10 Highest-Paying Nursing Specialties

So you’ve decided to pursue a career in nursing? Congratulations! Nursing is a noble profession that comes with many rewards, both intrinsic and financial. If you want to ensure you’re well-paid for your efforts in the healthcare field, then you’ll need to consider a nursing specialty associated with a lucrative salary. In this article, we’ll highlight the 10 highest paying nursing specialties in the field right now.

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Nurse Anesthetist

highest paying nursing specialties

Median Salary: $151,236

Of the highest paying nursing specialties on our list, nurse anesthetist comes out on top. These nursing professionals are primarily responsible for administering anesthesia to patients in a variety of clinical settings, including those related to surgery, dental procedures, diagnostic procedures, or labor and delivery, for instance.

The average salary for a nurse anesthetist is roughly $150,000 per year, according to PayScale. However, your exact salary will depend on several different factors, including where you work and how much experience you have. You could start out making approximately $100,000 annually and work your way up to twice that.

Related: Average Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Salary

Psychiatric Nursing

Median Salary: $106,779

Another job to consider when thinking of the highest paying nursing specialties is in the field of psychiatric nursing. Psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNP) are advanced healthcare professionals that serve patient populations requiring mental health and/or psychiatric treatment.  Psychiatric ARNPs may work in inpatient or outpatient settings. Their duties will vary depending on their exact role, but job-related responsibilities may include administering mental health assessments, developing psychiatric treatment plans, prescribing medications, and keeping patient records, for example.

PayScale reports the median salary for psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioners to be just over $106,000. You can expect to make more or less depending on your exact employment terms and years of experience in the field of psychiatric nursing, though. Top-earning psychiatric ARNPs can earn upwards of $140,000 per year.

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Average Psychiatric Nurse (ARNPs) Salary

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Median Salary: $94,081

A family nurse practitioner—sometimes referred to as an FNP—is an advanced registered nurse practitioner who has specialized in the wellness of families, including both children and adults. FNPs sometimes treat patients for existing conditions, but they focus on preventative health. These health professionals may work under the direct supervision of a medical doctor, but increasingly, FNPs work independently in clinical settings.

According to PayScale, the average family nurse practitioner makes just under $95,000 per year. There are factors that can contribute to your pay both positively and negatively, however. Some of these factors include where you work and how long you’ve had the position. You can expect to make a minimum of $79,000 per year, but the highest-paid FNPs make over $115,000 annually.

Related: Average Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Salary


Median Salary: $94,893

Nurses who are seeking a career among the highest paying nursing specialties and are interested in women’s health may pursue careers as certified nurse midwives, or CNMs. These medical professionals provide a wide range of healthcare services for women, including gynecological and obstetric care as well as reproductive health therapies. Nurse-midwives can deliver babies (at the hospital or at home) under normal circumstances and can also provide newborn care.

PayScale.com reports that nurse-midwives make around $94,000 per year on average. Depending on your employer, geographical location, and years of experience, though, you could make as little as $78,000 or as much as $113,000.

Related: Average Nurse-Midwife (CNM) Salary


Median Salary: $89,637

Gerontology is the study of human aging. Thus, nurses who specialize in gerontological care are concerned about the health of the older population. They often pursue careers as Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners (AGNPs). AGNPs provide preventative and therapeutic health services for adults, including senior citizens. Although many of them work under the direction of a doctor, AGNPs are increasingly gaining autonomy in the field and practicing geriatric medicine independently.

According to PayScale, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners (AGNPs) make just under $90,000 annually. Various factors can affect your specific salary, though, including your employer and years of experience in the field of gerontology. Your wage could fall within $73,000 to $111,000 per year.

Related: Average Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners (AGNP) Average Salary

Utilization Management

Median Salary: $73,455

A relative newcomer among the highest paying nursing specialties is the utilization management nurse. They focus on the efficiency of healthcare services. Utilization management nurses work behind the scenes, evaluating patient files to ensure that the health services provided are necessary and appropriate. They may observe the work of other healthcare professionals, keep detailed records, and conduct regular audits.

The median salary for utilization management nurses is just over $73,000 per year, according to PayScale. Your pay could vary, though, depending on several different factors, especially your experience in the field of utilization management. Realistically, you should expect to make anywhere from $60,000 to $92,000 annually.

Related: Average Utilization Management Nurse (UMN) Salary

Occupational Health Nurse

Median Salary: $71,687

An occupational health nurse has the unique job of ensuring that workplaces are safe for employees. This role includes identifying occupational hazards to prevent injuries from occurring on the job. It may also include developing safety programs, educating a corporation’s staff on various health and wellness topics like weight loss, stress management, or smoking cessation. Occupational health nurses also treat injured workers and those who fall ill while on the clock.

PayScale reports the median salary for occupational health nurses to be just over $71,000. Still, not all occupational health nurses will earn this much. Some may make under $55,000 annually, while others will make more than $90,000 per year.

Related: Average Occupational Health Nurse (OHN) Salary

Critical Care Nursing

Median Salary: $67,157

Critical care nurses tend to be compensated well, and for good reason. These types of nurses work in intensive care centers where they care for the patients with the most severe conditions.  According to the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN), the role of a critical care nurse includes patient advocacy as well. These healthcare professionals must represent patients’ rights and wishes during their stay in the hospital and ensure that they receive the highest level of care possible.

Entry-level critical care nurses may start out making just over $40,000 per year, but their wages will increase as they gain more experience in the field. Top-earning critical care nurses may make as much as $98,000 annually.

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Average Critical Care Nurse (NNC) Salary

Neonatal Nursing

Median Salary: $65,899

Neonatal nursing is a specialty of nursing that involves the care of newborns and babies up until the age of two. These types of nurses may work in hospitals or clinics; some work in neonatal intensive care units. When studying to become a neonatal nurse, you may choose to care for healthy newborns, newborns with mild health problems or prematurity, or those with critical illnesses.

Though PayScale reports the median salary for nurses to be right around $65,000, wages for neonatal nurses can vary widely. Some entry-level neonatal nurses may make just $45,000 per year while top earners in the field will bring home over six figures. Salaries are often dependent upon factors like geographical regions, employers, and experience.

Related: Average Neonatal Nurse Salary

Pediatric Nursing

Median Salary: $60,814

Nurses with aspirations of working with children are well-suited for the specialty of pediatric nursing. Pediatric nurses provide healthcare services for children ages zero to eighteen. In addition to providing a range of different treatments and therapies for kids, pediatric nurses must have excellent bedside manners as they tend to young patients.

As with most nursing positions, the salary of a pediatric nurse can vary widely. Factors influencing pay rates for these nurses include where they work and how much experience they have in their nursing specialty. While the median salary for pediatric nurses is just over $60,000 according to PayScale, actual earnings can vary from as little as $31,000 per year to over $85,000 annually.

Related: Average Pediatric Nurse Salary

When considering a nursing specialty, it is certainly important to keep your earnings potential in mind. Do yourself a favor, though, and take some time to consider how the specialty suits your interests, personality, and long-term career goals as well. You’ll also want to consider the type of healthcare degree necessary to work within the specialty and how long it will take to earn these credentials. Lastly, think about the cost of your nursing education and consider this expense in relation to your earnings over time. This is one way to calculate the ROI of your nursing school program. As a final word, remember that money matters when it comes to choosing the right career path (in nursing or in any other field), but it shouldn’t be the only determining factor. For most nurses, the job is a lifelong calling, so be sure it is the right one.

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