The nursing field is expected to grow through 2018 at a rate of 22 percent job growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Registered nurses are some of the highest paid professionals with only an undergraduate education. Those who go on to pursue master's degrees in various specializations or the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree can expect to make substantially more than the average nurse.
The salary of registered nurses varies across a wide spectrum. The average salary for registered nurses, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2009, was $66,530 per year. However, the highest paid registered nurses made salaries comparable to nurses with clinical specialties that also have the highest rank in terms of nursing salaries. The highest paid registered nurses made more than $93,700 per year in 2009, according to the BLS.
Nurse practitioners are nurses who have obtained the Master of Science in Nursing in a specialty area in the nursing field. These nurses tend to rank higher on the pay scale than the registered nurse, although the top-paid registered nurses can make as much as the nurse practitioner making average pay. According to Nursing Link, the highest paid nurse practitioners were psychiatric nurse practitioners who averaged $95,000 as of 2011.
Nurse researchers are on the cutting-edge of the nursing field, conducting research that leads to improvement in nursing practice. According to Nursing Link, the average salary of the nurse researcher was $95,000 per year, making it tied for the highest ranking salary among nursing professionals. Nurse researchers can work in hospitals and other clinical settings, but some may also work in university settings as well. Nurse researchers typically have a doctorate degree.
The highest paid nursing professionals work in the area of nursing anesthesia. Nurse anesthetists provide many of the same anesthesia services supplied by anesthesiologists. These advanced nurse practitioners help patients cope with pain before, during and after surgery. Nurse anesthetists obtain a master's degree in nursing anesthesia. These programs typically take about three years to complete beyond the bachelor's degree. According to PayScale, nurse anesthetists made an average salary ranging from $102,000 to $155,000, as of May 2011.