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Nurse Salaries Now and in the Future

Created Apr 29 2015, 8:00 PM by Lippincott Solutions
  • Bureau of Labor and Statistics
  • nursing
  • nursing salaries

Thursday, April 30, 2015
Where in the U.S. are nurses earning the most?  What specialties of nursing are the most lucrative?

Known as the Golden State, California has long been attractive to those seeking fame and fortune. But, the state also offers many golden opportunities for nurses. Home to the nation’s three best paying cities for registered nurses (San Jose, Vallejo and Oakland), California also ranks highest for RN salaries among all the states.  In which other U.S. states, cities and regions can nurses earn higher than average salaries? And how is the nursing pay scale expected to change in the coming years?

Location, Location, Location

Because the cost of living varies from state to state, region to region and city by city, location has a big influence on RN salaries, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While California offers the highest annual salary and hourly rates in the nation, other states where nurses can earn top dollar include Hawaii, Massachusetts, Alaska and Oregon. Areas like Southeastern Pennsylvania, Martha’s Vineyard/Nantucket Island (MA), Western New Hampshire, Southern Vermont and parts of Florida. Some of the states with the lowest RN salaries include Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota. But, location isn’t the only determinant of nursing wages.

Certification and Other Factors

Other factors that influence nursing salaries include specialty certifications, education, experience, facility type, unionization and more. Specialized nurses earn more than $7.00 more per hour than those without a specialty certification, according to a 2011 salary survey conducted by ADVANCE for Nurses magazine. The highest paying nursing specialty is certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), due to high demand and rigorous training. In fact, some CRNAs are the sole source of anesthesia delivery in extremely rural areas. Other highly paid nursing specialties include those in psychiatrics, endocrinology, neonatal pediatrics, interventional radiology and more.

Demand for RNs Expected to Increase Rapidly

Registered nurse jobs are anticipated to grow by 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, a rate which is much faster than other occupations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 526,800 new positions for RNs by the year 2022. The aging baby boomer population, longer life spans and healthcare reform have all contributed to this demand for more nurses – a need that is only expected to keep growing. Currently, nursing schools cannot expand fast enough to train all of the new nurses that will be needed. While colleges, healthcare providers and government are working together to solve the problem of how to educate more nurses, it is still fairly certain that a substantial nursing shortage will persist in the next decade or two.  So, with more nurses needed, and fewer practicing nurses available, healthcare providers will be forced to heavily compete for qualified candidates. 

Future Nursing Salaries

The increased competition to attract and hire nurses is bound to fuel a marked rise in nurse salaries. Incentives, benefits and working conditions will all most likely change as RNs will have more power to shape their profession and their compensation. What are the types of changes that you envision for future RNs?