7 Highest Paying Nursing Jobs of 2021

Feb 24, 2021
Keondra Rustan, PhD, RN, CHSE, CNE

With all of the uncertainty, fear, and chaos going on in the world, you might wonder what inspires an individual to choose a nursing career? Some nurses may also ask themselves from time-to-time: “Is this the right field for me? If I was not working here, what else might I attempt?” 

Nursing is such a fluid and flexible career that if you feel that you may not have found your niche, there are numerous opportunities to explore. I’ve done some of the work for you by listing the top seven highest paying nursing jobs and what makes them amazing or unique.

Highest Paying Nursing Jobs — Top 7

1. Certified Nurse Anesthetist

Certified Nurse Anesthetists, or CRNAs, are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who administer anesthesia, perform nerve blocks, and care for patients before, during, and after surgical procedures

Becoming a CRNA typically requires a master's degree and successful completion of a National Certification Examination. This career is unique in that it was listed in 2019 as #5 on US News' list of top 100 jobs. It encompasses three essential nursing traits: critical thinking, collaboration with other professions, and prioritization in urgent situations.

CRNAs are the highest-paid nurses, earning a salary between $140,000–$263,0000 per year.

2. Family Nurse Practitioner

Family Nurse Practitioners, or FNPs, are APRNS who have very similar duties to a medical doctor. This career requires a master's degree and passing of the boards through either the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

This role is fantastic because a nurse can diagnose and prescribe; in some states, nurse practitioners can even open and own their own family practice. What makes this job unique is that if the Family Nurse Practitioner role is not desirable in any case, one can go into other tracks such as acute care, mental health, and others. The traits or skills required for this position are critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and thorough assessment.

The salary for this profession ranges between $100,000–$150,000 per year and is a position that is currently in high demand, as with most nursing specialties.

3. Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical Nurse Specialists, or CNSs, are registered nurses who have received specialized education and training in a particular field. Those in this role promote safe practice using evidence-based techniques that are also low cost. Most nurses in this role are master’s prepared and have completed a certification exam through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Critical Care Nurses Certification Corporation (AACN). 

This role is very satisfying for those trying to work within their niche as the specialization of CNS nurses can be a population, setting, disease, type of care, or problem. This role often leads to education and LEAN practice. Essential traits or skills for CNS nurses are effective communication, passion for education, and a love of research to keep in touch with the current evidence-based trends.

The salary for a CNS may range from $100,000–$125,000 per year

4. Certified Nurse Midwife

Certified Nurse Midwives, or CNMs, are trained to care for patients dealing with women's health and obstetric situations. These nurses are Masters prepared with a strong interest in women's gynecological health, family planning, prenatal care, and postnatal care. 

Of course, there is an examination needed to become certified to take on this role. This career path, like many nursing careers, is only expected to grow in the future. This position lends the opportunity to help those at risk and make a difference in healthcare for women. 

This role is attractive to those interested in offering similar care to an OB/GYN with a holistic approach. Essential traits and skills for those in this position are compassion, a desire for education, and critical thinking.

The salary for certified midwives ranges from $90,000–$155,000.  

5. Nursing Administrator

Nursing Administrators are registered nurses who hold leadership roles within a healthcare system; they can go from being a manager on a unit to a chief nursing officer. Nurses employed in this field are passionate about mentorship and effective change through policy. 

To obtain a career in this area, one must have a master's degree and pass either the Nurse Executive Board Certification Examination presented by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the Certified Nurse Manager and Leadership offered by the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL). 

Those who are in this role have the opportunity to create direct change by developing policies, hiring, and mentoring others. The traits or skills desired for those in this position are flexible, effective communication, and comprehensive organization skills.

The salary range for Nursing Administrators is between $90,000–$134,000 per year. 

6. Nurse Researcher

Nurse researchers are dedicated to advancing nursing practice through research in various domains. Becoming a nurse researcher does not require a certification, but it often requires a terminal degree such as a Ph.D. The great thing about this career is the individual can choose what topic or problem to research, and the work can be conducted with a team or as an individual. 

Like many nursing fields, this role is very flexible as a nurse can focus solely on research, or they can work as a faculty member and researcher simultaneously. Some essential traits for those interested in this career are a desire to learn, a love for organized chaos, and an avid reader.

The salary for a research nurse ranges from $90,000–$105,000 per year. 

7. Informatics Nurse

Informatics Nurses are trained to use and integrate technologies into the healthcare setting in a cost-effective manner. This role has a certification like many others on this list: the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers the Informatics Nursing Certification. These nurses can have a bachelor's or master's degree and work by combining nursing science with technological science to define, manage, and communicate healthcare needs. 

Most recently, these are often the nurses who implement Electronic Healthcare Record (EHR) use in hospitals. Common traits or skills within this nursing specialty are organizational skills, a love for science and technology, and critical thinking.

The salary for an informatics nurse ranges from $80,000–$100,000 per year.  

hand holding 20 dollar bills up highest paying nursing jobs 2021

Final Thoughts on the Top Nursing Specialties

A few careers may be missing from this list because nursing is a career in which there are truly numerous opportunities to grow, learn, and earn more. Many nurses that have experience and want to change locations choose travel nursing as an opportunity to make more money working in a field they enjoy and seeing more of the world. 

If you’re already set in your specialty but are looking for additional, lucrative nursing opportunities, you shouldn’t brush travel nursing aside! Trusted has collected thousands of data points from travel nurses across the country and has ranked the top-three paying cities for nurses in each state. 

If you’re looking to try something new, and make a pretty penny while you’re at it, check out this list of Highest Paying Cities for Travel Nurses 2020-2021 for inspiration on where to go next! California and New York are always strong options; below is an example of the kind of travel nursing compensation you might expect from these two states.


  • Sacramento - $5,148/week
  • Imperial - $3,714/week
  • Moreno Valley - $3,504/week 

New York

  • Port Jefferson - $4,614/week
  • Valley Stream - $4,610/week
  • Astoria - $4,564/week

With the above in mind, don’t forget that there are other benefits to working as a travel nurse aside from a higher nursing salary alone! Trusted has also created a list of the most popular travel nursing destinations of 2020-2021.

This article lists the current top seven highest paying nursing jobs and what makes them amazing. Remember, all of these wonderful careers started with a registered nursing license. Hopefully, this content is meaningful and encourages individuals to pursue some of these careers.  

Find the Highest Paying Nursing Jobs in Your State

Use the Nurse Salary Explorer to see what you could be earning in your city or state.