10 High-Paying Nursing Jobs in 2024

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Once you become a registered nurse, you can choose from many paths to advance your career and your paycheck. Check out these 10 highest-paying nursing jobs.

[Featured image] A nurse anesthetist wearing surgical scrubs and a mask checks a monitor in an operating room of a hospital.

Registered nurses (RNs) provide care to patients and support other health care professionals in their daily work. And, as a result, they're in strong-demand – and well compensated too.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs earned an average median salary of $77,600 per year as of May 2021 [1]. What's more, the BLS projects the number of job openings for RNs will grow by 6 percent between 2021 and 2031, resulting in about 203,000 new job openings a year throughout the decade.

Best of all, though, nursing is one career that offers numerous opportunities to advance and earn an even more with some extra training, education, and experience. Here are the 10 of the highest-paying nursing jobs in 2023 that you might consider pursuing.

What are the highest-paying nursing jobs?  

As a registered nurse, there are several different career paths you can take in the health care system. Depending on your interests and goals, you can do everything from working with psychiatric patients to overseeing other nurses and even helping to deliver babies. If the work of a physician sounds appealing to you, then a career as a nurse practitioner gives you the chance to dig deeper into diagnostic care.

Whatever your medical interests, there's likely a job for you in nursing. Here are ten high-paying nursing jobs to consider:

1. Certified nurse midwife 

Average annual base salary (Glassdoor):  $105,171 [2]

If pregnancy, childbirth, and women's health interest you, then you might consider becoming a certified nurse midwife. Your job duties would involve monitoring a baby's and mother's health throughout pregnancy, assisting with childbirth, and providing postpartum care. You can also provide primary and secondary health care for females from adolescence through menopause.

To become a certified nurse midwife, you'll need to become a registered nurse and further your education by completing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP). Upon completion of the program, you'll need to pass the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) exam and meet any state requirements in the area where you want to practice.

2. Certified registered nurse anesthetist

Average annual base salary (Glassdoor): $192,372 [3]

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) work in hospitals, outpatient surgical centers, dentist offices, and anywhere else surgery or painful medical procedures are performed, including childbirth. In this role, you would help administer anesthesia, nerve blockers, and other types of pain prevention so that patients remain comfortable during their procedures. Because administering anesthesia is complicated and must be exact, CRNAs are some of the highest-paid nurses in the United States.

It also takes several years of experience and education to become a CRNA. Before you can study to become a CRNA, you'll need about three years of experience working as a registered nurse in an ICU, surgical unit, or emergency room. Next, you'll need to earn either a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP) degree. Upon completion, you'll need to pass the National Certification Examination offered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). You'll also need to continue to be licensed in the state where you plan to practice.

Read more: Your Guide to Nursing Degrees and Certifications

3. Intensive care unit (ICU) nurse

Average annual base salary (Glassdoor): $96,479 [4]

Intensive care unit (ICU) nurses work with patients in hospitals, but their patients are more critically ill than those in other parts of the facility. If you choose to become an ICU nurse, your patients will need IVs, medications, and other basic needs, but they typically have more needs at once and need closer monitoring than a typical hospital patient. You might have patients who have had strokes, are recovering from major surgery, have been in major accidents, or are suffering from life-threatening infections. They typically require more frequent attention and care. You'll also probably spend a great deal of time working with the loved ones of these patients, particularly in grim situations or when patients are unable to communicate themselves.

To become an ICU nurse, you'll need to work as a registered nurse for at least two years. During that time, it's preferred that you work in an intensive care unit or with patients who are critically ill. Once you have some experience, you will seek certification to become an official ICU nurse. The most common certification option is the Certification for Adult Critical Care Nurses (CCRN), awarded by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACCN), which also provides population-specific critical care certifications, such as adult, pediatric, neonatal, cardiac, and teleCU.

4. General nurse practitioner

Average annual base salary (Glassdoor): $118,552 [5]

General nurse practitioners (NP) are clinicians who share some of the same responsibilities as physicians. They can perform exams, diagnose health problems, provide education, order labs and tests, and prescribe medication. As a generalist, you'll typically provide primary care, though many nurse practitioners go on to choose specialties. Depending on the state where you practice, you'll likely have to practice under a physician and consult with them on certain cases.

Nurse practitioners start as registered nurses and further their education by participating in either a master’s or doctoral nursing program. Once you complete either your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), you'll choose whether you want to be a generalist or work in a specialty area, like pediatrics or gerontology. Next, you'll need to pass a national nurse practitioner certification board exam offered by either the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Nurses Association (ANA) and become a licensed NP in your state.

Read more: How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner (NP)? 

5. Psychiatric nurse practitioner

Average annual base salary (Glassdoor): $114,088 [6]

Many nurse practitioners go on to choose specialties. For example, a psychiatric nurse works with patients in the mental health field. In this role, you'll assess patients, take their medical histories, order tests, diagnose certain conditions, devise treatment plans, and prescribe medication. You might treat mental health issues like eating disorders, anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar, dementia, and substance abuse. Psychiatric nurse practitioners work in clinics, mental health institutions, schools, or drug rehabs.

Like a general NP, you'll need to complete either your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), preferably in an accredited Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program. Next, you'll want to pass a national nurse practitioner certification board exam and become licensed in your state to work as a nurse practitioner. The next step is to become certified as a psychiatric nurse practitioner through the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certification (PMHNP-BC). You'll typically need to work a specific number of hours as a registered nurse to qualify for the exam.

6. Cardiac nurse practitioner

Average annual base salary (Glassdoor): $121,718 [7]

Another one of the highest-paying nursing jobs is a nurse practitioner specializing in cardiology. Typically, you’ll work with a cardiologist, but you'll be able to diagnose and treat patients with heart disease and other issues impacting their cardiovascular systems. You'll perform exams, develop treatment plans, and educate patients on how they can improve their heart health. You may even be part of a team that cares for a patient before, during, and after heart surgery.

Registered nurses who wish to become cardiac nurse practitioners can gain experience working with cardiology patients. You can do this before or while you're earning your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). You'll find that many of these programs include advanced cardiology classes. Once you've completed the program, you'll take a national nurse practitioner certification board exam to become a certified nurse practitioner and become licensed in your state. Many nurse practitioners work as generalists before choosing the cardiology specialty. Once you decide to enter cardiology, you can become a board-certified cardiac nurse practitioner (CVNP-BC) through the American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine.

7. Nurse administrator

Average annual salary (Glassdoor): $100,951 [8]

Nurse administrators oversee the nursing staff in a medical facility. At the beginning of your career as a nurse administrator, you won't typically work with patients. You might hire and train nurses, maintain budgets, make purchases for the facility, create schedules, develop policies and procedures, handle disciplinary action, hold staff meetings, and perform evaluations. Essentially, your job is to ensure nurses have what they need to help their patients.

Nurse administrators typically have experience as registered nurses before pursuing their master's degrees, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Master of Public Health (MPH). You could participate in a dual program that allows them to earn one of those degrees and a Master of Business Administration (MBA). You might also pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DPN). Certification is not required for this role, though gaining certifications like the Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) or  Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC) can make you more appealing to employers.

8. Emergency room nurse

Average annual base salary (Glassdoor): $108,741 [9]

Working as an emergency room (ER) nurse may be one of the most stressful and fast-paced jobs on the list. As an ER nurse, you'll spend a lot of your time in the emergency department of a hospital, working with a large variety of patients. One minute, you may be giving CPR to an unresponsive patient, and the next, tending to a person with a broken arm. You'll need to be able to think fast as you assess patients, stabilize them, and provide any emergency life-saving procedures they may need upon entering the hospital, like intubation, stitches, or IVs.

Emergency room nurses must be registered nurses and have at least two years of experience working in the ER or working with trauma patients in another area. Once you're qualified, you can choose a national certification, such as the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) credential. 

9. Oncology nurse

Average annual base salary (Glassdoor): $95,378 [10]

Oncology nurses work directly with patients who have cancer and those at risk for cancer or who are in remission. Depending on where you work, you might take a patient's health history, monitor their well-being, administer medications and cancer treatments, educate patients and their loved ones about their disease, and help patients manage symptoms caused by cancer or treatment. In some cases, you may be a shoulder to lean on. Working in oncology can be a challenging and emotionally demanding field, particularly when caring for patients who may face the difficult reality of cancer and their uncertain futures.

Oncology nurses are registered nurses with extra certifications. Before becoming certified, you'll need experience working directly with cancer patients. Once you have the required amount of experience, you can take an optional exam, such as the Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) exam, to become certified. While you are not required to get an advanced degree, many nurses in this field choose to continue their education. 

Read more: What Is an Oncology Nurse? And How to Become One

10. Clinical nurse educator

Average annual base salary (Glassdoor): $98,742 [11]

If education is something that interests you, you may consider becoming a clinical nurse educator (CNE). CNEs teach and assess student nurses in the classroom and clinical settings to ensure they have the skills and knowledge needed to become successful nurses. You'll implement tests and evaluate students, do research to improve nursing education, implement new learning strategies, and track students' progress as they advance through their nursing courses. You must be organized and highly knowledgeable about the field of nursing.

To become a clinical nurse educator, you'll need to earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Some MSN programs may offer a specialty in education, and others require a certification, such as the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) certification offered by the National League of Nurses.

Next steps

If you're thinking about advancing your career in nursing, then you might consider taking a cost-effective, online course through Coursera to gain job-relevant skills today. Consider adding to your education by taking online courses offered by trusted educational institutions worldwide, such as the Integrative Nursing Specialization from the University of Minnesota or the Caring for Others Specialization from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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Article sources


US BLS. "Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurses, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-1." Accessed July 13, 2023.

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