Nursing provides a stable career with excellent pay scales across many specialties. Use this guide to understand the highest-paying nursing jobs nationwide.
The first step is comparing median national salary data for the most common nursing roles and credentials using authoritative resources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, recruitment sites, and nursing associations. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) average approximately $48,500 annually, according to BLS, while Registered Nurses (RN) earn a median salary of around $75,330 depending on state and specialization.
On average, nurse practitioners (NP) make roughly $114,270 annually. Still, specialty areas like psychiatric nurse practitioners earn closer to $125,000 typically—nursing administration and education roles average between $92,300-$102,700 based on experience and facility. Depending on geography, nurse anesthetists are some of the highest paid on average at approximately $174,790 or above. Remember that the local cost of living and job setting impact nurse pay significantly. Analyzing income ranges by nurse title and credentials paints a picture of earning potential.
Specific high-demand nursing career specializations pay substantially higher salaries than others due to specialized skill sets and credentials required challenging work conditions, and supply/demand imbalances. According to BLS, some of the highest-paying specialties include nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners across settings, clinical nurse specialists, critical care nurses, psychiatric nurse practitioners, pediatric nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives.
Salaries for these specialized nurse roles range from approximately $90,000 on the low end up to over $175,000 per year on average at the top levels, presenting opportunities to maximize income through education and career focus. Pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing or other advanced degree required to specialize equips nurses for the top-tier paying roles within the diverse nursing profession.
An increasingly popular way for experienced registered nurses to earn substantial pay while enjoying flexibility is pursuing travel nursing job contracts nationwide. Travel nurses take 13-week travel assignments in hospitals and facilities nationwide while commanding pay rates above $70 per hour or over $3000 per week, depending on the region and employer. Contracts include stipends, full benefits, and bonuses.
Major staffing agencies like Aya Healthcare, Fastaff Travel Nursing, Fusion Medical Staffing, and others match skilled nurses with the highest-paying travel contract opportunities coast to coast. RNs can hand-select contracts based on set, pay, and locations appealing to them for tourism. Travel nurses earn top-tier incomes while experiencing new cities and states across an exciting national contract career path. Many agencies offer referral rewards as well.
To focus your nursing job search closer to home, check major online job boards like Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor filtering for your specific metro area and “nursing” as the role. Look closely at the advertised salary ranges for specialty nurses, nurse practitioners, nursing faculty, nurse managers, nurse administrators, and other advanced practice positions to identify roles offering the most compensation in your city or state.
Cross-check directly with hospital and clinic career sites for local high-paying nurse openings. Target your applications and prioritize applying for positions matching your experience level and interests that offer salaries on the upper end of local market rates. Adjusting location filters when researching opportunities allows pinpointing the best-paying and most attainable nursing jobs near your home.
The national nursing shortage translates into generous compensation and wages across most nurse career paths, specializations, and geographic locations nationwide. Review and compare average salary data points by specific nursing role, experience level, credentials, and in-demand fields. Consider which specialized certifications align with higher earning potential. Leverage lucrative travel nurse contracting to maximize short-term pay. Always check job listings locally, filtering by salary ranges. With such substantial income upside, job stability, and meaningful work, nursing provides some of the most financially rewarding lifelong career options. Making informed choices leads nurses to the highest-paying opportunities.