Top Nursing Roles with the Biggest Salaries

The field of nursing offers a variety of career paths, many of which come with competitive salaries and opportunities for advancement. As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, the demand for highly skilled and specialized nurses has significantly increased, leading to substantial salary enhancements for those in top-tier nursing roles.

In this article, we explore some of the highest-paying nursing positions in the healthcare industry today.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists represent the pinnacle of nursing salaries. CRNAs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who administer anesthesia for surgery or other medical procedures. They work independently or in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, podiatrists, and other healthcare professionals.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for CRNAs is approximately $195,610, making them the highest-paid nurses. To become a CRNA, nurses must hold a Master’s degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia educational program and pass a national certification examination.

General Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Nurse practitioners are also APRNs who provide primary or specialty care to patients. NPs diagnose and treat illnesses, administer physical exams, prescribe medications, and educate patients on disease prevention and health management. General NPs work in family practice, women’s health, pediatrics, or adult care, among other fields.

The average salary for nurse practitioners is around $118,040 per year. NPs must complete a Master’s or Doctoral degree program and obtain licensing as an NP in their specialty area.

Pain Management Nurse

Pain management nurses specialize in the care of patients who suffer from chronic pain. They work alongside physicians to formulate pain management strategies and may administer medications, perform therapeutic treatments, and educate patients on managing pain.

Pain management nurses can earn an average salary of about $101,916 annually. To enter this field, a nurse often needs experience in oncology, palliative care, or anesthesia, in addition to certification from the American Society of Pain Management Nursing.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric nurse practitioners specialize in mental health and work with patients suffering from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. They provide counseling and psychological therapy and prescribe medications.

Psychiatric NPs typically earn about $111,572 per year. Advanced education in psychiatric mental health is required, culminating in a Master’s or Doctoral degree.

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

Certified Nurse Midwives provide healthcare services for women, including gynecological exams, family planning advice, prenatal care, labor and delivery support, and neonatal care. CNMs work in hospitals, private practices, and public health systems, and they can also deliver babies in birthing centers or at home.

The annual average salary for CNMs is around $114,210. Becoming a CNM requires completing a graduate-level program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) and passing a national certification exam.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

Clinical Nurse Specialists are advanced practice registered nurses who focus on improving the quality of nursing care and patient outcomes. They specialize in a specific area of nursing, such as geriatrics, cardiology, or public health. CNS roles involve research, education, and management within their specialization.

CNSs earn an average salary of approximately $109,437 per year. Requirements include a Master’s or Doctorate in Nursing and specific clinical experience.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners care for newborns, especially those who are ill or premature. They work in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) providing critical care. Responsibilities include administering medications, managing respiratory support, and educating parents on infant care.

Neonatal NPs earn around $124,756 annually. Entry into this field requires advanced education in neonatal care and certification as a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners specialize in musculoskeletal disorders. They assist with surgeries, rehabilitate patients with injuries or postoperative orthopedic conditions, and manage pain. This specialization requires understanding both chronic conditions like arthritis and acute injuries such as fractures.

The average salary for orthopedic NPs is approximately $113,451 per year. These professionals typically need a Master’s degree in nursing and relevant clinical experience in orthopedics.


The nursing profession offers diverse opportunities not only to contribute significantly to healthcare but also to achieve financial stability and career growth. The roles listed above are among the highest-paying in the field, reflecting the specialized skills and extensive education required. As healthcare needs continue to evolve and expand, particularly in specialized areas, the demand and compensation for advanced practice nurses are likely to rise. Pursuing advanced education and certifications in these high-paying nursing specialties can therefore be a rewarding investment for those looking to elevate their nursing careers.

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