In the wake of the Great Recession, wages have been falling or stagnating across many industries, but there is one area that continues to make promising gains in salary, job security, and projected growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014)—a data organization sponsored by the US Department of Labor—the five most rapidly expanding sectors of the American market are all related to healthcare and becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP) can give a person a broad-based set of skills to join this burgeoning field.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP 2014) reports that among nurse practitioners, FNPs represent the most common specialty at 54.5 percent. The School of Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco describes the role of the FNP as addressing the “healthcare needs of the individual and family by providing comprehensive primary care through the lifespan.” FNPs have a range of responsibilities—many of which overlap with physicians’ roles—including diagnosing and treating illnesses; performing medical evaluations, diagnostic tests, and exams while paying thought to the history of the patient; prescribing medications; performing basic surgeries; collaborating with doctors, surgeons, and various specialists on delivering services; and educating patients and their families about health conditions. It’s important to note that the scope of practice of these healthcare professionals varies by state and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF 2015) has neatly outlined the regional bylaws. Also, FNPs typically have at least a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree and may work across a variety settings such as hospitals, community health centers, private practices, schools, research organizations, and other healthcare environments.
So how much money do FNPs typically make? The BLS (2014) found that NPs across all specialties make an annual average salary of $97,990, more than double the average salary of all occupations at $47,230 (BLS 2015). There’s also some evidence that FNPs may be among the higher earning groups of NPs. In an analysis using Payscale’s salary data, Monster (2014) included FNPs among its five highest paying nursing specialties. Furthermore, FNPs are part of a quickly growing field. By illustration, the BLS (2015) projected that between 2014 and 2024, openings for NPs will swell 35 percent, more than five times the average growth anticipated for all occupations during that time period (7 percent).
Read on to discover how FNP salaries may vary by experience and region, as well as the source of reporting (e.g., BLS, Payscale, Glassdoor, AANP, etc).
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) conducted the National Nurse Practitioner Compensation Survey (2015)—a study comprising self-reported data from more than 2,200 nurses across the US—and discovered that like many occupations, salary tends to be commensurate with experience. Unfortunately, the AANP (2015) did not divide this data according to specialty, but rather reported on NPs across all areas of expertise. These are the average base salaries of NPs in all subfields listed by years of experience:
Additionally, AANP (2015) reported on average total compensation (i.e., base salaries in addition to bonuses and other extras bestowed by employers) of all NPs by experience:
In a departure from AANP’s (2015) findings, Payscale (2015) reveals that, “Pay for [FNPs] does not change much by experience, with the most experienced earning only a bit more than the least.” Payscale (2015)—using self-reported data from 4,767 FNPs—found FNP base salaries ranging from $68,178 to $103,208, as well as an annual average of $84,785 among all respondents. As of December 2015, Payscale reports the following salary averages among all FNP respondents by experience:
Finally, Payscale (2015) also includes a list of skills (i.e., areas of expertise) that may increase FNPs’ salaries by a certain percentage. Among the FNPs, the following skills were found to enhance the individual’s earning potential (listed with approximate percent boost to annual average salary):
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014) does not distinguish among NP specialties (e.g., family, women’s health, gerontological, mental health, etc), the pay differences between regions may generally be extended to the FNP subfield.
So what are the most lucrative states and cities for NPs? The BLS (2014) finds that the top-paying states for these healthcare professionals include:
In the same analysis, the top-paying municipalities are:
By contrast, these are the lowest paying states for NPs:
And the lowest paying municipalities include:
Although living in an area with higher compensation may be desirable, these regions also tend to have a higher cost of living. In fact, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2015) found that the five most expensive states are Hawaii, District of Columbia, New York, California, and Alaska—three of the top-paying states for NPs—and the cheapest states to live in included Mississippi, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Please note that Puerto Rico was not included in MERIC’s (2015) analysis.
Additionally, Payscale (2015)—an aggregator of self-reported wages across occupations—provides a detailed breakdown of its respondents’ salary ranges, medians, and means organized by experience and area. As of December 2015, the self-reported annual salary averages for FNPs in the ten largest US cities were:
Finally, Clinical Advisor (2015) conducts an annual survey of NP and physician assistant (PA) salaries, including a regional analysis. It found the following mean annual salaries for NPs among geographic areas in the US:
As stated above, there are varying accounts of how much FNPs can expect to earn based on factors such as experience, region, and source of data.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014) does not differentiate among subfields of nursing and provides the following salary ranges for NPs in all specialties across the country:
In hourly salary terms, NPs can expect to earn:
Similarly, Salary.com (2015) does not distinguish among the specialties in its analysis. As of December 2015, it reports the following salary ranges among its NPs:
Finally, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP 2015) gets more granular in its National Nurse Practitioner Compensation Survey and groups average reported salaries by specialty. It found that among its 830 FNP respondents, the average annual salary was $95,661. Payscale (2015)—breaking its own analysis into further detail—has the following salary ranges among its 4,767 FNP respondents:
Overall, job opportunities for FNPs are expected to increase in coming years. As proof of point, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN 2014) states that there’s a nursing shortage in the US which continues to intensify as Baby Boomers age and consequently, the demand for healthcare services soars. Becoming a FNP can help to address the mounting deficit of qualified nurses across the country.
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