The nursing profession is experiencing aggressive growth as nurses continue to assume many tasks, functions and responsibilities once considered the exclusive province of physicians. Nursing salaries have risen and commensurate with the field's growth; even today's entry level nurses can earn excellent salaries in relation to other industries, and those who pursue additional education and training earn nursing salaries that range from high five figures to high six figures.
According to the most recent figures available from the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the nursing field will continue to grow at its current pace through 2018, making nursing an excellent opportunity for college students, graduate students, and working professionals thinking about a change of careers.
Nursing Careers with the highest salaries:
Head of Nursing
The Head of Nursing career combines extensive nursing experience with the duties of a top executive of any company, typically requiring an MBA and at least 15 years experience. Policy making, personnel oversight, and budget planning and implementation skills are essential functions of this diverse and challenging career. The highest paying of all nursing salaries, the Head of Nursing requires strong executive skills but also requires exemplary hands on nursing skills. The Head of Nursing is the liaison between the nursing department and the hospital or organization's top executives, often carrying the title Chief Nursing Officer.
Median Salary: $ 179,916.00
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
CRNA's are the highest paid of all nursing specialties, requiring extensive additional training. In addition to a 4 year science or nursing degree, CRNA's must also be licensed RN's with one year of experience in an acute care setting (ICU, CCU). Then they are required to attend a 2+ year training program in anesthesia education, after which they must pass the certification exam. CRNA's practice everywhere anesthesia is administered, from OR's to dentist offices. Chief CNRA's, who oversee a staff of CRNA's, often earn an additional $10,000-$20,000 per year. Even without that override, the salary is excellent:
Median Salary: $ 156,239.00
Nursing Director (ND)
The ND oversees all aspects of the department's nursing staff; planning budgets, developing schedules, writing and implementing policy. The ND is the key liaison between hospital administration and staff. ND's are leaders possessing excellent people skills and project management abilities, often having risen through the ranks of the staff. This is a direct supervisory position; although the ND must have solid administrative skills.
Median Salary: $121,193.00
Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
The CNM attends childbirth in lieu of a physician, and also monitors pregnancies with low to moderate risk. CNM's attend births in homes and hospitals and will defer to a physician if complications develop that threaten the health of the mother and/or baby. CNM's also provide additional healthcare to female patients, ranging from family planning, gynecological exams, pre and postnatal care.
Median Salary: $91,439.00
Nurse Practitioner (NP)
The Nurse Practitioner usually works in collaboration with physicians, although some states allow them to operate their own clinics while others require the supervision of a physician. NP's provide a wide range of healthcare services, but typically specialize in one area: e.g., pediatrics, family practice, or women’s health. In addition, NP's often diagnose and treat acute injuries, illnesses and infections. NP's who work in ER's or in pediatrics earn the highest nursing salaries in relation to their peers.
Median Salary: $89,692.00
Head Nurse (HN)
Found in ICU, CCU, OR, ER, or obstetrics, where there is more than one nurse in a department, there is almost always a head nurse. In addition to performing patient care duties, the HN is responsible for maintaining patient records, performance reports, inventory management and the daily administrative duties of the department.
Median Salary: $88,705.00
Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
This nursing position involves research, data analysis and number crunching in addition to the traditional nursing duties of treating and diagnosing patients. The position places emphasis on assessing healthcare facilities' policies, procedures, and practices. The CNS position is broken down into three areas of specialty: patient/family, nursing personnel/practice, system/network organization, with no discernable difference in nursing salaries between the areas.
Median Salary: $88,005.00
Once regarded as a low paying career with few opportunities for advancement, the nursing field has come a long way. Today's RN is a highly trained, skilled professional who, under physician supervision, is trusted with many of the duties and responsibilities that were once reserved exclusively for doctors. Nurses who pursue administrative career paths have all the education and business savvy of a C level executive, and are often at the nexus of critical policy making decisions for their organization.