Top-earning nurses include practitioners, managers, consultants, educators, and clinical specialists.
Which Type of Nurse Gets Paid the Most?
Nurse Practitioners are the highest-paid type of nurses, earning up to $151,292 in Queensland and with an average maximum across Australia of $143,509. Nurse Unit Managers, Clinical Nurse Consultants, and Nurse Educators are next in line, earning up to $133,952, $133,358, and $133,358 respectively.
These figures indicate the peak earning potential for specialised roles where nurses provide or oversee patient care. Senior executive and corporate positions are excluded.
Table 1. Nursing jobs ranked by highest salary, 2024
|Rank||Job classification*||New South Wales||Victoria||Queensland||Australia|
|2||Nurse Unit Manager||$132,711||$130,958||$139,732||$133,952|
|=3||Clinical Nurse Consultant||$138,111||$122,583||$139,732||$133,358|
|=3||Clinical Nurse Educator||$138,111||$122,583||$139,732||$133,358|
|5||Clinical Nurse Specialist||$113,556||$99,593||$112,236||$108,560|
|6||Registered Nurse / Midwife||$98,351||$95,706||$103,053||$98,692|
|8||Assistant / Trainee||$55,226||$54,626||$69,979||$58,860|
* Job titles vary by state. We have chosen commonly used titles, which may not match the specific grade in a particular state. 'Midwife' has been omitted from job titles for conciseness. Figures for Australia are averages, weighted by state populations. The three states account for more than three-quarters of the Australian population. Sources: Public sector nurse and midwife enterprise agreements for NSW, Victoria, Queensland. Salaries are the highest normally available to experienced nurses. Updated: 14 November 2023.
The high salaries reflect many years of nursing experience and, typically, the pay benefits of a nursing master's degree. Nurses receive pay increments each year for up to 7-9 years in case of RNs. Experiential grades or levels also apply to higher job classifications. As well, there are pay bonuses for holding postgraduate qualifications, although these are not included in the displayed salaries.
The lowest-paid nurses in Australia are assistants or trainee nurses, earning up to $54,626 in Victoria and $55,226 in New South Wales. Enrolled nurses, who typically hold a diploma qualification, can earn close to $12k more, with their annual salary reaching around $70,775 on a national level.
Average salary: $143,509 per year.
The salary for a nurse practitioner in Australia ranges from $137,108 in their first year, increasing to an average of $143,509 annually after 2-4 years depending on the state or territory.
A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse with advanced training and qualifications at the master's degree level, legally recognised for a high level of clinical independence.
The role of an NP is to independently diagnose and manage health conditions, prescribe medications, and lead collaborative, specialised patient care. This position is one of the highest-paying nursing jobs in Australia, reflecting its similarity to the daily responsibilities of a general practitioner.
To become an NP, a registered nurse must gain specialised clinical experience, complete a Master of Nurse Practitioner or equivalent degree, and obtain NP endorsement from the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.
Nurse practitioners can specialise in almost any nursing field that is professionally recognised. Common specialties include mental health, primary care, geriatrics, pediatrics, emergency medicine, and women's health.
Average salary: $129,140 per year.
The national average salary for a nurse unit manager is $129,140 per year. Nurses who are new to the position earn $124,328 per year on average. The highest-paid managers, typically at Level 3 or 4 depending on the state, receive $133,952 annually.
A nurse unit manager is a senior nursing professional responsible for overseeing the operations of a nursing unit in a healthcare facility.
The role is to manage and coordinate nursing staff, oversee patient care, manage budgets, implement policies, and ensure compliance with healthcare regulations. The term clinical nurse manager is sometimes used to emphasise that the job involves direct supervision of nursing care.
Clinical nurse managers are experienced nurses with administration skills and, ideally, postgraduate qualifications in nursing management. Supervisory and assistant management positions can provide a stepping stone towards this role.
Related: Master of Nursing Management Courses
Average salary: $128,802 per year.
The national average salary for clinical nurse consultants is $128,802 per year. Nurses who are new to the position earn $118,693 per year on average while senior consultants make up to $138,910 annually.
A clinical nurse consultant or clinical midwife consultant is a highly experienced nursing professional with advanced expertise in a specific area of nursing practice.
The role is to provide expert guidance in clinical decision-making, mentor nursing staff, develop and implement policies and procedures, and contribute to research and quality improvement in healthcare.
To become a consultant in clinical nursing, you must typically have extensive clinical experience, advanced education such as a master's degree in a relevant nursing field, and demonstrate expertise in your area of specialisation.
Average salary: $122,501 per year.
The national average salary for Clinical Nurse Educators is $122,501 per year. Entry-level jobs are $113,135 per year on average while experienced educators make up to $131,867 annually.
A nurse educator combines clinical expertise with a passion for teaching, with the job of preparing and mentoring future generations of nurses.
The role is to develop and deliver educational content for nursing students and practicing nurses, oversee clinical practice, evaluate learning outcomes, and keep track of the latest in healthcare and educational methods.
To become an educator in nursing, you typically need significant clinical experience, a higher degree in nursing, often a Master’s or Doctorate, and a strong foundation in educational theory and practice. Higher-level positions are also available, such as Principal Educator.
Related: Masters in Nursing Education
Average salary: $105,316 per year.
The average annual salary for clinical nurse specialists is $105,316. Nurses who are new to the position earn $102,072 per year on average, with incomes reaching as high as $108,560 nationally. These figures don't account for pay allowances for postgraduate qualifications.
Other names for this role are Clinical Nurse in Queensland and South Australia, Registered Nurse - Level 2 in Western Australia and ACT, Registered Nurse - Grade 4 in Tasmania, and Nurse 3 in the Northern Territory.
A clinical nurse specialist is an advanced practice registered nurse with expertise in a specific area of nursing.
The role is to provide expert advice, mentor staff, lead quality improvement initiatives, and directly care for patients in their specialty area.
To become a CNS, an RN should qualify as a nurse, gain specialised experience, complete postgraduate studies in their chosen area, and secure a role designated as 'Clinical Nurse Specialist' or similar. One of the benefits of a Graduate Certificate in Nursing is that, from a relatively short course, you can qualify to be a CNS.
Average salary: $86,861 per year.
The average salary for registered nurse or registered midwife is $86,861 per year in Australia. Graduates typically earn around $71,961 annually, rising to $86,861 in their fifth year. Pay rises continue until year 7 to 9, depending on the state or territory.
A registered nurse (RN) is a degree-qualified nurse. They represent the vast majority of nurses in Australian hospitals, clinical, and aged care settings.
The role is to administer medications, monitor patients, develop care plans, provide emotional support, and collaborate with healthcare professionals to meet patient needs.
To become an RN, you need to complete a 3-year Bachelor of Nursing degree, or for mature-age students with prior qualifications, a 2-year Master of Nursing Practice degree. The next step is to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.
RNs can work in any nursing field. With some experience and nursing certifications, they can assume titles such as mental health nurse, neonatal nurse, pediatric nurse, orthopaedic nurse, certified registered nurse anaesthetist, public health nurse, oncology nurse, cardiac nurse, etc.
Which State is Best for Nurses?
Queensland is the best state in Australia for nurse pay. Based on the public sector award figures for registered nurses, Queensland nurses enjoy a 9.9% earnings premium compared to Australia as a whole. The state also offers attractive incentives to healthcare workers, particularly those willing to move to regional and remote areas, with bonuses up to $70,000.
Queensland is followed by the Northern Territory and Western Australia, with calculated pay premiums of 7.2% and 0.3% respectively.
Table 2. Average salary for registered nurses by state
|State||5th-year RN salary||Pay premium|
|Australian Capital Territory||$86,024||-1.0%|
|New South Wales||$85,813||-1.2%|
Updated: 14 November 2023. Sources: Public sector nurse and midwife enterprise agreement for each state and territory.
The most under-performing state in terms of nurse pay is Tasmania, with a mid-career pay shortfall of 5.5%. However, this differential is modest considering the relatively low cost of living in the state. Tasmania has made strides to close this gap from 1 December 2023, with a pay deal set to increase nurse and midwife earnings by about 15% over three years, aiming to match the national average.