When you choose a career in nursing, there will always be potential for professional growth, including new opportunities to maximize your income and earning potential.
With a growing nurse shortage and increasing turnover rates in recent years, nurses continue to be in high demand. The U.S. Department of Labor is projecting more than 194K open nursing roles each year and annual job growth of 9% for registered nurses through 2030.
On the other hand, nurses may also be balancing the financial challenges of student loan debt, along with the pressure to work increased overtime while trying to avoid professional burnout.
To make sure that you’re set up financially to reach your goals and sustain your career, there are several avenues you can explore to help maximize your income. Here are 10 ways you could make more money as a nurse.
No matter where you are in your nursing career, there may be more opportunities to make more with an advanced degree, further specialization, or by taking on a leadership role. And you’ll want to make sure that you balance any new debt with your long-term goals. So, let’s take a closer look at some of these options, starting with higher education.
Earning a graduate degree is one definitive way to earn more as a nurse. If you’re already an RN with a BSN degree, there are a few ways to pursue an advanced nursing degree that could lead to accelerated career growth, employment opportunities for in-demand advanced practice roles, and higher earning potential.
Pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can prepare you for high-level clinical, education and management roles in nursing, such as health education, health services, healthcare administration, healthcare management and pharmacology. An MSN degree is also necessary if you’re planning to apply for a doctorate degree in nursing (DNP). And if you are pursuing an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) specialty, such as nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, or nurse midwife, you will need a master’s degree, in addition to the licensing requirements for all Registered Nurses (RNs).
If you already have an MSN degree, pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) can open up opportunities for executive leadership roles, research and clinical positions, and is increasingly recommended for APRN specialties, including nurse anesthetists (CRNA) and nurse practitioners (NP). Note, if you are enrolling in a CRNA program starting in 2022, a doctoral degree will now be required for those graduating in 2025 or later.
To learn more about evaluating the pros and cons (and costs) of pursuing an advanced nursing degree, read more here.
You may also consider obtaining additional certifications for nursing specialties which could help increase your earning potential. Certified nurses typically have a better chance of earning the top pay in their specialized field.
Some of these certifications may be directly offered by your employer, or you may need to take a certification course through a credentialing agency, such as the ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center). This agency offers RN certifications for many nursing specialties, such as ambulatory care, informatics nursing, medical-surgical nursing, pain management, and pediatric nursing certifications. Once you become certified, your employer may offer a wage increase, so explore your options to see if this may be an avenue to increase your income in your current role.
Another way to increase your income, is to transition into management, shift leader, charge nurse, or nurse manager positions. While some nursing leadership roles will focus on direct patient care, others will consist of managerial and administrative responsibilities. Nurse managers, for example, will help decide patient care practices, but their primary focus is administrative.
Many leadership roles will require advanced training, you can learn more about pursuing an advanced nursing degree here. Depending on your interests, specialty, and years of experience, pursuing a leadership (or building your goals toward one) is another way to increase your income, especially over the course of your career.
You may also be able to make more money as a nurse if you are willing to travel or work outside of traditional healthcare settings. These opportunities may include travel nursing, private duty nursing, or becoming an immunization nurse. Let’s look at some of the benefits and salary expectations for these types of roles.
Given the challenges of the pandemic, and current staffing shortages, the demand for travel nurses has kept above average pay for travel nurses at high levels. Travel nurses are registered nurses who work in short-term roles at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities, and the travel nursing agency typically covers the majority of your expenses.
How much you make as a travel nurse can be influenced by several factors including varying pay by location, such as by state. The highest paying states for travel nurses in 2022 include California, Texas, Massachusetts, Washington, and New York.
Specialty will also be another factor of travel nurse pay. Specialized nurses will also typically qualify for higher pay as a travel nurse, specialized skills and/or credentials will often be in even higher demand for contracts. And finally, the type of shifts will also influence the level of pay: night shifts will be more prevalent for travel nursing–but will also typically offer higher rates.
While the unique challenges of travel nursing may not be for everyone, there are certainly some financial benefits to consider if traveling works with your lifestyle.
A private duty nurse is an evolving specialty. Private duty RNs work directly for an individual patient or family and often live with them to provide care and allow them to stay comfortably in their home. Often confused with other types of home care nursing, private duty nurses are typically salaried, not shift workers. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for a private duty nurse is $65,870. And while no specific certification is required, obtaining a Critical Care (Adult) Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification, offered by CCRN, may help you qualify with potential clients for these types of roles.
Among the specialties recently in demand, the role of immunization nurse helps to administer vaccines, and educate clients and caregivers around immunization. They can work in a variety of healthcare setting such as public health clinics, hospitals, physician offices and community health centers. The current salary average in the U.S. for immunization for nurses is $59,237. Like other specialties, salaries will also vary by city and state and may be higher in certain areas, with California cities usually ranking among the highest paying for these roles.
In addition to pursuing specialties and advanced degrees, many nurses can use their experience and knowledge as an educator in various settings. Here are some of the opportunities to make more money (and give back) by teaching or coaching.
If you’re thinking about becoming a nursing instructor, you may consider teaching as a nurse educator. Certified nurse educators (CNEs) specialize in training in clinical practice, instruction at community colleges or universities, or oversee academic nursing programs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says certified nurse educators (CNEs) earn a median annual salary of $77,440. Again, location will also be a factor for nursing instructor salaries and the demand for nursing instructors is also expected to continue growing.
If you’re looking to focus on coaching and developing connections, you may consider becoming a nurse health coach. Nurse health coaching involves collaborating with clients in an individual or group setting, to create a program that allows clients to reach healthy goals through coaching techniques. Nurse health coaches are often employed by insurance companies or corporations. This role will require at least a BSN degree, and while becoming certified in health coaching isn’t required, it’s still highly recommended. The average salary for nurse coaches is $65,870.
Another option if you’re looking for shorter-term ways to earn extra money, is to start tutoring nursing students. By tutoring undergraduate or graduate nursing students, you’ll be able to share your knowledge and give back to someone starting out in your field. While hourly pay for tutoring may range from $15-$40/hour, you’ll have the flexibility to set your own rate and schedule for tutoring.
If you enjoy writing and sharing your experiences, freelance work as a healthcare writer or blogger is another flexible way to earn extra income. And you don’t necessarily need a degree in English or Journalism to get started — your nursing experience credentials are often enough to develop content for website, blogs, journals, and healthcare-focused educational resources. You could also start by contributing to internal resources such as employee newsletters or staff education, so check with your employer for opportunities. Experienced freelancers can make between $30-$100+ per hour, which will vary by client, but this may be a great way to build extra income on your own schedule.
With the growing demand for nurses and various nursing specialties, there will be a variety of options available to help you increase your income as a nurse throughout your career. With all of these options, you’ll want to balance your priorities, time, lifestyle, location, and interests, as well as other financial considerations like student loan debt as you decide how to advance your nursing career and build a sustainable financial future.
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