Whether they’re at the bedside, in the boardroom, in the classroom, or doing cutting-edge research in emerging areas, MSN-educated clinicians along with leaders and specialists working outside of direct patient care are at the top of the profession. That fact also places them on the top rungs of the salary ladder.
The MSN can be best viewed as the gateway to the top positions in the field and the handsome salaries those positions come with. It represents the level of education where nurses expand upon their skillset, specialize, become leaders and changemakers, and gain the tools needed to revolutionize healthcare.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), “More education brings more opportunity, and many doors are open to nurses with master’s degrees.” That means whether your goal is to specialize in a field of advanced practice nursing, move into an administrative or leadership role, or transition to an area like research, informatics, or education, the MSN will get you where you want to be. The MSN is your ticket to outstanding professional opportunities, greater personal fulfillment, and, of course, those coveted six-figure salaries.
MSN Salaries By State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Salaries for MSN-Educated Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN)
A 2019 Medscape APRN report provides a clear picture of the earning power of today’s APRNs. As of 2018, these advanced practice clinicians earned an annual, average salary of $117,000. The average salary among those who broke away from physician-led practices and ran their own practice increased to $128,000.
Medscape reported that about 79% of all APRNs worked with a collaborating physician and/or under a collaborative agreement, while just 21% worked independently. Currently, 28 states grant full practice authority to APRNs; a fact that opens the door to opportunities to own and build your own practice and specialize in serving a particular patient population.
Of course, seasoned APRNs have more earning power than their less-experienced colleagues:
- 1-5 years’ experience: $109,000
- 6-10 years: $113,000
- 11-20 years: $120,000
- 21+ years: $119,000
And earning power can and does vary according to geography, which falls largely in line with cost of living differences:
- Pacific (includes Alaska and Hawaii): $130,000
- New England: $121,000
- West South Central: $119,000
- Mountain: $118,000
- South Atlantic: $118,000
- East North Central: $116,000
- Mid-Atlantic: $115,000
- East South Central: $115,000
- West North Central: $112,000
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), there were more than 290,000 nurse practitioners licensed in the U.S. as of December 2019, making them the largest group of APRNs in the nation.
The AANP notes that while salaries for NPs vary based on the type of certification (family, adult, adult-gerontology, pediatrics, etc.), experience level, education level, and more, a 2019 sample survey found that the median salary for full-time NPs was $110,000. When bonuses were considered, this figure rose to $115,000.
According to the AANP, the highest earners here, with a median base salary of $125,000, were certified in psychiatric mental health, while emergency NPs posted the highest median hourly rate, at $70/hour.
The Medscape report revealed a slightly lower annual salary of $108,000 for NPs. However, the report showed higher average salaries among NPs in hospitals/in-patient care, at $116,000, and in hospital-based outpatient settings/clinics, at $109,000. And among NPs who ran their own practices, the average salary rose to $112,000.
The Medscape report found that average salaries varied according to advanced practice certification:
- Adult Gerontology Acute Care: $114,000
- Psychiatric Mental Health: $114,000
- Adult Gerontology Primary Care: $111,000
- Family: $107,000
- Pediatric Primary Care: $101,000
- Women’s Health: $98,000
The Medscape report also found that hourly NPs earned slightly more annually than their salary-based colleagues: $109,000 vs. $108,000, which is likely due to overtime pay.
The majority (27%) of NPs work in non-hospital-based medical offices/urgent care centers, followed by hospital-based outpatient clinics (23%), and hospitals (16%).
As expected, geographical location often plays a part in the earning power of NPs. The highest earning NPs are in the Pacific region (including Alaska and Hawaii), with an average annual salary of $125,000, followed by:
- New England: $114,000
- Mid-Atlantic: $111,000
- West South Central: $110,000
- Mountain: $106,000
- East North Central: $105,000
- South Atlantic: $103,000
- West North Central: $101,000
NPs working in suburban areas earned the most, according to Medscape, bringing home an average salary of $110,000, followed closely by those in urban salaries, who earned an average salary of $109,000. NPs working in rural areas earned the least, at $105,000.
Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)
According to the 2019 Medscape report, clinical nurse specialists (CNS) earned an average, annual salary of $102,000, although those who were paid hourly earned more, at $106,000, largely due to overtime pay.
The largest percentage of CNSs (37%) worked in hospitals, followed by hospital-based clinics (17%), and faculty/research (15%), and about three-quarters worked in a full-time capacity.
The highest-paid CNSs worked in suburban settings, earning an average, annual salary of $104,000, followed closely by those in urban settings, who earned $103,000.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA)
Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) lead the pack when it comes to earning potential, which comes as little surprise, given that they practice with a great deal of autonomy and in every setting where anesthesia is delivered, including dentists’ offices, plastic surgeons, pain management clinics, delivery rooms, surgical centers, and more.
The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) reported a median salary of $166,540 for these nursing professionals in their 2018 AANA Compensation and Benefits Survey.
The 2019 Medscape report revealed an even higher annual salary, at $188,000. Hourly CRNAs earned slightly more at this time, at $189,000, largely due to overtime pay. Part-time CRNAs reported an average hourly wage of $111.
Unlike other APRNs that showed little difference in earning potential between those that held an MSN vs. a DNP, CRNAs holding a DNP reported an annual salary of $195,000, while those holding the MSN earned $188,000.
According to Medscape, the majority (78%) of CRNAs worked in hospitals/in-patient care settings, while just 11% worked in hospital-based clinics and 2% worked in non-hospital-based medical offices/urgent care settings. The report also revealed that 82% of all CRNAs worked in a full-time capacity.
CRNAs working in rural settings earned far more than in any other setting, with an average annual salary of $218,000, reflecting their importance as the primary providers of anesthesia care in rural and medically underserved areas of the country. For example, in Nebraska, CRNAs are the sole anesthesia providers in almost 100% of rural hospitals. They are also the sole anesthesia providers to the U.S. military.
Medscape also reported an annual salary of $185,000 for CRNAs working in urban areas and $182,000 for those working in suburban areas.
Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM)
According to the 2019 Medscape report, certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) earned an average, annual salary of $107,000 as of 2018. The majority of CNMs (28%) worked in hospitals, followed by 21% in hospital outpatient settings/clinics.
CNMs working in urban settings earned slightly more than the national average, at $110,000, followed by $105,000 for those working in suburban settings.
Salaries for MSN-Educated Nurses in Roles Outside of Direct Patient Care
While the majority of MSN-prepared nurses serve in advanced practice nursing roles, a growing number of high-paying careers outside of the clinical environment require the MSN.
Whether they’re called nursing informatics specialists, clinical analysts, or clinical informatics directors/managers, nurse informaticists represent a growing body of MSN-prepared nurses who enjoy outstanding professional opportunities and salaries to match.
According to a 2020 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Inc. (HIMSS) Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, nearly half (49%) of all nurse informaticists reported a salary that exceeded $100,000. The largest percentage (about 23%) reported earning between $61,000 and $85,000, followed by about 21% who reported earning between $86,000 and $100,0000, and about 19% who reported earning between $101,000 and $115,000. About 11% reported earning more than $151,000.
The largest percentage of nurse informaticists (about 69%) reported working in a hospital or health system. Less than 10% reported working for a vendor/payer, and less than 10% reported working for the government/military.
Among nurse informaticists with an MSN, the largest percentage (about 22%) earn between $86,000 and $100,000, followed by about 21% earning between $101,000 and $115,000 and about 18% earning between $61,000 and $85,000.
That’s compared to the largest percentage of nurse informaticists with the BSN (about 32%) who earned between $61,000 and $85,000.
Of course, experience also plays a large part in the earning potential among nurse informaticists:
- The majority of those with 1-4 years of experience (about 37%) earned between $61,000 and $85,000.
- The majority of those with 5-10 years of experience (about 24%) earned between $101,000 and $115,000.
- The majority of those with 11+ years of experience (about 24%) earned more than $151,000.
Holding positions like chief nursing officer, chief nursing executive, director, and consultant, nurse administrators are among some of the highest paid nursing professionals. According to the American Organization for Nursing Leadership’s (AONL) 2019 Salary and Compensation Study for Nurse Leaders, the highest percentage of administrators (35%) held the title of director, followed by manager (21%), and CNO/CNE (18%).
The largest percentage of administrators (39%) worked in acute care hospitals, followed by 27% in academic institutions. Most administrators (67%) have been working in nursing for more than 20 years.
The majority of nurse administrators and leaders (57%) earned between $90,000 and $169,999, while 33% reported earning $170,000 or more.
The majority of non-system CNOs/CNEs (81%), system CNOs/CNEs (91%), consultants (53%), and vice presidents/presidents (91%) earned more than $150,000 annually,
About 71% of all directors earned between $100,000 and $169,999, while on the other end, about 72% of managers earned between $80,000 and $129,999.
The highest earning administrators and leaders according to geographical area were located in Region 9 (AK, CA, HI, NV, OR and WA), with 69% reporting earning $150,000 or more.
As expected, bonuses and other financial incentives are commonplace in nursing leadership roles. The AONL report found that 70% of all respondents were eligible for an incentive or bonus award. Of those, 61% actually received an incentive or bonus in 2018. The largest number of administrators and leaders (24%) reported a bonus equal to between 10 and 20% of their base salary.
Nurse educators remain some of the most highly sought after nursing professionals. According to an AACN report on 2018-2019 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, U.S. nursing schools turned away more than 75,000 qualified applicants bachelor’s and graduate nursing programs due to a lack of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints, with most nursing schools reporting a faculty shortages as their reason.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), post-secondary nursing instructors and teachers earned an annual salary of $74,600 as of May 2019. The highest earners brought home an average salary of $133,460 during this time.
Salaries for nursing instructors tend to vary according to the setting in which they work:
- General medical and surgical hospitals: $121,180
- Psychiatric/substance abuse hospitals: $93,650
- Colleges and universities: $83,240
- Junior colleges: $75,430
According to the BLS, the top-paying states for nursing educators include:
- Washington D.C.: $157,560
- Florida: $122,050
- California: $101,930
- New York: $97,750
- Connecticut: $97,350