The highest paying nurse practitioner specialties in 2020

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.




Read more on NPHub’s blog:

Should You Get an MBA as a Nurse Practitioner?

Hospice care 101: Know the basics to help your loved ones

NPs vs MDs: This is how you end the discussion

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