Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) Salary and Career Outlook

Some nurses may want to become an acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP). Working with patients recovering from surgery, a sudden illness or an injury may be a fulfilling and rewarding career choice. Keep reading to learn how to become an ACNP, what career paths are open to these elite nurse practitioners and more.

Georgetown University’s Online Master’s in Nursing

Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 23 months. 

  • Earn your MS in Nursing in as few as 23 months
  • Choose from one of four APRN specialty areas: AG-ACNP, FNP, NM/WHNP, or WHNP
  • Gain hands-on clinical experience in evidence-based practice


What Does an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Do?

An ACNP program provides instruction on how to care for patients recovering from an injury, surgery or severe illness. An acute care nurse career may mean working in an emergency room helping patients as they arrive for help or in an ambulatory care unit helping patients recover from serious health conditions. As an ACNP, you will be responsible for assessing patients, preparing and executing daily care plans, and communicating with patients, their families, and other members of each patient’s care team.

If you already have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), the next step in pursuing an acute care nurse career is obtaining a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Choosing an online MSN program may be a good opportunity for working nurses to expand their professional skill set and open the door to exciting new career paths. A flexible online MSN program means you may be able to keep working while completing coursework on your own schedule.

Where Do Acute Care Nurse Practitioners Work?

Acute care nurse practitioners work in health care settings that rely on high-tech equipment and skilled support staff to treat patients. As an ACNP, you may find yourself in a wide variety of work settings, such as:

  • Hospitals, including emergency rooms, operating rooms and critical care units. All areas of a hospital rely on acute care staff to help patients recover from illnesses, injuries and medical procedures.
  • Ambulatory and rehabilitation clinics, which is where patients go for physical therapy and other rehab services after a surgery, accident or sudden serious health event.
  • Physicians’ offices, walk-in clinics and urgent care centers, which are often a patient’s first destination when they initially experience a non-life-threatening illness or injury.
  • Nursing homes or long-term care facilities, where patients reside for extended periods and often need frequent medical assessment or care.

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook

If you are looking for an advanced nursing degree career with numerous future job prospects, becoming an ACNP could be an excellent option. The projected job growth for nurse practitioners is 52% through 2029, which is much faster than average, according to data on employment in nursing from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In other words, demand for ACNPs is expected to surpass supply for many years to come. Possessing the specialized skill set necessary to be an ACNP may put you at an advantage when you decide to apply for a job, switch positions or relocate to a new city in the future.

Specializing in a high-needs field may set you apart from other job applicants. Plus, specialized ACNP positions may pay more than generalist positions. If there is a concentration that appeals to you, consider gaining specialized training and experience in that field. 

What Can Affect Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Salaries?

Many factors can have an impact on an ACNP’s salary, including:

  • Level of education, training and certification: Becoming an ACNP requires at least a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Post-baccalaureate certificates in areas such as Nursing Education or Leadership may lead to pay increases or make more diverse career options available. 
  • Years of experience: Sometimes, the more experience one accumulates in the field, the better the pay. Seniority may also lead to other perks, such as preference for shift selection and promotions, as well as increased paid time off.
  • Specialization within the ACNP role: If you further specialize in your role as an acute care nurse practitioner, you may qualify for a higher salary. An adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner is one example of a specialized ACNP role.
  • Location: In May 2019, the average salary for ACNPs varied state by state, from $72,970 to $138,660.
  • Facility type: An ACNP’s employer and work environment may affect their income. Emergency relief services, residential facilities: and outpatient care centers are three of the top-paying work environments for ACNPs.

How Much Does an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Make on Average?

As of May 2019, the median annual salary for advanced practice registered nurses was $115,800, according to data on job pay from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is more than double the median wage for all occupations, which was $53,490 at that time. Keep in mind that this average salary calculation includes some of the most advanced, highest paying nursing jobs available: nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives

Choosing a specialization may have an effect on your potential nursing salary as an ACNP. Two specializations that will see high demand across the country for the foreseeable future are pediatric and adult gerontology acute care. Those positions are highlighted below.

Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Salary

If you enjoy working with children, consider specializing in pediatric acute care. A pediatric acute care nurse practitioner job means monitoring young patients recovering from illness or surgery and working with the patient’s care team to develop a recovery plan. While overseeing delivery of care to the patient, you may also communicate the details of that plan to the patient’s family. Finding creative ways to keep pediatric patients comfortable and engaged can be the most challenging, yet rewarding, part of your day as a pediatric acute care nurse.

A national shortage of pediatric care specialists should result in high demand and solid job security for those who choose a pediatric ACNP specialization, according to an article on nursing shortages by the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.

Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Salary

An adult gerontology nurse practitioner job involves working with adults and senior citizens who are living with chronic conditions and dealing with challenges unique to older populations. Gerontology ANCPs help patients improve their quality of life in many ways. A gerontology ACNP may assist during a patient’s surgical procedure or monitor the patient’s recovery after the surgery. A gerontology ACNP will make sure patients and their families understand post-surgery care plans and medication schedules. Gerontology ACNPs may also advise patients to make lifestyle changes to lose weight and reduce their chances of developing obesity-related health conditions.

Demand for medical personnel specializing in senior care is expected to increase by 14.2% through 2024 because of the growing and aging population in the United States.  

Try These Cities for Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Jobs

If you are willing to relocate to launch a successful acute care nursing career, consider pursuing ACNP jobs in high-demand, high-salary areas. Below is a list of American cities with aging populations, which will lead to growing demand for skilled adult geriatric ACNPs. 

The aging population percentages come from a Business Insider report, while the annual median salaries come from CareerOneStop data.

CityPercentage of population aged 60 years or olderAnnual median nurse practitioner salary
Grants Pass, Oregon
Homosassa Springs, Florida
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Lake Havasu City, Arizona 
Palm Bay, Florida 
Prescott, Arizona 
Salisbury, Maryland 
Sebring, Florida 
Sierra Vista, Arizona 

Explore These States for Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Jobs

Money isn’t everything, but a good salary is a high priority for many job-seekers. The five states with the highest mean wage for nurse practitioners, according to 2019 wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are:

StateAnnual Mean Wage
New Jersey

Are you more concerned about a successful job search and future job security? The BLS reports that these five states have the highest concentration of nurse practitioner jobs:

StateEmployment per thousand jobsAnnual mean wage

Not sure if a career as an acute care nurse practitioner is right for you? There are numerous advanced nursing career options available today. Explore graduate programs that will lead to an exciting career in a related field, such as:

Is an ACNP Career Right for You?

You may find that working as an acute care nurse practitioner is a challenging, rewarding and fulfilling career path. Whatever area of health care you’re most interested in, an ACNP credential can get you started in this chosen field. 

In preparation for this new career path, you have many online MSN programs to choose from. One or more of these master’s programs may fit with your work schedule, family needs and other commitments. 

Georgetown University’s Online Master’s in Nursing

Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 23 months. 

  • Earn your MS in Nursing in as few as 23 months
  • Choose from one of four APRN specialty areas: AG-ACNP, FNP, NM/WHNP, or WHNP
  • Gain hands-on clinical experience in evidence-based practice


Last Updated December 2020