Nurses earn respect, they earn trust, and they earn gratitude — and some days, it feels like that’s all they get. In truth, nurses do much more work around health care facilities than many patients realize, from maintaining records to performing tests and administering life-saving medications.

Yet, for their efforts, many nurses are severely underpaid. On average, a licensed practical nurse makes just over $42,000 per year in salary, which is beans compared to a doctor’s annual earnings of roughly $200,000.

Fortunately, LPNs and other nurses can reliably increase their earnings throughout their careers. This guide will help any nurse improve their salary prospects and enjoy the income they truly deserve.

Go Back to School

Returning to school is the single most reliable way for nurses to increase their income. Nurses who obtained employment with certifications and associate degrees can double or triple their salaries by obtaining more advanced education.

Even better, there are online certificate programs that allow nurses to boost their credentials while maintaining their current employment, which is ideal for nurses who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Unlike other fields, there is hardly a rigid career path for nurses to follow. Here are a few education options that are likely to increase a nurse’s earning potential:

  • Bachelor’s degree. BSNs earn an average of about $68,000, but even better, BSNs are preferred by hospitals and healthcare facilities, which means more BSNs are employed than other types of nurses. By earning a BSN, a nurse can not only bump up their salary but also gain greater access to preferred nursing positions.
  • Advanced degrees. Nurses can continue to graduate school to earn master and doctorate degrees in nursing. Nurses with MSNs can function as APRNs, who earn an easy six-figure salary, or they can find positions in administrative or management teams. Nurses with doctorates typically remain in academia, working to improve nursing strategies and education.
  • Specializations. Nurses can gain certifications or additional degrees in a variety of specialized fields that provide enhanced wages. For example, nurse anesthetists are some of the highest-earning nurses, pulling average salaries upwards of $150,000. Nurses can also specialize in growing medical fields, like geriatrics, home health and oncology.

Find Side Jobs

Like teachers, many underpaid nurses are forced to find second and third jobs. However, these jobs don’t have to be waiting tables or cleaning houses. There are plenty of nursing-related side hustles that pay relatively well and don’t require much time and energy. The following jobs are often performed by off-duty nurses looking for extra cash:

  • Telehealth. Also called “telephone triage,” these centers employ nurses to provide medical assistance over the phone or web. Centers are often run by insurance companies to cater to clients looking for medical help outside of a healthcare facility.
  • Transcription. Though voice-to-text software has eliminated some of these jobs, medical transcription can provide a surprising amount of income. Nurses need to become certified before they can work, but that process is relatively simple. Then, nurses can transcribe medical reports anywhere, anytime to supplement their income.
  • Teaching. The public is endlessly interested in gaining life-saving skills, and nurses can provide that education. Organizations are constantly looking for nurses to become certified to teach CPR and first aid courses or to present on occupational safety.

Consider Overtime

It might not be ideal, but nurses can request to work more shifts to earn more money. Thanks to the Fair Labor Standards Act, covered employees must be compensated at least time-and-a-half for any hours worked over 40 per week, so by adding overtime, nurses can seriously increase their earnings. Unfortunately, few employers are interested in paying such high rates, so many will refuse requests for overtime.

An alternative to overtime is working per diem shifts through nursing staffing agencies. Many hospitals are understaffed, especially when it comes to qualified nurses. Thus, staffing agencies help hospitals fill gaps with nurses who work freelance shifts. Often, nurses will work per diem on scheduled off days to add to their income.

Travel for Work

Finally, nurses willing to pull up roots might consider becoming travel nurses. Travel nurses are like perpetual per diem workers; they travel from location to location to fill needs in healthcare staffs.

Usually, nurses have some power to pick and choose where they go, what jobs they work and what their schedule looks like. Because travel nurses are highly sought-after, they command high salaries — even breaking six figures.