Which Nurses Make the Most Money?

5 Ways Travel Nursing Makes You a Better Nurse

By Anita Wong, contributor

Whether you're a new grad considering your options or an experienced nurse wanting to specialize, it's natural to want to maximize your earnings. The average RN already enjoys a competitive salary, but if you'd like to boost your income, take a look at the specialties in which nurses make the most money to see if they're a good fit for you.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median wage for a registered nurse is $71,730 per year. Advanced practice registered nurses, who typically have a graduate degree and extensive clinical experience, earn a median salary of $113,930 per year.

Here are some nursing positions that tend to pay above-average wages, but keep in mind that a particular salary depends on experience, education, facility and location.

Nurse anesthetist

When you're looking at which nurses make the most money, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) usually top the list. CRNAs earn an average annual wage of $174,790. States such as Montana, California, Iowa, Oregon and Wisconsin pay the most, with average CRNA salaries of more than $200,000 per year, according to BLS data.

The high pay reflects the job responsibility and training required. It takes about 8 years to become a CRNA. In addition to becoming an RN and gaining a minimum of one year of experience, you must earn a master's degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia education program, acquiring about 9,300 hours of clinical experience. You must also successfully pass the CRNA certification exam.

Nurse practitioner

Nurse practitioners (NPs) have additional training beyond a registered nurse designation. They typically have graduate degrees and certifications in caring for a specific patient population. NPs assess patients, order tests, make diagnoses and prescribe treatment.

The mean annual wage for a nurse practitioner is $110,030. This is an emerging occupation, with the average NP having practiced for 10 years.

  • Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) have a broad scope of practice, treating patients of all ages. FNPs comprise two-thirds of all nurse practitioners with an average annual salary of $114,620.
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Practitioners treat patients with mental health or substance abuse problems. Their average annual income is $130,967.
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioners can be certified in primary care or acute care. The average base salary for PNPs in primary care is $106,301.

Other NPs work in women's health, neonatal health and gerontology.

Perioperative nurse

The demand for skilled RNs who work in the operating room is growing rapidly. According to a study by Advance Healthcare Network, the average OR nurse's wage of $83,684 can climb to $95,321 per year for Certified Perioperative Nurses.

Travel nurse jobs usually pay a higher salary than staff positions, so you can make even more money taking on temporary OR assignments. An operating room travel nurse can earn in the range of $1,400 per week in Boston or Dallas and around $2,000 per week in Seattle or Atlanta. Some positions in California pay over $2,500 per week.

Emergency or trauma nurse

Emergency, trauma and transport nurses earn an average of $77,500, with upper salaries reaching $97,500 or more, according to a recent study by their professional associations. Trauma nurses average about $82,500, with some earning more than $102,500.

Most RNs in this field hold at least a bachelor's degree. Trauma nurses are more likely than ER nurses to have a graduate degree.

ER travel nurses can earn a weekly salary of $1,600 in Oregon, $1,800 in New Hampshire or Massachusetts and more than $2,000 in California in current emergency room travel nurse jobs.

Oncology nurse

Oncology nurses coordinate cancer care, provide chemotherapy, help patients manage symptoms and provide compassionate support. They require specialized clinical expertise and can be accredited as a Certified Oncology Nurse to demonstrate competencies.

According to a study by the Advance Healthcare Network, oncology nurses earn an average of $82,308 per year, reaching as high as $90,656 with certification. Nurses with a master's degree may move into advanced practice roles.

When you're considering what type of nurse makes the most money, be sure to also take into account the benefits of travel nursing, which generally pays more than a permanent position. Travel assignments are available in a variety of locations and specialties — find out what travel nurse opportunities are waiting for you today.



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