Many doctors specialize in a certain branch of medicine. Oncology, cardiology, gynecology, ophthalmology and primary care are just a few. If you're a nurse who's good at what you do (and, of course, you are), you can become a specialist, too. Love kids? Pediatrics might be a good fit. Like the idea of assisting a surgeon? Focus on internal medicine as a way into the operating room. Each specialty has its own distinct responsibilities, and pay is often influenced by them, so keep that in mind when choosing a training program.
As of 2011, your average registered nurse made $69,110 a year. But high salaries have a way of skewing the average, and median wage often gives a clearer picture of what you can expect to make nursing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of all registered nurses earned less than $65,950 a year. Neither figure, however, reflects specialty — something that holds quite a bit of sway over your earnings. A pediatric nurse, for example, isn’t paid the same as an OR nurse.
Topping the list of highest-paid specialties was the OR nurse — at least according to a survey by Wolters Kluwer Health, a global information service. On average, OR nurses earned $71,500 a year in 2011. Those working in emergency medicine came in at a close second, averaging $71,200 a year, while oncology nurses rounded third with an average salary of $70,600. Pediatric nurses, on the other hand, were one of the lower paid specialties, earning just over $54,000 a year. If you're looking to get into nursing, you can obviously see where the money is.
As with any job, location affects salaries. Nurses are no exception. In fact, OR nurses in Boston, Massachusetts, averaged $83,259 a year in 2012 — about $14,000 more than the average nurse. (reference 4). OR nurses in Los Angeles also fared better than most, earning $82,658 a year, the Economic Research Institute reports. In Seattle, salaries averaged at $80,477 a year, while salaries in Houston were closer to $76,000 a year.
From 2010 to 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects registered nurses to experience an employment growth of 26 percent. This is much faster than the growth rate for all occupations — an estimated 14 percent. A combination of factors plays into the better-than-average job prospects. First and foremost, people are living longer than they used to, increasing the need for health service. Couple this with a greater emphasis on preventive care, and you drive the demand for additional staff, including nurses of all specialties.
- Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images