For American workers seeking a growing field with competitive wages, high job satisfaction, and promising stability in the years to come, becoming a nurse practitioner can be an auspicious choice. Nurse practitioners (NPs)—advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who typically hold graduate degrees—collaborate with physicians and other healthcare providers and may specialize in a type of care (e.g., neonatal, adult-gerontological, women’s health, psychiatric mental health, midwifery, etc). Regardless of the subfield, one thing is for sure: of all employment sectors, healthcare is fastest growing and one of the highest paying.
By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2015) reports that the five fastest growing industries in the country are all related to healthcare—home healthcare services and outpatient care centers among them—and openings for nurse practitioners are projected to swell 35 percent between 2014 and 2024 (BLS 2015), much faster than the average growth projected for all occupations during that time period (7 percent). That equates to 37,100 new positions for NPs. Furthermore, nurse practitioners earn a mean annual salary of $97,990 (BLS 2014), more than double the average salary for all occupations at $47,230 (BLS 2015). Salaries for these healthcare professionals tend to vary by region, specialty, education, experience, and demand.
Read on to discover how much NPs earn, as well as how NP salaries vary by experience, region, and specialty.
While many sectors of the American economy have reported wage stagnation or declines, nurse practitioners continue to make salary gains, even newcomers to the profession. In fact, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP 2015) reports that the total annual income for full-time NPs has increased 10 percent since 2011.
It’s no surprise that the AANP’s National Nurse Practitioner Compensation Survey (2015)—a research study of self-reported data from more than 2,200 nurses across the country—found that salary tends to vary by experience. Here are the average base salaries of all reporting NPs listed by years of experience:
From the same survey, here is the average total compensation (i.e., base salaries plus bonuses and other extras bestowed by employers) of all surveyed NPs by experience:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014)—a branch of the US Department of Labor which makes employment and salary statistics publicly available—has created a geographic profile for NP salaries, levels of employment, and job concentrations across the country.
Here are the ten top-paying states for NPs listed with the average annual salaries:
Although those are the most profitable states for NPs, they are not necessary the highest employing. The states with the highest concentration of NPs tend to have relatively large populations overall. Here are the ten top-employing states in this profession:
It’s important to note that although some states and areas may provide better compensation for NPs, these regions may incur a relatively higher cost of living. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2015) reports that the five most expensive states to live in are Hawaii, District of Columbia, New York, California, and Alaska, whereas the most affordable states include Mississippi, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.
Surprisingly, not all of the cities with the highest compensation for NPs are located in top-paying states. Here are the top-paying cities for NPs listed with the average annual salaries (BLS 2014):
Finally, the top-paying areas are not necessarily the top-employing places for NPs and there may be higher competition for job openings. There are some municipalities which provide ample opportunities for NPs, particularly across the northeastern states. Here are the regions with the highest number of employed NPs:
Salaries for NPs not only vary by experience and region, but they also vary by specialty. Due to the nature of data collection and surveying, there are some differences in precise annual average salaries for each subfield, but there are consistencies among the most lucrative reported. Across the board, mental health nurse practitioners and certified registered nurse anesthetists appear among the best compensated NPs.
By illustration, AANP’s (2015) National Compensation Survey found that the highest paying NP certification areas were the following (listed with average base salary of survey respondents):
In the same survey, the top-paying clinical focus areas among its respondents were:
As of December, Payscale (2015) reports the following salary averages among the most common NP subspecialties:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014) reports that nurse practitioners make substantially more than the average annual salary for all occupations, $97,990 and $47,230 respectively. Here are the average salary ranges across 122,050 NPs in the US:
Here are the hourly salary ranges for all NPs:
So what are the top-paying industries for NPs? Interestingly, although offices of physicians employ the most NPs at 57,100, they are not among the top-paying. Here are the most lucrative places of employment for this profession listed with the mean annual salaries:
Finally, the AANP’s (2015) National Compensation Survey for Nurse Practitioners goes into further detail and found that among more than 2,200 NPs responding, these were the top-paying settings for NPs (listed with average base salaries):
Online MS - FNP
Online MS - AG-ACNP
Online MS - WHNP
PNP-AC Certificate (for PNP-PCs)
Nurse Educator Certificate
DNP Adult Health CNS
Online RN to MSN - FNP
Online Bachelor's to MSN - FNP
Online BSN to MSN - FNP