Top 10 of the Highest Paying Nursing Jobs in 2022

Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN

Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN

One of the best parts of nursing is the variety of options available along with the ability to make changes to career paths and enjoy new and exciting experiences. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) published each year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 3.1 million registered nurses were actively employed in the U.S in 2020. The median salary for RNs was $73,350 annually which breaks down to $36.22 per hour. The median number indicates half of those 3 million plus nurses made more than this salary and half made less. The job outlook for the next decade is very strong with prediction of about 194,500 new jobs each year.  

Nursing salaries can vary widely by state and location as well as by employer. Check your local listings for more specific salaries and job requirements in your location. If you’re looking for a change or career growth, explore the Top 10 highest salaries in the nursing field for some motivation: 

1.The Registered Nurse First Assist (RNFA) 

The RNFA is a perioperative nurse who functions as the first assistant during surgical procedures. This role is often filled by surgical residents and fellows, so the demand is higher in non-teaching hospitals and surgical centers. According to Salary.com, the average salary for an RFNA in 2020 was $53.28/ hour or annually $99,910. Employment is available in a variety of settings such as hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers and out-patient surgical settings, private medical offices or through staffing agencies. Other venues that hire RFNAs include research and product development. 

To become an RNFA, the nurse must have amassed significant experience and training as a perioperative nurse. After first learning the fundamentals of surgical nursing, advanced training is focused on the fundamentals of surgical techniques, procedures, and anatomy. A CNOR certification and, as of 2020, a BSN are required along with an unencumbered nursing license and a minimum of 2000 hours of experience as an RFNA.  

2. Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) 

The FNP is one of the fastest growing fields of nursing and is expected to grow 45% through the end of this decade. Fully autonomous practice as primary care practitioner is possible in most states. The data from the BLS finds the average salary of an FNP at $114,510 in 2020, which equates to $55.05 per hour.  

FNPs work in many settings such as medical offices, hospitals, urgent cares, clinics, or nursing facilities performing patient consultations and assessments along with ordering tests and prescribing treatments and medications. The BSN nurse needs to pass a MSN or PhD FNP accredited program through the ANCC to become Board Certified as an FNP-BC. The higher the degree, the higher the responsibility and salary.  

3. Nursing Administrator 

Nurse administrators run the behind-the-scenes operations including overseeing HR functions of hiring and firing, orienting, along with budgeting and staff management within the institutions such as hospital and clinics or nursing facilities. The average salary as reported by the BLS for 2020 is $104,280 based on a 40-hour workweek meaning an hourly salary equates to $50.13 per hour.  

To become a Nurse Administrator, nurses will need an unencumbered nursing license form the state as well as a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration. In addition, many will also have a dual master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA). Continuing education course requirements to maintain the RN license will vary by state. 

4. Pain Management Nurse 

Pain management is an important aspect of nursing care in every aspect including but not limited to post-op care and chronic pain issues. The opioid crisis in recent years has brought the issue to the forefront of all medical care. Nurses who specialize in this field are highly sought after and well paid. The average salary according to Indeed.com in January 2022 is $100,872 ($43.31 per hour). Those who pursue an NP specialty in pain management can earn more. 

A pain management nurse must have a BSN, and a history of 2 years of full-time employment in the 3 years prior to certification. This experience must include 2000 hours of pain management experience and 30 ceus in the last 3 years with at least 15 ceus in pain management studies. Then the RN must pass the ANCC PMGT-BC certification examination. 

5. Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse (NICU nurse) 

Caring for babies in their most vulnerable status is a huge draw for nurses who want to take care of babies. It is one of the most sought-after fields in nursing and NICU nurses command a Top 10 salary that increases with the level of education and certifications. According to Ziprecruiter.com, NICU nurses command an average salary of $102,727 ($54.34 per hour). 

Staff nurses can move into the NICU and can obtain an RNC-NIC without an advanced degree. However, to earn the most and have the greatest opportunity for advancement, NICU nurses need to become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) or a Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS).   

6. Certified Nurse Midwife 

The goal for many who love prenatal care, obstetrics and labor and delivery is to become a certified nurse midwife. Midwives usually work in OB/GYN offices, hospital or clinics, but depending on state laws they can also enter into private practice. This field is expected to have tremendous growth of 45% in the next decade. They can expect to earn an average salary of $111,130 ($53.43/hour) according to the BLS.  

Certified Nurse Midwives can earn their certification through the American Midwifery Certification Board. To become a nurse midwife, it takes 6-8 years. The nurse must obtain a BSN, pass the NCLEX and work as an RN full time in women’s health or labor and delivery for at least a year. Then take an MSN course through the AMCE accredited program and pass the CNM exam and become an APRN.  

7. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner 

The stigma of mental health issues is beginning to lift, as the need for better mental healthcare continues to attract attention. The need for child and adolescent metal health care continues to grow. In addition, the focus on substance abuse continues to increase and widen the field of practice.  The average salary is keeping up with the need and the average salary as reported by Payscale is $111,572 as recently as September 2021. The hourly rate is $53.60.  

Mental health nursing will continue to grow faster than most other fields of nursing. Many nurses are choosing to pursue their NP in psychiatric care. For this the minimum degree is an MSN in nursing with a focus on the psychiatric nurse practitioner role.  

8. Clinical Nurse Specialist 

In dealing with the ever-increasing costs of healthcare, hospitals are hiring more clinical nurse specialists to provide the specialized care at lower costs than physicians. Clinical nurse specialists are MSN trained nurses with a focus on clinical nursing and in specialized areas such as critical care, oncology, cardiac care, emergency care and pediatrics.  

With an average salary of $109,437 ($52.61/hour), the CNS path offers nurses an opportunity to be considered an expert in their field of focus and the rewarding opportunity to work to improve the status of nursing and the healthcare delivery system to improve the care and treatment as well as outcomes for their patients 

 9. General Nurse Practitioner   

General NPs are NPs who haven’t chosen a specialty. They can work in a variety of settings such as medical offices, urgent care and clinics or in independent practice. They can continue to be a generalist or continue their education to specialize in other fields as an NP such as Family care, Women’s Health, Mental Health and Pediatrics.  

The average salary for a general NP is $111,680 ($53.69/hour) per the BLS. The BLS also predicts that General NP job opportunities will grow about 45% in the next decade. The General NP education requires at least an MSN and NP licensure at your state level. Salary increases with additional degrees, specialization, and training. 

10. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) 

If you’re looking for the highest paid field of nursing, the CRNA is what you want to explore. This is a highly skilled position which commands a significant increase in salary. The CRNA administers anesthesia to patients during procedures conducted by surgeons, podiatrists, and dentists and other qualified healthcare professionals. The CRNA mean average salary according to the BLS is $183,580 ($88.26/ hour). CRNA jobs will continue to grow by 45% over the next decade.  

To become a CRNA, the RN must complete an intense master’s degree program from an accredited nurse anesthesia education course and then pass a nations certification examination.  By 2025, the CRNA will be required to achieve a doctoral degree and then pass the certification exam.  

All of these professional opportunities require the nurse to maintain an unencumbered registered nurse license. In most states this requires continuing education for nurses. The additional certifications may also require ceus as well as specific hours of practice in order to renew and maintain the certification.  NursingCE.com offers many courses to help nurses satisfy these ceu requirements for their RN licensure as well as APRN certifications. There are multi course packages that help reduce costs and meet specific requirements such as pharmacology ceus.  

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