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Best Paying Nursing Jobs in 2021

Best Paying Nursing Jobs in 2021

The nursing field is one of the fast-growing fields in healthcare. As one of the broadest healthcare sectors, nurses can take a variety of career paths through degrees, licenses, specialties, and certifications. Yet as the demand for nurses is expected to rise, aspiring nurses face a unique dilemma.

However, with such a diverse professional landscape, how are the nurses of tomorrow going to figure out which roles can secure their futures? Below, we've compiled a list of the top 15 best paying nursing jobs in the U.S. for the entire year of 2021, using the average national salaries. It is worth mentioning that salaries can vary from one state to another. The average pay range acts as a guideline for career decisions.

The 15 Best Paying Nursing Jobs in 2021


For the purpose of this ultimate guide of the top nursing salaries for 2021, we consider roles within the average pay bracket of $94,000 to $181,000. It is worth mentioning that roles can also offer higher, depending on your expertise, experience, and location in the country.  


Pain Management Nurse - $94,000 to $101,000


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Based on records, a Pain Management Nurse can expect to earn approximately $40 to $43 per hour. Pain management is an essential service provided to a variety of patients in hospitals and specialist hospice and nursing environments to help them deal with chronic or acute pain.

Pain management nurses play a core role in oncology departments to support patients going through radiotherapy and chemo treatments. They are also an active member of staff in nursing environments, such as retirement homes, palliative care, or even specialist hospice programs, where pain is a common occurrence. The outlook for the profession is positive, and pain management nurses can expect to work within numerous healthcare settings to educate, medicate, and help patients. They ensure medication can be administered safely without creating dependence or addiction.

To become a pain management nurse, you will need the Nurse Practitioner Certification for Pain Management and sufficient experience as a registered nurse (RN). 


Gerontological Nurse Practitioner - $95,000 to $110,000


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The average salary of a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP) sits between $46 and $53 per hour. The demand for overall Nurse Practitioners is estimated to grow by 45% by 2029. Along with the rise of the aging population, GNP can expect a gratifying and rewarding career taking care of seniors.

Gerontology focuses on providing care for patients aged 50 or over. GNPs are pivotal in preserving the quality of life for senior patients. The role is diverse and combines psychological factors and practical healthcare and medication solutions. As the aging population is more likely to experience loneliness and depression, a GNP will also be expected to provide psychosocial support to patients. Additionally, the nurse is trained to provide the best approach to preserve seniors' mobility, independence, and quality of life throughout their golden years in hospitals, nursing, and retirement homes, and in-home care services.

An RN can become a GNP through earning an MSN program, gaining experience as a nurse, and passing the certification exam managed by the Gerontology Nursing Certification Commission (GNCC). The certification is valid for 5 years and needs to be renewed frequently to maintain your position as a gerontological nurse practitioner.


Nurse Administrator - $95,000 to $115,000


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The average salary of a Nurse Administrator, according to, is approximately $46 to $55 per hour. As a result of the position as part of the executive team, Nurse Administrators can expect a higher than average salary, depending on location, responsibilities, and experience. It is not uncommon for Nurse Administrators to pair their nursing degree with business administration certification or masters in business (MBA) in order to better manage staffing coordination in the healthcare institute.

Nurse Administrators are central to coordination strategies between the healthcare business processes and the nurses. They can help develop procedures and policies to streamline activities and enhance care and safety. They are deeply involved with budgeting operations and HR tasks related to nursing. As healthcare centers are growing more complex, the administrator role is vital to maintain a positive experience for the staff and the patients.

As a Nurse Supervisor, the role requires both RN experience and administrative skills. Typically, a Nurse Administrator needs to earn a Nursing Administration Degree after entering the workforce as a registered nurse.


Nurse Researcher - $95,000


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Ranked among the highest-paid nursing roles in the US, the Nurse Researcher can expect to earn approximately $46 per hour. As the demand for Medical Scientists is expected to grow 6% by 2029, the outlook for the role is positive.

Nurse Researchers are actively involved in improving patient outcomes and the overall healthcare system. Depending on their specialization, they can run studies in different healthcare areas such as clinical trials or illnesses and diseases. Nurse Researchers work in a variety of settings, including universities, hospitals, government agencies, or research organizations. They are responsible for creating studies, supervising procedures, collecting and analyzing data, and reporting their findings. Eventually, findings circulate to the overall healthcare community.

Nurse researchers are registered nurses with clinical research experience. They need to pass their certification in clinical research through the Society for Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) or the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP). With different certifications, it's crucial to pick the best option for your specialization and career path.


Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner - $107,000 to $127,000


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According to, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners can earn between $52 and $61 per hour, depending on location and experience. The demand for the profession is constantly growing, expecting to hit 26% growth by the end of the year. The rise of mental health awareness and dedicated care requires specialist nurses to provide psychosocial, neurobiological and nursing expertise to a variety of patients.

Dealing with mental health disorders and psychiatric issues, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners are responsible for daily mental, emotional, and psychological care for patients in correctional centers, substance abuse centers, and mental health institutes. They assist psychiatrists and physicians in delivering treatment both as a medicated process and counseling approach, or the combination of both, depending on the patient's requirements and situation.

An experienced RN needs to earn an MSN or doctorate, including specialist courses in physiology, pharmacology, and neurophysiology, to be able to pass the American Nurses Credentialing Center Exam (ANCC). The certification is valid for 5 years and needs to be renewed. 


Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - $107,000 to $117,000


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Pediatric Nurse Practitioners earn on average $52 to $57 per hour in the position that involves treating children. The role of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners can be highly rewarding for individuals who enjoy working with young patients. However, it is a dual role, including medical care and high communication skills, to build a trusted and comfortable exchange with children and their guardians.

This type of Nurse works in different healthcare settings, ranging from ICUs, specialist childcare units, and even schools. The Nurse also plays a vital role in comforting young patients who feel anxious about medical care and appointments. Parents and guardians also rely on Pediatric Nurses to gather information and insights on caring for their children and managing illnesses and injuries. More often than not, the Nurse is central to creating care plans accommodating special health requirements for children in their school, home, and everyday lives.

Pediatric Nurses are Registered Nurses who pursue an advanced pediatric degree and receive certification from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.


Nurse Midwife - $108,000 to $159,000


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The Bureau of Labor Statistics records an average salary of $52 per hour for Nurse Midwives. However, the salary range can reach up to $77 per hour.

It's worth mentioning that a Midwife career path welcomes both men and women to take care of patients through pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. Midwives work closely with women to ensure both the safety of the mothers and the babies. Nurse Midwives are responsible for the gynecologic care of expectant mothers, including reproductive health and post-delivery follow-ups. They are essential in providing prenatal care, postnatal guidance, and family planning services.

To become a Nurse Midwife, RNs need to gather sufficient experience and earn an advanced degree accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). They will also need to pass the official midwifery exam from the AMCB.


Clinical Nurse Specialist - $108,000 to $127,000


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Clinical Nurse Specialists can expect to earn $52 to $61 per hour, depending on experience and location. A Clinical Nurse Specialist acts as a crucial point of contact within the ICU, providing rapid diagnosis and care under pressure to save lives. However, a Clinical Nurse Specialist does not only work in the ICU. They educate patients, assist healthcare professionals, administer and prescribe medication, and diagnose and treat conditions in outpatient environments, physician offices, and hospitals.

The salary and job outlook are much greater than that of Registered Nurses due to the higher level of training and education. Clinical Nurse Specialists also choose a specialization for their certification, ensuring they can gain real-world experience in their path of choice. On top of your Registered Nurse Degree, you will need an advanced Master's in nursing and your certification in the relevant specialty.


Family Nurse Practitioner - $110,000 to $128,000


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The average salary of a Family Nurse Practitioner ranges between $53 and $62 per hour. Family Nurses specialize in providing healthcare for patients of all ages, ranging from babies to seniors. They act as a general care provider alongside family Doctors and healthcare professionals, delivering an all-encompassing approach to care. As part of their roles, family nurses are trained to work with adults, children, and elderly patients, both in terms of communication and healthcare requirements.

The profession is integral to routine health checks and physical examinations, overall care regarding patient lifestyles, patient education, medicine prescription and order, and development of treatment plans. Along with a Family Doctor, the Family Nurse can also identify the need for medical specialists to treat specific conditions and illnesses.

Family Nurse Practitioners work in a variety of settings, including clinics, doctors' offices, nursing homes, schools, and rehabilitation centers. They are trained and experienced RN who take an advanced nursing Master's degree and certification exam.


General Nurse Practitioner - $112,000 to $152,000


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The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that General Nurse Practitioners earn on average $53 to $73 per hour. However, salaries vary greatly depending on location and experience. According to the BLS, the demand for General Nurse Practitioners is on the rise, expecting to reach 45% growth before 2030.

The General Nurse Practitioner typically works in family practices where they can provide preventive healthcare to patients of all ages. However, the versatile profession can also be found in women's health, pediatrics, and senior healthcare facilities. The general nurse performs many physicians' duties, making them an indispensable asset to the healthcare environment. They can diagnose patients, provide treatments, and prescribe medication when needed. They are also in charge of maintaining medical records and educating patients on health management.

To become a General Nurse Practitioner, you will need to be a certified and experienced RN. General nurses need an advanced Master's degree as well as obtaining their specialty certification.


Oncology Nurse Practitioner - $113,000 to $121,000


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With a career in Oncology Nursing, these specialized Nurse Practitioners can expect to earn on average $54 to $58 per hour. The increase in the need for healthcare services and preventive care for the aging population in the United States directly impacts the rise of oncology nurse practitioners, making the professions more and more in demand.

Oncology Nurse Practitioners play a pivotal role in assisting patients, physicians, surgeons, and families in cancer treatments. More often than not, the nurse helps patients deal with the impacts of the diagnosis and the treatment through a comforting and compassionate bond. They accompany patients, celebrating victories with them and providing support throughout the cancer treatment and journey. Along with cancer research, it is expected that the role will grow and evolve to include innovative technology and procedures in the near future.

It can be a highly rewarding but stressful career path that is not suitable for everyone. Many Oncology Nurse Practitioners specialize in a focus area, such as breast oncology, palliative care, bone marrow transplant, etc. The typical clinical work can include:

  • Viewing test results ahead of a diagnosis
  • Providing primary care
  • Keeping a medical record to prevent drug interactions
  • Supervising staff

Oncology Nurse Practitioners are registered and experienced nurses with an advanced degree and practice license in nursing and Oncology Nursing certification.


Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner - $113,000 to $127,000


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These specialist care providers for injuries or diseases of the musculoskeletal system earn on average $54 to $61 per hour. Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners work to help recovery from surgery, rehabilitation from injury, and the return as much as possible to full mobility for patients.

An Orthopedic Nurse will assist through a variety of health complaints, ranging from fractured bones to arthritis and even osteoporosis. They act as assistants in the operating room and provide follow-up support to patients throughout the recovery phase.

To become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner, you will start your journey with a nursing degree and RN experience. It is necessary to obtain a postgraduate degree from an accredited program and gain relevant experience before passing the ONP-C certification examination.


Cardiac Nurse Practitioner - $114,000 to $129,000


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Responsible for in-depth cardiovascular lab work interpretation, radiology, test data, and assessments, the Cardiac Nurse Practitioner assists physicians in diagnosing and treating cardiovascular system issues. While they typically work with adults over 65, their roles can also expose them to emergencies, catheterization laboratories, and intermediate care units for patients of all ages.

A Cardiac Nurse Practitioner is an experienced RN with advanced training and certifications in cardiac medicine. Certifications can be obtained with a variety of boards, including the American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.


Neonatal Nurse Practitioner - $125,000 to $145,000


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Neonatal Nursing salaries can vary on average between $50 and $70 per hour, depending on location and experience. A Neonatal Nurse provides healthcare to newborns up to 28 days old, including care for premature and sick babies such as medication, NICU procedures, and oxygen administration.

A Neonatal Nurse Practitioner works within the neonatal intensive care unit, providing different levels of care to infants based on their conditions. A neonatal nurse needs significant experience in neonatal and pediatric care. The education path starts with RN license and specialist experience and includes Neonatal certifications.


Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist - $181,000 to $208,000


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By far, the highest-paid nursing profession, Certified Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) can expect to earn between $87 and $101 per hour as a result of their desirable expertise. Some regions in the US can offer much higher pay ranges.

Responsible for administering anesthesia for undergoing surgical procedures, the certified nurse anesthetist works closely with anesthesiologists and surgeons. They are typically found in hospital and clinic environments but can also work in outpatient settings. They are in charge of determining the right dose of anesthetic for each patient and surgery requirements, as well as monitoring vitals and dosage throughout the surgical or medical procedure.

To become a nurse anesthetist, you will need at least one year of experience as an RN before applying for a nurse anesthesia program. After completing the program, nurse anesthetists need to pass the National Board of Certification (CRNA) and maintain their certification over time.


A Few Final Thoughts


When individuals choose a Nursing career, they face various choices that will require determining the best path for their interests, the market demand, and salary aspirations. With a variety of nursing certifications ahead, how much money you can make as a Registered Nurse will depend entirely on three core factors: your location, your specialty, and how much further you are willing to study. Hopefully, this brief guide can give you an insight into the best paid jobs in the nursing profession in 2021.