We’ve learned a lot about society over the last few years, but one of the things that have been made abundantly clear is how critical nurses are. 

Nurses have always been in demand because humans are always getting injured, getting sick, or aging. But as a large portion of our population starts to require assisted living and as we continue to deal with not just COVID but the after-effects, nurses are more in-demand than ever.

Within the medical field, there’s an endless number of nursing specialties and subspecialties. Things like education requirements, workplace setting, and average salary will vary depending on which specialty you go into.

While we all hear “do what you love” and “follow your heart,” the truth is, sometimes we have to choose our job based on what it pays. 

Below, we’ll break down the salaries of some of the highest-paying specialties and take a look at the education needed, growth prospects, and highest-paying states and workplaces.

Highest Paid Nursing Specialties

The highest-paid specialties in nursing are:

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  • General Nurse Practitioner
  • Oncology Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Cardiac Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

 

  

Average Annual Salary: $202,470

Average Hourly Salary: $97.34

Job Description: Nurse anesthesiologists work with patients receiving anesthesia. They administer the anesthesia and monitor the patient while they are under and as they recover from the anesthesia. 

Education Requirements: Nurse anesthetists must have a registered nurse license and a master’s degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia program or Master of Science in Nursing program.

Growth: As one of the fastest-growing specialties, the field may grow 45% by 2029.

Top Paying Workplaces

Type of Workplace

Average Annual Salary

Average Hourly Salary

Outpatient Care Centers

$254,180

$122.20

Specialty Hospitals

$219.540

$105.55

General Hospitals

$212,340

102.09

Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools

$200,340

$96.32

Physicians’ Offices

$194,240

$93.39

Top Paying States:

State

Average Annual Salary

Average Hourly Salary

Connecticut

$276,540

$132.95

New Jersey

$263,850

$126.85

Illinois

$250,280

$120.33

West Virginia

$247,650

$119.06

 

Average Annual Salary: $134,702

Average Hourly Salary: $65

Job Description: Psychiatric nurse practitioners work specifically with patients dealing with mental illness or disorders.

Education: After becoming a registered nurse, you will continue your education with a program for psychiatric nurse practitioners. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers exams to obtain the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification.

Workplaces: Psychiatric nurse practitioners may work in clinics or hospitals but also may work in mental health centers, correctional facilities, domestic violence shelters, in-patient psychiatric facilities, substance abuse facilities, and schools.

Growth: No data was available for psychiatric nurse practitioners specifically but let’s be real, after the years we’ve had, they’re likely going to be in high demand.

Average Annual Salary: $118,040

Average Hourly Salary: $62.35

Job Description: Nurse practitioners may take on a variety of roles. They may be primary or specialty providers and have similar responsibilities to a doctor.

Education: To become a nurse practitioner, you first need to become an RN. After that, you’ll likely want to get your bachelor’s degree if you don’t already have it. After your bachelor’s degree, you’ll enroll in a graduate program to obtain a master’s degree or doctorate. Once you pass the NCLEX-RN exam and obtain your license, you can work as a nurse practitioner or continue to receive a certification in a specialty.

Highest-Paying Workplaces:

Type of Workplace

Average Annual Salary

Average Hourly Salary

Home healthcare services

$133,170

$71.62

Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals

$131,830

$64.33

Outpatient Care Centers

$129,190

$62.11

General Hospitals

$122,960

$59.12

Physicians’ Offices

$114,870

$55.23

Growth: Demand for nurse practitioners is expected to increase 45% by 2030.

Highest-Paying States:

State

Average Annual Salary

Average Hourly Salary

California

$151,830

$72.99

New Jersey

$137,010

$65.87

New York

$133,940

$64.39

Washington

$130,840

$62.90

Massachusetts

$129,540

$62.28

 

Average Annual Salary: $117,074

Average Hourly Salary: $56.00

Job Description: Oncology nurse practitioners work with patients undergoing cancer treatment.

Education: As with some of the specialties above, once you’ve achieved nurse practitioner, you’ll need to take a post-grad class and exam.

Workplaces: Oncology nurse practitioners may work in a private office or hospital, but also may work in cancer treatment centers, home care agencies, hospice, and palliative care.

Growth: While no statistics are available for this specific specialty, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide and that’s likely not going to change any time soon.

Average Yearly Salary: $110,249

Average Hourly Salary: $53.00

Job Description: Neonatal nurse practitioners may have some of the most joyful and some of the most heartbreaking patients in the hospital. These nurses work in the NICU with premature babies or babies with health issues immediately after birth.

Education: A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nursing, often a master’s, from an accredited nursing program.

Growth: Neonatal nursing is one of the fastest-growing nursing fields, expected to grow 15% by 2026.

Workplaces: As neonatal nurse practitioners work in the NICU, they are almost exclusively employed at hospitals. Some may work in at-home or follow-up care.

Highest-Paying States:

State

Average Annual Salary

Average Hourly Salary

Washington

$126, 564

$60.85

New York

$119,209

$57.31

New Hampshire

$115, 402

$55.48

California

$112, 944

$54.30

Massachusetts

$109,057

$52.43

 

Average Annual Salary: $113,494

Average Hourly Salary: $48.61

Job Description: Pediatric nurse practitioners work with children of all ages. This often encompasses all types of care, from preventative check-ups to diagnosis to treatment.

Education: After becoming a registered nurse, continue your education by earning a master’s or doctorate from a program with a pediatric nursing program. Once your program is complete, you can become certified by taking the certification exam through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.

Workplaces: Many pediatric nurse practitioners work independently as primary care providers. Other workplaces include clinics, hospitals, surgery centers, long-term care facilities, emergency rooms, urgent care, and schools.

Growth: While no specific data was available, there is currently a nationwide shortage of pediatric primary care providers. 

 

Average Yearly Salary: $110,076

Average Hourly Salary: $66

Job Description: Cardiac nurse practitioners work with patients that have cardiac diseases.

Education: After becoming a nurse practitioner, you’ll take post-grad classes followed by an exam that will certify you as a cardiac nurse practitioner.

Workplaces: There are numerous settings in which a cardiac nurse practitioner may work, including specialized private practice, hospitals, health centers, emergency rooms, and urgent care.

Growth: While no statistics were found on the expected growth of cardiac nurse practitioners, overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 45% growth in nurse practitioners, and 1 in 4 Americans die of heart disease each year.

 

Average Annual Salary: $105,898

Average Hourly Salary: $51

Job Description: Family nurse practitioners focus on patients of all ages and provide family-focused care. Often, family nurse practitioners act as primary care providers.

Education: After becoming a registered nurse, go through an accredited Family Nurse Practitioner program to get either your master’s degree or doctorate in nursing. To become certified as a family nurse practitioner, you’ll need to pass a certification exam through the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

Workplaces: Because the family nurse practitioner specialty is more generalized than some of the other nurse practitioner specialties, you can choose from almost any type of healthcare setting to work in. Family nurse practitioners work in all kinds of hospitals, clinics, healthcare centers, long-term facilities, etc.

Growth: No growth data was available for this specialty, but this specialty will likely grow in tandem with the general nurse practitioner specialty.

Highest-Paying States:

State

Average Annual Salary

Average Hourly Salary

New York

$121,101

$58.22

New Hampshire

$117,448

$56.47

Vermont

$111,082

$53.40

Wyoming

$108,075

$51.96

Massachusetts

$106,730

$51.31

 

Average Annual Salary: $100,035

Average Hourly Salary: $43.90

Job Description: Orthopedic nurse practitioners work specifically with patients who have musculoskeletal issues. 

Education: After becoming a nurse practitioner, you must take a post-graduate course program and the ONP-C Certification through the Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board. 

Workplaces: Like cardiac nurse practitioners, orthopedic nurse practitioners may work in a variety of spaces like physicians’ offices, hospitals, radiology centers, etc.

Growth: As with cardiac nurse practitioners, data is not available for this specialty specifically. However, it’s worth noting that as the baby boomers age, orthopedic nurse practitioners will become more in-demand. 

Highest-Paying States:

State

Average Annual Salary

Average Hourly Salary

Washington

$107,160

$51.52

Maryland

$105,798

$50.86

Nebraska

$103,590

$49.80

Virginia

$102,231

$49.15

New York

$102,111

$49.09

 

Final Thoughts 

With a nationwide shortage of nurses, you’ll find most specialties are willing to pay over $100,000 per year. This list is just a fraction of the multitude of nursing specialties. With any luck, you may be able to do what you love and get paid well doing it.