10 Highest Paying Nursing Specialities in 2024

A nurse wearing a surgical mask specializing in an operating room
Written by
Laila Ighani
Reviewed by
Miranda Kay, RN
May 1, 2024

Table of Contents

Regardless of why you became a nurse or how long you have been in the field, one thought is bound to be on your mind: 

Which are the highest-paying nursing jobs and how can I land one? 

Rest assured: This guide to the highest-paying nursing specialties will cover what type of nurse makes the most money and the average nursing wages by profession. Read on to discover which nursing jobs pay the most.

How Much Do the Highest Paid Nurses Make?

nurse smiling
Nurses who make more money are often more content in their careers.

First, it should come as no surprise that the highest-paid nurses have pursued higher education, credentials, and/or licenses. 

Nurses with master’s or doctoral degrees in nursing can become licensed as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). APRNs follow one of four major pathways: becoming certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), certified nurse midwives (CNMs), certified nurse specialists (CNSs), or nurse practitioners (NPs)

Spoiler alert: All the highest-paid nursing jobs fall into these four categories.

Not only are APRNs the highest-paid nurses but these nursing jobs are also expected to grow at a much higher rate than the average for all occupations (3 percent). Overall, the employment of CRNAs, CNMs, and NPs is expected to increase by 38 percent between 2022 and 2032—constituting about 29,200 openings annually over the decade.

While APRNs are the highest-paid nurses, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Nurse practitioners, in particular, can choose from many different well-paying specialties, so read on to find high-paying nursing jobs that fit your interests, preferences, and personality as a nurse. Without further ado, here are the top ten highest paid nursing professionals based on the most recent data in 2024:

1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) – $235,000

The salary of nurse anesthetists is the highest of all nursing professions. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are anesthesia professionals who safely administer over 50 million anesthetics to patients in the United States annually. They practice in every setting that delivers anesthesia, including the following:

  • Traditional hospital operating rooms and obstetrical delivery rooms
  • Critical access hospitals
  • Ambulatory surgical centers
  • Ketamine clinics
  • Offices of plastic surgeons, dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, and pain management specialists
  • US military, Public Health Services, and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare facilities 

The role of CRNAs is especially important in the US military and rural settings. They are the primary anesthesia care providers for US military personnel on the front lines, aircraft evacuation teams, and navy ships worldwide. They have absolute practice authority in every branch of the military. Furthermore, they represent more than 80 percent of the anesthesia providers in rural counties. 

Many rural hospitals rely on independently practicing CRNAs for anesthesia care, and half of US rural hospitals use a CRNA-only model for obstetric care. CRNAs also safely deliver pain management care, primarily where no physicians are available.

According to Medscape’s 2023 APRN Compensation Report, CRNAs earn, on average, $235,000 annually, making it the highest-paid nursing profession

Career Outlook for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of CRNAs is projected to grow by 9 percent between 2022 and 2032—constituting 4,500 new jobs for CRNAs over this period.

How to Become a CRNA

Becoming a CRNA requires seven to eight and a half years of education and experience according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology. The following are the requirements to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist:

  • A bachelor’s or graduate degree in nursing or another health-related major
  • An unencumbered license as a registered nurse and/or APRN in the United States or its territories
  • A minimum of one year of full-time work experience in a critical care setting as a registered nurse (or its part-time equivalent) 
  • Graduation with a master’s or doctoral degree from a nurse anesthesia educational program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA), typically taking 24 to 51 months to complete and accruing over 9,000 hours of clinical experience
  • Successful completion of the National Certification Examination for CRNAs

What Makes a Good CRNA?

Besides the required education and clinical experience, a CRNA must develop specific soft skills or non-clinical attributes to excel in their chosen field of nursing. The following are qualities that the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology asks CRNAs to consider for self and peer evaluation and professional development: 

  • Collaborative: Communication and emotion regulation skills
  • Culturally competent: Understanding and valuing cultural differences and being aware of personal biases
  • Evidence-based practice: Integrating scientific evidence with professional experience to improve processes and outcomes
  • Leader: Ability to mentor and empower diverse individuals and teams
  • Professionally engaged: Advancing and advocating for the nurse anesthesia specialty
  • Situationally aware: Using knowledge, experience, and perception to identify crucial elements to make decisions
  • Teacher: Fostering an environment that encourages successful learning and understanding of information for patients and others
  • Well: Lifestyle choices that promote a positive and healthy balance between personal and professional environments

2. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner – $144,461

Although they earn significantly less than CRNAs, many NPs make the list of the highest-paid nursing professionals—starting with neonatal nurse practitioners. The salary of neonatal nurse practitioners is the highest among NPs and the second highest among all nurses.

Before you get disappointed about earning so much less than a CRNA, remember that there are many more jobs available for NPs than for CRNAs. In fact, the employment of NPs is projected to grow by 45 percent between 2022 and 2032. That means there will be approximately 118,600 new jobs for NPs over this decade. 

Now, let’s learn about the highest-paid nurse practitioner specialty, which—according to Becker’s Hospital Review—rakes in a whopping $144,461 annually.

Neonatal NPs provide advanced nursing care for low- and high-risk newborns, infants, and their families. They primarily practice in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), but they may work in all the following settings:

  • All levels of neonatal inpatient care
  • Transport
  • Acute and chronic care
  • Delivery rooms
  • Outpatient settings

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) are dually prepared in the pediatric and neonatal nurse practitioner specialties and educated to provide both primary and acute care to infants. 

Career Outlook of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), neonatal NPs constitute only 0.5 percent of all nurse practitioners. However, all NP specialties can expect a significant growth rate over the next decade. 

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

The following are requirements to become a neonatal nurse practitioner according to the AANP

  • Complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), an accelerated BSN program, or an RN-to-BSN program
  • Pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and receive a registered nurse license
  • Graduate from an accredited master’s, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), or post-master NNP program
  • Obtain the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Certification (NNP-BC) from the National Certification Corporation (NCC)

On average, neonatal nurse practitioners have 18.7 years of experience.

What Makes a Good Neonatal Nurse Practitioner?

The National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) endorses the American Nurses Association’s (ANA’s) Code of Ethics for Nurses. It also expects NANN members to follow these fundamental nursing principles in patient care:

  • Unconditional respect for the worth, integrity, dignity, uniqueness, and human rights of patients, employers, colleagues, students, employees, and parents of the infants 
  • Use of knowledge and skills to advance human welfare with consideration and respect for individual differences
  • Education of families to help them make informed and autonomous decisions 
  • Maintenance of patients’ and families’ rights and privacy
  • Accountability and responsibility for personal practice and educational needs to maintain competence and professional growth
  • Advancement of the profession through active participation in policy development and professional involvement at the local, state, and national levels

3. Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP) – $137,280

Emergency nurse practitioners (ENPs) treat patients in emergency departments (EDs) or urgent care facilities, as well as critical access hospitals, trauma centers, and community EDs. With a salary of $137,280 Emergency nurse practitioners rank third-highest among all areas of nursing. ENPs must be able to provide primary and acute care because they treat patients with both life-threatening emergencies and minor health problems, such as health concerns related to chronic diseases or obstetric and gynecological issues. 

ENPs typically treat a high number of patients per shift, which is why they must excel at prioritizing, multitasking, and teamwork. They also usually work in settings that provide care around the clock, so ENPs often have to work nights, weekends, and holidays and are frequently on call.

Emergency advanced practice nursing is a subspecialty for NPs. Therefore, NPs hoping to specialize in emergency nursing must first complete experience in one of the following areas:

  • Family/individual across the lifespan
  • Women’s health
  • Adult-gerontology acute or primary care
  • Neonatology
  • Pediatrics 
  • Psychiatric/mental health

Career Outlook for Emergency Nurse Practitioners

Emergency nurse practitioners fall into the larger group of nurse practitioners, which BLS estimates will grow at a rate of 45 percent until 2032. About 5.8 percent of nurse practitioners work as ENPs in emergency departments or urgent care settings.

How to Become an Emergency Nurse Practitioner

If your heart is set on becoming an emergency nurse practitioner, you must complete the following educational requirements:

  • Complete a BSN or a bridge program if you are already an RN with an associate degree or nursing diploma.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN and obtain RN licensure (if you haven’t already).
  • Complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or DNP to obtain specialized education and training. 
  • Certify as a family nurse practitioner (FNP) or pursue another applicable NP specialty. Then, obtain additional emergency specialty education through academic or post-graduate fellowship programs or on-the-job training and continuing education units (CEUs).

This educational path takes eight to 10 years, on average, from start to finish. However, this time frame does not include work experience. If you are a nursing student or haven’t started nursing school yet, you must factor in additional years of RN work experience before beginning an advanced degree. On average, ENPs have 11.3 years of experience.

What Makes a Good Emergency Nurse Practitioner?

Emergency care is unpredictable and time-sensitive, requiring advanced diagnostic reasoning, risk stratification, and medical decision-making that set ENPs apart from other nurse practitioners. 

The American Academy of Emergency Nurse Practitioners (AAENP) and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) have established essential competencies for emergency nurse practitioners. The following are some of those competencies:

  • Ensuring the safety of the patient and care team during the delivery of emergency care with the following methods: fall prevention, verbal de-escalation, recognition of human trafficking, exploitation, and abuse
  • Assessing health literacy in patients and families to promote informed decision-making and optimal participation in care
  • Providing disaster and mass casualty patient management
  • Identifying the needs of vulnerable populations and intervening appropriately
  • Identifying the potential for rapid physiologic and/or mental health deterioration or life-threatening instability, such as infectious disease/sepsis, shock, and suicidal risk

4. Hospitalist Nurse Practitioner – $128,483

nurse helping patient
Nurse practitioners can work with clients of all ages in family practice.

The term “hospitalist” refers to physicians, nurse practitioners, or physician’s assistants with education in general medicine/internal medicine or family practice who care for patients on hospitals general floors or who have limited to no outpatient responsibilities. In other words, when patients leave the hospital, their care returns to the outpatient primary care provider. Hospital nurse practitioners earn a salary of $128,483, earning the title of the 4th best-paying nursing specialty.

These specialists provide hospitalized patients with general primary care and holistic treatment of chronic diseases. Although this profession is generally associated with physicians, NPs increasingly work in this area with comparable results. NPs are usually responsible for the direct care of a group of hospitalized patients and often perform the following duties:

  • Conducting physical examinations and clinical evaluations
  • Managing clinical care
  • Performing procedures
  • Ordering and reviewing diagnostic studies
  • Ordering and monitoring medications
  • Participating in short- and long-term planning of patient care with members of the interdisciplinary team
  • Coordinating the transition to outpatient care

Career Outlook for Hospitalist Nurse Practitioners

Hospitalists constitute the fastest-growing healthcare specialty in the United States. The 2020 State of Hospital Medicine Report found that 83.3 percent of hospital medicine groups caring for adult patients employ nurse practitioners and physician assistants (PAs). The growth of this role is significant since, in 2016, only 65 percent of adult hospital medicine programs used NPs and PAs. Furthermore, the 2023 report found that the presence of NPs and PAs continues to expand. 

How to Become a Hospitalist Nurse Practitioner

Adult acute care nurse practitioners are arguably the best positioned for the hospitalist role since a study found that 42.4 percent of hospitals required adult NPs, and 31.5 percent required acute care NPs for this position.  

To obtain an Adult-Gerontology ACUTE Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC®) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), candidates must complete the following requirements:

  • Have a current, active RN license in a US state or territory or hold the professional, legally recognized equivalent in another country
  • Complete an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP) master’s, post-graduate certificate, or DNP from an institution with a program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), or the National League for Nursing (NLN) Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA), including the completion of a minimum of 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours 
  • Complete three separate, comprehensive, graduate-level APRN Core courses in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, including general principles that apply across the life span; advanced health evaluation, which includes assessment of all human systems, advanced techniques, concepts, and approaches; and advanced pharmacology, which includes pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacotherapeutics of all broad categories of agents

*Educational programs must cover content in health promotion and/or maintenance and differential diagnosis and disease management, including the use and prescription of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, AGACNPs have 6.3 years of experience on average. Most NPs certified in adult-gerontology acute care work in hospital inpatient units and outpatient clinics. Their main areas of clinical focus include the following:

  • Hospitalist
  • Critical care
  • Cardiovascular

What Makes a Good Hospitalist Nurse Practitioner?

Each specialty and work setting has its own characteristics and challenges that demand specific abilities. The following are essential skills for hospitalist nurse practitioners:

  • Teamwork and communication skills: Hospitalists must coordinate patient care with physicians, nurses, consultants, case managers, and families. Daily rounds provide opportunities to discuss the day’s patients and identify any specific needs or challenges.
  • Teaching skills: Educating patients and family members is a crucial aspect of the hospitalist NP’s role, helping patients understand what they’re experiencing and the rationale behind their treatment. Education helps reduce the risk of hospital readmission by ensuring that patients and their family members are as prepared as possible upon discharge.
  • Time management skills: Hospitalists typically have multiple patients and must coordinate care with other healthcare providers. Therefore, time management is one of the keys to success, including organization and the ability to prioritize tasks.

5. Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) – $128,480

Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNPs) assess, diagnose, and treat the mental health conditions of patients. At a typical salary of $128,480, psychiatric nurse practitioners may provide therapy and prescribe medications for patients with mental health disorders or substance abuse problems. They may also provide physical and psychosocial assessments, emergency psychiatric care, and treatment effectiveness evaluations.

Although the population that PMHNPs work with may vary based on their work setting, they are prepared to work with patients of all ages: children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. 

Most psychiatric mental health NPs work in behavioral health/addictions clinics, psychiatric mental health facilities, and private NP practices. Their primary areas of clinical focus are psychiatry/psychology and behavioral health/addiction. Jobs in acute settings usually have traditional working hours and night shifts when on-call.

Career Outlook for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

As mentioned, nurse practitioner jobs as a whole are expected to grow at a rate of 45 percent until 2032. According to the AANP, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners constitute 6.5 percent of NPs.

How to Become a Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

To obtain the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certification (PMHNP-BC™) offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, candidates must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Have a current, active RN license in a US state or territory or hold the professional, legally recognized equivalent in another country
  • Complete a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) (Across the Lifespan) master’s, post-graduate certificate, or DNP from an institution with a program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation, including the completion of a minimum of 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours 
  • Complete three separate, comprehensive, graduate-level APRN Core courses in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, including general principles that apply across the lifespan; advanced health assessment, which includes all human systems, advanced techniques, concepts, and approaches; and advanced pharmacology, which includes pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacotherapeutics of all broad categories of agents

*Educational programs must cover content in the following areas: health promotion and/or maintenance, differential diagnosis and disease management, including the use and prescription of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions, and clinical training in at least two psychotherapeutic treatment modalities.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, PMHNPs, on average, have 12.8 years of experience. 

What Makes a Good Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA), psychiatric/mental health nurses must be compassionate, sensitive, and excellent communicators and relationship-builders. They must see patients as human beings, acknowledging that their mental health condition does not define them.

Additionally, Susanne Fogger, DNP, CRNP, PMHNP-BC, CARN-AP, FAANP, co-chair of AANP’s Psych and Mental Health Community, shared the following insights for nurses interested in becoming psychiatry and mental health nurse practitioners:

  • Besides relying on therapy and medication, psychiatric nurse practitioners should help patients navigate daily habits and behaviors that also impact their mental health.
  • Mental health NPs can talk with and motivate patients, but they should not try to solve problems that patients must choose to solve for themselves. 
  • Psych NPs should embrace the complexity of the specialty because there are no true algorithms when it comes to mental health. The success of treatments depends on multiple factors, and each patient has unique reactions.

6. Oncology and Hematology Nurse Practitioner – $128,264

Oncology and hematology advanced practitioners (APs), including nurse practitioners, collaborate with physicians to provide safe, cost-effective care. NPs working in oncology and hematology help improve workflow and efficiency, making it possible for physicians to care for more patients and prioritize those with complex healthcare needs. Oncology and hematology advanced practitioners typically earn a salary of  $128,264.

However, these roles are often concentrated in areas with larger populations. An estimated 66 percent of rural counties in the United States have no oncologist. Furthermore, the number of people diagnosed with cancer is expected to increase over the next decade. This collaboration between physicians and advanced practitioners helps meet the needs of patients with or at risk of developing cancer, particularly in these rural and underserved areas.

Career Outlook for Oncology Nurse Practitioners

An article published in the Oncology Nursing Society’s Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing states that, although there is little information regarding the inpatient role of the nurse practitioner in hematology and oncology, NPs are a possible solution to the predicted oncologist shortage. NPs with formal and on-the-job training for hematologic malignancies can provide safe, high-quality care to patients with complex medical and psychosocial needs.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, of the over 270,000 licensed nurse practitioners in the US, about 3,600 to 4,800 provide cancer care.

How to Become an Oncology and Hematology Nurse Practitioner

Does oncology/hematology sound like the right career path for you? If so, complete the following requirements to become an oncology and hematology nurse practitioner:

  • Graduate from an accredited BSN program.  
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN and fulfill other state requirements to obtain licensure.
  • Complete an oncology nurse practitioner program or a general specialty, such as family practice, acute care, pediatrics, or adult-gerontology. If you complete a general specialty program, you will probably have to obtain oncology certification after graduation.
  • Pass the board certification exam to obtain NP licensure based on your chosen program.

To obtain the Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP®) certification through the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation, candidates can follow two pathways:

  1. Pathway 1: A candidate who has graduated from an accredited NP program with a concentration in oncology must only complete 500 hours of supervised clinical practice as an adult oncology nurse practitioner obtained within and/or following the graduate program within the past five years.
  2. Pathway 2: A candidate who has graduated from an accredited nurse practitioner program with a concentration in adult (primary or acute), family (across the lifespan), gerontology, or women’s health must complete 1,000 hours of practice as an adult oncology nurse practitioner within and/or following the graduate program within the past five years.

Either pathway requires one graduate-level oncology course of at least two credits or 30 hours of oncology continuing education within the past five years.

What Makes a Good Oncology and Hematology NP?

The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) has defined competencies for ONC nurses, including NPs, clinical nurse specialists, and generalist nurses. The organization updated these competencies in 2019 to include 12 categories and 121 competencies. The following are a few of the competencies that are essential for oncology nurse practitioners:

  • Assessment: Oncology nurse practitioners must consider psychosocial factors impacting patients and their family members, including health and social determinants of health, family history, genetics, treatment history, current medications, allergies, etc.
  • Intervention: Oncology NPs must create and implement patient-centered, outcome-oriented, evidence-based, cost-effective, quality patient care plans.
  • Ethics and culturally congruent care: ONPs recognize and respect diversity among patients, family members, and the general community. ONPs also provide information to support patients in patient care plans.

7. Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner – $127,320

Nurse practitioners in urgent care settings treat patients who need to see medical practitioners urgently but are not sick or injured enough to go to a hospital emergency room. NPs in urgent care perform many of the same duties as physicians and often earn salaries in the realm of $127,320. They typically are responsible for many different duties, including the following:

  • Ordering and interpreting tests
  • Conducting complete physicals
  • Administering therapeutic procedures
  • Prescribing medications
  • Leading teams of registered nurses
  • Creating work schedules
  • Maintaining inventories of medical supplies

Career Outlook for Urgent Care Nurse Practitioners

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the availability and utilization of urgent care have risen dramatically in recent years. At the same time, the BLS estimates that NP jobs will increase by 45 percent between 2022 and 2032, whereas the average growth rate for all occupations is merely 3 percent. Both factors indicate a promising career outlook for urgent care nurse practitioners.

How to Become an Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner

As for all nurse practitioner specialties, candidates must first complete the following requirements to become NPs: 

  • Complete both a BSN and an MSN program centered on advanced-practice nursing.
  • Take the respective exams required for nursing licensure: the NCLEX-RN for registered nurse licensure and a board certification exam for NP licensure.

There is no certification specific to urgent care nurse practitioners. Job postings for urgent care nurse practitioners published between September 2021 and August 2022 found that positions asked for the following qualifications:

  • Nurse Practitioners: 35.6%
  • Nurse Practitioners/Physician Assistants: 17%
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners: 10%
  • Family Nurse Practitioners: 6.7%
  • Nurse Practitioners/Advanced Practice Registered Nurses: 2.9%

These statistics suggest aspiring urgent care NPs could become certified psychiatric nurse practitioners. They may also consider pursuing the Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC™) from the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) certification from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB). Learn more about this profession in our article that compares FNP-C to FNP-BC.

What Makes a Good Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner?

A guide published by Franklin University using 2022 information from Lightcast™ to provide data on urgent care nurse practitioners found that the following were the most requested skills for NPs in this specialty, along with the percentage of job postings that sought each skill: 

  • Communications: 23% 
  • Management: 21%
  • Leadership: 10%
  • Writing: 9%
  • Research: 8%

NPs interested in urgent care positions can strive to develop these skills and showcase them in their nursing resumes and cover letters.

8. General Surgery Nurse Practitioner – $127,133

General surgery nurse practitioner salary is the eighth highest among nursing specialties. Surgical NPs have extensive training and operating room experience. They are among the surgeon’s most essential assistants in the operating room (OR), performing vital tasks such as opening surgical sites, using laparoscopic or arthroscopic cameras, and closing wounds with sutures. Since surgeons are usually very busy, surgical NPs often visit patients and their family members before and after surgery, answering questions and offering advice. 

Surgery NPs may work in many different settings, including the following:

  • Hospital operating rooms
  • Outpatient surgery facilities
  • VA medical centers
  • Academic medical centers
  • Private surgical suites

They also may specialize in different types of surgery, including life-saving trauma and aesthetic plastic surgery. It’s no surprise that these nurses can earn upwards of $127,133 on an annual basis. Other NPs who often work in aesthetic plastic surgery and earn an attractive average salary are cosmetic nurses.

Career Outlook for General Surgery Nurse Practitioners

According to an article published by the National Library of Medicine, approximately 64 million surgical procedures are performed annually in the US. Another study published by the American College of Surgeons: Massachusetts Chapter found that Americans undergo an average of 9.2 surgical procedures per lifetime. Coupled with an overall NP job growth rate of 45 percent, the demand for surgical procedures in the United States suggests that surgery nurse practitioner jobs will grow substantially over the next decade. 

How to Become a General Surgery Nurse Practitioner

To work in surgery as a nurse practitioner, registered nurses typically complete master’s degrees in nursing and become certified as FNPs or acute care NPs. The FNP credential is ideal for treating adult and pediatric populations since acute care NPs only work with adults. NPs may also apply to general surgery fellowships, such as the one offered by the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences

What Makes a Good General Surgery Nurse Practitioner?

Although many other nursing specialties may share the skills that make an excellent surgery nurse practitioner, the applications of these qualities and abilities will be unique to each. The following are some essential skills for surgery NPs:

  • Teamwork: Most of your responsibilities as a surgical NP will involve collaboration with other healthcare team members, such as working together to get the patient to surgery on time and ensure appropriate care and education after surgery.
  • Communication: Effective communication is essential to give clear pre-surgical instructions, post-operative instructions, information regarding a diagnosis, or even medication. 
  • Flexibility: This quality is critical for surgery nurse practitioners because their work day is often unpredictable: Patients may be late for their appointments, surgeries may be running behind, or emergency surgeries may affect the rest of the work schedule. 

9. Critical Care Nurse Practitioner – $126,953

The $129,953 annual salary of critical care nurse practitioners, including NPs working in ICUs, is the ninth highest of nursing specialties. 

Critical care nurse practitioners are essential members of healthcare teams and ensure critical care patients receive quality care. The following are typical duties of a critical care NP:

  • Assessing, diagnosing, treating, and evaluating patients in critical care settings, including interpreting labs and other diagnostic tests and evaluating patients’ responses to treatment 
  • Consulting and collaborating with other healthcare professionals to coordinate physical, occupational, and speech therapy, among other services
  • Discussing treatment plans with patients and family members

If you are interested in working in an intensive care unit (ICU), you may also want to consider wound care. Wound care nurse practitioners also make a substantial salary and often work in ICUs, changing pressure sore dressings, among other tasks. 

Career Outlook for Critical Care Nurse Practitioners

In general, nurse practitioners are in great demand, and NP jobs are growing at a significantly higher rate than the average for all occupations. One reason for this high demand is the shortage of physicians in the United States. Nurse practitioners can help fill this void.

The integration of nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants in intensive care units and other settings providing acute and emergency care has grown significantly. In fact, over 20,000 of the 270,000 nurse practitioners in the United States are certified adult or pediatric acute care NPs, of which 28 percent work in hospitals and 12 percent work in critical care. 

How to Become a Critical Care Nurse Practitioner

After graduating from a nurse practitioner program, candidates must pass the board certification exam for their chosen program and obtain their NP licenses. Once NPs have their licenses, they may be able to begin working in critical care. However, some positions will require NPs to have relevant certifications. The following nurse practitioner certifications are relevant to critical care:

  • Adult Acute Care
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care
  • Pediatric Acute Care

Aspiring critical care NPs can also pursue fellowship programs like the one offered by Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons

What Makes a Good Critical Care Nurse Practitioner?

Regarding clinical skills, critical care nurse practitioners must be able to interpret vital signs, diagnostic tests, and lab work to determine the treatment plan. Critical care NPs must also be skilled in EKG interpretation and medication management, including IV drip medications, among other essential knowledge and skills. Additionally, specific soft skills are also necessary in this nursing specialty:

  • Teamwork: Safe and quality patient care depends on the collaboration of all healthcare team members. Critical care NPs must ensure that all healthcare team members work together effectively. 
  • Communication: Communication in critical care is crucial to reduce errors and ensure patient safety. Therefore, critical care NPs must communicate effectively with other healthcare team members, patients, and family members.
  • Leadership: Part of a critical care NP’s role is to remain calm and provide direction in stressful and high-intensity environments. To lead effectively, critical care NPs must gain the confidence and support of the rest of the healthcare team, as well as of patients and family members.

10. Internal Medicine Nurse Practitioner – $126,239

Nurse practitioners working in internal medicine departments provide comprehensive, continuous, and personalized care to patients under the supervision of physicians. They also educate patients and family members and may participate in teaching activities for students, residents, and fellows. The average yearly salary for Internal Medicine Nurse Practitioners is $126,239. Specific duties of an internal medicine NP may include the following: 

  • Performing history and physical assessments for patients
  • Ordering and interpreting diagnostic and therapeutic tests
  • Prescribing appropriate pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic treatments
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of interventions
  • Maintaining accurate medical records  
  • Collaborating with other providers and members of the healthcare team
  • Facilitating staff, patient, and family decision-making based on the latest evidence
  • Participating in research and development projects

Career Outlook for Internal Medicine Nurse Practitioners

Since the hospitalist specialty belongs to the larger internal medicine field—and since hospitalists constitute the fastest-growing group of healthcare professionals in the United States—it is safe to say that internal medicine NPs will also continue to be in great demand. Internal medicine NPs also have a broader range of job opportunities since they can work in hospitals and outpatient care settings.

How to Become an Internal Medicine Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners interested in internal medicine should specialize in acute care. Additionally, acute care NPs can apply to internal medicine fellowships, such as the Marshall Health Internal Medicine Nurse Practitioner Fellowship, which provides enrichment in general internal medicine and many subspecialties. Other available internal medicine fellowships are the Mayo Clinic’s Nurse Practitioner/Physician Assistant Hospital Internal Medicine/Critical Care Fellowship and the University of Utah’s APC Fellowship. 

What Makes a Good Internal Medicine Nurse Practitioner?

Internal medicine fellowships strive to develop essential transferable skills in candidates in addition to clinical internal medicine knowledge and capabilities. The following are critical abilities for internal medicine NPs:

  •  Effectiveness and efficiency: Internal medicine nurse practitioners must be able to diagnose, treat, manage, and educate internal medicine patients and family members. They must manage their caseload, providing high-quality, cost-effective care.
  • Clear communication and leadership: An internal medicine NP must take on a leadership role to guarantee that all healthcare team members communicate and collaborate effectively. They also must be able to communicate with patients and family members clearly.
  • Holistic approach to patient care: Internal medicine NPs must consider each patient’s emotions and physical and cultural needs in addition to the disease.

Other High-Paying Nursing Specialties

Although the previously mentioned nursing specialties are at the very top of the nurse income ladder, the following specialties still pay competitive salaries to reward nurses for their specialization:

  • Pediatrics nurse practitioner: $125,924
  • Obstetrics/gynecology nurse practitioner: $123,594
  • Neurological surgery nurse practitioner: $122,343
  • Cardiology nurse practitioner: $121,984
  • Endocrinology and metabolism nurse practitioner: $121,721
  • Family medicine nurse practitioner: $120,682
  • Orthopedic surgery nurse practitioner: $120,669
  • Pulmonology nurse practitioner: $119,790
  • Neurology nurse practitioner: $117,813
  • Gastroenterology nurse practitioner: $116,329
  • Urology nurse practitioner: $115,812

How Else Can I Increase My Income as a Nurse?

This overview of the highest-paid nursing professions proves that pursuing higher education and nursing certifications is a reliable way to secure the highest-paid jobs. That said, if you don’t have a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, don’t feel discouraged

Regardless of your level of education, there are still many ways to increase your income as a nurse.

One of those ways is picking up per diem or PRN nursing shifts. Here are some ways per diem nursing can increase your income as a nurse:

  • Most importantly, per diem hourly rates are typically higher than staff nurse rates. Therefore, you can pick up extra shifts to supplement your income or even work per diem full-time to increase your earnings.
  • Per diem work is available for nurses at all levels of education: certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed practical or vocational nurses (LPNs/LVNs), registered nurses (RNs), and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).
  • Per diem nursing can help you obtain experience in different settings, which, in turn, can qualify you for nursing certifications and higher pay.
  • You can pick up PRN shifts as a CNA during nursing school, helping you reduce or avoid student debt altogether.
  • PRN nursing is a more convenient—and often just as lucrative—alternative to travel nursing because PRN nurses can live at home and pick up nursing shifts near them, thereby avoiding travel and housing costs.

Final Thoughts on the Best Nursing Jobs

Although the income of a CRNA is tempting, this specialty is not for everyone. Ultimately, each nurse must reflect on their interests, strengths, and other personal factors to help them decide which nursing specialty is ideal for them. 

Although a high nurse salary is undoubtedly important, nurses should also find fulfillment in their jobs. Plus, there are many ways to increase your income as a nurse. Aside from choosing one of the highest-paying nursing specialties, learn about diverse factors that can contribute to higher income for nursing professionals, including RNs, LPNs, and CNAs.

Regardless of where you are in your nursing career—from working as a CNA to becoming a licensed APRN—pick up high-paying PRN jobs today with Nursa.


Blog published on:
May 1, 2024

Laila is a contributing copywriter and editor at Nursa who specializes in writing compelling long-form content about nursing finances, per diem job locations, areas of specialization, guides, and resources that help nurses navigate their career paths.

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