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Does a Certified Nurse Earn More than a RN?

Career News August 10, 2013

Registered nurses (RNs) are well-respected, important members of any nursing staff, but RNs who choose to specialize in an area of nursing can advance their careers and garner higher salaries by becoming certified. Becoming certified demonstrates an expertise and skill set in a certain type of nursing. A certified nurse salary can be thousands of dollars a year higher than that of a non-certified RN.

Nursing Certification

Registered nurses may voluntarily seek certification in several areas of nursing. Certification provides several career benefits, including more money. A certified nurse makes around eight to ten thousand dollars a year more than non-certified nurses, according to Nursing certification also shows a commitment to the field and leads to enhanced patient care. Nurses must pass nursing certification examinations to earn their credentials. The process ensures that certified nurses meet a minimum competency level.

Certified nurses also increase their chances of getting hired. Nurse managers mentioned in an American Association of Critical Care Nurses survey that they were eighty-six percent more likely to hire certified nurses than non-certified RNs.

Registered nurses may apply for certification in several nursing specialties. Some examples of nursing specialties include:

•Ambulatory Care
•Cardiac Rehabilitation
•Case Management
•Community Health
•General Nursing
•Nurse Executive
•Nursing Professional
•Pain Management
•Psychiatric Health
•School Nursing

Nurses can also become certified as a clinical nurse specialist. RNs may also achieve advanced certification in other areas, such as forensic nursing and public health.

Salaries for RNs with Nursing Specialties

Registered nurses may work in certain areas of nursing without being certified. Obtaining a certification though bumps up the salary expectations. For example, an RN who is a psychiatric or mental health nurse makes around $25,000 to $47,000 annually depending on location, according to However, an RN with advanced certification in psychiatric and mental health nursing makes between $50,000 and $70,000 annually.

Clinical Nurse Specialist Salaries

Clinical nurse specialists (CNS) are a type of certified RN who received graduate level education and higher salaries. Around 69,000 RNs possess the credentials and education to work as clinical nurse specialists, according to the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists.

The pay for clinical nurse specialists ranges from $65,000 to more than $110,000 per year. Salary is affected by the region and particular specialty of the CNS. Specialty areas include adult health, child health, home health, community health, and mental health.

Clinical nurse specialists must be active registered nurses with a master’s degree or a doctoral degree in an area of clinical nursing. Generally, they must also complete clinical hours and pass a certification examination. Specific exams are given in several clinical nursing specialties. There are approximately 12 and 15 different types of certified nurse specialists working in the United States. Demand for particular specialties like oncology is high.

Advanced Practice Nurse Salaries

Some RNs pursue certification as an advanced practice nurse. Examples of advance practice nurses include nurse practitioner, certified nurse anesthetists and certified nurse midwives. These three in particular make significantly higher salaries than other nurses.

Certified registered nurse anesthetists are the highest paid nurses. These nurses are responsible for administering anesthesia to patients during surgery when an anesthesiologist is unavailable. Certified registered nurse anesthetists make around $160,000 per year. In 2010, the median income was $151,139 annually.

Nurse practitioners also command high salaries and have a large degree of freedom in their jobs. A nurse practitioner may make upwards of $93,000 or more annually. A certified nurse midwife may also receive similar compensation. The median expected salary of certified nurse midwives is $92,776. These nurses assist with women in labor, during delivery and after giving birth.

The career outlook for registered nurses, including certified nurses, is promising. The growth rate for nursing jobs is expected to increase by twenty-three percent from 2006 to 2016, which means around 587,000 new jobs. Some of these jobs will demand special training and certification, but others require only an RN license. Applicants who are also certified have a better chance of finding a position as an RN or within a specialty field.

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