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Which Nurse Specialties Make the Most Money

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Which Nurse Specialties Make the Most Money

How much do the top nurses make?

The nursing profession offers many different roles, responsibilities, and work schedules. Similarly, there is a wide range when it comes to nurse salaries. So you may be left wondering, which nurse specialties make the most money?

In 2020, the average salary for registered nurses (RNs) in the U.S. was around $75,330. Several nursing specialties are paid upwards of six figures. Fields for advanced practice nurses, which require master’s degrees and extensive training, command the highest wages. Also, critical care positions are among the top-earning. 

Want to know how these specialties compare? Here’s a look at how the top paying nursing specialties stack up.

Which Nurse Specialties Make the Most Money

The top-paying nursing specialties for 2020 were:

  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursepreneur
  • Travel Nurse

Here’s a quick look at these premium specialties.

Nurse Anesthetist

Hands down, the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) position is still the field’s highest-paid. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (US BLS), the annual salary for CRNA’s is $183,580 per year. Generally, these nurse professionals work the typical 40-hour week. So that equates to approximately $88/hour. 

In some markets, like California, annual salaries can be as high as a quarter-million dollars. 

Nurse Midwife

Nurses practicing in the field of obstetrics may advance to Certified Nurse-Midwives. A new nurse-midwife in the U.S. can earn around $111,146 each year, which calculates to about $53.43/hr. 

For nurse-midwives looking for the highest salaries, recent statistics show that Hawaii has the highest paying positions. Meanwhile, states in the southeast, such as Mississippi and Florida, have the lowest. 

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners (NPs) work in a variety of settings. They may rotate in hospitals and facilities or commit to private or independent practices. Some specialize in a particular area, such as pediatrics or gerontological nursing. But for this post, let’s look at the general NP job. 

According to ZipRecruiter, NPs can expect to make $85,255 to $124,953 per year. Therefore, the average NP makes $42-63/hour. 

Those who find their way into a critical care niche such as neonatal intensive care or psychiatry could see higher pay. Thinking about going back to school for higher ed? Check out our blog on resources here.


Within the profession, some nurses choose to go their own way. Nurses with skills, knowledge, and ambition may use their resources to start their businesses. A few ways nurses can find high-paying jobs working in their specialty include:

  • Business consulting
  • Forensic nursing
  • Legal nurse consulting
  • Health coaching
  • Health counseling
  • Product development
  • Course development/training
  • Service businesses

Advanced Practice Nurses can start home care or house call, foot care, or wound care businesses. According to the National Nurses in Business Association (NNBA), a nursepreneur can earn $600 to $5000 per day speaking at conferences or seminars on their specialty.

According to NNBA, the average annual income for a nurse consultant is $125,000, although it is hard to determine an average. Advanced nurse consultants may find the ability to charge upwards of $250-500 per hour. Nurses who start their own businesses set their hours and prices. 

Travel Nurse

The final top-earning nursing specialty on the list is the travel nurse. Travel nurses enjoy a significantly higher pay rate using the same skills and experience required for a hospital staff nurse position. 

According to Indeed, in 2021, the average salary for a travel nurse is $108,070. However, some can earn over $150,000. Staffing shortages nationwide mean that nurses can earn premium pay in some parts of the country. Nurses can work with a travel nursing company or recruiter to find the best opportunities and maximize pay.

To learn more about travel nursing, check out our blog post here.

Which Nurse Specialties Are in High Demand

The top pay for these specialties is attractive. But nurses may wonder about the job outlook. Will these specialty positions be in demand for long?

Advanced practice nurses including nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives, have a promising future ahead of them. According to the BLS, these specialties can expect a 45% growth over the next decade. These specialists will have more opportunities than most. 

Travel nurses can expect to see 16% growth, according to Travel Nurse Source.

And since the nursing profession overall should see about 12% growth, it is safe to say there will be an ongoing need for nurses to start businesses, services, and products.


Now you know which nurse specialties are making the most money. Current projections show that these fields will continue to grow. And these nurses will remain in-demand and well-paid over the next decade. 

Now, what about you. Do you think it’s time for you to switch to one of these specialties? Join the conversation and tell us what you think. 

Sarah Falcone BSN, RN

Sarah Falcone BSN, RN


Sarah S. Falcone BSN, RN is a dedicated nurse based in Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX. Her first nursing gig, was night-shift floor nurse in women's services (PP, L&D, nursery). Through a series of fortunate events, she found home health and a passion for helping seniors age in place. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


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