Nursing Salaries: How Much Does a Registered Nurse Make?

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  • Registered nurses benefit from above-average salaries and strong demand.
  • Nursing salaries vary depending on experience, education, and location.
  • Earning a higher degree translates into a higher earning potential.

The nursing field continues to grow. Though becoming a registered nurse takes several years, nursing represents one of the best careers for the future.

Several factors shape a nurse's earning potential. Experience, education, and location all affect the average nursing salary. So do nursing specializations. Prospective nurses can use career resources and job search tools to find opportunities. And understanding registered nurse (RN) salary data can help you negotiate a higher salary.

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What Is the Average Registered Nurse Salary?

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median registered nurse salary was $77,600 in May 2021. Salaries vary by specialization, so nurses can pursue higher-paying career paths to increase their earning potential. Nurses can also negotiate their salaries to earn more.

What Are the Highest-Paying Registered Nurse Jobs?

The highest-paying RN specializations include informatics, critical care, and dialysis. Many of these higher-paying roles require clinical experience and certification.

Highest-Paying Registered Nurse Jobs
Registered Nurse Job Average or Median Annual Salary
Informatics Nurse $79,530
Critical Care Nurse $77,740
Dialysis Nurse $77,210
RN Supervisor $77,090
Operating Room Nurse $76,650

How Much Do Registered Nurses Make in Your State?

What's the best state to become a nurse? The typical RN salary varies by location. In general, states with a higher cost of living pay nurses more. The highest-paying states for registered nurses include California, New York, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. Nurses also earn above-average salaries in Washington, D.C.

Median Salary for Registered Nurse by State (2022)

The Highest-Paying States for Registered Nurse (by Median Salary, 2022)
Registered Nurse Pediatric Nurse ICU Nurse ER Nurse
1. California
2. Hawaii
3. Oregon
1. Washington
2. New York
3. California
1. Washington
2. New York
3. California
1. Hawaii
2. Massachusetts
3. Nevada

Data sourced from the BLS and Ziprecruiter

Editor's note: Some of the salary numbers above may be based on relatively small samples, and potential nursing salaries could vary widely depending on the employer. Reach out to a relevant professional nursing organization for more information about potential salaries in your area.

Job Growth for Registered Nurses

Registered nurses benefit from strong demand. With an aging population needing more medical care, the healthcare profession is poised to add more jobs than any other sector.

According to BLS projections, RNs will see 194,500 new jobs each year from 2020-2030. This translates to a 9% job growth. Nurses with a bachelor's degree and those with specialized training stand out on the job market. The positive job growth makes nursing a good first job or career-change job.

What Registered Nursing Job Pays the Most?

Nationally, registered nurses earn a median salary of $77,600 per year, but many of the highest-paying nursing careers offer above-average salaries. Travel nurses and ICU nurses benefit from high salaries and strong demand. Recent college grads on the job market or those weighing the best jobs for the future can consider nursing.

More Education Lead to a Higher Registered Nurse Salary

BSN Salary

Registered nurses can increase their earning potential by pursuing a higher degree. Many healthcare organizations prefer to hire nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), and those nurses typically qualify for specialized roles that offer higher salaries. Prospective nurses can earn a BSN degree online and turn to job search resources to find a high-paying role.

ER Nurse

ER nurses work in emergency rooms, assessing incoming patients and performing triage services. These nurses bring strong communication and health assessment skills to their roles. They also coordinate with other healthcare professionals to provide emergency care.

Salary
$73,530


RN Supervisor

RN supervisors oversee a team of nurses and healthcare staff. The role requires leadership and organizational skills. RN supervisors may also train nurses in procedures. They typically bring experience as a nurse plus a BSN degree.

Salary
$77,090


Primary Care Nurse

Primary care nurses work in doctor's offices and other primary care settings where they care for patients of all ages. The career path requires strong health assessment and communication skills, particularly for primary care nurses who work with children.

Salary
$68,760


MSN Salary

Earning a master of science in nursing (MSN) helps nurses move into specialized roles and increase their earning potential. Many careers with an MSN report a higher nursing salary potential than BSN nurses. During an online MSN program, nursing students specialize in areas like nursing leadership, nursing education, or nursing administration. Master's programs also train nurse practitioners.

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners provide primary and specialized care for patients of all ages. They focus in several areas, including family nurse practitioner, women's health nurse practitioner, and acute care nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners can diagnose conditions and prescribe treatments.

Salary
$100,840


Clinical Nurse Leader

Clinical nurse leaders take on leadership responsibilities in clinical settings. They implement healthcare delivery practices, assess nursing research, and train nurses. Clinical nurse leaders also provide direct patient care.

Salary
$84,340


Nurse Administrator

Nurse administrators take on administrative responsibilities in healthcare organizations. They oversee nurses and provide training. Some nurse administrators focus on recruiting and hiring. They may also create schedules and monitor performance.

Salary
$88,620


DNP in Nursing Salary

A doctorate in nursing trains nurses for the most advanced roles in the field. At the doctoral level, nurses can choose between a Ph.D. in nursing, which emphasizes research, or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), which focuses on practice. Many of these career paths offer the highest salaries for nurses. Students can earn a DNP degree online.

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Acute care nurse practitioners provide specialty care for patients managing acute illnesses. They work in several settings, including emergency rooms, surgical units, and intensive care centers. Acute care nurse practitioners can hold an MSN or DNP degree.

Salary
$105,860


Nurse Midwife

Nurse midwives provide prenatal care and delivery services for patients. They advise patients on family planning and maternal wellness. Nurse midwives can also deliver babies and assist obstetricians during emergency c-sections. They can hold an MSN or a DNP.

Salary
$98,505


Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists provide anesthesia services for patients during labor and delivery or surgical procedures. They care for patients before procedures and monitor their conditions while on anesthesia. Nurse anesthetists also recommend pain management strategies.

Salary
$163,370


Frequently Asked Questions About Registered Nurse Salary

What is the lowest paying state for nurses?

The average RN salary depends on your location. And while some states pay above-average salaries, others offer lower salaries. The lowest-paying states for registered nurses include South Dakota, Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Arkansas.

RN salaries often correlate to cost of living. The states that pay the highest RN nurse salary include California, Hawaii, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington. These states also typically have a higher cost of living than the lowest-paying states. Nurses can research the average RN salary by state to learn more.

What education is required to be a registered nurse?

Registered nurses need an associate degree or nursing diploma to qualify for their RN license. These programs typically take two years. However, nurses also benefit from holding a bachelor's degree.

Earning a BSN prepares nurses for leadership positions and potentially graduate school. BSN programs generally take four years, but current RNs can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program to complete their BSN in as little as one year. Nurses can then advance their careers and increase their earning potential with a master's degree in nursing.

What is the average salary of an RN?

According to BLS data from May 2021, registered nurses earn a median salary of $77,600 per year. That salary varies depending on work setting, location, and experience. For example, nurses who work in hospitals report salaries slightly above the average, while those in ambulatory healthcare services or residential care earn slightly less.

Nursing specializations also impact earning potential. ICU nurses and travel nurses both report higher salaries. Finally, location plays a major role in nursing salaries. Nurses earn the highest salaries in California. The highest-paid nurses earn over $120,000 per year.

What kind of nurses get paid most?

Several nursing specialties report high salaries. Advanced practice RNs, including nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists, reported a median salary of $123,780 in May 2021. These career paths require a graduate degree.

RNs with a bachelor's degree can see the highest salaries as ICU nurses, informatics nurses, and travel nurses. In these fields, nurses can potentially earn six-figure salaries. According to June 2022 data from ZipRecruiter, ICU nurses may see a starting salary of $120,000 or more. When researching career paths, prospective and current nurses can look into the earning potential with different specializations or degrees.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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