000 a year.

2. General Nurse Practitioner

If you decide to become a general nurse practitioner (NP), you can actually have your own independent practice. However, you may also bring your advanced nursing skills to a clinic run by a medical doctor or a hospital, if you choose.

Usually, general NPs aren’t overly specialized. They may see patients with all kinds of conditions, which can keep the work engaging. In exchange for their broad knowledge, they can earn salaries around $109,820 a year, though the top 10 percent of earners may even cross $152,160.

3. Clinical Nurse Specialist

For anyone who would prefer to specialize, becoming a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) can be a great choice. Often, a CNS is considered an expert in their niche, offering high-quality patient care in their specialty.

Plus, a CNS may not only treat patients but could participate in research as well. That makes it a strong choice for anyone who wants to shape the future of medicine. And, along the way, a salary of $106,797 a year or more is certainly possible. But, if you join the top 10 percent, you could end up making over $126,255 annually.

4. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

If mental health is your passion, then consider a position as a psychiatric nurse practitioner (PNP). In this role, you’d work with psychiatrists and other mental health professionals while also offering counseling and other services to patients with mental health disorders.

The need for PNPs is rising. At times, there are also opportunities to specialize in specific conditions, including specific mental health disorders or substance abuse. In this field, you can earn about $106,690 a year in most cases, potentially leading to an annual salary of $126,406 or more.

5. Certified Nurse Midwife

An option for RNs who are interested in obstetrics, childbirth, and prenatal care, certified nurse midwives (CNMs) may work in hospitals, clinics, or could even operate their own practices. The field doesn’t just focus on infant care, but also on helping pregnant women remain healthy and prepare for the upcoming birth.

As a CNM, you could make around $105,030 annually. If you make it into the top 10 percent of earners, salaries near $158,990 or more are possible, clearly qualifying this position as one of the high paying nursing jobs.

6. Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse

For anyone who would like to spend their time taking care of babies, consider a career as a neonatal intensive care nurse. While the work can be challenging, as many of the infants will have serious health issues, it is also very rewarding.

Plus, you can earn the median annual salary of $64,567. Or, if you make it to the top 10 percent, pay above $101,000 is on the table.

7. Pain Management Nurse

As a pain management nurse, you’d help patients overcome post-operative pain or deal with chronic pain issues. Pain management nurses usually work closely with larger medical teams, allowing them to identify the causes of discomfort and come up with viable treatment plans while reducing the likelihood of addiction.

Pain management nurses work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, surgical centers, and pain management clinics. Often, yearly salaries around $125,284 are common, with some earning over $135,545.

8. Nursing Administrator

If you prefer a backstage role, a position as a nursing administrator could be a great fit. Your job would focus on managing staff, dealing with human resources functions, allocating funds, and tracking the budget, making this one of the high paying nursing jobs that many people overlook.

Since this role is so critical, nursing administrators can earn a pretty penny. An annual salary near $94,396 is close to the average.

9. Family Nurse Practitioner

The family nurse practitioner (FNP) role is probably the one that’s closest to working as a primary care doctor. Usually, you are responsible for many of the same functions, including consulting with patients, performing assessments, recommending treatment options, and prescribing medications.

Demand for FNPs is growing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. If you go this route, you could land the median annual salary of $109,240, potentially with ease. In time, a salary in the top 10 percent, allowing you to cross 127,256, may even be possible.

10. Registered Nurse First Assistant

A specialty position, registered nurse first assistants (RNFAs) are the primary RNs during surgical procedures. They assist surgeons as needed, allowing them to play an active role in the surgery taking place. That means, this role isn’t for the squeamish but can be incredibly engaging for those who find surgical processes interesting.

In the role, annual salaries near $97,303 are often possible. With time, you may even be able to secure $118,492 or more a year.

11. Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

If you want to focus on elder care, consider a career as a gerontological nurse practitioner. Many older patients have needs that you won’t find in younger ones, so the role is a bit specialized.

Plus, the demand for certified gerontological nurse practitioners (CGNPs) is growing based on the population aging. If you go this route, an annual salary of around $94,073 is within reach. With a bit of time, you can even reach the top 10 percent coming in at $109,588 or more.

12. Nurse Educator

If you’d enjoy spending your time teaching aspiring nurses the skills they will need to thrive, or with current nurses who are continuing their education, a job as a nurse educator is a wise choice. You’ll work with other nurses to make sure that the right content is covered in a way that’s engaging, boosting knowledge retention.

By becoming a nurse educator, an annual pay rate of $74,600 is a good target. Once you get some experience, you could reach the upper echelons, securing a yearly salary of $113,460 or more.

13. Informatics Nurse

If you want to combine your love of patient care with your love of technology, a career as an informatics nurse is right up your alley. Plus, as more hospitals embrace technology and implement electronic medical records system, demands for professionals in this specialty is growing.

On average, informatics nurses earn $89,090 a year. However, as you hone your skills and gain experience, a salary above $112,206 could be possible.

14. Critical Care Nurse

Critical care nurses often make life-and-death decisions daily. Typically, they work in intensive care units (ICUs), caring for patients who are in great distress and at risk of dying. However, they may work in other departments, including emergency rooms, or in specialty clinics.

As a critical care nurse, an annual wage of $76,400 is fairly common. With some time and, depending on whether you choose to specialize in certain areas, you could even land a yearly salary in excess of $99,325.

15. Health Policy Nurse

Combining a passion for health with a desire to drive public policy, health policy nurses wear a lot of hats. They may serve as patient advocates, participate in research, work with government organizations, or find other opportunities to implement beneficial changes.

As a health policy nurse, an annual salary around the $63,515 mark is potentially yours for the taking. You may even be able to go further, landing something closer to $72,739 a year after some time and dedication to the field.

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, there is a slew of high paying nursing jobs, and each one is a bit unique. Consider which options best align with your needs and preferences. Then, prepare to get the education and training you need, ensuring you can move forward toward becoming one of the highest-paid nurses around.

Good luck!

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Check out our other “Job List Articles” if you’re exploring career options:

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.