Nurse practitioners typically begin their careers as registered nurses. Once they have a bachelor's degree and several years of nursing experience, an RN can become licensed as a nurse practitioner by obtaining a master's degree or doctorate. The expected salary of a nurse practitioner with a doctoral degree depends on a number of factors.
Doctorate vs. Master's
The vast majority of nurse practitioners hold a master's degree, according to a 2012 salary survey conducted by medical industry website ADVANCE. That survey found that about 90 percent of nurse practitioners surveyed held a master's degree as their highest degree. The average annual salary of NPs with a master's degree was $92,867 a year in 2012. By comparison, the 7 percent of nurse practitioners with a doctoral degree reported an average annual salary of $96,807 per year, or about $4,000 more per year than NPs with a master's.
Salary by Doctorate Type
According to ADVANCE, about 70 percent of nurse practitioners with a doctorate held a DNP degree, or Doctor of Nursing Practice. Nurse practitioners with a DNP also earned the highest average salary among NPs, at $97,452 per year. About 22 percent of nurse practitioners with doctorates had a PhD, and made an average of $95,577 per year. Those who held an EdD (Doctor of Education) earned an average of $87,733 per year, while NPs holding a DNSc (Doctor of Nursing Science) earned an average of $84,500 per year.
Other Factors Affecting Pay
Besides level of education, several other factors can affect the expected salaries of NPs. For example, the type of setting they work in can have a profound effect on average salaries. ADVANCE reports that NPs working in emergency rooms averaged $106,591 a year in 2012, compared to $90,600 for those in family practice and $82,832 for those employed in college health. The type of community also mattered, with rural NPs earning an average of $88,165 a year, compared to $90,481 for NPs in suburban areas and $92,294 for those employed in urban areas.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of jobs for registered nurses will increase by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020, and that demand for advanced practice nurses will be even more pronounced. That compares to a 14 percent projected growth rate for all occupations. A nationwide shortage of physicians is helping to drive demand for nurse practitioners, many of whom provide primary care in the same way as a family doctor. In addition to higher pay, a doctorate offers other advantages to a nurse practitioner. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, a doctoral degree better prepares aspiring nurse practitioners for the complex challenges they will face as primary care providers.