Salary Statistics for Registered Nurses

A huge advantage to becoming a registered nurse is the salary you can expect. Because nurses are in such high demand, many institutions, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities are willing to pay top dollar for employees in this field. Although getting your nursing education may at first seem expensive, the cost is well worth the payout, with the schooling paying for itself in just a few years. Additionally, you’ll be contributing to the well-being of countless individuals throughout your career.

How much can you expect to make as a registered nurse? The exact amount depends on a number of variables, including location, the facility where you work, and your experience. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for registered nurses in 2013 was $68,910. Considering that you only need an associate’s degree to get started as a registered nurse, that’s a pretty healthy wage. Of course, you’ll make more if you go on to get you bachelor of science in nursing, but even with a two-year degree, you can enjoy a relatively high salary.

Where to Work

Location makes a big difference when it comes to the nursing salaries offered. The states with the highest-paid nurse on average, as of 2013, were California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Alaska, and Oregon. Looking even more closely at lucrative locations to be a nurse, in 2009, the metropolitan areas offering the highest average salaries were as follows:

  • San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA Metropolitan Division: $127,670
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $123,190
  • Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $121,670
  • Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Division: $121,040
  • Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA: $108,340

Experience and Salary

Nearly 1.5 million nurses work in hospitals across the country, offering registered nurses an annual salary, on average, of $67,740. You can also find hundreds of thousands of registered nursing jobs in physician offices, home health care facilities, nursing homes, and outpatient care centers. This means increased stability, while maintaining incredibly flexibility to relocate or find a different emphasis. If you want a high-paying nursing job, the best positions, on average can be found in medical equipment and supply manufacturing, the federal government, and civic organizations. In all of these sectors of the industry, registered nurses can make, on average, over $77,000 annually, which is a wage that is significantly above average.

The more experience you have as a nurse, the more you can expect to make, as in any field. New nurses with less than a year of experience can expect to make between $38,113 and $53,556. In contrast, nurses with five to nine years of experience make significantly more – between $46,504 and 65,109. Once you have twenty years or more experience as a nurse, you’ll make even more, with rates averaging up to $72,000.

Remember, you base salary is just a part of your total compensation package. Many hospitals offer nurses a signing bonus to work for them, since nursing is a field with such a high need, and you can also expect to get paid vacation time, health and dental insurance, free on-site education, tuition reimbursement, retirement plans, paid sick days, and access to affordable life insurance. Additionally, urban centers tend to have significantly higher rates than suburban and rural hospitals, so finding a balance between rent cost and salary is another factor that should be taken into consideration. Some health care companies even have day care programs for parents who work there as nurses. So, when comparing offers as a nurse, make sure you look at all the compensation you’ll receive, not just as base salary.

The Best Option

Depending on what you’re trying to get out of nursing, there are many different paths to explore with this career. Baby Boomers continue to age and this will likely push the largest bloc of people into the healthcare system, either for complications from aging or elderly care services. Regardless, the need for nurses will continue to grow, making the field easier to prosper in and more appealing to young individuals looking for competitive salaries.


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