Highest Paying Jobs With a Nursing Degree

Get Matched With Nursing Colleges

Many colleges and universities in the United States offer degrees in nursing. Programs of this type are often appealing to individuals interested in learning how to provide and coordinate patient care in hospitals, physicians’ offices, and other medical facilities. It’s an ideal major for those who want to educate others about various health conditions or provide advice and emotional support to others who are ill and/or injured. While curriculums vary by institutions, graduates typically possess the knowledge and skills necessary to qualify for jobs as registered nurses, surgical nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse researchers, and legal nurse consultants.

It's important to realize that salary potential can vary significantly depending on the occupation sought. Work location can also greatly impact job availability and pay. States with the highest-paying employment options for registered nurses (RNs) include Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska, Minnesota, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Delaware, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia. States with the lowest annual mean wages for this occupation include South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Montana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Mississippi. Other healthcare support professionals, however, can expect the highest wages in Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Alaska, North Dakota, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, and South Carolina. Salaries for these workers are generally lower in Idaho, South Dakota, Kansas, Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Compare Popular Online Nursing Programs

How to Prepare for a Nursing Career

Nursing professionals require some amount of formal education. Depending on your career goals, however, you may be able to prepare for your preferred occupation in one of three ways. While many choose to obtain bachelor’s degrees in nursing, it’s also possible to gain employment after earning an associate degree or obtaining a diploma from an approved nursing program. The approximate graduation timeframe for associate and bachelor’s degrees is four years. Diploma programs, on the other hand, typically require two or three years to complete. These are most frequently offered by hospitals and medical centers but are less common within the industry overall.

Regardless of your means of education, you are likely to study a wide variety of healthcare-related topics while enrolled. Students generally receive instruction in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, psychology, and social and behavioral sciences. Other common topics include communication, leadership, and critical thinking. Additionally, it is often necessary to participate in supervised clinical experiences prior to graduation.

Find Your Online Nursing Program

Once specified educational standards are met, nursing graduates can apply for state licensure. All registered nurses (RNs) must have nursing licenses to practice. Credentialing guidelines vary, but all applicants must complete approved nursing programs and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Once licensed, RNs with associate degrees or diplomas may go back to school to earn bachelor’s degrees through specialized academic programs. These are often referred to as RN-to-BSN programs, where BSN stands for Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Generally, colleges and universities throughout the nation offer higher education programs in nursing. Prospective students can choose from degree options at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s levels. While not necessary for most nursing positions, graduate degrees can drastically improve marketability and career prospects. Additionally, some occupations in the field do require this level of higher education. Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), for example, must earn master’s degrees in nursing after obtaining one year or more of work experience in the field.

Is a Degree in Nursing Worth It?

In most cases, earning a degree in nursing is worthwhile. This is especially true to individuals seeking careers as registered nurses (RNs). Having a strong academic background often makes meeting licensure requirements easier and may even streamline the application process.

While it may be possible to obtain entry-level employment in some related professions without a degree, the majority of healthcare employers expect candidates to possess some level of higher education. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many healthcare occupations require at least bachelor’s degrees. Associate degrees, on the other hand, can also lead to highly successful nursing careers, and some hospitals and medical centers offer viable diploma programs. Regardless, completing some sort of formal education is often an important aspect of preparing for employment in this field.

It's worth noting, however, that degrees vary in worth based on the specific career path chosen, work location, and personal interests. Prospective students and professionals should research potential careers carefully before determining whether a degree in nursing is appropriate. Those looking for information on the highest paying nursing jobs can find them below.

Job Outlook in Nursing

Overall, the outlook for healthcare occupations is very good. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), employment for workers in this field is projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations in the United States. Approximately 1.8 million openings are projected each year between 2022 and 2032. The median annual wage for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations was $77,760 in May 2022, which is higher than the median annual wage of $46,310 for all occupations in the nation.

Employment for registered nurses (RNs) is projected to grow 6% in the same timeframe, which is also faster than the average for all occupations in the nation. This growth will account for about 193,100 openings each year, most of which will result from the need to replace workers transferring to different occupations or exiting the labor force.

It’s also important to realize that prospects vary by occupation. Some professions are expected to perform better than others. As a result, it’s always recommended that prospective nursing professionals research possible sub-field classifications carefully to gain a more accurate understanding of employment outlook.

How to Get a Job in Nursing

The first step to getting a job in nursing is determining what kind of nurse you want to become. There are a wide variety of employment opportunities available in the field, each with distinct hiring standards and expectations. These can vary significantly, especially between states. As a result, it’s important to identify which occupation or occupations you are most interested in pursuing. This knowledge will be particularly relevant when selecting an education program, elective courses, internships positions, extracurricular activities, and/or professional certifications.

Find Online Colleges Offering Nursing Majors

After obtaining the necessary academic background, it may be necessary and/or beneficial to pursue associated professional credentials. For example, all practicing nurses in the United States must be professionally licensed by the state in which they work. Licensing for registered nurses (RNs) is typically regulated by State Boards of Nursing, but application requirements vary by location. In most cases, prospective RNs must pass criminal background checks, as well as the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Other common expectations for RNs include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS), and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification. Nurses may also become certified in specific areas through professional associations. Some common options are ambulatory care, gerontology, and pediatrics.

Well-Paying Nursing Careers

There are many nursing careers that offer high salary potential. Pay can vary significantly across the field, however.

Some of the highest paid nursing opportunities available include:

  • Medical-Surgical Nurse Manager - $177,999
    Medical-surgical nurse managers oversee nursing staff and patient care in medical-surgical units. They ensure efficient operations, manage schedules, and collaborate with healthcare teams to provide quality care. These professionals play a pivotal role in maintaining high standards of medical-surgical nursing, optimizing patient outcomes, and fostering a positive work environment for nursing staff.
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNAs) - $174,000
    A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is an advanced practice registered nurses specializing in anesthesia care. Certified registered nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia, monitor patients during procedures, and ensure their safe recovery. Collaborating with healthcare teams, they play a crucial role in various medical settings, ensuring optimal patient outcomes in surgical and procedural interventions. These professionals contribute to the delivery of high-quality anesthesia care across diverse healthcare environments.
  • Cardiac Nurse Practitioner (NP) - $100,122
    Cardiac NPs specialize in providing advanced cardiovascular care. They assess, diagnose, and treat patients with heart-related conditions, collaborating with healthcare teams to ensure comprehensive cardiac care. These professionals play a vital role in managing and preventing heart diseases, contributing to improved patient outcomes and promoting cardiovascular health across diverse patient populations.
  • Pain Management Nurse - $125,070
    Pain management nurses specialize in providing care to individuals with chronic pain conditions. They assess and evaluate patients, develop personalized pain management plans, and collaborate with healthcare teams to implement comprehensive approaches. These professionals play a crucial role in improving patients' quality of life by addressing and alleviating persistent pain, contributing to holistic and patient-centered care.
  • Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner (NP) - $121,700
    Orthopedic NPs specialize in providing advanced healthcare for patients with musculoskeletal conditions. They assess, diagnose, and treat orthopedic issues, collaborating with healthcare teams to develop comprehensive care plans. These professionals play a crucial role in addressing the specialized needs of patients with bone, joint, or muscle-related health concerns, contributing to enhanced orthopedic care and improved patient outcomes.
  • Travel Nurse - $117,490
    Travel nurses are healthcare professionals who take short-term assignments, often relocating to areas with healthcare staffing shortages. They work in various healthcare settings, filling temporary roles and contributing to patient care. These professionals adapt quickly to new environments, collaborating with different teams, and providing crucial support during staffing gaps. They play a flexible and essential role in maintaining healthcare services across diverse locations.
  • Mental Health \ Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners (NP) - $116,685
    A psychiatric- mental health nurse specializes in providing mental health care - assessing, diagnosing, and treating individuals with psychiatric conditions. They collaborate with healthcare teams to develop and implement treatment plans. These professionals play a vital role in addressing mental health needs, promoting well-being, and supporting patients on their journey to recovery.
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NP) - $114,674
    Neonatal NPs specialize in providing advanced healthcare to newborns and infants. They assess, diagnose, and treat a range of health issues unique to this population - collaborating with healthcare teams to ensure optimal outcomes. These professionals play a crucial role in neonatal care, addressing complex medical needs and supporting the well-being of infants and their families. This may also include those who work in neonatal intensive care positions.
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (NP) - $103,677
    Urgent/Acute Care NPs specialize in delivering immediate healthcare in urgent care settings. They assess and treat a variety of non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses, providing timely and efficient care. Collaborating with healthcare teams, they play a crucial role in addressing acute medical needs. These professionals contribute to the accessibility of healthcare by offering prompt and comprehensive services to patients seeking urgent attention.
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP) - $103,202
    NPs are advanced practice registered nurses specializing in various healthcare areas. They assess, diagnose, and treat patients - emphasizing preventive care and health promotion. Collaborating with healthcare teams, they play a crucial role in providing comprehensive, patient-centered care. These professionals contribute to the evolving landscape of healthcare by delivering services that address diverse healthcare needs across different populations and settings.
  • Certified Nurse Midwife - $102,468
    Certified nurse-midwives provide comprehensive care to pregnant individuals before, during, and after childbirth. They specialize in offering a holistic approach, emphasizing the importance of natural childbirth. Collaborating with healthcare teams, these professionals support the physical and emotional well-being of expectant parents. Overall, they play a crucial role in facilitating safe and satisfying childbirth experiences while promoting maternal and newborn health.
  • Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (NP) - $101,736
    Gerontological NPs specialize in providing healthcare to the elderly. They focus on addressing the unique health needs of older adults, managing chronic conditions, and promoting overall well-being. Collaborating with healthcare teams, these professionals play a vital role in enhancing the quality of life for older individuals through specialized care tailored to the complexities of aging.
  • Family Nurse Practitioners (NP) - $100,503
    Family NPs specialize in providing comprehensive healthcare to individuals of all ages. They assess, diagnose, and treat a variety of health conditions - emphasizing preventive care and health promotion. Collaborating with healthcare teams, these professionals play a crucial role in addressing diverse healthcare needs, from routine check-ups to managing chronic illnesses, ensuring holistic and patient-centered care.
  • Aesthetic Registered Nurse (RN) - $100,000
    Aesthetic RNs specialize in providing cosmetic and aesthetic treatments. They administer procedures, such as Botox injections and dermal fillers, contributing to patient's cosmetic goals. Collaborating with medical professionals, these professionals prioritize patient safety and satisfaction in delivering services that enhance and rejuvenate the appearance of individuals seeking aesthetic improvements.
  • Nurse Administrator - $99,831
    Nurse administrators oversee the management and coordination of healthcare services within various settings. They play a key role in ensuring efficient operations, implementing policies, and coordinating nursing staff. These professionals contribute to the overall effectiveness of healthcare facilities by optimizing workflow, promoting quality patient care, and addressing administrative challenges in the dynamic healthcare environment.
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) - $98,526
    WHNPs are advanced practice registered nurses specializing in women's healthcare. They provide comprehensive care across the lifespan - focusing on reproductive health, gynecological issues, and general wellness. These professionals conduct examinations, diagnose and treat conditions, and emphasize health education. Collaborating with healthcare teams, they contribute to women's overall well-being, addressing diverse healthcare needs from adolescence through menopause.
  • Nurse Attorney - $96,935
    Nursing attorneys leverage their dual expertise in nursing and law, navigating the intersection of healthcare and legal systems. They analyze medical records, interpret complex health information, provide critical input in legal matters, and represent medical personnel during legal proceedings. It’s also common for them to assist in workers’ compensation cases and participate in trials as expert witnesses. Notably, these professionals hold nursing and law degrees.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) - $96,734
    CNSs are advanced practice registered nurses with specialized expertise in a particular patient population, setting, or medical specialty. They provide direct patient care, serve as clinical leaders, and contribute to healthcare improvements through evidence-based practices. These professionals collaborate with healthcare teams to enhance patient outcomes and provide mentorship to fellow nurses, ensuring high standards of care.
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (NP) - $96,289
    Pediatric NPs specialize in providing primary and specialized healthcare to children from infancy to adolescence. Collaborating with healthcare teams - they assess, diagnose, and treat pediatric patients, emphasizing preventive care and health education. These professionals play a vital role in promoting the overall well-being of children, addressing their unique healthcare needs and supporting families in navigating the complexities of pediatric healthcare.
  • Clinical Research Nurse - $91,357
    Clinical research nurses play a pivotal role in the field of healthcare research, collaborating with interdisciplinary teams to conduct clinical trials and studies. They administer experimental treatments, monitor patient responses, and ensure adherence to research protocols. These professionals bridge the gap between patient care and scientific investigation, contributing to advancements in medical knowledge and treatment modalities.

Other Career Options

While the positions mentioned above are some of the highest paying options available to those looking for a high paying nursing profession, they are not the only employment opportunities available. In fact, individuals with backgrounds in this field can qualify for many other professions, as well. Despite offering lower salary potential, these jobs can function as a great means of gaining additional experience that may lead career advancement in the future.

Find Nursing Schools Online

Some less lucrative nursing jobs include:

  • Telehealth Registered Nurse (RN) - $94,243
  • Clinical Research Nurse - $91,357
  • Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC) Line Nurse (RN) - $89,280
  • Clinical Nurse Manager - $88,696
  • Per Diem Registered Nurse (RN) - $88,014
  • Flight Nurse - $86,734
  • Legal Nurse Consultant - $86,243
  • Rehabilitation Nurse - $86,161
  • Critical Care Nurse - $85,609
  • Quality Assurance Nurse - $83,446
  • Informatics Nurse - $82,875
  • Nurse Educator / Nurse Instructor - $80,955
  • Oncology Nurse - $80,339
  • Occupational Nurse - $77,594
  • Infection Control Nurse - $77,440
  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurse - $74,917
  • Private Duty Registered Nurse (RN) - $74,828
  • Home Care Nurse - $73,825
  • Diabetes Nurse Educator (CDE) - $71,715
  • Registered Nurse - $70,881
  • Wellness Nurse - $68,302
  • Medical / Surgical Nurse - $64,712
  • Office Registered Nurse (RN) - $56,106
  • Clinical Nurse Manager - $88,696
    Clinical nurse managers oversee the day-to-day operations of healthcare units, ensuring the delivery of quality patient care. They coordinate nursing staff, manage schedules, and collaborate with other healthcare workers to optimize clinical processes. These professionals play a pivotal role in maintaining high standards of care, fostering a positive work environment, and contributing to the overall efficiency of healthcare facilities.
  • Flight Nurse - $86,734
    Flight nurses provide specialized medical care during air transportation, typically in helicopters or airplanes. They ensure the well-being of patients during medical evacuations or transfers between healthcare facilities. These professionals assess and stabilize patients, administer treatments, and collaborate with other medical professionals to deliver critical care in challenging and time-sensitive environments, such as during emergencies or disaster situations.
  • Legal Nurse Consultant - $86,243
    Legal nurse consultants bridge the gap between healthcare and the legal system. Leveraging their nursing expertise, they assist in legal cases by analyzing medical records, providing insight on healthcare standards, and serving as liaisons between legal teams and medical professionals. These workers also contribute valuable healthcare perspectives to legal proceedings, aiding in the resolution of cases involving medical issues.
  • Critical Care Nurse - $85,609
    Critical care nurses specialize in providing intensive care to critically ill patients. They work in settings such as intensive care units and emergency rooms - monitoring patient conditions, administering medications, and coordinating services with healthcare teams. These professionals play a crucial role in responding to emergencies, managing life-threatening situations, and ensuring the best possible outcomes for patients in critical conditions.
  • Informatics Nurse - $82,875
    Informatics nurses integrate nursing with information management and analytical sciences. They design and implement healthcare information systems, ensuring seamless communication among healthcare professionals and efficient patient care. These professionals play a pivotal role in optimizing the use of technology, improving data accuracy, and enhancing overall healthcare delivery through the application of information and technology solutions.
  • Nurse Educator/Nurse Instructor - $80,955
    Nurse educators instruct and mentor aspiring nurses by designing and implementing educational programs. They blend clinical expertise with teaching skills to prepare students for careers in the field. Additionally, these professionals may develop curricula, evaluate student performance, and stay abreast of advancements in healthcare to ensure the delivery of relevant and effective nursing education.
  • Occupational Nurse - $77,594
    Occupational nurses specialize in workplace health, addressing employee well-being and safety. They assess and treat work-related injuries and illnesses, collaborate with employers to implement health programs, and provide education on preventive measures. These professionals contribute to maintaining a healthy and safe work environment, supporting both individual employee health and overall organizational well-being.
  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurse - $74,917
    ICU nurses specialize in caring for critically ill patients. They monitor vital signs, administer medications, and collaborate with healthcare teams to provide specialized, intensive care. These professionals play a crucial role in managing patients with life-threatening conditions, ensuring constant attention and immediate response to changes in their medical status.
  • Home Care Nurse - $73,825
    Home care nurses provide essential healthcare services to patients in their homes. They offer personalized care, administer medications, monitor health conditions, and assist with daily living activities. These professionals collaborate with patients, families, and healthcare teams to develop care plans that cater to the unique needs of each individual. Their role is crucial in promoting recovery, ensuring comfort, and maintaining the overall well-being of patients outside traditional healthcare settings.
  • Registered Nurse (RN) - $70,881
    RNs collaborate with healthcare teams to provide and coordinate patient care. They assess patients, develop care plans, administer medications, and educate individuals and families on health management. These professionals often work in diverse healthcare settings - ensuring the well-being of patients through direct care, monitoring, and advocating for their needs within the broader healthcare system.