DNPs are known for having the highest salaries in the world of nursing. It stands to reason that the highest practice-focused nursing degree you can aspire to is going to put you in the running for the highest-paying roles in the field. As a matter of fact, a DNP gives you access to some of the highest-paying jobs in healthcare overall.
That doctoral education will take you at least two-or-three years to complete, and like any advanced degree, you know you’ll be making a sizeable investment before you’re done. There’s a very good reason why so many nurses are more than happy to take on the challenge and expense of going back to school for a DNP.
A DNP is one of the best ways to future-proof your nursing credentials for the long-haul and one of the surest ways to set yourself up to earn at the very top of your salary band, no matter what role you work in.
In certain roles, you won’t even have to wonder any longer how your salary stacks up to the other nurses on the floor; a DNP can put you in a position to compete for the kind of jobs that put you in an entirely different tax bracket.
Of course, we’re talking about every aspect of direct-patient care. For some that might mean the security of clinical leadership jobs with top healthcare systems in any of the four APRN roles. For others it’s the freedom to go independent and establish a practice of their own or build a partner-practice with other enterprising FNPs, CNMs, WHNPs, AGNPs, CRNAs and more.
Then there are the top-paying roles that take you beyond the clinical environment all together. Among those are research positions where you can advance the state-of-the-art in nursing and medical treatment, high-level administrative positions heading up nursing departments, or even executive positions at the helm of multi-state healthcare systems.
The highest paying jobs for DNP-prepared nurses can be found in every aspect and every level of healthcare, from the clinical level to where medical equipment and pharmaceutics are developed and marketed to healthcare organizations. Some of the results might surprise you.
12 – Tenure-Track University Nurse Educator – $125,930
With the huge demand for nurses at all levels, tenure positions with university-based nursing schools are also in high demand for the security, benefits, and salaries they offer.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, more than 80,000 qualified applicants were turned away from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2019 due to a shortage of faculty and preceptors.
The kind of hands-on experience you get with a DNP can make you an excellent practitioner but it’s also the perfect way to set yourself up for a tenure position with a university where you can teach practitioners instead.
Nursing educators must have absolute command of the theoretical as well as the practical side of nursing. Advancing your education to the doctoral level involves an exploration of exactly that kind of information, and it does it in the kind of academic setting where you could eventually work if you’re interested in becoming a nurse educator.
DNP-prepared professors pass along their expertise to nursing students at all levels. They also engage in independent, groundbreaking research in science and medicine.
11 – Nurse Administrator – $135,750
DNPs frequently have exactly the right mix of advanced practical skills and extensive experience to make excellent nursing administrators.
Nurse admins are the leaders that other nurses turn to when the tough cases come in the door. They have the empathy and experiences to draw up balanced schedules, make the right hiring and firing decisions, and to coordinate with other providers and departments.
Naturally, a DNP gives you the kind of clinical and leadership skills you need to be confident in that role.
Nursing administrators are included in the broader Bureau of Labor Statistics category for medical and health services managers. While not on the top rungs of that leadership group, they likely fall into the 75th percentile, which reflects the comfortable six-figure salary shown here.
10 – Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – $152,920
PNPs deliver a full range of primary and acute care services to children from birth to young adulthood. They may work in hospitals or clinics, but frequently are employed in pediatric doctor’s offices.
The day-to-day practice of pediatric NPs is a world of difference from that of other nurse practitioners.
Roles in the medical world that involve working with children are widely recognized as some of the most challenging. With young lives in your hands, you can’t afford to be anything other than highly-trained, making a DNP the clear choice to prepare for this role. When working with patients who can’t always tell you what is wrong, you must be both intuitive and an expert at interpreting the diagnostic findings that come back from lab tests and exams, as well as what basic medical history charts might reveal.
A DNP hones your expertise across that spectrum of skills, giving you that extra edge and specialized expertise.
9 – Family Nurse Practitioner – $152,920
NPs in general are the largest segment of APRNs, and FNPs are the largest segment of NPs. In fact, FNPs represent 70 percent of all licensed nurse practitioners according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
FNPs offer primary care services to patients across the age spectrum, conducting routine checkups, seeing patients with various complaints, and diagnosing and treating common maladies. The most common work settings are hospitals and the offices of physicians, though many also strike out on their own to build independent practices. They often work with the same patients for many years and even treat multiple generations of the same family. It’s a satisfying job, and the high salary that comes with a DNP in this role brings its own kind of satisfaction.
This is the nurse practitioner role that most people are familiar with. FNPs must be ready to listen to patients describe their symptoms and diagnose, treat, or refer them based on their needs. Therefore, FNPs benefit greatly from the advanced diagnostic and pathophysiological training they receive through a DNP program.
8 – Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner – $163,530
AGNPs can be found working on the acute care side of adult and gerontological healthcare, staffing intensive care units, urgent care clinics, and emergency departments. They are experts in handling issues that require immediate intervention. A DNP brings expertise in rapid diagnosis and a catalog of the most effective treatment options, which is why AGNPs are in such demand today.
Their ability to deal with patients across the adult age-range allows them to serve as general purpose practitioners who can address almost any patient need. That fact opens a wide variety of employment options to anyone who picks up a doctorate in the specialization.
In salary surveys, DNP-prepared acute care AGNPs are included with other general medical and surgical hospital NPs, and can certainly expect to earn the same top-line salary you find for the top ten percent of nurse practitioners.
7 – Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner – $164,490
With the aging Baby Boomer generation increasing hospital in-take rates, healthcare organizations across the country are looking to adult-gerontology primary care NPs to help. This is putting AGNPs in primary care on the front lines of monitoring and treating that aging population.
Primary care is all about being on top of the most common risk factors and monitoring patients for chronic and emerging issues. A DNP is invaluable in building the kind of skills you need to identify the first signs of age-related disease and serve people as they age and become more prone to illness. And DNP-qualified AGNPs are well worth the salaries they earn, invaluable to both patients and the organizations they work for.
Primary care AGNPs are most likely found working in nursing and residential care facilities. Their salary reflects the top ten percent of NPs working in those types of facilities, but they may also work in hospitals or in-home health services.
6 – Certified Nurse-Midwife – $166,170
DNP-prepared nurse-midwives take one of the oldest of all nursing roles and apply the full force of modern science and evidence-based medicine to it. They offer gynecological and family planning expertise, but they also handle care for newborns for the first 28 days. Certified nurse midwives combine skills commonly associated with both women’s health NPs and pediatric NPs in a single dedicated job.
Although people associate midwives with home-based births, most nurse-midwives are actually employed at hospitals and work as valued members of birthing centers. They offer nutritional and other pre-natal care, advice, and counseling, as well as regular perinatal and post-natal care.
Although they are focused on and best known for pre-natal, perinatal, and post-natal services, nurse-midwives also offer primary and well-woman care even when pregnancy isn’t involved. In some cases, they may also treat STDs in the male partners of their female patients.
In such a varied role, the more education you get, the better. That’s why DNP-qualified nurse-midwives earn generous salaries.
5 – Clinical Nurse Researcher- $166,980
The COVID pandemic has reinforced the importance of medical and nursing science research. Clinical nurse researchers have been a key part of the fight against COVID-19, but that’s only one of many reasons that they earn some of the highest salaries among all medical scientists today.
Taking a step away from the teaching side of academia, clinical nurse researchers put their DNP expertise to work exclusively in research. In this role, they are responsible for designing and running clinical trials, interfacing with scientists and government regulators, or using their advanced nursing skills to work with human test subjects. Like other advanced nursing roles, this puts their holistic and human-centric training front and center, treating every clinical trial candidate as an individual.
Advanced practice nursing is an evidence-based business, and clinical nurse researchers are the people developing that evidence. The research, scientific, and communication skills that build the foundation of modern nursing demands high-level qualifications like a DNP degree.
4 – Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner- $169,710
DNPs who become WHNPs may be entering one of the most critical periods for women’s healthcare in American history today. Doctoral-level training is a big plus when it comes to identifying the first signs of potential issues while providing gynecological and pre- and post-natal care. Patients also turn to WHNPs for their expertise in offering family-planning advice.
WHNPs also treat other acute or chronic conditions that women frequently experience. They typically work with women anywhere from their early teens on up through their geriatric years. They can work in any healthcare setting but are commonly employed in outpatient care centers.
A good WHNP brings compassion as well as hands-on expertise to the role. In an era where women’s healthcare is changing and adapting to become fully inclusive, WHNPs are likely to become more important—and more highly paid—than ever.
3 – Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner- $182,220
Mental health issues afflict roughly one in every five Americans, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The good news is that old stigmas are giving way to an increasing willingness to seek help.
This is a role where the holistic nursing model of healthcare can make a serious difference.
PMHNPs offer mental health and wellness services to patients across the age spectrum, but they offer it with the caring, whole-person perspective that APRNs are known for. And with lower training costs than medical psychiatric providers, they can also offer those services at a lower cost.
PMHNPs deliver primary mental health care diagnosis and treatment for common psychiatric disorders. That includes everything from evaluating emergency department intakes to delivering one-to-one psychotherapy sessions with private clients.
You’ll often find them working at psychiatric nursing facilities, which is where the top salaries are found. With a DNP, these providers also have the kind of expertise needed to begin their own practice, or even serve as top-level mental health experts in conventional hospital systems.
2 – Nursing Executive- $205,620
Among the top ranks of leadership at hospitals, clinics, and even multi-state health maintenance organizations, you’ll find executives with backgrounds in nursing. That means DNPs can serve as key decision-makers responsible for multi-million dollar budgets and critical healthcare policy initiatives. DNPs have helped guide the American healthcare system through the COVID-19 crisis and are set to lead it through to a new post-pandemic future.
A nursing background gives you an excellent connection to both patients and the needs of the large nursing staff at those organizations. It also means you understand the ins and outs of the different departments and administrative units. That kind of ground-floor experience navigating the American healthcare system is invaluable.
There are many DNP programs that offer specializations in executive and leadership roles. They deliver training in everything from effective staff communication to strategic development and negotiation. It’s easy to see how that combination of educational preparation and hands-on experience can command the kind of top salaries that medical and health services managers earn.
From chief nursing officers at hospitals to chief executives at HMOs, nursing executive roles unlock not just high-paying nursing positions, but some of the top-paying jobs in healthcare today.
1 – Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist- $208,000 or more
Nurse anesthetists are consistently recognized as being among the highest paid professionals in the field of nursing. In fact, salaries in the top ten percent exceed the BLS reporting threshold of $208,000.
A DNP is soon to be a requirement for all CRNAs, with the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) emerging as the first certifying body to require that APRNs in this role obtain a doctorate. COA, the accreditation arm of the NBCRNA, even set a goal for all current MSN programs in nurse anesthesiology to transition to offering DNPs exclusively by 2025.
Certified registered nurse anesthetists are involved in all kinds of procedures that call for putting patients under sedation, including everything from elective surgeries to emergency trauma cases. It’s a high-stakes job that requires an intense level of precision, giving attention to everything from body weight calculations when starting an IV to monitoring vitals while patients are under. There’s a good reason that CRNAs earn top salaries and hold down the number one spot on this list.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics data for Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners, Medical and Health Services Managers, Medical Scientists, and Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed May 2022.