It’s no mystery why many individuals are drawn to a nursing career. Nursing is not only one of the noblest of the helping professions. It also boasts a promising job outlook. In fact, it is one of the largest occupations in the fast-growing and lucrative healthcare field! The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the average annual salary for employees in this sector to be just under $70,000. That makes it one of the highest-paid occupational fields in the United States. CVO experts have compiled a list of the highest-paying nursing jobs in 2022. Our intention is to aid in your career development. We want to help you make the best possible decision as you choose from the many rewarding nursing specialties available.
Regarding job outlook, there are plenty of opportunities right now for healthcare professionals. And these job openings are only increasing. According to the BLS, the healthcare field is expected to expand by 16% from 2020 to 2030. This will result in nearly 2.5 million new jobs, including over 200,000 new high-paying RN jobs. In this ranking, our editors identify the highest-paid nursing jobs and nursing specialties. These include positions for RNs, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse practitioners.
#20. Hospice Nurse
Average Annual Salary: $67,490
Wage Per Hour: $30.74
Hospice nurses are some of the best-paying nursing careers in the United States. This should come as no surprise. After all, this field has some of the most challenging jobs in the healthcare industry. Hospice nurses are RNs specifically trained to care for patients at the end stages of their lives. This includes those with terminal illnesses as well as elderly patients. Due to the condition of their patients, hospice nurses are not concerned with improving the health of those in their care. Instead, these nurses work to prevent pain and discomfort and ensure quality of life. Hospice nurses must also prepare a patient’s family members for their passing.
To have a hospice nurse career, students need to earn at least a registered nurse (RN) license. They must also have an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) credential. BSN-prepared nurses may have a competitive advantage when applying for positions in the field, though. Besides these nursing degrees, professional certification through hospice programs and associations may also be required or preferred. Hospice nurses can become officially licensed by taking a certification exam. Licensing is available through the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses (NBCHPN).
The job outlook for prospective hospice nurses is comparable to other RN positions. According to the BLS, positions for RNs are projected to grow by 9% between 2020 to 2030.
#19. NICU Nurse (Neonatal Nurse Practitioner)
Average Annual Salary: $69,518
Wage Per Hour: $33.36
Among the most well-known and highest-paid nursing specialties for a career in the U.S. is the NICU nurse or neonatal nurse specialty. NICU nurses are also known as neonatal nurses or neonatal nurse practitioners. They are registered nurses who work in Neonatal Intensive Care Units. Many nurses who pursue jobs as NICU nurses or neonatal nurse practitioners desire to treat patients who have just been born. The newborn babies they care for typically have critical care needs. Many of them are born prematurely, and not all survive.
To have a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nursing career, RNs must be mentally tough. They must also have a gentle touch. After all, they work with newborn babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. These are babies whose lives are often hanging by a thread! NICU nurses routinely provide specialized care for infants. They provide this care immediately following birth and up to the age of two. The length of care will depend on the child’s medical needs. The duties of a NICU nurse or neonatal nurse practitioner are multifaceted. Tasks may include:
- monitoring infant vital signs
- providing direct patient care
- administering medical treatment
These nurses are also responsible for educating parents on how to care for their babies at home.
The educational requirements for a NICU nurse or neonatal nurse practitioner are somewhat predictable. That’s because they’re akin to the majority of highest-paying nursing careers in our ranking. That is, these types of nurses must complete an RN program. This program can be an associate’s or bachelor’s level degree plan. It is important to note, though, that positions for neonatal nurses are competitive. Thus, some employers show a preference for the BSN-prepared neonatal nurse. A neonatal nurse practitioner must hold at least a master’s degree. Professional certification in the field is also a common request from employers. Certified NICU nurses are licensed by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.
#18. Emergency Room Nurse
Average Annual Salary: $69,866
Wage Per Hour: $32.37
Perhaps one of the most well-known high-paying nursing careers is an emergency room—or ER—nurse. These types of registered nurses are trained to work in the fast-paced, stressful environment of an emergency room or critical care facility. Besides this specialized training for work in urgent care clinics, ER nurses must have a high tolerance for chaos and be able to think on their feet. That’s because they are often responsible for making quick decisions involving life-or-death situations.
ER nurses usually work as part of a larger team. This team may comprise other nursing staff members, doctors, and medical associates. Common tasks may include collecting patient information about symptoms and administering first aid and medications (including intravenous medications). These types of nurses are also responsible for monitoring patients’ recovery. Finally, they are tasked with providing updates to doctors and supervisors.
To become an emergency room nurse, you’ll need to meet the basic requirements to earn a registered nurse license. This includes completing an associates degree nursing (ADN) program. ER nurses must also pass the NCLEX-RN licensing examination. Some employers may prefer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree Besides these educational requirements, emergency room nurses usually need a specialized license. Most ER nurses hold the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) license from the Emergency Nurses Association.
Aside from a higher-than-average nursing salary, emergency room nurses also enjoy job security. The BLS reports a strong job outlook for ER nurses, with positions increasing by 9% by 2030.
#17. Clinical Research Nurse (Nurse Researchers)
Average Annual Salary: $71,954
Wage Per Hour: $35.14
One of several non-traditional highest-paid nurse careers is that of a clinical research nurse. These types of nurse researchers do not provide traditional bedside care like other members of the nursing staff. Instead, they are responsible for overseeing clinical trials and other research efforts. They are usually employed by a hospital or other healthcare facility. Many clinical research nurses report high job satisfaction. This is likely because they have a front-row seat to exciting medical advancements and breakthroughs.
A clinical research nurse has a wide range of responsibilities. Besides recruiting patients for clinical trials and medical studies, these types of nurse researchers have more traditional duties as well. For example, they may take patients’ vital signs and track their condition during experimental treatments. Clinical research nurses are also tasked with keeping detailed medical records of patient outcomes. This often requires the use of specialized computer software.
To be eligible for a nursing career in clinical research, you’ll need more than just the basic requirements for a registered nurse role. A bachelor’s credential (BSN degree) is usually required for this position. This makes it one of our picks for the highest-paying nursing jobs with BSN credentials. Typically, certification is also preferred. To earn this extra qualification, you’ll need to take and pass an official licensing examination. This exam is available from the Association of Clinical Research Professionals.
#16. Infection Control Nurse
Average Yearly Salary: $72,997
Wage Per Hour: $31.32
Even before Covid-19 was an issue, hospitals and other health facilities prioritized infection control. It’s no wonder infection control nurses are some of the best-paying nursing careers in the medical field. Or that this position is associated with a strong job outlook.
Infection control nurses are responsible for preventing and mitigating the spread of infection within a clinical setting. They must also treat patients suffering from an infection. Their duties may include analyzing information about an infection’s spread and planning to respond to an infectious outbreak. Their responsibilities may also include training other healthcare professionals about infection prevention.
Infection control nurses aren’t just ordinary registered nurses that provide routine healthcare services. They’re highly trained in their area of expertise. Typically, these nurses have completed an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) program. Moreover, they usually have at least two years of experience working as an RN in a clinical setting. Some infection control nurses have a BSN credential, and others are licensed as clinical nurse specialists. Many employers prefer applicants who are certified. Professional certification is available through the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology (CBIC).
The job outlook for an infection control nurse is bright, according to the BLS. These positions are growing alongside those for other types of RNs. They’re expected to increase by 9% by the decade’s end.
Average Salary: $73,454
Wage Per Hour: $34.57
Nurse navigators are some of the highest-paid nurses in the healthcare industry. These nurses are aptly named since they help patients navigate the sometimes confusing world of health and medical care. Nurse navigators are registered nurses specifically trained to educate patients about their health services. This instruction includes:
- treatment plans
Nurse navigators may also help connect patients to the resources that they need as they move through their treatment plans. This could include financial or emotional support resources, for example.
The nurse navigator position represents one of the highest-paid nurses’ careers. Even so, these nurses may not need a bachelor’s degree to become gainfully employed. Sometimes, an associate degree in nursing, or ADN credential, may be enough. Still, these registered nurses must be licensed to qualify for nurse navigator roles. They must also have several years of experience in the healthcare field.
Besides these educational and professional requirements, nurse navigators need a special combination of skills. Specifically, they must have a firm understanding of medical conditions and healthcare principles. They must also have the ability to communicate this understanding to their patients. Clearly, not all nurses have the potential to work in this specialized role. But those who do will be well compensated.
#14. Utilization Review Nurse
Average Salary: $73,847
Wage Per Hour: $33.25
A utilization review nurse is not a typical high-pay nursing career. Yet, the role of a utilization review nurse is indispensable to the healthcare industry. These professionals ensure that the medical treatments provided to patients are necessary and appropriate. They make these decisions based on each individual’s symptoms, condition, and insurance coverage. This is to confirm that a hospital or other healthcare facility’s resources and healthcare services are being allocated responsibly.
Though not required, a bachelor of science in nursing, or BSN, is often preferred by potential employers. A utilization review nurse must also have an official RN license and prior experience working as a registered nurse. Specific industry certifications may also be requested. Most utilization review nurses are credentialed by the American Board of Quality Assurance and Utilization Review Physicians.
The job outlook for utilization review nurses is good. Like other registered nurses, these types of nurses will see a 9% increase in available jobs by 2030. These types of registered nurses earn a decent living of well over $70k per year.
#13. Occupational Health Nurse
Average Salary: $73,978
Wage Per Hour: $34.59
Occupational health nurses make nearly $74,000 per year. This makes the position one of the highest-paid nursing careers available. A nursing career in occupational health involves caring for a special population of patients, namely employees, in a workplace setting. For this reason, this type of nurse is sometimes referred to as an employee health nurse. Occupational health nurses are trained registered nurses. The difference is that they are skilled in identifying health risks in the work environment.
Occupational health nurses may also provide routine first aid and other basic health services to employees. Other duties could include administering medication and performing laboratory tests (including drug screenings). These types of nurses also provide rehabilitation and physical therapy for injured workers.
Besides licensure as a registered nurse, occupational health nurses must have advanced training and a particular certification. This certification can be obtained through The American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. Acceptable academic credentials include an associate degree in nursing (AND) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).
#12. Critical Care Nurse (ICU Nurse)
Average Annual Salary: $75,456
Wage Per Hour: $34.46
Understandably, critical care nurses, also known as ICU nurses, are some of the highest-paid nurses. These healthcare professionals must provide medical care to some of the sickest patients. This includes those with life-threatening injuries and medical conditions. Nurses specializing in critical care can be found in various healthcare settings. Examples include burn centers, intensive care units, and emergency rooms.
As one of the highest-paid nursing careers, critical care nursing requires highly specialized training. Besides an RN license, applicants for the position of critical care nurse are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Some employers in the healthcare field will prefer nurses with a master’s credential in nursing (MSN). Plus, nurses who wish to pursue a position in critical care nursing must complete clinical training and earn professional certification. An acceptable credential is available from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACCN).
Education and training are often insufficient to prepare nurses for the work required of a critical care nurse or ICU nurse. These nurses must also have innate qualities. These traits include compassion, confidence in their abilities, and mental and emotional toughness. Because of the condition of those in their care, critical care nurses may experience the death of their patients more frequently than other types of nurses.
#11. Nurse Educator
Average Annual Salary: $77,303
Wage Per Hour: $37.93
Do you have an interest in making a broader impact on the nursing community? Then, you may consider a lucrative nursing career as a nurse educator. These seasoned nurses use their professional experiences to develop curricula for student nurses. Nurse educators also play active roles in teaching these students the fundamentals of nursing.
To be successful in this prestigious role, a nurse educator must have a combination of nursing skills and instructional know-how. Nurse educators are nurses and teachers, so they must be skilled in healthcare and education.
Since these professionals are among some of the highest-paid nurses in the field, it’s no surprise that nurse educators must be highly educated themselves. Most universities and schools of nursing require their nurse educators to hold at least a master’s degree in nursing or MSN. Many nurse educators hold a terminal nursing degree, such as a doctorate or DNP. A professional certificate is often required as well. Most nurse educators hold the National League for Nursing’s Certified Nurse Educators (CNE) designation.
#10. Transplant Coordinator
Average Annual Salary: $79,197
Wage Per Hour: $37.11
One of the most intriguing and well-compensated RN jobs is the position of transplant coordinator. These nurses work alongside other trained medical professionals as part of a hospital’s transplant team. Their specific duties may vary depending on where they work.
Generally speaking, transplant nurses have the incredible responsibility of coordinating a highly complex. medical procedure. This procedure involves transplanting a human organ from the donor to recipient. This may include ensuring a proper organ match and providing pre and post-operative care for donors and recipients. Some transplant coordinators may even assist with the actual transplant surgery.
Like many of the highest-paying nursing careers highlighted here, the job of a transplant coordinator requires at least a bachelor of science in nursing or BSN degree. Many transplant nurses hold a master’s degree in nursing, though. A professional license from the American Board for Transplant Certification may also be required for employment.
#9. Informatics Nurse
Average Annual Salary: $79,631
Wage Per Hour: $35.49
Many of the highest-paid nursing careers combine skills in nursing and management. Yet, the role of an informatics nurse marries talents in nursing and technology. These types of nurses trade their bedside duties for more technical tasks. Most of these tasks are directly related to data analytics. Nurse informaticists use specialized software to analyze medical records and other healthcare data. This is essential work to improve clinical efficiency and patient care. These nurses may also test new healthcare technologies and train other nurses to use these advanced systems.
The job of an informatics nurse has been called one of the highest-paid nursing jobs with BSN credentials. Still, an increasing number of informatics nurses hold graduate degrees in the field. One of the most popular of these types of credentials is a Master of Science in Health Informatics or MSHI. Informatics nurses with aspirations of holding directorships or other leadership roles may even consider a doctoral program. Nurse informaticists also need prior experience in the healthcare field. This experience should include working with electronic medical records. They may also be required to hold a professional certification in their specialty area. The most common credential is the Informatics Nursing Certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
#8. Nursing Director
Average Annual Salary: $87,948
Wage Per Hour: $39.03
Some of the highest-paid nurses in the field are not just nurses, but nursing directors. These types of nurse administrators have strong leadership and management skills. They use these skills to provide supervision and oversight to their entire nursing departments. Specific tasks associated with this nurse administrator role may include hiring and training new nurses and developing and implementing nursing protocols. Other duties include ensuring regulations are followed and managing the department’s finances.
A registered nurse will need several years of experience and a BSN credential to be eligible for a nursing directorship. Some nursing directors hold advanced degrees. These credentials may be in nursing, business, and/or health administration. Some nurse administrators also have a clinical nurse specialist designation. A professional certification or license may also be required to practice as a nurse administrator or director. Many nursing directors hold the Certified DNS-CT license from the American Association of Directors of Nursing Services (AADNS).
#7. Operating Room Manager
Average Annual Salary: $93,788
Wage Per Hour: $40.84
Another high-paying nursing specialty is that of an operating room manager. This specialty merges skills in business and healthcare. Not to be confused with a surgical services director, an operating room manager plays more of a hands-on role in the nursing field. That is, the OR manager is a nursing administrator who handles the organization and efficiency of the operating room itself. This includes the OR’s staff and equipment rather than the surgical department as a whole. Specific duties may include establishing patient care standards and supervising surgical teams. Operating room managers may also be tasked with training new staff members.
This is arguably one of the best nurse administrator positions for mid-career nursing professionals. That’s because the role of an operating room manager usually only requires a few years of experience as an operating room nurse. Yet, it still yields a handsome salary and is associated with a positive job outlook. A BSN is not required for the position. Still, many hospitals and healthcare facilities prefer this respected credential.
#6. Quality Management Director
Average Yearly Salary: $103,283
Wage Per Hour: $38.97
Like many of the highest-paid nursing occupations, the nursing specialty of a quality management director requires a high level of skill and experience. This includes knowledge of both management and healthcare. These professionals ensure quality outcomes for a hospital or other healthcare facility. Their duties may include confirming that hospital policies and guidelines follow regulatory standards and approved best practices. These types of directors may also develop budgets and financial guidelines for various departments. Other tasks involve devising plans for improving aspects of the clinical environment, such as safety, patient care, and efficiency.
Besides a registered nurse (RN) credential, quality management directors are usually required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing, or BSN. Most employers also expect applicants to have at least five years of experience in a supervisory or management role. Many quality management directors also have a master’s degree in business and/or nursing.
#5. Nurse Midwife
Average Salary: $111,130
Wage Per Hour: $57.39
Nurse midwives make well over six figures per year, on average. This makes the position one of the top nursing careers available. Nurse midwives are types of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who hold a nurse practitioner certification. They deliver babies and provide medical care for women before, during, and after giving birth. The certified nurse midwife is also trained to be the primary care provider during labor. He or she often assists a doctor during a cesarean section. Nurse midwives must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. They must be able to keep mothers and their partners informed and reassured during the birthing process. Moreover, they must be able to stay calm in case of an emergency or unexpected complication during labor. These are some of the only types of nurses authorized to order diagnostic tests and prescribe medication.
Certified nurse midwives are not only some of the highest-paid nurses in the world. They’re also some of the most sought-after. Like many other professions in healthcare, nurse midwives are in demand. Regarding job outlook, the BLS predicts an 11% increase in employment for qualified nurse midwives between 2020 and 2030.
Nurse-midwives must enroll in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program Once enrolled, they will pursue a specialty in Nurse-Midwifery. Depending on where they live, these advanced practice nurses may also need certain licenses or certifications to practice their profession as certified nurse midwives. A common example of nurse practitioner certification includes the Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) credential from the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB). Continuing education may also be required to maintain certification as a certified nurse midwife. Nurse midwives may work for hospitals or outpatient clinics. Or, they may operate via private practice.
#4. Family Nurse Practitioner (General Nurse Practitioners)
Average Salary: $111,680
Wage Per Hour: $53.21
Another extremely popular option for individuals looking for the most lucrative nursing specialty is the occupation of a family nurse practitioner. Family nurse practitioners are highly skilled advanced practice registered nurses. This type of certified registered nurse practitioner actually works as a primary care provider for their patients. Often, a family nurse practitioner, also known as a general nurse practitioner, will perform many of the same tasks as doctors. This includes duties typically reserved for a primary care physician, like ordering tests and prescribing medications.
Family nurse practitioner / general nurse practitioner jobs are currently in very high demand, according to current job outlook projections. This is due to an aging “baby boomers” population who need more care as they get older. The BLS reports a 52% increase in employment opportunities for family nurse practitioners and general nurse practitioners over the next eight years. The growth will result in more than 110,000 new positions for qualified family nurse practitioners/ general nurse practitioners. In addition to this promising job outlook, family nurse practitioners earn some of the highest salaries in the healthcare profession. This is understandable since they do act as primary care providers.
Family nurse practitioners must undergo a specialized course of study and training in a master’s or doctoral degree program. Typically, a family nurse practitioner or general nurse practitioner is also required to hold national certification in family practice. Plus, a state license is necessary for a family health nurse practitioner to practice in a clinical setting. Nurse practitioners may work for hospitals or outpatient clinics, or they may have a private practice.
#3. Director of Surgical Services
Average Salary: $117,715
Wage Per Hour: $48.45
The Director of Surgical Services is among the highest-paid nursing jobs with BSN credentials. This surgical nurse manager holds a multifaceted role within a hospital or outpatient clinic’s surgical wing. He or she oversees the operations of a surgical department, including the surgical nurse staff. This also includes the department’s budget, resources, and outcomes. Specific tasks of a surgical services director may include supervising and evaluating the work of other members of the surgical team. He or she may also be required to buy surgical equipment as necessary. Other possible duties include ensuring excellent patient care and planning departmental improvements.
Besides an RN credential, nursing professionals must have several years of professional experience as surgical nurses to become a Director of Surgical Services. Some candidates hold a master’s degree in nursing and a clinical nurse specialist designation. Others have an advanced degree from an accredited program in business with a healthcare administration specialty. Like other careers in the healthcare industry, the job outlook for this profession is promising.
Whatever their educational backgrounds and training, surgical services directors must have strong management and leadership skills to manage the surgical nurse team. Other skills necessary for the job include:
- project management
- budget analysis
- knowledge of human resource principles
#2. Chief Nursing Officer
Average Salary: $133,623
Wage Per Hour: $60.34
One of the highest-paid nurses in the world, a chief nursing officer, or CNO, is the leading nurse administrator or nurse manager in a healthcare facility. Sometimes known as the chief nurse executive (CNE), this nursing professional manages the daily operations of a nursing department. He or she also acts as a liaison between nurses and other departments within a hospital or clinic. Working with other nurse administrators, the CNO may make important decisions about:
- nursing practices
- departmental budgeting
- patient care
He or she may also work with other healthcare executives throughout the hospital or other healthcare facilities. This collaboration among nurse managers is necessary to coordinate work tasks and professional responsibilities. It’s also required to develop business strategies for the healthcare organization.
To become a chief nursing officer, registered nurses must hold at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). This credential must be earned from an accredited nursing school. Many CNOs have advanced degrees in nursing. A common graduate credential is a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a specialty in Nursing Administration. Because the role requires a high degree of business acumen, some chief nursing executives earn an MBA with a healthcare administration concentration. Moreover, it is not uncommon for some more extensive medical facilities to hire CNO candidates with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Chief nursing officers may also hold professional licenses and certifications related to their occupational roles as top nurse administrators. A common credential is The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)’s Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC). Continuing education may be required to maintain certification.
#1. Certified Nurse Anesthetist
Average Salary: $183,580
Wage Per Hour: $87.28
Taking the number one spot in our list of best-paid nursing career options is that of a nurse anesthetist. Known as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or clinical nurse specialist, a nurse anesthetist is a particular type of nurse. He or she administers anesthesia during surgeries and other medical procedures.
Besides administering anesthesia, these certified nurses must have excellent bedside manners. This is because many patients experience anxiety before anesthesia. These patients may only see the nurse anesthetist at the beginning of a procedure. Still, this highly trained medical professional must continue to provide care once the patient is asleep. Certified registered nurse anesthetists are responsible for monitoring the patient’s vital signs during the surgery. Nurse anesthetists may also need to adjust the amount of anesthesia administered as necessary.
To become a nurse anesthetist, nursing students must embark on a highly specialized course of study. This coursework will culminate in a master’s degree or doctoral degree. Specific licenses and certifications may also be required for certified registered nurse anesthetists. This means nurse anesthetists may have to take a certification exam. These requirements may vary depending on the state in which they practice. Nurse anesthetists work in hospitals and outpatient clinics.
It’s not enough to be the highest-paid nursing job. Another factor to consider when evaluating the best nursing careers is the job outlook. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for advanced practice nurses, such as nurse anesthetists, are in high demand. There is a projected increase of up to 13% over the next eight years for this position.
Nursing is a vast field full of many opportunities, thanks to healthy job outlook projections. From bedside care to behind-the-scenes management roles, there is truly a nursing specialization for everyone. There is one thing that all the jobs featured in this ranking have in common. That is, they are considered some of the highest-paying nursing positions one can pursue. Average salaries for the most lucrative RN and nurse practitioner jobs featured in this ranking range from just under $68,000 to over $100,000 per year. Still, many nurses report that the highest reward has nothing to do with pay or job outlook. Instead, it is the satisfaction of improving the health and quality of life of their patients. The only question that remains is: Which nursing specialty will fulfill you, both financially and intrinsically?
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