Last Updated on August 28, 2023
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The highest paying nurse practitioner specialties in 2020
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Choosing a specialty is an important milestone in the career or every NP. There are so many options to choose from that you, as a student, might feel a little intimidated.
Some people are lucky enough to know what their dream job is, but even they might feel a little undecided after looking at the different salaries for each specialty.
We don’t want to say that one specialty is better than another: we need all of them. However, if you really like several specialties, money could be a relevant factor to decide.
We’re going to include a little information on some specialties just for you, focusing on the median salary according to various sources, mainly a 2019 survey by Medpage Today.
1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist ($181,040)
The highest paid profession for an NP seems to be that of the Nurse Anesthetist. As of May 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts their median hourly wage at $87, making it the top paid position for a nurse with an MSN.
The Medpage survey puts their salary at $166,969 which beats all the other available specialties once again. There’s no questioning that CRNAs are the top paid professionals in nursing.
We should point out that to become a Nurse Anesthetist you don’t necessarily require an MSN, but many of the country’s top programs will ask you for one. Competition is fierce. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), it takes about 7 to 8 years of education to become a professional in this field.
That is because you will require at least a year of clinical experience working in acute care settings, doing an interview to get accepted into a program, and doing lots of studying to pass a certification exam. It’s a lot of time and work, but it will literally pay off.
2. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner ($139,976)
There isn’t any information on this specialty at the BLS. However, the Medpage survey reveals that PMHNPs are also making lots of good money in their field.
Results from Payscale show an annual average salary of $107,309 (which is much lower), but they also show a lower annual average salary for Nurse Anesthetists. These might correspond to entry level positions.
The salary for both specialties does not take things like bonuses or state differences in salary into consideration. You will find many different numbers if you search the web for their median pay, but you can be sure that psychiatry/mental health is going to be near the top.
PMHNP programs will prepare you to work with patients presenting acute or chronic cases of mental illness, and depending on your location, you will also be able to prescribe medication. See this article for the complete requirements.
3. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner ($131,302)
We are now at a point where NP specialties start to have similar annual paychecks, though it doesn’t mean they’re all the same. Pediatric NPs do enjoy a little more pay than their colleagues, and their starting salaries might be a little higher.
According to the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP), a PNP is actually called a “Pediatric-focused APRN.” This term includes family nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and other APRNs. The common denominator is that they all work primarily with children.
If you want a great salary and a challenging (yet fun) environment, pediatrics might be for you. Stay away from it if you don’t like dealing with angry, confused, or sad parents, however.
To become a PNP you have to complete a post-master’s certificate or doctoral program focusing on pediatrics. You also have to do over 600 clinical hours to get certified. Looking for a preceptor to get started? Head over to our interactive map of available sites.
4. Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner ($123,820)
In fourth place we have the great field of orthopedics (also spelled “orthopaedics”). If you’re interested in helping patients recover from muscle and bone injuries, this is the career path for you. Head over to the National Association of Orthopedic Nurses website for more information.
You will find this job very rewarding if your dream is to help people walk again or recover from physical trauma.
To become an ONP you will have to complete over 2,000 clinical hours as an APRN for certification. We could argue that this is the most challenging part of the specialty. It’s up to you to decide if the salary makes up for it. In our opinion, it totally does.
This job will keep you active, as you will probably have a heavier workload than in other specialties.
5. Urology Nurse Practitioner ($120,545)
This specialty might be one of the lesser-known career paths out there. You will have to make use of all your sensitivity and compassion, since you will be working on a setting that can be difficult for most patients.
An urology nurse will do a lot of prepping, assisting, and educating. Again, urology is a field that can make the best of us shiver with fear or disgust. Any NP working in this specialty will find themselves answering a lot of uncomfortable questions.
If that sounds like you, then go for it. There doesn’t seem to be a specific association for urology nurses that we can mention, but this article from Nursing Explorer does a good job at explaining the basics.
What about all the remaining specialties?
The data we mentioned comes from a very small part of the nurse population in the US. However, these five specialties remain at the top when you look into other sources.
The survey also includes ER nurses, hospitalists, cardiology, radiology, and gastroenterology nurses. In that order. Even though these are at the bottom of the list, their salary is still within the six-figure range. There are a lot of job growth opportunities in these fields as well.
Choosing your specialty should not be about money. After all, if it turns out that you hate being a Nurse Anesthetist, that big paycheck is probably not going to help you do your job better.
You should remember that being passionate about your job always leads to better outcomes, including higher salary opportunities.
What Are the Highest Paying Nurse Practitioner Specialties?
The healthcare industry and nursing profession have significantly shifted over the last year. Due to burnout at the bedside or job loss, many registered nurses are considering career changes. The nursing field provides a plethora of opportunities in various roles, but how does one decide what to do?
Some nurses are looking to specialize and remain in the same position, while others are hoping to further their education. For the nurses who are ready for increased responsibilities regarding patient care and treatment, applying for a nurse practitioner program is a lucrative option.
After deciding that you want to become a nurse practitioner, how do you determine which nurse practitioner specialty is right for you?
Unlike physician assistant (PA) programs, nurse practitioners must choose their specialty before applying for their formal education program. The selection process heavily depends on the nurse’s experience and their future goals. However, the potential salary may also influence their decision.
Is there enough of a difference between your current pay and potential new wage to compensate for the cost of graduate school?
Let’s discuss the most common nurse practitioner programs and their average salary and employment opportunities.
Highest Paying Nurse Practitioner Specialties
Ranked in order of highest paying nurse practitioner specialties, the most common nurse practitioner programs are:
- Psychiatry and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Average Annual Salary: $125,000
Psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) care for patients of all ages. They evaluate, treat, and prescribe medication for behavioral problems and mental health disorders, using both medication and therapeutic measures.
PMHNPs can work in both acute and primary care environments and are typically employed at primary care clinics, community health centers, mental health centers, hospitals, and telehealth clinics.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
Average Annual Salary: $123,000
Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) are advanced practice nurses who are trained in the acute care of newborns. These individuals rarely work in primary care settings. They have comprehensive education around caring for ill newborns and infants under 28 days old. NNPs evaluate and treat patients for prematurity, congenital anomalies, respiratory distress, low-birth weight, and genetic disorders.
They can also further subspecialize by condition or body system. Intensive care units, delivery rooms, emergency rooms, specialty clinics, and medical transport services are the most common environments where NNPs work.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Average Annual Salary: $110,000
Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) are certified in the care of children from birth to young adulthood, which is typically 18-21 years old. This group of APRNs can practice in either primary or acute care and typically select an acuity before entering their graduate program. PNPs may also further specialize by body system or service. For example, they can work in pediatric oncology or surgery.
As with many APRN degrees, PNPs can work in various environments including hospitals, pediatric medical offices, specialty clinics, community healthcare clinics, and telemedicine clinics.
Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
Average Annual Salary: $96,000
Adult-Gerontology nurse practitioners (AGNPs) are highly educated in caring for patient populations from adolescence through geriatrics. This group of APRNs can practice in either primary or acute care and typically select which acuity before entering their graduate program. They can also choose to specialize by body system and services, such as working in adult gastroenterology or surgery.
AGNPs can work in a range of work settings, including primary care clinics, specialty clinics, community health centers, student health centers, telehealth services, health insurance companies, and hospitals.
Family Nurse Practitioner
Average Annual Salary: $94,000
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are APRNs who are trained to care for patients of any age. They can care for the patients in primary or acute care settings and have the option to specialize or subspecialize by patient age, body system, or service. They can subspecialize even further by working in two realms of specialties such as, adult neurology or pediatric pulmonology.
FNPs work in a diverse set of environments including primary care clinics, specialty clinics, community health centers, student health centers, telemedicine clinics, hospitals, and health insurance companies.
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
Average Annual Salary: $91,000
Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) are APRNs who are well-trained in the care of women throughout the lifespan. It’s important to note that WHNPs are not the same as a certified nurse midwife. While both focus on women’s health, certified midwives specialize in pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Most women’s health nurse practitioners center their care around obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive health. Although WHNPs are typically based in primary care clinics, they can also work in community health centers, student health centers, telemedicine clinics, and hospitals.
Other Factors Affecting Annual APRN Salary
In addition to the specialty itself, a nurse practitioner’s collective experience, subspecialties, and work environments can also impact their salary. The more experience that a nurse practitioner has under their belt, the higher their average salary will be.
High-acuity subspecialties also typically have higher annual wages than lower acuity or outpatient specialties. Finally, inpatient nurse practitioners typically make more than those in outpatient settings and physician’s clinics.
Along with the factors mentioned above, the state and city that you practice in may also affect your income. California, Minnesota, Washington, Hawaii, and New Jersey have the highest annual salaries for nurse practitioners across the APRN specialties.
Ultimately, several components can play a role in the average annual salary for APRNs. While the amount of pay should not solely determine which specialty you choose, it is vital to evaluate this aspect when exploring the idea of furthering your education.
Specifically, consider whether the cost burden or debt will be worth the increase in annual salary. Additionally, understanding average wages and contributing factors will allow for better support during contract negotiations and beyond!