Year: 2021

These are the most lucrative nursing careers right now

3 highest paying clinical nursing jobs today

Which nursing careers pay the highest annual salary or hourly rates? Nursing jobs vary by specialty, setting, location, degree, and certification requirements. Nurses can specialize in treating a population (geriatrics, pediatrics, etc.) or specialize in a therapeutic area (oncology, dermatology, etc.) Additionally, shifts low in supply and high in demand can cause pay rates to grow in certain types of jobs.

Below are the nursing careers that generally pay the highest salary across all locations, specialties, and clinical settings. Most of the highest-paid nursing careers are APRNs, or advanced practice registered nurses, which are registered nurses who obtain a master’s level degree and additional experience or specialization after completing their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and RN certification.

1. Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) – Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia to patients who are undergoing medical procedures in a hospital, outpatient surgery center, or medical office. With additional documented experience in ICU or surgery, plus completing an additional program and passing certification requirements, RNs can become CRNAs and earn an average of $181,040 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. CRNAs can make up to $230,000 annually, while most CRNA salaries range between $171,130 and $205,506, according to

2. Nurse Practitioner (NP) – Nurse practitioners also complete additional training and education to get their NP degree which enables them to treat patients more autonomously than many other types of nurses. Some states allow NPs to practice independently and prescribe medications while other states require NPs to work with a licensed physician. As of February 2021, nurse practitioners earn an average of $109,025 annually, according to data from

3. Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) – A clinical nurse specialist has obtained a minimum of a master’s degree, plus additional training in a specialized area of nursing practice, according to, which reports that the median salary for clinical nurse specialists as of May 2020 is $106,604. Clinical nurse specialists may specialize in a therapeutic area or population, and specialty certifications are available in gerontology, pediatrics, and neonatal care, according to the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists.

Honorable Mention – Registered Nurse (RN) – While not among the very top-paying jobs, RNs are well-paid. Additionally, becoming an RN is somewhat of the “gateway” milestone along the way to achieving higher-paying advanced practice nursing jobs. Completing an RN opens many doors and provides nurses with many more options for advanced degrees and more lucrative nursing roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average (mean) income for RNs nationally as of 2019 (the most recent BLS data available) is $37.24 per hour which translates to $77,460 annually, assuming a full-time schedule of about 40 hours per week.

Of the nearly three million RNs employed nationwide, the highest earners are those who work in outpatient care centers or hospital settings, with an average hourly income of $40.73 ($84,720 annually), and $38.20 per hour ($79,460 annually) respectively.

Where you work as an RN also impacts your hourly wage and annual income. California and Hawaii are the top-paying states for RNs, with hourly rates of $54.44 and 50.03, respectively, followed by Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, and Oregon as top-paying states, where the cost of living is also higher.

Other ways nurses may increase their annual income

In addition to high-paying clinical nursing careers, another way to grow your nursing career and annual income is to shift into leadership, administration, or teaching. Nurse administrators such as hospital CNOs, medical directors, etc. earn more than $100,000, and nurse instructors earn an average of $83,160 annually and up to $133,000 in the 90th percentile.

Changes in supply and demand can also factor into nursing salaries, causing pay fluctuations in either direction. For example, critical care nursing is in unusually high demand in 2020-2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is causing pay rates in some areas to quadruple, as demand also grows by a reported 400-500%, multiple experts report. Switching practice areas may be a more feasible career change than obtaining a new advanced degree for some nurses.

If none of the above are an option, another way for nurses to potentially grow their annual income is to consider trying out a new part-time side-gig for a few extra hours a week. This may be a more realistic method to increase earnings for nurses who are unable to shift full-time into a new, higher-paying nursing career.

CU Nursing Students to Present at NACNS Conference

Four students in the University of Colorado College of Nursing Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist master’s program are getting a taste of academic life by presenting research addressing commonly encountered problems in critical care settings. The students will present during the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) annual conference March 9 – 11, 2021 that is being held virtually.

An essential component of CU Nursing’s master’s program includes students identifying clinical problems where they work, finding a gap in care in their organizations, studying it, and providing evidence-based solutions for improvement. These commonly encountered problems in critical care settings become the basis for their evidence-based practice capstone project and presentation. “It’s an excellent way to put action into practice and to think critically and institute best practices while on the job,” said CU College of Nursing Professor and Clinical Nurse Specialist Program Director Mary Beth Makic, PhD. CU Nursing encourages students to present at conferences, write an article and submit for publication. “This provides our students with experience in addressing issues at their workplace and presenting solutions to management,” said Makic.

The four students tackled a variety of topics including how to reduce hospital acquired pressure injuries, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, and workplace violence through prevention training. The following outlines each student’s topic of research.

Title: Hospital Acquired Pressure Injury (HAPI) Bundle

Hanna Betts, BSN, RN, Nurse, United States Army

With the incidence of hospital acquired pressure injuries (HAPI) increasing nationally, the purpose of this quality improvement project is to measure practice change of a HAPI bundle and how it will impact HAPI rates when compared to current practice among adult medical patients in a 36-bed medical unit. The national practice guidelines identify prevention as the most essential element in combating HAPIs. Therefore, this literature supported, four-part HAPI bundle will aide in increasing communication, assessments, patient education, and interventions to combat HAPIs. Outcomes are still pending as implementation has been delayed due to the increased strain on staff secondary due to COVID-19.

Title: Evaluating the Impact of Workplace Violence Prevention Training for Graduate Nurses

Kristen Caldwell, BSN, MA, United States Air Force

Workplace violence creates a significant burden in healthcare. Consequences can include low morale, decreased productivity, increased employee turnover, loss of team cohesiveness, as well as various financial impacts for the victim and the healthcare system. Creating an effective workplace violence prevention program can help nurses better understand the scope and nature of workplace violence while learning how to apply individual strategies and develop skills for preventing and responding to workplace violence. The purpose of this evidence-based practice project was to investigate the implementation of Workplace Violence (WPV) prevention training for new graduate Registered Nurse’s (RNs) in the Nurse Residency Program (NRP) and its impact on perception and confidence towards aggression and/or violence perpetuated by the patient/family member/visitor. Thackrey’s Confidence in Coping with Patient Aggression (CCPA) tool was used to evaluate effectiveness of WPV training both prior to training and directly after training. Overall, post-training CCPA tool results showed a slight increase in confidence coping with aggressive patients (4.6/10 to 5.2/10). During the training, NRP RNs shared stories of their own experiences with WPV, desire for more support from management related to WPV prevention, and a desire to receive further training. Leadership should heed the desire and need for consistent WPV training in health care settings.

Title: Rounding and Quick Access Education to Reduce Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections: An Initiative to Improve Quality and Safety in Healthcare

Danielle Garcia, MSN, RN, AGCNS-BC, Clinical Nurse Specialist, United States Army

Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI) result in increased morbidity, longer lengths of stay, and higher healthcare costs. Quality of care can be improved by frequently assessing the need for a urinary catheter and removing those no longer indicated. When urinary catheters are needed, maintenance interventions should be implemented continuously. The project was conducted in two 25-bed inpatient surgical units. The team developed a badge buddy with a quick response code that contained educational resources on CAUTI prevention. Registered nurse CAUTI champions were assembled and educated on CAUTI prevention techniques. CAUTI champions rounded on patients, auditing CAUTI bundle adherence, and recommending catheter removal when no indication was identified. CAUTI rates, indwelling urinary catheter utilization, and maintenance bundle adherence were measured. The implementation of these strategies has shown to reduce CAUTI by up to 70%. However, more time is needed to understand the effect of the project on nursing practice and patient outcomes.

Title: Only YOU can prevent Pressure Injuries!

Kelly Wild, RN BSN CCRN, ICU Charge RN, Parker Adventist Hospital

Hospital acquired pressure injuries (HAPI) are not only an indicator of nursing quality, but a financial drain on the healthcare system and increase patient mortality when they occur. This evidence-based project developed a pressure injury prevention (PIP) plan for an ICU experiencing an increase in HAPI rates and implemented it using a variety of educational techniques meant to improve nursing attitudes towards PIP. Four months after implementation, HAPI rates on the unit have decreased 88%.

Five Clinical Nurse Specialists Elected To NACNS Leadership

Will Help Lead “Resurgence Of The CNS” For 89,000 Clinical Nurse Specialists

RESTON, VA – February 2, 2021 – The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) announced the election of its President-Elect, Secretary/Treasurer and three members of the Board of Directors today.  The NACNS’s mission is to advance and support the unique expertise and value the clinical nurse specialist (CNS) contributes to health care in the United States.

These new leaders of the national nursing association will officially assume their duties representing the 89,000 clinical nurse specialists in United States at the NACNS annual conference scheduled for March 9-11, 2021.  The conference theme is “The Resurgence of the CNS” recognizing the increasing number of nurses becoming CNSs helping the CNS role to become one of the fastest growing of the four Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) designations.

“We are in the middle of a resurgence of the CNS role in health care as we near the milestone 100,000 mark for the number of CNSs in the United States. Outstanding leadership is needed to manage an organization like NACNS and continue its growth,” said Sean M. Reed, PhD, APN, ACNS-BC, ACHPN, NACNS President.  After a competitive membership-wide election, I’m confident we’ve elected the right people to NACNS leadership roles and I’m looking forward to working with them.”

About NACNS’ New Leaders

Newly elected leadership include:

  • President-elect

Phyllis Whitehead, PhD, APRN, ACHPN, RN-BC, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Palliative Medicine/Pain Management, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital; Associate Professor, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Virginia

  • Secretary/Treasurer

Linda Thurby-Hay, DNP, APRN, ACNS-BC, ADM, CDE Adult Health Clinical Nurse Specialist, Bon Secours Mercy Health System, Richmond, Virginia

  • Members of the Board of Directors

Jennifer Manning, DNS, ACNS-BC, CNE Nurse Researcher at East Jefferson General Hospital, Louisiana, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Nursing Programs at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing, Louisiana

Traci Smith, DNP, APRN, ACCNS-AG, CCRN Clinical Nurse Specialist for Critical Care and Cardiac Services, Wellstar Health System, Georgia

Jeri Tidwell, Ph.D., RN, PNP-BC, PCNS-BC, FNCSI Clinical Nurse Specialist at Children’s Medical Center, Texas

About The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists

The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) is the only national association representing the clinical nurse specialist (CNS). CNSs are the most versatile advanced practice registered nurses and work in a variety of health care specialties to ensure delivery of high-quality, evidence-based, patient-centered care. As leaders in the acute, post-acute, and ambulatory health care settings, CNSs impact direct patient care, nurses and nursing practice, and organizations and systems to optimize care and drive outstanding clinical outcomes. NACNS is dedicated to advancing CNS practice and education, and removing unnecessary and limiting regulatory barriers, while assuring public access to quality CNS services. For more information or to join NACNS click here.