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How Nurses Can Increase Their Earning Potential

Nursing continues to hold the top spot as the most honest and ethical profession in America, according to a recent Gallup poll. Nurses are often drawn to the profession because they feel it is a calling. Regardless of why one is in nursing, it’s natural to want to boost one’s income. If you are looking to increase your earning potential, there are many options worth exploring.

Expand Your Experience

More significant pay increases often come from expanding skill sets, knowledge and responsibilities, rather than just increasing one’s years of experience. For example, holding a charge nurse role teaches you leadership and management skills. As you gain expertise, your role may evolve into more formal leadership positions like supervisor or nurse manager. These positions also come with a pay bump.

Check out median salary information for various positions from a 2020 survey of over 7,000 nurses in the United States.


Role Median Yearly Salary
School Nurse $53,800
Nurse Educator $68,000
Staff RN $70,000
Case Manager $78,000
Charge Nurse $76,375
Supervisor $79,000
Assistant Nurse Manager $90,000
Nurse Manager $92,000
Director $105,800
Vice President or Executive $150,000


Seek Specialties

Specialty experience and certification are beneficial to not only obtain a job but also to advance in one’s career. Nurses working in high-stress or specialty areas, such as the intensive care unit (ICU), cardiac step-down, post-anesthesia care unit, neonatal ICU, or trauma,  often earn critical care or hazard pay. Adding one or more specialty certifications can open doors for a career change or more cash. Some employers offer incentivized professional development packages to help staff meet their goals.

Be Flexible

If you love your job but are looking to bring in some extra money, consider switching to night or weekend shifts to receive shift differential pay. Find out how organizations fill in their nursing gaps. Some offer emergency-relief pay as overtime. Others use a per diem or PRN (pro re nata, meaning “as needed”) pool, staffing agency, or even travel nurses. Changing your status from full-time to PRN generally means higher pay rates, but be sure to check the impact on your benefits.

Pursue Education

Education is essential for professional growth. When you earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or other advanced degrees, you can generally expect a wage increase. Although the pay difference between an RN with a BSN versus an associate degree may be small, the real difference is in the roles and jobs open only to those with BSNs. Also, a BSN can be a steppingstone to a Master of Science in Nursing. Holding an MSN can open up positions with a higher salary potential. Here are some examples from the 2020 salary research report based on nationwide data.

Position Average Yearly Salary
All NPs $124,457
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) $210,000
Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) $106,650
Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) $120,966

Consider a Different Location

Consider a change of pace or new scenery. If you are an inpatient nurse, consider outpatient or private practice. Some employers look for diverse work experience. Moving from an urban area to a rural area or even to another state may broaden job options and earning potential. Want to see the world? Travel nursing is a great option and can also come with a substantial wage increase. Under normal circumstances, travel nurses make over $3,000 per week. During the pandemic, travel nurses took in over $10,000 per week plus free housing and meals.

Think Outside the Box

If you are looking for more options, expand your search to nontraditional nursing roles. Pharmaceutical companies employ nurses as sales members, educators, and medical science liaisons. Health insurance providers hire nurses as case managers and for roles involving utilization review.

Nurses can work as telephone triage operators, CPR instructors, flu shot clinic staff and even run a concierge nursing service. For those who want to use their experience and communication skills outside of the clinical setting, medical writing, NCLEX-RN exam preparation courses and other entrepreneurial options are available.

Nursing pay varies widely by location, employer, role and responsibilities. With the technology revolution resulting from the pandemic and a growing elderly population, nurses hold a pivotal position to increase their earning potential.

Learn more about Lamar University’s online RN to BSN program.

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