Nurse Practitioner Career and Degree Guide
How Much Does a Nurse Practitioner Make?
Nurse practitioners can make a sizable salary—and the demand for NPs is growing rapidly. Find out if this advanced nursing role is one you’d enjoy.
It’s no secret that nurse practitioners (NPs) often earn high incomes. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average NP salary per year is $111,840, with job growth continuing to outpace that of many other professions.
Nurse practitioners fill an important need in the healthcare system and serve as both primary and specialty care providers for a number of patient populations. Along with nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse anesthetists, NPs are a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) that hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from an accredited school.
While states have different requirements, most NPs begin their careers as a registered nurse (RN) and then go on to earn an advanced degree and take a national certification exam.
Several factors can influence nurse practitioner pay, including the degree you earn. While you can work as an NP with either a master’s or a doctoral degree, there is a growing emphasis on DNP. In fact, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) has set a goal of DNPs as the standard entry-level degree for NPs by 2025.
However, your degree isn’t the only thing that influences your salary. Your background, specialty, and location can all play a big role.
“As far as marketability, both RN and NP licenses have a very high degree of marketability and flexibility,” says Sara Hunt, DNP, MSN, FNP-C, PHN, a health policy instructor who is also a family nurse practitioner. “As far as competitive wages, that depends on your personal assets, specialty, and your market. In general, in the U.S., RNs and NPs are some of the highest-paying jobs.”
Average Starting Salary for Nurse Practitioners
Even nurse practitioners with little experience can earn a solid income. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) Nurse Practitioner Compensation Survey released in 2019, NPs with five or fewer years of experience still earned a base salary of $104,000.
Nurse Practitioner Salaries by Role
A nurse practitioner’s wage can also depend on their area of certification. The AANP Compensation Survey lists the annual base salary for a number of areas:
As you can see from the survey data, nurse practitioners generally earn the most in specialized fields like psychiatry and neonatal care, while nurse practitioners in primary care roles like family health or women’s health earn the least. However, keep in mind that these salaries are based on survey responses. Your salary can vary within your specialty depending on your experience, education, location, and other factors.
How Do Nurse Practitioner Salaries Compare to Similar Jobs?
Here’s a quick comparison of how the average salary for nurse practitioners—$111,840—measures up against the average salaries for other related nursing occupations, as listed by the BLS:
What Kind of Salary Growth Can I Expect?
As you gain more experience as an NP, your salary could increase as well. According to the AANP survey, the nurse practitioner yearly salary tends to rise along with experience. While nurse practitioner respondents with between zero and five years of experience reported earning a median base salary of $104,000, those with six to 10 years of experience earned $110,000.
Salary levels stayed steady for NPs in their second decade of experience. Salaries for NPs with between 11 and 20 years of experience averaged $118,000, while the most experienced NPs—those with more than 20 years—earned even more, reporting an average of $121,000.
Your Salary Can Depend on Where You Live
You can find pockets of higher-than-average pay as an NP throughout the country. While the highest-paying RN roles are often found in highly populated states like California or New York, high nurse practitioner salaries can also be found in states like Minnesota, Georgia, and Kansas.
You can also find high paying roles in cities outside of these states, such as in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where NPs earn an average annual salary of $144,450. High wages aren’t limited to metro areas, either. NPs are well compensated in rural areas throughout the country. For example, in central Louisiana, NPs earn an average salary of $136,910.
How Competitive is the Job Market for NPs?
Although there’s a nursing shortage and nurse practitioners are in high demand, you may still need to compete with other qualified candidates to land the best job offers—especially if you’re in a geographical area with a higher number of NPs. Depending on the organization, employers might prefer to hire candidates who already have a certain level of experience or specialize in a particular area or patient population. Having a higher degree can make an impact when you’re shooting for certain roles, too.
Other ways to stand out can include joining a professional nursing organization, where you can meet other nurses and find potential mentors, or tapping into your school’s alumni association. You can use your alumni association to identify promising opportunities within your school’s professional network. It can also be helpful to use LinkedIn to stay connected with other professionals in your field.
What Kind of Institutions Hire Nurse Practitioners?
While physicians’ offices are by far the largest employer of nurse practitioners, NPs are needed in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, residential treatment facilities, home health organizations, urgent care centers, retail clinics, Veterans Affairs facilities, and more.
The nurse practitioner pay scale also can vary by type of employer. The BLS reports the following annual mean wages for NPs in a range of workplaces:
Nurse Practitioner Job Growth Projections
The nurse practitioner job outlook appears exceptionally bright. The BLS projects NP roles will increase 14% by 2029. That’s pretty staggering when you consider that the projected increase for all occupations is only 4%. It’s even more impressive compared to other healthcare roles like RNs, who have a projected growth of 7% by 2029. That 52% increase represents an additional 110,700 NP jobs added around the country by 2029.
What’s behind the growth? The need for all kinds of nurses is expected to jump as the aging baby boomer population will require more healthcare services over time.
“Many people now survive conditions like stroke, heart attack, and cancer, but it may leave them with more medical needs to keep them afloat or leave them with a temporary or permanent disability,” explains Hunt. “This all equals greater needs for (more) healthcare providers.”
NPs are especially needed in team-based care, Hunt says, where they can help provide preventive care and perform many of the same services as physicians.
Career Paths: Advancing Your Nurse Practitioner Career
While nurse practitioners must earn at least a master’s degree to practice, there are still more learning opportunities available that could lead to possible raises or promotions throughout your career.
NPs are often required to complete continuing education courses every few years to maintain their state licensure or renew their specialty certifications. By taking continuing education courses and staying up to date on the latest practices, you can gain new knowledge in your field and make yourself more desirable in the field.
If you’re worried that your busy schedule won’t allow time to take courses, don’t worry. Many continuing education classes for nurses are offered online and sometimes only take a few hours to complete. You might also be able to earn continuing education credits at workshops, conferences, and seminars.
A word of caution: Before enrolling in an online continuing education class, check if it’s approved by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), an accrediting body that’s recognized by all state boards of nursing.
If you want to go beyond continuing education courses, earning your DNP can help boost your career (and since the industry is moving towards making the DNP the entry-level degree for NPs by 2025, it would be wise to consider looking into it). Earning your DNP can help you apply for higher- level roles and stand out among other candidates. You might be able to find DNP programs online, at local universities, or as a hybrid.
Do NPs with a DNP Make More?
It depends. Since you can work as an NP with an MSN or a DNP, the starting paying is often the same. However, there might be opportunities available to you as a DNP that MSN-educated NPs don’t have. Some markets are more competitive than others and some roles, such as executive and faculty positions, are starting to require the DNP. For example, if you want to be a chief nursing officer (CNO), odds are the hospital will require a DNP, or a DNP applicant will go to the top of the applicant stack, according to Hunt.
“If you want to teach nursing, then the DNP or PhD is often required and always preferred,” explains Hunt. “Management positions and executive positions pay more, so the DNP can indirectly increase your wages that way. You can also negotiate a higher wage by proving the skills you learned in your DNP program are valuable to the company you are working for.”
With professional insight from: