How Much Does a Nurse Practitioner Make?
Nurse practitioners (NPs) provide primary or urgent patient care. These healthcare professionals can diagnose, treat, and evaluate patients — often within the same scope of practice as physicians.
As of May 2020, the BLS reports a median salary of $111,680, or nearly three times the median of all occupations.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that NP employment will grow by 52% from 2019-2029. Experienced nurses can qualify to become NPs by earning master’s degrees or doctorates in nursing and meeting their states’ licensure requirements.
How much does an NP make? As of May 2020, the BLS reports a median salary of $111,680, or nearly three times the median of all occupations. This guide provides an in-depth look at salary data and job prospects for NPs.
What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?
NPs provide primary patient care or deliver advanced nursing services in a specialized field. While a nurse practitioner’s scope of care varies from state to state, these medical professionals can usually perform physical exams, order tests, diagnose illnesses, treat conditions, write prescriptions, and evaluate patient responses.
Depending on their states’ laws, NPs may work under direct physician supervision, in collaboration with physicians, or as semi-independent healthcare professionals. Nearly half of all NPs work in physicians’ offices, but many others serve in hospitals or educational facilities. Learn more about NP careers with the following links:
How Much Can You Earn as an NP?
What is a nurse practitioner salary? The answer depends on several factors. NPs in the U.S. can expect to earn $85,000-$190,000 a year, according to the BLS. You might ask, for comparison, how much does a nurse make? About $75,330.
While experience and education factor into nurse practitioner salaries, location and the collective bargaining power of a nurse’s union may hold more influence.
According to the BLS, NPs who serve in California, New Jersey, and Washington enjoy some of the profession’s highest salaries. NPs in outpatient care tend to earn the highest salaries — about $123,850 a year — while those serving in educational settings receive the lowest compensation, around $108,060.
Average Annual Wage, 2020
Nurse Practitioner Salary by Experience
Like most fields, healthcare rewards experience. Newly licensed NPs earn about $22,000 below the average annual wage for the profession. NPs with more than 20 years of experience, however, can command higher salaries. Small bonuses and profit-sharing options may bump up a nurse practitioner’s salary.
The real value of experience, however, lies in what NPs learn over time. Certifications, leadership skills, and original research contribute to each NP’s professional journey. Location and industry can also significantly influence nurse practitioner salaries.
Annual Salaries by Experience for Nurse Practitioners, 2021
|Years of Experience||Average Annual Salary|
|Entry-Level (<1 year)||$92,000|
|Early Career (1-4 years)||$97,000|
|Midcareer (5-9 years)||$103,000|
|Late Career (10-19 years)||$107,000|
|Experienced (20+ years)||$111,000|
NP Salary by Education
For most nurses and NPs, advances in higher education deliver salary increases. The most significant jump for nurses occurs between earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. Consider the following data:
Average Salaries by Education, 2021
|Education Level||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Wage|
|Doctor of Nursing Science||$53.33||$101,010|
The numbers above represent all respondents who hold that degree — not solely NPs. Still, these figures indicate that earning higher degrees typically results in higher pay.
Many schools offer flexible, online nursing education programs at affordable prices, allowing nurses to advance their education without taking time off from work.
Becoming an NP usually requires earning a master’s degree or doctorate. Teaching in an NP training program typically demands a practical doctorate or research-based Ph.D.
Many schools offer flexible, online nursing education programs at affordable prices, allowing nurses to advance their education without taking time off from work. Unless a nurse or NP is approaching retirement, going back to school offers one of the most straightforward ways to secure a higher nursing salary.
Top Online Programs
Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.
Nurse Practitioner Salary by Location
Location heavily influences nurse practitioner salaries. Healthcare providers earn the best wages in states and cities with a strong demand for their profession, a high cost of living, and powerful nurses’ unions.
According to the BLS, California features the highest average NP wages. Unionized California nurses also enjoy pension plans and health benefits after retirement. Because of its size, however, California’s salaries vary significantly by region. As the following information demonstrates, high-income urban areas often pay the highest wages.
Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Nurse Practitioners, 2020
|Metropolitan Area||Number of Nurse Practitioners Employed||Average Annual Wage|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||2,080||$177,800|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||970||$153,240|
New Jersey and New York, two states with large urban centers and high costs of living, also offer strong salaries for NPs. While these states and others offer high wages, some smaller and lower-paying states offer more nursing jobs. The highest concentration of NP job openings falls in states like Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Many of these lower-cost-of-living areas may offer great opportunities for new NPs to begin their careers.
Top-Paying States for Nurse Practitioners, 2020
|Top-Paying States||Employment||Average Annual Wage|
NP Job Outlook and Career Prospects
NPs enter a thriving job market. BLS projections indicate that, from 2019-2029, the healthcare field will add more jobs than any other sector of the economy. An aging population is the primary factor contributing to this industry’s growth.
According to the BLS, NP employment will grow by a projected 52% from 2019-2029. For comparison, the average projected growth rate for all occupations stands at just 4%.
New NPs may find the most openings in rural and underserved regions. Already, NPs represent one in four healthcare providers in rural areas as of 2016. The highest-paying jobs, however, are concentrated in urban locations in coastal states.
Hospitals and outpatient clinics also offer higher pay than physicians’ offices. In academia, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports a severe faculty shortage, meaning NPs who hope to teach should find a warm welcome in nursing schools.
Change in Projected Employment
+52% from 2019-2029
Best Locations for Nurse Practitioners
The U.S. faces a near-universal shortage of nurses and NPs, driving continued demand for the profession. Prospective NPs can roughly divide locations into two groups: states where salaries run high and locations with the most job openings. In general, urban areas with high cost of living figures pay higher wages, while rural and underserved areas with lower cost of living numbers offer more job opportunities. Outside of New York and California, these two groups do not overlap much.
Top States for Nurse Practitioners
Across the country, states face a severe lack of qualified NPs. As the following information indicates, the most populous states tend to hire the most NPs. Demand continues to quickly grow in areas with the largest populations of senior adults, including Arizona, Florida, and Georgia.
In general, underserved or rural populations face the most acute need for NPs. These areas generally offer comparatively low wages with modest cost of living figures. By contrast, states with large urban centers and high cost of living rankings often pay lucrative salaries.
NPs also need to consider their preferred work style. Laws about NP scope of practice without physician oversight vary widely from state to state.
For some professionals, the question comes down to personal values. Do you prefer a slower-paced life with a largely independent practice in a rural area, or the benefits of city life but with urban sprawl and tighter oversight?
Top-Employing States for Nurse Practitioners, 2020
|Top-Employing States||Number of Nurse Practitioners Employed||Average Annual Wage|
States With the Greatest Projected Increase in Employment for Nurse Practitioners, 2018-28
|State||Percent Projected Change, 2018-28||Average Annual Openings|
|Greatest Projected Percentage Increase|
|Most Projected Average Annual Openings|
Top Cities for Nurse Practitioners
Salaries, sector demand, and cost of living can differ considerably within individual areas, especially large states such as Texas and California. Consequently, NPs may find certain cities or metro areas particularly appealing.
The chart below shows that the metro area around New York City maintains the largest number of employed NPs and supports the highest average annual wage. Still, the cost of living in this area was 129% higher than the national average as of July 2021.
In addition to income, employability, and cost of living, NPs should consider soft factors such as quality of life and population density when choosing where to reside.
Top-Employing Metropolitan Areas for Nurse Practitioners, 2020
|Metropolitan Area||Number of Nurse Practitioners Employed||Average Annual Wage|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||13,760||$133,380|
|Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA||4,740||$107,090|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||4,550||$142,770|
Best Industries for Nurse Practitioners
NPs can work in several top-paying industries and settings. Because of the industry’s high demand, prospective NPs can compare industries by culture, management, and career growth potential. NPs can also consider aspects of their work that they find most rewarding and then focus on that industry.
For example, NPs who enjoy a fast-paced environment and quick treatment of complex needs may want to explore emergency nursing. Professionals looking to integrate healthcare with spirituality may prefer working in religious organizations.
Physician offices employ many NPs. These professionals provide services comparable to family practice doctors. Unlike emergency room nurses, these professionals see fewer patients, build provider-patient relationships, and enjoy regular office hours. However, they receive relatively low wages.
For many NPs, determining the right industry or setting means weighing financial, professional, family, and personal factors.
Top-Paying Industries for Nurse Practitioners, 2020
|Top-Paying Industries||Employment||Average Annual Wage|
|Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services||N/A||$143,480|
|Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities||910||$130,830|
|Social Advocacy Organizations||40||$127,970|
|Outpatient Care Centers||18,920||$123,850|
Employment by Industry for Nurse Practitioners, 2020
|Industries with Highest Employment||Employment||Average Annual Wage|
|Offices of Physicians||101,220||$111,310|
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||49,920||$118,210|
|Outpatient Care Centers||18,920||$123,850|
|Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools||6,970||$108,060|
|Offices of Other Health Practitioners||6,170||$112,040|
Upward Mobility for Nurse Practitioners
As educated professionals, NPs can advance in clinical practice or higher education. Consider the following career options:
- Nurse Executive: As the most senior nurses in an organization, these executives hire and train staff, develop organizational partnerships, manage financial responsibilities, and oversee nursing staff.
- Nurse Educator: A master’s degree or a doctorate can prepare nurses to assume academic responsibilities as nursing school professors. Nurse educators can focus on teaching or overseeing clinical practice.
- Nurse Researcher: These professionals advance knowledge in nursing through performing clinical research and collaborating with nurse educators.
- Nurse Policy Specialist: Nurse policy specialists help influence healthcare and nursing law. They may advocate for reforms and legislation at the state, federal, or societal levels.
- Nurse Informaticist: As medical technology advances, nursing teams need to devote increasing resources to use, manage, and oversee new software and hardware. Nurse informaticists optimize information systems and help keep healthcare facilities compliant with regulations.
Learn More About Nurse Practitioners
What Is a Nurse Practitioner?
Explore NP qualifications and skills, along with common specialties and subspecialties.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
Discover how to become an NP step by step and explore resources about certification.
Day in the Life of a Nurse Practitioner
Learn typical daily NP duties, along with their patient care responsibilities and prescription privileges.
Nurse Practitioner Degree Programs
Explore the prerequisites, specializations, courses, and programs that prepare future NPs for licensure.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a nurse make?
What nurse practitioner specialty is the highest paid?
Who gets paid more: RNs or NPs?
Both professions offer strong salaries. NPs earn a median annual salary of $111,680 as of May 2020, and RNs took home a median wage of $75,330. NPs who work in hospitals can command even higher wages.
What type of nurse is most in demand?
The BLS projects 52% job growth for NPs from 2019-2029. While virtually all nurse specialists enjoy a growing and flourishing career field, nurse anesthetists, dialysis nurses, and nurse midwives rank among the most in-demand specialties.
Featured Image: Reza Estakhrian / The Image Bank / Getty Images
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