Can Nurses Earn More Than Doctors?

Most registered nurses do not earn more than doctors.

However, some specialized nurses and CRNAs earn more than doctors in specific disciplines and particular circumstances.

Numerous geriatricians, family medicine doctors, pediatricians, and psychiatrists earn less than 200k per year to start.

Still, these professions can earn over 200k after acquiring enough experience, especially in high-paying locations.

Many certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) earn 200k – 300k annually due to their training and expertise.

Being a certified registered nurse anesthetist is considered the highest-paying nursing profession on average.

It enables these advanced practice registered nurses to make an excellent living and provide specialized care/treatments.

Specialists, like nurse entrepreneurs and legal nurse consultants, can earn even more than CRNAs in the right situations.

In addition, some registered nurses earn $300k or more working in high-paying states and accepting special assignments.

What Determines a Registered Nurse’s Salary?

Many factors determine a registered nurse’s salary.

Thus, it’s challenging to paint a clear picture of what nurses make on average besides using a website salary estimator.

Occasionally registered nurses earn substantial incomes that rival well-paid doctors.

However, sufficient education, specialization, work location, and circumstances are required.

Let’s examine the primary factors influencing a registered nurse’s salary to see how some professionals make so much.


An excellent educational foundation is essential for making good money as a registered nurse.

Registered nurses can earn an associate’s (ADN), bachelor’s (BSN), master’s (MSN), or doctorate (DNP) degree.

The ADN degree provides nurses with a good foundation for performing well in entry-level positions.

Nevertheless, many specializations and employers prefer/require nurses with a BSN to execute advanced responsibilities.

The BSN degree provides a more comprehensive education enabling registered nurses to pursue many diverse specializations.

Accordingly, registered nurses with a BSN earn higher salaries than those with an ADN.

Part of the wage bump is due to a pay differential from higher education, and part results from working in advanced fields.

Career Specialization

As previously mentioned, some specializations pay registered nurses exceptionally well for their expertise.

Careers in legal consulting, entrepreneurship, aesthetic/cosmetic nursing, and primary care offer excellent wages.

RNs and APRNs earn multiple six-figure annual salaries by owning and operating independent businesses in these disciplines.

In addition, certified registered nurse anesthetists and some nurse practitioners who work for employers earn great pay.

Highest Paying Nursing Careers:

  • Nurse Anesthetists
  • General Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • NICU Nurse
  • Nurse Entrepreneurs
  • Nurse Administrator
  • Legal Nurse Consultant
  • Nurse Educator

Understanding which fields offer the highest pay can significantly impact how much nurses earn throughout their careers.

Work Location

Where registered nurses work dramatically influences how much money they earn.

In some cases, registered nurses can double their salaries by moving to high-paying states and working in busy cities.

Those in rural places that do not require many nurses generally make much less money than those in metropolitan areas.

As a result, some registered nurses commute to the city to increase their salaries.

Numerous nurses also work as travel nurses, enabling them to relocate and assist short-staffed hospitals temporarily.

These hospitals and healthcare facilities offer financial incentives and perks to attract nurses for work assignments. 

Benefiting from Lucrative Opportunities

Registered nurses take advantage of certain situations, circumstances, and occasions to significantly boost their income.

It includes utilizing overtime and double time, accepting special assignments, getting pay differential, and taking specific jobs.

Each situation provides nurses multiple opportunities to earn substantially more per hour than their base pay.

Although rare, numerous nurses earn $500,000+ yearly using various strategies in addition to benefiting from these strategies.

Overtime and Double Time

Overtime and double-time pay significantly boost a nurse’s income, depending on the state and location.

For example, nurses in California earn overtime pay after accumulating 40+ hours of work per week or 8+ hours per shift.

This means nurses make 1.5 times their hourly wage for any hours working over 40 weekly or 8 hours daily.

This article provides an overview of overtime/double-time in California.

California also provides double-time pay for those working more than 12 hours per shift. As a result, nurses working 16-hour shifts earn double pay after 12 hours of work.

Combined,  overtime and double-time pay allow nurses to earn significant incomes if they work the required hours.

Numerous accounts of registered nurses taking advantage of these benefits earn 200K – 300K or more per year!

First Year MD. Income

Numerous first-year MD professionals pay less than 200K per year.

As a result, high-performing nurses can easily earn more than a new MD. Moreover, CRNAs and highly trained RNs (working overtime and double time) make upwards of 300k yearly.

This allows them to compete with experienced MDs in some professions.

Finally, on average, numerous MD professionals pay under 300k annually with ample experience and knowledge.

This includes careers in family medicine, infectious diseases, public health and preventative medicine, and psychology, among others.

As a result, some RNs and advanced practice registered nurses, such as CRNAs, have opportunities to make more money than doctors.

Understanding How Nurses Earn Six-Figure Salaries

As previously mentioned, registered nurses can earn six figures a year.

Numerous careers pay nurses a six-figure salary.

It includes high-paying careers like nurse anesthetists, NICU nursing, nurse administrators, and pain management nurses.

However, average registered nurses can earn six figures depending on their state and location.

For instance, nurses working in California earn an average income of $113,00 per year or more.

Nurses operating in busy cities also earn more on average due to the high demand and required expertise for that location.

Finally, nurses can earn 200k – 300k per year by taking on specific assignments and roles in exchange for higher wages.

High-Income Earning Nurse Videos:

The videos above show examples and advice on how these registered nurses earn exceptional incomes.

It demonstrates how some nurses earn even more than the highest-paying medical doctor specializations.

Nonetheless, these registered nurses put in significantly more than 40 hours per week and take special assignments.

Earning multiple six-figure salaries without the additional work is highly challenging unless the nurse is an entrepreneur. 

The following list showcases some of the most financially lucrative professions for specialized nurses.

Each profession has the opportunity to earn six figures per year.

Moreover, nurse anesthetists, nurse entrepreneurs, and legal consultants can earn more than doctors in certain situations.

Highest Paying Nursing Careers:

  • Nurse Anesthetists
  • General Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • NICU Nurse
  • nurse entrepreneurs
  • Nurse Administrator
  • Legal Nurse Consultant
  • Nurse Educator
  • Staff Nurse

Nurse Entrepreneurs

Some nurse entrepreneurs can earn significantly more than other professions.

Unlike other nursing disciplines, these specialists build businesses and have more control over how they make money.

Their income is determined based on their expertise and business performance.

For instance, some nurse entrepreneurs make money designing, creating, and selling various products and services.

These experts have created everything from study guides and clipboards to footwear, scrubs, and casual apparel.

Nurse entrepreneurs have also built multi-million-dollar blogs combining expertise, marketing, and writing skills.

In terms of physical businesses, some nurse practitioners run independent practices and work as primary care providers.

In addition, legal nurse consultants and aesthetic nurses own legal services and medspas to earn revenue and serve clients.

Legal nurse consultants can work for other professionals or become independent and start businesses to obtain clientele.

Moreover, well-trained legal nurses can charge higher prices for their services, allowing them to earn substantial incomes.

Their earnings are determined by their ability to produce and sell profitable solutions to professionals and businesses.

With that said, some nurse entrepreneurs have taken their experience and expanded outside the medical field.

This article from dollar sprout perfectly illustrates an RN who pivoted their side hustle into a seven-figure business

Other Careers That Earn More Than Doctors

Numerous professions earn more than doctors, especially those with a lot of experience.

However, the salary these professions earn varies depending on the individual’s education/experience, employer, negotiated wages, and particular position.

The following section lists various careers that can earn more than doctors.

  1. Airplane pilots
  2. Air traffic controllers
  3. CEO’s
  4. Chief executors
  5. Computer and IT managers
  6. Entrepreneurs
  7. Engineers
  8. Freelance writers
  9. Investment bankers
  10. Large commercial farmers
  11. Lawyers
  12. Professional gamers
  13. Nuclear power operator
  14. Software developers
  15. Real estate investors

These professions can pay $150,000 – $300,000 per year or more for qualified earners.

Moreover, careers in entrepreneurship, investment banking, real estate, and law have opportunities to earn significantly more.

These careers pay based on performance, experience, sales, and good decision-making.

Some professions have unlimited earning potential with enough knowledge, execution, and continual development.

For example, some nurse entrepreneurs, investment bankers, and real estate investors earn more as they grow their businesses and portfolio.

They also have more flexibility to steer the direction of the business to make substantial financial gains.

Nevertheless, these careers require experience, personal development, and continuous focus.