Nurse Salary: How Much Do Nurses Make Today?

By Sarah Collins


It’s true, nursing is one of the most financially rewarding career options today, especially for people that want to grow towards financial security.

However, nurse salaries aren’t black and white, and this article tries to cover all the gray areas you need to know about nurse wages across the USA.

If you want to explore salaries more deeply, this updated guide on nurse salaries has just what you need to know about nursing income by nursing job, salaries by state, factors that influence nurse salaries, and more with figures extracted from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Read on!

What Factors Affect Nurse Salary?

Well, nurse salaries tend to vary quite a lot depending on various factors. Of course, there are the more obvious ones like experience, education, and the number of hours worked. Still, there are other important factors that influence a nurse’s salary. Here’s an overview of the main factors that determine a nurse salary today;

  • Nurse Education
  • Experience
  • State/locale worked in
  • Area of specialty
  • Setting

Nurse Education

Like most professional careers, the level of education relevant to the career plays a big role in the wages one gets, and the world of nursing isn’t any different.

Generally, nurses with entry-level education like LVN/LPN and Associate Degree nurses tend to earn less than nurses holding much more advanced education like BSN, MSN, and Doctorate degrees.

For a chance at getting higher compensation, nurses can advance in their education and seek higher placed nursing jobs and roles.

Here’s a quick look at the average annual nurse salaries in regard to education;

Nurse EducationAverage Annual Salary
Associate Degree Nurses$70,820
BSN Nurses$79,623
MSN Nurses$86,000
Ph.D. Nurses$95,000

NOTE: These figures mostly reflect salaries nurses would expect in the first few years of their practice with the specific degree, and most usually get to over $100,000 in annual salary with usually over 5 years of experience.

Nurse Experience

In any professional occupation, the more time you spend during practice, the more experience and skills you gain. And with increased experience typically comes better pay. This rings true in the world of nursing as nurses can expect to earn higher pay as they spend more time in their profession.

To put this into perspective, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the average RN salary at $38.47/hour which translates to about $80,010 annually. Holding that thought, it’s estimated that the average hourly pay for RN’s with a year or less of experience stands at $34.82/hour while really experienced nurses can earn as much as $45.51/ hour.

Below is a summary of what registered nurses can expect to earn as they grow in their careers;

Nurse ExperienceHourly Pay
1 year or less$34.82/hour
1-2 years$37.43/hour
3-5 years$39.29/hour
6-9 years$40.71/hour
Over 10 years$45.51/hour

State/Local Worked In

Coming through as one of the biggest influences of nurse salary; states pay varied salaries to nurses, even to those with the same qualification.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, California commands the highest RN nurse salary with an average annual salary of $120,560, while Alabama has the least average annual nurse salary at $60,230.

Additionally, nurses working in metropolitan areas tend to earn more than nurses plying their trade in smaller towns and cities.

Even though on the surface it may make sense for nurses to move to high-paying states, it may not always be profitable as states also factor in the cost of living. Think of it this way; a dollar won’t be able to stretch as much in California as it would in many places in Alabama.

Here’s a glance at the highest 5 paying states and metropolises for RNs as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics;

Highest by state;

StateHourly Average WageAnnual Average Wage

Highest by metropolitan area;

MetropolisHourly Average WageAnnual Average Wage
San Francisco, CA$71.73$149,200
San Jose, CA$70.61$146,870
Vallejo, CA$68.34$142,140
Sacramento, CA$64.59$134,350
Salinas, CA$63.54$132,160

Area of Specialty

Carving a niche in an area of nursing is one of the best ways for nurses to boost their income.

Specialized nurses earn more compensation than General Registered nurses as they’re often suggested to bring a better outcome for patients due to honed skills in specific aspects.

Better yet, specialized nurses can get more benefits like health insurance, vacations, holiday pay, tuition reimbursements, and more.

Although some advanced practice areas may have attractive higher salaries, it’s advisable that you specialize in an area you’re passionate about. Additionally, you can even take certifications in the specialty to further build your nursing credibility.

A summary of salaries alongside nursing specialties;

Nurse SpecialtyAverage Annual Salary
Nurse Assistant (CNA)$32,050
Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN)$50,090
Registered Nurse$80,010
Nurse Instructors and Teachers$84,060
Nurse Practitioners$114,510
Nurse Midwife (CNM)$115,540
Nurse Anesthetist$189,190

Work Setting

Nurses today can work in a variety of areas, from hospitals, schools, home healthcare, outpatient clinics, community healthcare settings, and much more.

Even for the nurses at the same level, the pay can vary greatly depending on the healthcare setting they work within.

Nurses working in hospital settings seem to earn more than nurses working in other settings like home-based healthcare and community care settings, and this is mainly because of the intensity of work in hospital settings as opposed to other contexts.

Check below for an idea of nurse salaries against the healthcare setting worked in;

Healthcare SettingAverage Annual Salary for Nurses
Home Healthcare$69,350
Psychiatric and Substance abuse hospitals$69,460
General Hospitals$74,270
Outpatient Care Centers$74,800
Specialty Hospitals$76,540
Pharmaceutical Industries$85,260

What Are the Highest Paying States and Metropolitans for Different Types of Nurses?

Are you a nurse looking to move to a new state or town, or an aspiring nurse seeking the most rewarding states to work as a nurse? It’s crucial that you consider the average annual pay that states award different types of nurses.

It’s also important to know that the state you work in isn’t all that matters as far as salary is concerned. Even within the same state, nurse wages can be quite different for nurses with the same qualification. Oft-times, more urban areas are inclined to give their nurses much higher pay.

Here’s an updated summary of what states and metropolitan areas pay their nurses;

Nursing Assistants

Nursing assistants or nursing aides help patients with daily basic care that they would otherwise have trouble doing themselves, e.g. feeding, bathing, cleaning up their rooms, and transferring them to treatment areas, usually under the supervision of a licensed nurse.

Highest paying states for nursing assistants

StateHourly WageAnnual Average Wage
New York$19.53$40,620

Highest paying metropolitans for nursing assistants
MetropolitanHourly WageAnnual Average Wage
San Francisco - Oakland, CA$23.28$48,420
Santa Cruz - Watsonville, CA$21.13$43,960
Vallejo - Fairfield, CA$20.29$42,200
San Jose - Sunnyvale, CA$20.18$41,980
Sacramento - Roseville, CA$20.17$41,950

Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurses

Much like nurse assistants, licensed practical/vocational nurses are also tasked with providing basic healthcare to make patients comfortable. Additionally, under the supervision of a registered nurse, licensed practical nurses also handle tasks like taking vital signs, recording patient history, basic wound care, and more.

Highest paying states for LVNs/LPNs

StateHourly WageAnnual Average Wage

Highest metropolitan LVNs/LPNs

MetropolitanHourly WageAnnual Average Wage
San Jose - Sunnyvale, CA$36.51$75,590
Santa Rosa, CA$35.97$74,820
San Francisco - Oakland, CA$35.83$74,520
Vallejo - Fairfield, CA$34.78$72,350
Anchorage, AK$33.65$69,990

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses are nurses that provide patients with proactive hands-on care individually or under the instruction of a physician. The roles of RNs vary from state to state, but they mostly take on coordinating patient care, educating patients, administering medication, and monitoring effects.

Highest paying states for RNs

StateHourly WageAnnual Average Wage

Highest paying metropolitans for RNs

MetropolitanHourly WageAnnual Average Wage
San Francisco - Oakland, CA$71.73$149,200
San Jose - Sunnyvale, CA$70.61$146,870
Vallejo - Fairfield, CA$68.34$142,140
Sacramento - Roseville, CA$64.59$134,350
Salinas, CA$63.54$132,160

Nursing Instructors and Teachers

As the name suggests, nursing instructors teach, demonstrate, and mentor nursing students on patient care in class and clinical units. Usually, nursing instructors serve as faculty members in nursing schools.

Highest paying states for nursing instructors and teachers

StateAnnual Average Wage
District of Columbia$111,940
New York$98,850

Highest paying metropolitans for nursing instructors and teachers

MetropolitanAnnual Average Wage
Miami - Fort Lauderdale, FL$145,990
Boston - Cambridge, MA-NH$120,040
Savannah, GA$117,610
Los Angeles - Long Beach, CA$112,400
San Diego - Carlsbad, CA$111,970

Nurse Practitioners

Tasked with offering primary and urgent care services to patients, the day-to-day work of nurse practitioners mostly revolves around assessing patients, diagnosing them, and prescribing medication. Also, nurse practitioners can offer acute care in community settings with diverse populations.

Highest paying states for NPs

StateHourly WageAnnual Average Wage
New Jersey$62.93$130,890
New York$60.79$126,440

Highest paying metropolitans for NPs

MetropolitanHourly WageAnnual Average Wage
Vallejo - Fairfield, CA$90.42$188,070
San Francisco - Oakland, CA$85.48$177,800
Salinas, CA$74.67$155,310
San Jose - Sunnyvale, CA$73.67$153,240
Napa, CA$73.39$152,640


Nurse-Midwives are nurses that have an education in midwifery. Primarily assigned with helping expectant women through childbirth, nurse-midwives also provide healthcare to women through all stages of maternal and gynecological health. This is mostly done through conducting physical exams, diagnosing, treating medical conditions, and advising expectant women, to name a few.

Highest paying states for nurse-midwives

StateHourly WageAnnual Average Wage
New York$60.47$125,780

Highest paying metropolitans for nurse-midwives

MetropolitanHourly WageAnnual Average Wage
Los Angeles - Long Beach, CA$92.04$191,440
Riverside-San Bernardino, CA$82.21$171,000
San Jose - Sunnyvale, CA$80.71$167,870
San Francisco - Oakland, CA$77.94$162,110
Sacramento - Roseville, CA$75.53$157,100

Nurse Anesthetists

Nurse anesthetists prepare patients for surgery by administering pain medication before, during, and after surgeries. All these, while also monitoring patients’ biological functions to ensure they aren’t under any major health risk during the surgical procedure.

Highest paying states for nurse anesthetists

StateHourly WageAnnual Average Wage

Highest paying metropolitans for nurse anesthetists

MetropolitanHourly WageAnnual Wage
Duluth, MN-WI$130.74$271,940
Ann Arbor, MI$126.39$262,890
Green Bay, WI$114.97$239,140
Vallejo - Fairfield, CA$114.65$238,470
Springfield, IL$113.39$235,860

What Do Other States Pay Nurses?

The major idea behind nurse salaries in regard to states is that bigger states with more metropolitan areas and high living costs give their nurses higher pay than states with cheaper living conditions.

Here’s a general view of what all the states pay different nurses in the US;

StateNursing AssistantLPN/LVNRNNursing Instructor/Teacher, PostsecondaryNurse PractitionerNurse MidwifeNurse Anesthetist
New Jersey$31,190$57,510$84,280$87,120$123,810$117,280$193,900
New Mexico$28,850$48,330$73,300$67,120$111,930$98,750$162,320
New York$38,810$49,860$87,840$97,750$122,550$120,380$200,350
North Carolina$26,540$45,880$66,440$70,300$105,890$100,730$189,060
North Dakota$34,320$46,760$66,290$72,180$110,950N/A$195,010
Puerto Rico$22,540$23,170$35,040$35,980N/AN/A$54,690
Rhode Island$33,020$59,860$82,310$80,220$115,310$108,320N/A
South Carolina$26,560$42,190$64,840$74,020$100,680$99,590$165,940
South Dakota$28,120$38,760$59,540$73,160$102,230N/A$190,880
Virgin Islands$31,150$48,420$68,500N/AN/AN/AN/A

Conclusion: Nurse Salary

It’s assuring to know an area of work you’re passionate about offers great compensation and employment opportunities. As seen, the nursing industry sure does guarantee one of the highest annual salaries in the U.S.

Not only that, the America Nurses Association estimates that nursing careers are expected to grow by an average of 19%, making it also one of the biggest employers for years to come.

If you’re keen on nursing, your career prospects do seem to be promising. And with this information on nurse wages, you can make informed financial decisions when the time comes to choose where to work.

Good luck!

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