In our series My 6-Figure Paycheck, women making more than $100,000 open up about how they got there and what exactly they do. We take a closer look at what it feels like to be a woman making six-figures — when only 5% of American women make that much, according to the U.S. Census — with the hope it will give women insight into how to better navigate their own career and salary trajectories.
Job: Nurse Practitioner
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Degree: BA in Theater, BS in Nursing, Master's in Nursing
First Salary: $30,000 as a nanny
Current Salary: $139,000 plus bonuses and stipends
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"Growing up, I told everyone I was going to be a doctor. In high school, I got into theater, but even though I ended up getting my bachelor's in theater, I still planned on going to medical school."
What did you study in college?
"I have a bachelor's in theater. In my mid-twenties, I entered an accelerated bachelor's program for nursing and earned my BS in nursing in about 15 months.
"Then I went straight into a master's program in nursing and completed a nurse practitioner program with an emphasis in psychiatry in about three years. So it was four years of undergrad for theater and five years in nursing school for the two nursing degrees."
Did you have to take out student loans?
"My parents paid for undergrad, but I took out loans to pay for nursing school. It totaled about $70,000 for both degrees. I have paid them down to about $40,000. I have a total of 10 years from graduation to pay them off, but I have been working aggressively to pay them down faster."
Have you been working at this job since you graduated from college?
"My path towards this job was circuitous at best. I graduated college in 2008 with zero job prospects. I worked as a nanny while figuring out the next step. My parents helped me decide to reconsider medicine.
"I spent a lot of time researching nursing before finally deciding it was what I wanted to do. After I became an registered nurse (RN), I got a job at a hospital and was able to work while continuing in school to become a nurse practitioner (NP). I have been with the same company since becoming an NP."
How would you explain your day-to-day role at your job?
"I work in a community mental health clinic on the medication support services team and predominately serve medicaid patients. I work mostly with children, adolescents, and their families to diagnosis and treat mental illness. I see 10 to 15 clients a day and also work closely with the other team members including therapists and case managers."
Did you negotiate your salary?
"I did not negotiate my first job as an RN. It was tough finding a job as a new graduate, and I didn't feel like I had the power to negotiate. Then, my first position as a nurse practitioner was as an independent contractor and the recruiter negotiated my hourly rate.
"I recently became a full-time employee for the same company and I did negotiate my salary. It was exhausting and sometimes infuriating, but I came away with a salary I am satisfied with and the experience of having to fight for what I know I deserve."
Is your current job your “passion”? If not, what is?
"I love what I do. I don't mind getting up on Monday morning to go to work. I can't really imagine doing anything else at this point in my life."
If you could, would you change anything in your career trajectory?
"When I first started nursing school in my mid-twenties, I was self-aware enough to know that I would not have been a good nurse if I had entered nursing school when I was 18. So, no, I wouldn't change a thing."
What professional advice would you give your younger self?
"You do not need to know what you are going to do with your life when you are 18 or 22. Be patient. Be kind. But know what you are worth and fight for what you deserve."
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