Career Resources

Top 10 Highest Paying RN Specialties

Registered nurses with an associate degree in nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing can explore new career paths with potentially higher salaries by specializing in a niche. The nursing field is constantly evolving, so more than 100 RN specialties are currently available, and many only require an ADN or BSN. Every specialty has unique attributes, so RNs should combine their career goals and personal passions to find the one that’s right for them. If financial growth is a primary objective, some RN specialties pay more than others. Although salaries can greatly vary based on education, experience, facility, and location, these nursing specialties are typically among the top 10 highest-paid positions for bedside nurses.

1. Labor and Delivery Nurse

  • Education Requirements: ADN required / BSN preferred
  • Relevant Certifications: RNC-BC / C-EFM / C-ELBW
  • Salary Range: $52,000 to 173,000
  • Average Annual Salary: $109,955 
  • Average Hourly Rate: $53

Labor and delivery nurses specialize in caring for women during normal or complicated pregnancies and in assisting families throughout the birth process. L&D nurses also provide initial postpartum care to infants under the supervision of a doctor or midwife, providing fetal assessment and monitoring. They also monitor the mother’s condition throughout labor, birth, and the postpartum phase. L&D nurses work as part of a team with OB doctors and/or midwives and other healthcare professionals to ensure the best outcomes for mothers and their newborns.

2. Pain Management Nurse

  • Education Requirements: ADN required / BSN preferred
  • Relevant Certifications: PMGT-BC
  • Salary Range: $26,000 to $273,500
  • Average Annual Salary: $109,001 
  • Average Hourly Rate: $52

 Pain management nurses work within hospital oncology units, palliative care, or hospice programs and specialize in caring for patients with chronic, potentially debilitating pain. They’re primarily tasked with helping patients manage their pain by helping identify the cause and severity of their pain and educating them on pain management and medication. Pain management nurses administer intramuscular, intravenous, or intrathecal medications and are experts in pain management techniques and interventions.

3. Gastroenterology Nurse

  • Education Requirements: ADN required / BSN often preferred
  • Relevant Certifications: CGRN
  • Salary Range: $23,000 to $166,000
  • Average Annual Salary: $106,624 
  • Average Hourly Rate: $51

Gastroenterology nurses, also known as gastrointestinal or GI nurses, specialize in caring for patients with gastrointestinal tract or digestive system disorders or illnesses. They primarily assist GI physicians in treating patients with stomach and bowel problems, which can include preparing patients for and assisting with colonoscopies and endoscopies, assisting with ultrasounds to screen the abdomen, administering medications and/or enemas before treatments, and provide pre-procedure and post-procedure patient education.

4. Neurology Nurse

  • Education Requirements: ADN or BSN required
  • Relevant Certifications: CNRN / SCRN
  • Salary Range: $23,000 to $166,000
  • Average Annual Salary: $104,692 
  • Average Hourly Rate: $50

Neurology nurses, also called neuroscience nurses, specialize in treating patients diagnosed with brain and nervous system disorders or showing signs of neurological problems caused by strokes, traumatic brain injuries, or spinal cord injuries. Neuro nurses may help treat a vast array of conditions, including strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and encephalitis, among others. They may assist with neurological exams, physical rehabilitation, medication management, wound/surgical site care, and with helping patients recover from or learn to manage their conditions.

5. Neonatal ICU Nurse

  • Education Requirements: ADN required / BSN preferred
  • Relevant Certifications: RNC-NIC / CCRN (Neonatal)
  • Salary Range: $60,000 to $142,500
  • Average Annual Salary: $101,727 
  • Average Hourly Rate: $49

Neonatal intensive care unit nurses specialize in caring for newborn infants who were born prematurely or born with critical health problems, including congenital disorders/infections, birth defects, and heart anomalies. NICU nurses monitor neonates to ensure their bodily functions are performing as expected, perform tests to evaluate problems, and administer treatments and medications prescribed by doctors. They care for premature or sick infants until they’re healthy enough to be discharged, which can take weeks or even months, and educate parents on how to care for their infants while in the NICU and when they come home.

6. Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse

  • Education Requirements: ADN required / BSN preferred
  • Relevant Certifications: CV-BC / CMC
  • Salary Range: $26,500 to $164,000
  • Average Annual Salary: $101,472 
  • Average Hourly Rate: $49

Cardiac cath lab nurses specialize in caring for patients with heart or valvular disease, or who are having a myocardial infarction needing intervention . They monitor patients’ status before, during, and after procedures, and assist physicians during procedures, such as performing diagnostic evaluations of the heart’s arteries and identifying blockages. The primary role of cath lab nurses is to assist with catheterizations, but they’re also trained to assist with interventional, diagnostic, and therapeutic procedures for various heart conditions. They may help with angioplasties, insertion of pacemakers and defibrillators, stent placement, and other cardiac-related procedures.

7. ICU Nurse

  • Education Requirements: ADN required / BSN preferred
  • Relevant Certifications: CCRN (Adult, Pediatric, Neonatal)
  • Salary Range: $50,500 to $188,000
  • Average Annual Salary: $101,374 
  • Average Hourly Rate: $49

Intensive care unit nurses specialize in providing direct care to patients with life-threatening illnesses or conditions who require 24/7 monitoring. They work in conjunction with other healthcare professionals to develop patient care plans, perform diagnostic tests, and administer appropriate medications and treatments. ICU nurses carefully observe patients’ progress, record these observations in their medical records, and update attending physicians when necessary. ICU nurses can also specialize within this specialty, working in ICUs that deal with specific patient populations.

8. Nephrology Nurse

  • Education Requirements: ADN or BSN required
  • Relevant Certifications: CNN
  • Salary Range: $23,500 to $144,500
  • Average Annual Salary: $101,334 
  • Average Hourly Rate: $49

 Nephrology nurses specialize in caring for patients with kidney-related health issues. Many factors impact renal health, so these RNs may work with a wide variety of patient types of all ages who may be experiencing a current or future threat of acute or chronic kidney failure. They may treat patients with acute kidney injuries, chronic kidney disease, or end-stage renal disease, and/or treat medical issues that aggravate kidney problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, and substance abuse. There are multiple avenues to specialize within this specialty, from performing dialysis, to working on a floor dedicated to nephrology, to assisting with kidney transplants.

9. ICU Step-Down Nurse

  • Education Requirements: ADN or BSN required
  • Relevant Certifications: PCCN / CCRN
  • Salary Range: $58,500 to $146,500
  • Average Annual Salary: $97,216 (ZipRecruiter)
  • Average Hourly Rate: $47

 ICU step-down nurses, sometimes called progressive care nurses, specialize in caring for patients who no longer require an intensive level of care in the ICU but aren’t stable enough for a general med-surg setting. Step-down patients usually require more frequent assessments and interventions and close cardiac monitoring. Patients may be transitioning into or out of the intermediate care unit depending on their medical situation. ICU step-down nurses provide effective transitional care to a diverse patient population, including those who recently underwent surgical procedures or transferred in from the emergency department.

10. CVOR Nurse

  • Education Requirements: ADN required / BSN preferred
  • Relevant Certifications: CNOR / CV-BC
  • Salary Range: $24,000 to $134,000
  • Average Annual Salary: $96,036 
  • Average Hourly Rate: $46

 CVOR nurses specialize in providing direct patient care to cardiovascular patients receiving surgical interventions. They provide care before, during, and after surgical procedures for cardiac problems, such as open-heart surgeries. Before surgeries, they explain procedures to patients and answer their questions. During procedures, they assist physicians, which may include operating cardiopulmonary bypass machines, although that is usually done by perfusionists, and they continuously monitor patients’ vital signs. After surgeries, for more simple procedures that don’t require CVICU care, they may apply dressings, administer prescribed medications, and provide after-care instructions to patients and their families.

Apply to one of these nursing disciplines today at Vivian Health.

moira
Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee is Vivian’s Content Writer & Editor. As part of the Vivian Health team, she strives to help support the empowerment of nurses and other medical professionals in their pursuits to find top-notch travel, staff, per diem and local contract positions.

Comments (9)

I think emergency/trauma nursing should absolutely be on here. Frontline.

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I think Home Health should be on there. What other nursing field does the RN determine the funding the agency will receive. We are special! 😁

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I feel like Oncology Nursing, especially Pediatric Oncology and BMT should be one of the highest paying specialties. I am a BSN, RN. CPN, CPHON, BMTCN and OCN.

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You missed flight nurse and CRNA which are probably 2 of the highest paying nurse specialties.

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What are your thoughts on Infection Control Registered Nurse with CIC certification?

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I like your article. It’s direct and has the right amount of information needed if someone wants to look into a field further.

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What about psychiatric nursing pay?

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Just curious about psychiatric positions.

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Thanks so much for this synopsis! Well appreciated.

Celeste

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