Getting to the job of a nurse practitioner isn't easy. It takes years of education and works in the field to make it, but people put the sweat in for a reason. Not only can the job be fulfilling, assisting patients and the public at large with crucial expertise, it's also a reliably lucrative venture, with average salaries sitting high now and looking to go nowhere but up.
What Is an Average Salary of a Nurse Practitioner?
Reports on the average salary of a nurse practitioner today remain fairly consistent across several different sources.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average salary of a nurse practitioner in 2018 at around $107,030, with the lowest 10% earning $80,670 and the top 10% making $182,750. ZipRecruiter places the 2019 average nurse practitioner salary at $107,949 and Glassdoor goes slightly higher, listing the average nurse practitioner salary at $117,292. Generally speaking, the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the most reliable data on wages.
According to a survey by PracticeMatch, nurse practitioner wages have been on the rise, with a mid-2018 average salary of $113,900 showing a 6.6% increase from the platform's findings last year of $106,000.
Additionally, a current nursing shortage in the face of an aging boomer population has ensured the rise of salaries over the years and should continue to do so for several more to come.
What Factors Determine a Nurse Practitioner's Salary?
Demand for nurse practitioners extends beyond the average hospital. They can find work in the government, private practices, universities, tech startups, and more. Private practices will generally offer the most pay, while hospitals and the government may operate on a tighter budget that limits their room to pay above standard wages.
As with almost all professions, location plays a big role in how much a nurse practitioner makes. Large urban centers like New York, Chicago, and L.A. need to offer wages adjusted to the cost of living and with the increased demand the population of these areas brings, inevitably overshadow wages in the country's rural areas. San Francisco, for example, offers some of the highest nurse practitioner wages in the country, averaging at $150,790. This example is pretty extreme, but in the New York-Newark-Jersey City area, NPs also make a generous average of $125,570. Compared to average wages in non-metro areas like East Kentucky or West Central-Southwest New Hampshire at $89,300 and $106,160 respectively, these cities offer a good, albeit justified, bump in salary.
As a nurse practitioner gains experience and further certification, their salary will typically grow in a reflection of their qualification. Along with hands-on work in the field, education can also boost a practitioner's salary. A graduate degree often is a prerequisite for this job, but getting a doctorate can open the door to the most prestigious, highest-paying jobs a nurse practitioner could hope for.
Geographic Breakdown of Nurse Practitioner Salaries
As previously noted, location plays a big role in shaping the salary a nurse practitioner can expect. Beyond the urban/rural divide, they can vary significantly across regions of the country, with the Pacific holding the highest paying jobs by far and the Southeast and Midwest resting on the bottom end of the spectrum.
Southeast Region - $96,572
Midwest Region - $97,960
Southwest Region - $101,833
Rocky Mountain Region - $102,648
Northeast Region - $106,254
Pacific Region - $116,708
Top 5 Highest Paying States
California - $124,330
Alaska - $121,250
Massachusetts - $117,860
Hawaii - $117,180
New Jersey - $115,230
Top 5 Lowest Paying States
Alabama - $92,130
Montana - $92,120
Arkansas - $89,440
Oklahoma - $85,920
Delaware - $83,000
Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
Becoming a nurse practitioner takes work. At the bare minimum, you'll need advanced degrees and training to break into the field. To begin with, you'll have to graduate from high school and enroll in an accredited college from where you can get a Bachelor of Science in nursing or a similar degree.
After or during your time pursuing this degree, you must become a registered nurse. Most degree programs for nursing will include getting your RN licensing, and most seeking to become a practitioner will get one or two years of experience in the role of a registered nurse before continuing to graduate school.
For graduate school, you'll have a variety of programs to choose from, but the most common is a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP). An MSN takes roughly two years to complete while a DNP typically requires four years of work.
Projections remain sunny for the future payment of nurse practitioners. A shortage of labor in the field, newfound recognition and respect for the role, and increasing demand among America's aging population, underserved rural areas, and academia have all worked together to drive average salaries up.
The biggest driver has been and will continue to be the ascension of America's baby-boom generation into their old age. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for nurse practitioners will increase 31% from 2016 to 2026, making the question not so much will there be enough demand for nurse practitioners in the future, but will there be enough nurse practitioners to meet the demand.