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 a better pay.
What is the Average Nurse Salary?
The national average salary of a registered nurse as of 2019 is at $75,510 per year, representing an hourly wage of $36.30. The data is according to the estimates released by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook in March 2019. There was an increase in the average hourly wage of nearly one dollar between 2017 and 2018. The average annual salary of the 10% of RN’s who earned the least was $50,800, and the top 10% earned an average of $106,530.
Salary Growth of Registered Nurses
At an average, the salary of registered nurses grew by 1.69% from 2008 to 2018, according to data by the BLS. Salary growth is expect to grow together with the demand for nurses in the industry.
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.
Nurse Salary Compared
The average salaries earned by registered nurses compare very well with the overall US national salary average of $51,960 per year or $24.98 per hour. However, registered nurses earn slightly less than the average for everyone in the health sector which was estimated at $82,000 per year, with an hourly average of $39.42.
In comparison, licensed practical or vocational nurses (LPN/LVN) earned an average of $47,050 per year or $22.23 per hour. Meanwhile, nursing assistants‘ average salary is at $28,540 per year.
Nurse practitioners (NP) earn on average $110,030 per year or $52.90 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 $150,320.
Nurse instructors, who demonstrate and teach patient care in classroom and clinical units to nursing students, earn an average salary of $81,350 per year.
The figures for nurse midwife salaries were only available for about half of the states so the number included in the estimates was very small. Average annual salary of nurse midwives are at $106,910, or $51.40 per hour. This puts their earnings slightly higher 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 $174,790, or $84.03 per hour. CRNAs earn from a range of $116,820 (low) to $208,000 (high). 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.
The table below provides details on the total number of employed registered nurses on each state, their average annual nurse salaries, and the average annual 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 regional price parity (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 in $45,000 Iowa (10% lower).
|STATE||# TOTAL RNs||ANNUAL||HOURLY||RPP|
|District of Columbia||11,110||$92,350||$44.40||115.9|
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 2,951,960 registered nurses in the US, most are employed in general medical and surgical hospitals (31%) with an average salary of $77,730. Registered nurses employed in outpatient care centers earn the most at an average of $79,230. Nurses working in offices of physicians, home health care services, and as school nurses have slightly below average salaries. School nurses at primary and secondary schools earn an average of $60,020.
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||1,698,700||30.62||$37.37||$77,730|
|Offices of Physicians||197,790||7.63||$32.59||$67,790|
|Home Health Care Services||181,180||12.5||$34.54||$71,850|
|Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)||153,120||9.51||$32.39||$67,370|
|Outpatient Care Centers||141,830||15.38||$38.09||$79,230|
|Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing||320||0.11||$45.87||$95,400|
|Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)||81,390||4.06||$42.99||$89,430|
|Business Schools and Computer and Management Training||80||0.11||$41.31||$85,920|
|Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing||120||0.02||$40.64||$84,530|
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 $89,430. Those working in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry are very well paid at an average of $95,400.
Salary by Educational Level and Academic Preparation
Nursing education and degre plays a factor in your salary as a nurse. Diploma in nursing earns an average of $61,000 while Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) pays off $68,000 at an average. There is a significant salary jump between ADN and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), the latter earns an average of $81,000 according to Payscale.com. Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and PhD in Nursing earns, at an average, $90,000, $102,000 and $95,000 respectively.
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 nurses on the same salary.
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 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 $48 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 female dominate the industry and only 12% of the nursing workforce are male. Nursing Salary Research Report by Nurse.com found out that male nurse salaries were, on average, 9% higher even when adjusted for factors like hours worked, education, and experience.
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. 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 14.8% up to 2026 – 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 20 of the US top 100 jobs. This ranking considers not only salary and job opportunities, but also factors like job satisfaction, potential for advancement, stress levels and work-life balance.