Doctoral Degrees in Nursing

How Much Can You Earn with a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree?

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The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is the highest-level degree awarded to nursing students. And while earning a DNP can elevate your career and money-making potential, it’s important to consider that what you make as a nurse with a DNP will vary depending on your career path.

In This Article

To understand the options you have as a DNP degree holder, let’s first get an idea of the career possibilities. From administering anesthesia to working in the research sector, each DNP nursing career offers a comfortable income and the satisfaction of helping patients in their healthcare journey.

Jobs for Nurses with DNP Degrees

Nursing students in DNP programs must have nursing experience prior to joining a program. Because of the advanced nature of these programs, a student’s previous experience as a working nurse is vital for their success. Their experience will also be helpful in determining what direction they would like to take their career. For example, at this level you can continue working as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) by advancing your area of specialty into a more focused sub-area, if you haven’t already done so.

The first specialty an APRN must choose is from these 4 generalized areas:

  • Nurse practitioner
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Nurse midwife

Many APRNs go on to choose a sub-specialty that enables them to work with a more focused patient population. Although this list is not comprehensive, it can give you a general idea of how many diverse options there are:

Many of these career opportunities, notably APRN positions, are available at the MSN degree level. The DNP degree is most beneficial for those looking to teach at the university level, work in executive-level administrative roles, or work in research.

APRN – nurse practitioner (NP)

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One of the more general areas for an APRN is that of a nurse practitioner. These nursing professionals perform at a higher-level than resident nurses (RN) and work with patients to diagnose illnesses, conduct physical exams, order laboratory test, and create treatment plans.

Often, NPs advance their scope of practice by specializing to work with a specific population or condition. And while this level of expertise enables many NPs to work independently, some must still be supervised by a doctor to practice.

APRN – clinical nurse specialist (CNS)

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The role of a clinical nurse specialist is also a general area of APRN practice in which many choose to earn a sub-specialty.

Aside from working directly with a patient to diagnose a health problem, a CNS must also collaborate with other health care professionals in order to holistically address patient treatment. In some cases, they may even be responsible for taking on managerial roles or overseeing hospital resources.

APRN – certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)

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Certified registered nurse anesthetists focus solely on assisting surgeons and other medical professionals by administered anesthesia to patients. They’re also responsible for monitoring the patient’s vitals while under anesthesia.

While emergency rooms are common work environments for CRNAs, dentist offices also employ CRNAs for administering anesthesia during oral surgery.

APRN – certified nurse midwife (CNM)

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A very specialized area of the APRN field is that of a certified nurse midwife. Working specifically with expectant mothers, CNMs are there through every stage of the pregnancy, birthing process, and even the postpartum transition.

CNMs provide both physical and emotional support to the women that they work with and being prepared to answer any and all questions these mothers-to-be will have is a must.

Nurse leader or administrator

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These high-level administrative roles often require nurses to have advanced degrees. While many of these administrative positions do accept candidates with MSN degrees, a sure-fire way to be a more competitive applicant is to have a DNP.

Nurses who seek administrative roles and hold this degree will often apply for positions such a director of nursing and chief nursing officer. Administrative responsibilities at this level will require the ability to plan, direct, monitor, and evaluate all nursing services that are performed within the facility. Hands-on practice is far less common for these administrators, although may still happen depending on your employer.

Nurse educator

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Those who choose to teach the next generation of nursing students can do so at a variety of levels and facilities. From technical schools to community colleges, it’s possible to become a nurse educator with an MSN degree. Although it’s a possibility, most universities require full-time nursing faculty members to hold a DPN degree.

Whatever path you choose to take with a nursing education career, you’ll be designing curriculum and creating class assignments in an effort to teach your students the necessary skills for their future in nursing.

Nurse researcher

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If research interests you, then the field of nursing research could be for you, just make sure you are a licensed RN, as all nurse researchers must hold an RN license. From there, depending on the researching position you seek, you’ll need to hold at least an MSN degree. For those interested in seeking research titles beyond entry-level assistant positions, earning a DNP will be a huge boost to your resume.

While every practicing nurse makes it their mission to improve upon the care given to their patients, nurse researchers do it on a much larger scale. They perform studies, gather data, and create reports that reflect their findings so that they can share them with the entire nursing field.

In addition to the skills need to be an RN, a nurse researcher should have an understanding of nursing informatics and the general principles behind scientific research, including the scientific method.

DNP Salary

What a nurse who holds a DNP can earn will vary depending on the following factors:

  • Your past experience
  • Your level of seniority
  • Your chosen sub-specialty
  • The facility, state, and city in which you work

While a DNP can increase your chances of making a higher salary than a coworker who holds an MSN, it’s not a guarantee. It’s important to take into account all of the factors mentioned above, and even taking the extra step of contacting employers in your area to get a better idea of your exact earning potential.

That being said, the following salary information can show you the general trends of which nursing careers pay higher salaries. All salary information found below is reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), unless otherwise noted.

Nurse practitioner salary

The median annual salary that NP’s across the country report making is $103,880, which breaks down to $49.94 an hour. Keep in mind that the amount is not specific to NPs who hold DNPs, and that there is a high likely-hood that those nurses earn a higher salary. In fact, the top 10% of practicing NPs make $145,630 yearly.

NP salary by workplace

Again, the facility you work in can and will impact what you make as an NP, as it will with any nursing career. To really get any idea of what those differences look like you can reference the chart below.

WorkplaceAverage Annual Salary
Dentists’ Office$117,270
General or Surgical Hospital$111,850
Outpatient Care Center$111,690
Specialty Hospital$111,100
Physicians’ Office$105,730
College, University, and Professional School$100,040

NP salary by state and city

Your location will also impact your salary as a nurse practitioner. From the state you work in all the way down to the city, if you’re looking to make the top-end of the pay scale then you may want to consider relocating.

On average California pays its nurse practitioners the highest salary, at $126, 770. Filling in the next 4 spots in the coveted top-5 bracket are Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

To match the usually higher cost of living, metropolitan areas are known for paying higher wages. The following 5 greater-metropolitan areas lead the rest of the country’s cities in terms of NP salaries:

Metropolitan Area Average Annual Salary
Palm Bay, FL$164,180
San Francisco, CA$151,660
Spokane, WA$150,040
Alexandria, LA$144,010
Salem, MA$142,730

Clinical nurse specialist salary

Unfortunately, the BLS doesn’t monitor data related to CNS salary. To get an idea of the income potential for this career, you can reference the above section for nurse practitioners. Although they do have slightly different responsibilities, their jobs are the most similar among the 4 APRN professions.

Nurse anesthetist salary

Across the country the CRNA field is known for paying its professionals well, with the top 25% making $189,880, and even the lowest 10% make a healthy annual salary of $107,960. In terms of an hourly wage, those who make the median annual salary of $160,270 can make $77.05 per hour.

CRNA salary by workplace

Now, let’s find out exactly what type of salary you may earn depending on the facility you work in.

WorkplaceAverage Annual Salary
Outpatient Care Center$194,440
General or Surgical Hospital$184,590
Specialty Hospital$178,920
Physicians’ Office$162,430
College, University, and Professional School$148,210

CRNA salary by state and city

While you might be expecting California to top the charts yet again, it’s actually Montana and Wyoming who make that claim, each reporting average annual salaries over $230,000. California does come in at 3rd, with Oregon, Nevada following closely behind.

With the top 5 metropolitan areas boasting of salaries higher than $200,000, you can really get an idea of the true earning potential that is available to nurse anesthetists.

Metropolitan AreaAverage Annual Salary
San Francisco, CA$243,390
Providence, RI$238,030
San Diego, CA$237,960
Oakland, CA$230,290
Spokane, WA$227,700

Nurse midwife salary

The average annual salary that CNMs across the country report making is $102,390, or $49.23 per hour. And while it may be on the lower end of the pay scale for APRNs, job satisfaction is high among nurse midwives given the joy that they get to be a part of when a new mother sees her baby for the first time.

CNM salary by workplace

The chart below will show you how where you work can impact the salary you make as a nurse midwife.

WorkplaceAverage Annual Salary
Outpatient Care Center$123,150
General or Surgical Hospital$108,840
Physicians’ Office$103,270
College, University, and Professional School$98,800
Specialty Hospital$96,190

CNM salary by state and city

Back again, California is listed to be the top-paying state for nurse midwives at an average annual salary of $132,480. Next in line for states with the highest CNM salaries is West Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.

While the BLS has reported the following metropolitan salaries, it’s important to note that data is somewhat limited for this profession.

Metropolitan AreaAverage Annual Salary
San Francisco, CA$147,820
Oakland, CA$143,400
Worcester, MA$136,390
Los Angeles, CA$129,300
Charlotte, NC$122,250

Nurse leader or administrator salary

Across the various managerial levels available to nurse leaders and administrators, the annual salary is listed at $111,680 per year, or $53.69 an hour . While nursing administration is a broad field, those earning a DNP will likely aim for higher-level executive positions, like chief nursing officer, that could bring in $120,000, if not substantially higher.

Nurse leader or administrator salary by workplace

For a detailed look at what various medical facilities report paying their nursing leaders or administrators, reference the chart below.

WorkplaceAverage Annual Salary
Specialty Hospital $125,730
Medical or Diagnostic Lab$121,570
General or Surgical Hospital$120,540
Physicians’ Office$105,810
Outpatient Care Center$103,460
Home Health Care Service$99,220
Nursing Care Facility$92,750

Nurse leader or administrator salary by state and city

New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are the top 5 highest-paying states for nurse administrators with average wages at about $125,000 a year.

Even though California isn’t represented in the top 5 states, the top 2 metro areas that boast high nurse administrator salaries are located in the West Coast state.

Metropolitan AreaAverage Annual Salary
San Francisco, CA$159,250
Vallejo, CA$153,680
Long Island, NY$151,660
Boston, MA$148,930
Bridgeport, CT$146,220

Nurse educator salary

Nurse educators at the postsecondary level report earning an average annual salary of $77,360. Because there are nurse educator positions available at technical schools that only require teachers to hold an MSN degree, you should consider that universities requiring nursing professors to hold DNPs will often pay a higher salary. In fact, the top 10% in this field report making $124,090 annually.

Nurse educator salary by workplace

Not all nurse educators find employment in the academic arena. You can use the chart below to get a better idea of the differing industries and salaries for nurse educators.

WorkplaceAverage Annual Salary
Specialty Hospital$96,170
General or Surgical Hospital$89,390
College, University, and Professional School$79,640
Technical and Trade School$73,070
Junior College$71,790

Nurse educator salary by state and city

The top-paying states, New York, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, and Maryland, all report the average nurse educator salary to be above $80,000.

For those looking for a slightly higher income, you may want to consider the city life. The top 5 metropolitan areas all report average annual salaries above $94,000.

Metropolitan AreaAverage Annual Salary
Washington, D.C.$125,190
Camden, NJ$105,920
New York, NY$105,180
San Francisco, CA$103,680
Atlantic City, NJ$102,190

Nurse researcher salary

The BLS doesn’t report on nurse researcher salaries. However, because a nurse researcher must at least be an RN, we can use their reported median annual salary of $70,000 to get an idea of the salary nurse researchers might earn.

In support of this expected salary, a 2015 Society of Clinical Research Associates report stated that clinical researchers earned $64,491 annually.

And while detailed salary differences between workplaces, states, and cities are also limited, the same report found the New England region to have the highest median salary of $72,995.

Nurse Demand & Job Growth

Healthcare is often a heated debate across the country, but no matter what side you land on, most people agree that we need more trained professionals who can help it function smoothly and efficiently.

And while almost every profession within the medical field is experiencing growth, some are experiencing more than others, notably APRNs.

These nursing experts, specifically NPs, CRNAs, and CNMs, are expected to see a growth of 31%, putting them well above the national average of 7% for all other occupations.

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