Blog » How Does Your Salary Stack Up? A Look at What RNs are Earning

How Does Your Salary Stack Up? A Look at What RNs are Earning

Created Oct 13 2014, 08:00 PM by Lippincott Solutions
  • RN salaries
  • nursing
  • salary comparison

Tuesday, October 14, 2014
How Does Your Salary Stack Up? A Look at What RNs are Earning

Although salaries vary widely depending on a nurse’s experience, setting, shift, and even overtime and holiday pay, having an idea of where your salary stands can be a helpful gauge in assessing the trajectory of your career.

In today’s information age, employees no longer have to wonder where they stand, or fear breaking social and sometimes even workplace rules by asking colleagues what they earn. Thankfully, such stats are easily accessible on the Web from a variety of government, recruitment, and even causal sources, such as discussion boards and online comments.

Here’s a glimpse at what sources are reporting about RN salaries overall, and some of the best-paying places and settings to work in.

Overall Pay

Nurse salaries for jobs posted on are 15% higher than average salaries for other jobs. As of January 2015, the website listed the average salary for posted RN jobs as $66,000.

The most recent data offered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) goes back a few years to May 2013. Still, the government source is more comprehensive than an analysis of online job postings and is often cited in articles and books as “the source” of salary info. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for a registered nurse is $66,220—meaning half the population of RNs earns more, and half earns less.

PayScale, meanwhile, lists the median RN annual wage as $10,000 lower than that: $56,080. That median salary was current as of December 2014.

Highest Paying Georgraphic Areas

A glance at a BLS chart shows that RNs tend to earn the highest salaries in states outside the contiguous United States, as well as the western and the metropolitan northeast portions of the country. Here are the top-five paying states, according to BLS findings:

  • California, where the average annual wage is $96,980
  • Hawaii, $85,380
  • Massachusetts, $83,720
  • Alaska, $83,640
  • Oregon, $80,440

Fond of city life (and heftier pay)? BLS lists average RN salaries for the top-paying metropolitan areas, too:

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

For RNs who prefer their higher paychecks with more rural living, below are the top-paying nonmetropolitan areas per BLS:

  • Mother Lode Region of California (nonmetropolitan area), $97,520
  • North Valley Region of California (nonmetropolitan area), $87,920
  • Northern Mountains Region of California (nonmetropolitan area), $87,750
  • Southeast Alaska (nonmetropolitan area), $79,640
  • Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard (nonmetropolitan area), $79,310

Salaries by Setting

Without a doubt, settings play a role in RN salaries. According to PayScale, RNs earn 4% more working in intensive care, telemetry, and oncology. RNs in case management pocket an additional 3%; those in cardiology, 2%.

RNs working in pediatrics and geriatrics, on the other hand, earn an average 6% less than the median RN salary, PayScale reports.

Below are some average annual salaries by setting, according to BLS data:

  • Outpatient care centers, $74,100
  • Specialty hospitals, $73,740
  • General medical and surgical hospitals, $70,590
  • Home health care services, $66,910
  • Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, $66,780
  • Primary care offices, $62,850
  • Skilled nursing facilities, $62,010

Just One Piece of the Puzzle

Of course, pay shouldn’t be your sole consideration when taking or leaving a job. But along with working conditions, hours, management, and benefits, it’s an important factor to contemplate when evaluating your overall job satisfaction.