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Which Makes More Money: a Nurse or a Clinical Psychologist?

by E.M. Rawes

In 1960, each person spent, on average, only $147 per year on health care. By 2009, this amount had increased by 55 times to $8,086, Just Facts reports. Along with this rising cost and demand for health care comes an increased demand for health care workers, such as registered nurses, nurse practitioners and clinical psychologists. Workers within these occupation generally earn a relatively high salary. The amount, however, depends on a variety of factors.

Registered Nurses

A registered nurse is a licensed health care professional who has a high level of interaction with patients. With education levels ranging from career diplomas to associate degrees to master's degrees, registered nurses provide hands-on care by administering medications, observing patients and providing patient education. As of 2012, a registered nurse's average annual salary was $67,930, with the highest 10th percentile earning $94,720 and the lowest 10th percentile earning $45,040. Your salary as a registered nurse varies by your state, industry, type and experience level. In 2012, the highest-paying state for a registered nurse was California, where salaries averaged $94,120. The highest-paying industry for a registered nurse was wholesale electronic markets, where salaries averaged $87,510. If you're a registered nurse with a specialty or with a higher experience level, you may also earn a higher salary, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

Nurse Practitioners

A nurse practitioner is a special type of nurse who, after receiving a specialized graduate degree in nursing, is authorized to diagnose and treat a variety of illnesses, diseases and conditions. As a nurse practitioner, you prescribe medications, order diagnostic tests and interpret results. As of 2012, the average annual salary for a nurse practitioner was $91,450, with the highest 10th percentile earning $120,500 and the lowest 10th percentile earning $64,100. Just as with registered nurses, nurse practitioner salaries vary by factors such as experience level, industry and location. In 2012, the highest-paying state for a nurse practitioner was Alaska, where salaries averaged $112,090. Consulting services and specialty hospitals paid nurse practitioners the best, the BLS reports.

Clinical Psychologists

Clinical psychologists evaluate, diagnose and treat mental and behavioral disorders. With at least a master's level education in the field of psychology, clinical psychologists provide psychotherapy and behavioral modification treatments. As of 2012, a psychologist's average annual salary was $72,220, with the highest 10th percentile earning $109,340 and the lowest 10th percentile earning $38,450. Your salary as a psychologist varies based on factors such as location and reputation. In 2012, Rhode Island was the highest-paying state for this occupation, with salaries averaging $92,580, the BLS reports. If you're renowned in your field or you have an excellent reputation within your community, you're also likely to earn higher pay.

Averages and Individuals

Based on national average salary data, a nurse practitioner earns a higher annual salary than a clinical psychologist; and a clinical psychologist earns a higher salary than a registered nurse. But due to salary variations within all three occupations, you can't conclusively state which occupation earns the highest salary. In Puerto Rico and some areas of Hawaii, for instance, a psychologist's average salary is higher than that of a nurse practitioner. A renowned psychologist may earn a higher salary than the nurse practitioner across the street. Salary depends on the individual health care worker's situation.

About the Author

E.M. Rawes is a professional writer specializing in business, finance, mathematical and social sciences topics. She completed her studies at the University of Maryland, where she earned her Bachelor of Science. During her time working in workforce management and as a financial analyst, she reinforced her business and financial know-how.

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