Nurse Salary: How Much Do Registered Nurses Make?

What's the average registered nurse salary for 2020?

Your insights guide about registered nurse salary for 2020
Your insights guide about registered nurse salary for 2020

Salaries of registered nurses in the US are among the best in the world. But how much do nurses make? Here you’ll find the answer to this question including many insights about nurse salaries. We take a look at the average nurse salary and also registered nurse salaries by state. We then highlight a number of other factors that influence the salary you can expect to earn. Or that can affect your decision about where to study and where to apply for a job. This guide serves to give you an outlook on what the data says about nurse salaries and how you can negotiate for better pay.

What is the Average Nurse Salary?

The national average salary of a registered nurse as of 2020 is at $77,460 per year, representing an hourly wage of $37.24. The data is according to the estimates released by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook in March 2020. There was an increase in the average hourly wage of nearly one dollar between 2018 and 2019 The average annual salary of the 10% of RN’s who earned the least was $52,080, and the top 10% earned an average of $111,220.

Average salary of registered nurses for 2019-2020. On average, nurses earn 77,460 annually.
STILL AMONG THE HIGHEST PAYING PROFESSIONS. On average, registered nurses earn $77,460 per year.

Salary Growth of Registered Nurses

At an average, the salary of registered nurses grew by 1.51% per year in the decade 2010 to 2019 according to data by the BLS. Salaries are expected to grow further as the demand for nurses increases.

Salary Growth of Registered Nurses in the US for 2019-2020
DEMAND DRIVES GROWTH. There is an average increase of 1.50% in the salary of nurses during the last 10 years.

Factors that are expected to drive growth include higher demand for preventive care, retirement of the baby boomer generation, access to be better medical technology, and expanded health coverage for more Americans.

AVERAGE TOTAL$34.44$71,637$1,0921.50%

Nurse Salary Compared

The average salaries earned by registered nurses compare very well with the overall US national salary average of $53,490 per year or $25.72 per hour. However, registered nurses earn slightly less than the average for everyone in the health sector which was estimated at $83,640 per year, with an hourly average of $40.21.

Salary Comparison of Registered Nurse Specialties in the U.S. for 2019-2020
NURSE SALARY, COMPARED. How do registered nurse salaries compare?

In comparison, licensed practical or vocational nurses (LPN/LVN) earned an average of $48,500 per year or $23.32 per hour. Meanwhile, nursing assistants‘ average salary is at $30,720 per year.

Nurse practitioners (NP) (excluding nurse anesthetists) earn on average $110,840 per year or $53.77 per hour. NPs are RNs with specialized education that diagnose and treat acute, episodic, or chronic illness, independently or as part of a healthcare team. The top 10% of nurse practitioners earn $152,160.


Nurse instructors, who demonstrate and teach nursing science in classrooms and clinical units to nursing students, earn an average salary of $83,160 per year.

The figures for nurse-midwife salaries were only available for about two-thirds of the states so the number included in the estimates was relatively low. Average annual salaries of nurse-midwives are at $108,810, or $52.31 per hour. This puts their earnings slightly lower than that of the other advanced practice registered nurses.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) remain the highest paid nurses at an average annual salary of $181,040, or $87.04 per hour. CRNAs earn in a range of $127,480 (lowest 10%) to $208,000 (top 10%). If you are interested in becoming a CRNA, please read our guide Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist: How To Become a CRNA.

Nurse Salaries by State

What are the best paying states for nurses? According to the BLS data, the top five highest paying states for registered nurses are: California, Hawaii, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Oregon.

Average Nurse Salary Per State - United States
BEST U.S. STATES FOR NURSES. A look at the best paying US states for registered nurses.

The table below provides details on the total number of employed registered nurses in each state, their average annual nurse salaries, and the average hourly wage. Not all nurses earn the same. As you can see in the table, the state in which a nurse works has a big influence on the salary they’ll earn. When considering your potential salary, it’s also very important to keep in mind the cost of living in a particular state – in other words, the actual buying power of each dollar you earn. To allow for easy comparison, we have provided the (RPP) for each state. This figure is a percentage of the cost of living in each state compared to national price levels. In terms of the RPP, you can do the same with a salary of $55,000 in Maryland (RPP 10% higher) as with a salary of $45,000 Kansas (10% lower).

District of Columbia10,890$94,820$45.59116.9
New Hampshire14,320$73,880$35.52105.8
New Jersey80,140$84,280$40.52112.9
New Mexico17,350$73,300$35.2493.3
New York178,320$87,840$42.23115.8
North Carolina99,960$66,440$31.9491.3
North Dakota9,750$66,290$31.8790.1
Rhode Island12,630$82,310$39.5798.6
South Carolina46,860$64,840$31.1790.4
South Dakota12,950$59,540$28.6388.2
West Virginia19,830$63,220$30.3987.0

Salaries also differ considerably between metropolitan and rural areas – the cost of living and nurses’ salaries are generally much higher in the cities. This is mainly because housing costs a lot more. The large populations in cities create a greater demand for housing and this drives prices up.


Salaries by Employer

Registered nurse salaries differ quite a bit depending on where and by whom they are employed. Of the 2,982,280 registered nurses included in the BLS survey, the single largest group employed in general medical and surgical hospitals (31%) with an average salary of $79,460. Registered nurses employed in outpatient care centers earn the most at an average of $84,720. Nurses working in offices of physicians, home health care services, and school nurses have slightly below-average salaries. Nurses in school health services earn an average of $67,870.

General Medical and Surgical Hospitals1,713,12030.6$38.20$79,460
Offices of Physicians197,8907.47$33.45$69,570
Home Health Care Services177,79011.86$35.41$73,660
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)151,3009.43$33.53$69,740
Outpatient Care Centers147,55015.47$40.73$84,720
Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing2600.09$41.54$86,400
Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)83,3303.16$43.42$90,310
Business support services6500.07$44.33$92,200
Computer systems design and related services9400.04$35.26$73,340
Health and personal care stores16900.16$36.51$75,930
Legal Services2900.03$34.80$77.82
Direct health and medical insurance carriers24,2306.16$37.21$77,390

Certain industries pay considerably more than the average. Registered nurses who work for the federal government, as opposed to state or local governments, earn an average nurse salary of $90,340. Those working in business support services are very well paid at an average of $92,200.

Salary by Educational Level and Academic Preparation

The type of education with which you qualify as a registered nurse is also a factor in the salary you’ll learn. With a Diploma in Nursing you’ll earn an average of $61,000 while with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) you can expect $69,000 average. There is a significant salary jump between an ADN and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). With the latter you can earn an average of $83,000 according to

Nurses with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can earn an average of between $94,000 and $103,000, depending on their specialty. The average salaries for nurses with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or PhD in Nursing Science are $102,000 and $99,000 respectively.

Nurse Salary and Nursing Education Level or Degree 2020
EDUCATIONAL LEVEL. Comparing the average annual salary of nurses based on their level of education.

There is a significant time and cost difference between qualifying as a registered nurse with a two-year ADN and a four-year BSN. You may ask yourself whether the difference is worth it in terms of potential income. Some employers might start newly qualified registered nurses on the same salary but, as seen in the table above, those with higher qualifications earn more on average. 

Another factor to consider is that nurses with BSN have far greater opportunities for employment in the job of their of choice and for career advancement. BSN nurses can be promoted to managerial positions such as that of a clinical nurse manager or a nursing director. They can also opt to study at post-graduate level to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) specializing in a field of nursing that interests them – and earning the salary that goes with the role. There is wide support in the US that all nurses should hold a BSN and a number of hospitals now employ only nurses qualified with a BSN.


Obviously, a newly qualified registered nurse will likely earn quite a bit less than the average registered nurse salary, which includes those with many years of experience. As you gain experience your salary will increase and you can also apply for another position which pays more – especially once you’ve gained at least a few years of experience in a particular field of nursing where there is a demand. Here it is worth mentioning that should you be interested in doing some travel nursing, most positions require 2-3 years of experience in a particular field like ICU.

Travel nurses help to meet staffing needs in hospitals and other facilities, usually for two to three months. In many cases, travel nurse salaries are higher than the pay for full-time permanent staff, reaching up to $50 an hour in specialty positions. An added benefit is that free, furnished, housing is usually included in the package.


Male vs Female: Gender Pay Gap in Nursing

The gender pay gap occurs even in nursing where females dominate the industry and only 12% of the nursing workforce is male. The Nursing Salary Research Report by found that male nurse salaries were, on average, 9% higher even when adjusted for factors like hours worked, education, and experience.

Gender Pay Gap in Nursing-Male vs Female Nurse Salaries
GENDER PAY GAP. There is a 9% difference in salaries of male vs female nurses.

The report included RNs from all 50 states and showed that men earn an average of $79,688 compared to $73,090 for women, a difference of $6,598 per year. One aspect is that men are more likely to negotiate their salaries: 43% of men “most of the time or always” negotiate, while only 34% of women do so.

Nursing: Still a Great Career Choice in the US 

The average registered nurse salary is higher than the average national wage in the US and unemployment is low at 1.2%.  Furthermore, the BLS predicts that the number of jobs for registered nurses will grow by 12% up to 2028 – considerably more than most other jobs. There are also lots of opportunities for nurses to increase their income through specialization or promotion.

Besides, jobs for registered nurses and advanced nurse practitioners both ranked in the top 15 of the US top 100 jobs for 2019. This ranking considers not only salary and job opportunities, but also factors like job satisfaction, potential for advancement, stress levels and work-life balance.


  1. At the rate of thirty thousand average, meaning many CNAs get much less, then you can understand why they are limited and the availably ones only work when the pay is satisfying because they pay the same bills do the dirtiest work and get the least pay and respect from both the nurse and the client.

  2. When I became a registered nurses just six years ago I made only 18.50 an hour. I continued to make less than 21.00 an hour for three years. I literally left many jobs due to this and reading the stats of what “they say employers offer in your area”. I make 31.00 an hour now but that’s after years… And let me tell you, simply look at the RN job adds offering 12-28 an hour you’ll see the true pay in these areas. I’m still blown away at the false facts still on the internet about RN pay and treatment… The facts are there, you will have to jump through hoops to get the hourly rate these sites state RN’s make. Yes, you can get there but you have to job hop as well as demand it..

  3. Hi Sabrina,

    I just want to reach out to you. I agree that in select states RNs will work years to earn $31.00/hour. And in those select states nurses have to work years to earn that salary. I live in Los Angeles County in the state of California. I’m going to briefly paint a cost of living to income picture. I recently lived in neighborhoods where the average 1-bedroom apartment is about $1500/month (and the high end apartments were $4500/month). My spouse was going to start a job in a select state where they wanted to start me at $21/hour. (Because of COVID-19 that company furloughed their employees). The average 1 bedroom apartment was $1200/month. That salary in that state is not proportionate to the cost of living and income for an RN in Los Angeles County. Nurses in that select city/state worked 20 years to earn an equivalent to the median Los Angeles RN income.

    I’ve had RN classmates who made $28/hour on their first RN job and others who started at $54/hour right out of school. I also see that there are jobs that offer less. If you put your resume in LinkedIn or Indeed and state you’re willing to relocate you WILL get recruiters contacting you. There are jobs offering $10,000 sign on bonus, $60/hr, $80/hr, $100/hr.

    Take Care

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