August 2, 2021

Highest Paying Jobs for MSN Nurses

Life isn’t a comparison game, but if you’re into comparing numbers when it comes to salary, here are some facts: MSN nurses usually make more money than RNs without master’s degrees. 

You can expect to see a pretty significant increase in salary after earning your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, especially if you go on to pass an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse certifying exam. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports that MSN-prepared nurses make, on average, $42,000 more than RNs.

Intrigued? Read on for more info on what you can expect to make if you pursue your MSN, what specialties are available, and the factors that could affect your take-home pay. 

MSN Nurse Salary  

While RNs with a bachelor’s or less earn an average of $75,330 per year, according to the BLS, master's-prepared nurses who go on to become nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners earn an average of $117,670 as of May 2020 (Note that conditions vary based on area).

Despite the fact that MSN-educated nurses tend to earn a higher salary, the salary range does vary widely depending on what you choose to specialize in and the scope of practice for the nurse.

For example, a nurse anesthetist working in a high-level hospital will most likely earn more than a family NP working in a rural clinic.

Which MSN Job Pays the Most? 

A Master of Science in Nursing degree is just that—a Master of Science in Nursing degree. That means that no matter what specialty track you pursue, with an MSN, you will receive the same foundation of advanced nursing education that will include community and public health, ethics, research, clinical skills, and leadership. 

However, despite the fact that all MSN programs will include the same basic foundation of knowledge, the specialty track you choose for your degree will dictate the specifics that you will learn in your program.

Choosing an administrative degree will lead to a curriculum centered more on leading a team, while a specialty track will focus more on the clinical skills you will need in your role. 

>> Related: The Ultimate List of Masters Degrees in Nursing

Here are the most popular types of MSN degrees available ranked in order of expected salary. 

Best Paying MSN Jobs in Nursing

MSN Job Avg. Annual Salary
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) $189,190
Nurse Administrator $118,800
Nurse Practitioner (NP) $117,670
Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) $115,540
Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) $106,407 
Clinical Nurse Leader $104,107
Informatics Nurse $100,000
Nurse Educator $84,060

8 Highest Paying Jobs for Nurses With an MSN

1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) - Salary: $189,190

Nurse anesthetists earn the HIGHEST salaries of any nurses, earning a whopping $189,190 mean average salary in 2020, according to the BLS. These high-earning nurses administer anesthesia and manage pain management for patients during procedures.

Starting in 2025, CRNAs will be required to have a minimum of a doctorate degree, meaning this will no longer be an option for nurses whose highest level of education is a master's degree. 

2. Nurse Administrator - Salary: $118,280

Nurse administrators, also called nurse managers, oversee the nursing staff at a medical facility. These nursing leaders are licensed registered nurses who have years of bedside experience under their belt. They typically need a master's degree, but some bachelor's prepared nurses are nurse administrators.

While the BLS does not keep data on nurse administrators specifically, it does list the mean average salary for medical and health service managers—which would definitely include nurse administrators—at $118,800.

3. Nurse Practitioner (NP) - Salary: $117,670

Nurse practitioners are a type of advanced practice registered nurse that specializes in a specific patient population, like acute care, emergency care, pediatrics and much more. 

The exact specialty you choose will determine how much money you make, but in general, the highest-paid specialties are in psychiatric health, pediatrics, gerontology, neonatal, and orthopedics. Read more about Nurse Practitioner Salaries here. 

4. Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) - Salary: $115,540

A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is a nurse that provides overall health and wellness care to women, including helping to deliver babies, family planning, gynelogical and prenatal care.

The mean salary for nurse-midwives is listed as $115,540 by the BLS.

5. Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) - Salary: $106,407

As the title of this job indicates, clinical nurse specialists have high levels of expert knowledge in their field, thus commanding a higher earning power. Like nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists also specialize in specific patient populations; however, unlike NPs, they focus more on educating nurses and improving patient outcomes.

The median salary for Clinical Nurse Specialists is $106,407, as of July 2021, according to ZipRecruiter.  

6. Clinical Nurse Leader - Salary: $104,107

Clinical nurse leaders are masters-prepared nurses that don't hold APRN licenses. CNLs take a wider scope, collaborating with all of a patient's caregivers and looking at broader trends in the patient's care. 

A nurse in this position will most likely advance quickly and be able to earn more. For instance, ZipRecruiter found that clinical nurse leaders earn an average annual salary of $104,107.

7. Informatics Nurse - Salary: $100,000+

This degree focuses on the intersection of computers and clinical care, so it’s a good fit for nurses who enjoy working with technology. 

The HIMSS 2017 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, found that 46% of respondents earn base salaries of more than $100,000 each year.

8. Nurse Educator - Salary: $84,060

A nurse educator may work in an academic setting, instructing nursing students pursuing their own degrees, or in a clinical setting, such as a hospital, leading staff on educational updates.

The BLS notes that the mean annual salary for nurse educators in post-secondary universities is $84,060. 

Show Me MSN Programs

Factors That Affect MSN Nurse Salary

As we previously mentioned, there’s plenty of factors that can impact the actual salary you will earn with an MSN degree. Websites such as the BLS, report the average salary but just like with any average, you have to keep in mind that there are always high and low salaries within that range as well. 

Some of the factors that can affect what you will actually earn with an MSN degree include:

  • Specialty - the specialty you choose will greatly impact your pay
  • Hours - if you work full or part-time
  • Setting - what setting you choose to work in, i.e., a doctor’s office, hospital, your own practice, surgical center, or an academic institution
  • Shift - Choosing to work days, nights, or swing shifts
  • Geographic location—MSN nurses in rural areas may make less than a highly-populated city, for example. Forbes lists the highest-paying states for NPs as California, Alaska, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Hawaii, Minnesota, Connecticut, Washington, and Wyoming. 

Is an MSN Degree Worth It? 

There are a lot of different factors that can influence the exact number you will bring home on your paycheck with an MSN degree, but one thing is for sure: no matter what specialty you choose or area you work in, MSN nurses typically make at least $40k more than registered nurses with a BSN - the national average wage of $52,145. So, if you do choose to pursue more education with an MSN degree, you will be making a smart investment in your financial security—as well as a difference in your patients’ lives. 

Other Master's Degrees to Explore

Looking to advance your leadership and management skills? Check out some of these master's degrees that can get you there:

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