The United States Department of Labor projects that the need for nurses will increase an amazing 19% by the year 2022. That is the biggest increase in demand for any occupation in the country, and with approximately 2.7 million RNs already in the work force, that’s 500,000 new nursing jobs that will be available without even taking into consideration the number of nurses who will retire over the next decade, which will open jobs for individuals interested in nursing salaries for different types of nurses.
Top Nursing Salaries for Different Types of Nurses
|Type of Nurse||Average Salary|
|Family Nurse Practitioner||$95,000|
|Labor and Delivery Nurse||$70,000|
These numbers are a strong indication that nursing will continue to be a great career choice. In addition to working in a rewarding occupation where you get to care for people, the nursing field will continue to offer job security, opportunity for growth, and broad benefits on top of a great salary. As with any career, though, there are several factors you need to consider to make sure you are earning the salary you desire, and deserve.
The Benefits of a Career in Nursing
Because nurses are in such high demand, nursing jobs generally offer a broad variety of benefits. These benefits can include health insurance, dental and vision insurance, paid time off, and sometimes even tuition fee reimbursement, life insurance, and childcare assistance.
These benefits are often thought of as perks or intangible benefits, but it is important to consider them when weighing job opportunities, as they are a significant part of an employment package that goes along with your salary.
Nursing Salaries and RN Salary Trends
The average registered nurse salary in the U.S. is currently $69,790 per year, which is fantastic compared to the national salary average for all jobs of $47,230 per year. However, actual salaries for nurses vary substantially based on a variety of factors. According the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, RN salaries average as low as $45,880 per year in the lowest 10 percentile and up to $98,880 per year in the highest 10 percentile. That’s a pretty drastic range, from $22.06 per hour to $47.54 per hour.
Percentile Bracket | Average Annual Salary
90% | $98,880
75% | $81,080
50% | $66,640
25% | $54,620
10% | $45,880
Some of the salary disparity has to do with experience. As in any occupation, nurses with more experience tend to get paid more. However, there are four other main factors that play a huge role in RN salaries: Education, Position, Industry, and Location. Here is how each factor contributes to RN salary trends.
Being a nurse requires a high degree of knowledge and skill. For this reason, states require certification and/or licensing before you can work as a nurse. There are a variety of certifications and licenses, and in each case you must gain a certain amount of education from an approved nursing school and then pass an examination.
Nursing programs are designed so that you can begin working at an entry level if you desire and also continue your education to earn additional certificates, degrees, and licenses as you gain more experience. Alternatively, you can go straight to a four-year college and qualify to enter the nursing field as a licensed RN and earn a higher wage.
Different Types of Nurses Certificates, Degrees, and Salary Trends
The minimum educational certificate you can earn to work as a nurse is the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certificate. Depending on the state you live in, you must complete a certified vocational program and pass a state licensing examination to become a CNA. The average nursing assistant salary is around $23,000, according to pay scale data from Payscale.com. This salary is significantly lower than the national average for all occupations, and nurses with only CNA certificates have fewer options for career advancement compared to other types of nurses.
- Average Wage range: $20,000 – $35,000 per year
The Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) certificate, also known as a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) certificate in some states, also requires that you complete a certified vocational program that includes hands-on nursing training. In addition, you must pass the NCLEX-LPN examination.
LPNs earn significantly more than CNAs, but LPN certificates generally limit you to entry level positions. Pay scale data indicates LPNs earn around $39,000 per year on a national average, with a ceiling pay scale of approximately $54,000 for LPNs who work their way up to managerial positions.
- Average Wage range: $20,000 – $54,000 per year
In order to become a Registered Nurse (RN), you must at the minimum earn your associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) and pass the NCLEX-RN examination. There is a wide range of private and public schools that offer ADN programs, including community and city colleges, as well as private nursing schools. Traditional ADN tracks take two years and include a combination of general education and laboratory and clinical classes. There are also accelerated tracks, LPN to RN bridge programs, and hybrid online ADN programs.
RNs earn significantly more than LPNs, but because an ADN is the minimum degree required to become an RN, the salaries tend to be lower on the scale compared to RNs with more education. According to recent pay scale data, the national average salary for RNs with ADN degrees is $57,822 per year, with a salary ceiling around $75,000 per year for RNs who work their way up to nursing manager positions.
- Average Wage range: $53,000 – $75,000 per year
Registered Nurses who earn their four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) and pass the NCLEX-RN examination generally have more job options available and more opportunity for career advancement than RNs with only an ADN degree. Numerous private and public colleges and universities offer BSN degrees, and there are a wide variety of ADN to BSN bridge programs, including online bridge programs, for RNs who have already earned their ADN degree.
Entry level wages for RNs with BSN degrees are similar to those with ADN degrees, with a national average of $58,995 per year according to recent pay scale data. However, with experience and promotion, RNs with BSN degrees have a higher earning potential, with a salary ceiling over $80,000 per year.
- Average Wage range: $58,000 – $82,000 per year
Nurses who earn their master’s degree in nursing (MSN) are eligible to work as nurse practitioners, managers, and nursing instructors, and as such, earn much higher salaries. Per recent pay scale data, the average nurse practitioner salary ranges between $71,000 and $120,000 per year, while the average nursing instructor salary ranges from $46,000 and $80,000 per year.
- Average Wage range: $70,000 – $120,000 per year
The specific position you hold as a nurse also plays a huge factor in your salary. Your eligibility for many nursing positions is dependent upon your education, but also on your experience and area of specialty. Generally speaking, specialty nursing positions earn the highest salaries. For example, a neonatal nurse salary or NICU nurse salary would be higher than a generalist RN nursing salary.
Nurse Anesthetist salary ranges rank at the top, with a national average of $130,000 per year, and a salary ceiling as high as $227,000 per year. A family nurse practitioner salary is also very high, with a national average of $95,000 per year. By comparison, the average LPN salary is only $40,000 per year, and the average CNA nursing assistant salary is only $23,000 per year. The average pediatric nurse salary, ER nurse salary, labor and delivery nurse salary, and travel nurse salary, range between $60,000 and $80,000 per year, on average.
Nursing Salaries for Different Types of Nurses
Here are the average salaries for ten of the highest paying nursing jobs and most popular nursing positions, from highest to lowest. All data compiled from Indeed.com.
- Nurse Anesthetist: $130,000
- Family Nurse Practitioner: $95,000
- NICU Nurse: $80,000
- ER Nurse: $73,000
- Labor and Delivery Nurse: $70,000
- Travel Nurse: $67,000
- Neonatal Nurse: $66,000
- Pediatric Nurse: $65,000
- Ambulatory Nurse: $64,000
- LPN: $40,000
People often assume that nurses must work at hospitals, and while hospitals do employ the largest number of nurses, there are a variety of other industries that also employ nurses. Depending on which industry you choose to work in, your salary range will vary. In some cases, the salary range is lower, as is the case with nurses at physician offices, but keep in mind that some of these industries include other benefits, such as a less stressful work environment and a more regular working schedule.
In other cases, industries pay higher wages for nurses because the nurse must specialize in a specific field. Outpatient care centers, for example, pay higher average salaries than general hospitals.
Here are the top five industries that employ the most nurses along with the average RN wage within that industry, per statistics from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
- Employment: 1,560,200 nurses
- Average wage: $71,640
Offices of Physicians
- Employment: 183,400 nurses
- Average wage: $63,840
Home Health Care Services
- Employment: 168,970 nurses
- Average wage: $67,880
Nursing Care Facilities
- Employment: 148,970 nurses
- Average wage: $62,440
Outpatient Care Centers
- Employment: 107,300 nurses
- Average wage: $72,390
Perhaps the biggest factor in determining your nursing salary is the location where you choose to work. Generally speaking, the states along the east and west coasts pay the highest salaries, along with Hawaii and Alaska. A more precise salary indicator would be region, with metropolitan regions having significantly higher nursing salaries than rural areas.
California, by far, has the has the highest nursing wages of all the states, with an average wage of $98,400 per year and the top 10 highest paying regions in the Country, including several regions around the Bay Area and Central Valley. South Dakota, by comparison, has the lowest average nursing wage at $53,970 per year.
While location plays a huge role in your nursing salary, keep in mind several other important factors. Some states, like Hawaii and Alaska, pay high salaries but employ relatively few nurses compared to other states.
Education also plays a role when it comes to licensing in different states. Most RNs are only licensed in the state where they earned their degree and took the NCLEX-RN examination. The NCLEX-RN examination is a nationally standardized, but each state requires separate licensing, and some states have stricter requirements. California, for example, has strict educational requirements for ADN and BSN degrees, and may not approve some licensing applications, even if you’re an RN in another state.
For these reasons, it’s important to check with the State Board of Nursing in whichever state or states you want to practice nursing prior to enrolling in a nursing educational program.
Here are the top ten highest paying states for registered nurses. All data provided by the United States Bureau of Labor.
- California: $98,400 per year
- Hawaii: $88,230 per year
- Massachusetts: $85,770 per year
- Alaska: $85,740 per year
- Oregon: $82,940 per year
- Nevada: $71,450
- Washington: $78,540
- New Jersey: $78,330
- New York: 77,110
- Connecticut: 76,370
Here are the top five states with the highest number of employed registered nurses. All data provided by the United States Bureau of Labor.
- California: 253,310
- Texas: 190,170
- New York: 169,560
- Florida: 163,960
- Pennsylvania: 128,750
Nursing is a Lifelong Career of Growth
No matter how much experience you have or where you live, nursing is a career of opportunity and possibilities. Nursing educational programs are available for all circumstances (i.e. accelerated nursing programs), whether you only have a high school education and simply need to obtain a certificate to become a certified medical assistant, or whether you’re on track to earn your 4-year degree or even advanced degree. Nursing a career where you can continue your education and advance your career throughout your lifetime.
Thanks to a growing need for nurses, you can enter the field with confidence that there will always be a job for you and room for advancement as you gain more experience and more education. With 500,000 new nursing jobs projected over the next decade, the job outlook for nurses is looking good.