The States with the Largest Nursing Shortages

Catherine Burger, MSOL, RN, NEA-BC | Updated/Verified: May 20, 2024

We're going to need a lot more nurses.

The need for registered nurses is expected to grow by 6% from 2022 to 2032, as fast as average growth across all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Similarly, the need for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) is projected to grow by 5% and nursing assistants by 4% over the same period. With an aging baby boomer population, climbing rates of chronic issues like obesity and diabetes, and a growing emphasis on preventative care, will the healthcare industry be able to keep up with the demand for registered nurses?

We analyzed future registered nursing employment as estimated by the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis in a 2017 report. We discovered that by 2030, the number of registered nurses needed in the United States is estimated to skyrocket by 28.4% from 2.8 million to 3.6 million. While most states are projected to keep up with demand, there are many places that are expected to have significant shortages of registered nurses.

California is expected to be short the most registered nurses (45,500), while Alaska is projected to have the most job vacancies (22.7%). Texas, New Jersey, South Carolina, Georgia, and South Dakota are expected to experience shortages as well. Florida and Ohio, Virginia, and New York will have the most extra nurses (53,700). Wyoming will have the biggest overage in RNs (50.9%), followed by New Mexico and Ohio.


How COVID-19 Has Impacted the Nursing Shortage

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep across the country in early 2020, already stretched thin nurses saw their roles and responsibilities expand even further. Without the staff to keep up with the influx of patients, nurses found themselves in the stressful position of providing care as hospitals struggled to provide enough equipment and necessary PPE. Nurse-to-patient ratios shot up; in California, where laws govern how many patients a nurse may treat at once, special increased pandemic ratios were authorized to handle the surge. Many nurses have reported feelings of job-related burnout, anxiety, depression, and fear due to the workload and risks of this pandemic.

Not only this but nurses and other healthcare providers who tested positive for COVID-19 themselves were then asked to quarantine, placing additional strain on already understaffed units. In addition, according to an October 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nursing-related occupations had the highest incidence of COVID-19 hospitalizations (36%) among healthcare personnel.

While not all the data regarding how the pandemic has fully impacted the nursing shortage is yet available, it's clear that the repercussions of this event may have lasting long-term effects for patients and healthcare organizations alike.


The staff at looked at the projected supply and demand of registered nurses in 2030 to determine which states would have the largest shortages.

Projected RN Shortages by State

RN Shortages by State, Expected by 2030

California tops the list with an estimated 44,500 deficit in registered nurses, nearly three times the deficit in the next shortest state. Texas, New Jersey, and South Carolina will lack more than 10,000 RNs; Alaska, Georgia, and South Dakota will each be short several thousand.

On the flip side, Florida will have far too many registered nurses, with a projected overage of 53,700. Ohio comes close with 49,100 more registered nurses than it will need. Virginia, New York, Missouri, and North Carolina are estimated to have more than 15,000 extra RNs.

California and Florida are huge states with already high registered nurse positions. How does the shortage look when we consider the workforce’s size? We ranked states based on the percentage of the registered nurse workforce projected to be vacant or overfilled.

Projected RN Employment

RN Employment, Projected 2030

Alaska, projected to be short 5,400 RNs, will have the largest percentage of the workforce missing – more than 22% of the needed 23,800 registered nurse positions will be unfilled. South Carolina and South Dakota will each be missing about 15%, followed by California and New Jersey, lacking about 11% of needed RNs.

The most considerable overage will be in Wyoming, where there are projected to be 8,300 nurses filling 5,500 positions. New Mexico will have 45% too many nurses, with 31,300 registered nurses to cover only 21,600 needed jobs. Ohio, Vermont, Kansas, and Nevada are all estimated to have more than 30% too many registered nurses.

Overall, the country is expected to add 795,700 new registered nursing positions by 2030. Will the new positions be added in the states that need them most? We looked at which states had the highest projected number of new registered nurse jobs.

Projected States with Most New RN Positions

Most New RN Positions by State, Projected 2030

California is expected to add 110,500 new registered nurse positions by 2030, followed by Texas, which is expected to add 88,800. Neither amount is expected to be enough to counter the shortages both states will face.

On the other hand, Florida is expected to add too many positions, creating 69,400 new registered nurse jobs, resulting in an overage of more than 50,000 nurses.

How does the number of new positions compare to each state’s existing registered nurse pool? We looked at the states with the biggest and smallest percentage growth in registered nurse jobs by 2030.

Projected States with Most & Least Growth in RN Positions

States w/ Most & Least RN Position Growth, Projected 2030

South Carolina is expected to experience the most growth, adding 26,600 new jobs to an existing workforce of 36,900 registered nurses (69.4%). Hawaii follows with 51.4%, or 5,600 new positions added to the 10,600 already working on the islands.

Nebraska is expected to grow less by 2030, adding only 900 new registered nurse jobs to 20,300 (4.4% growth). Ohio and New York have slow growth rates (8.1% and 12.1%, respectively) that are expected to have significant overages as the supply of registered nurses outpaces demand.

Growth is highly uneven across states and regions, resulting in expected shortages and overages of registered nurses. Are the places that will be short-handed doing all they can to attract new RNs to their states? We consulted the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine which states have the highest and lowest wages for registered nurses.

States with the Highest & Lowest Pay for RNs

States w/ Highest & Lowest Pay for RN, Median Pay

Hawaii and California pay RNs more than any other state, with median wages totaling more than $100,000. Higher costs of living and growth contribute to high salaries in western states, with Oregon, Alaska, and Nevada following with wages between $85,000-$90,000. Southern and Midwestern states tend to pay less, partly due to the cost of living. Despite an oncoming RN shortage, South Dakota offers the lowest annual median pay at $55,660, alongside Alabama, Iowa, and Mississippi.

We looked at the values using a scatter plot to see if projected shortages influence wages.

Projected RN Shortages / Overages vs Pay

RN Projected Storage/Overage vs Pay

RN salaries remain a function of the cost of living and location, with annual median wages barely affected by impending registered nurse shortages. States with expected shortages have pay rates ranging from more than $100,000 in California to under $60,000 in South Dakota. States facing overages are similarly all over the map, from $102,000 in Hawaii to $56,000 in Alabama.

With most states facing an overage of registered nurses, it will be increasingly important for RNs to distinguish themselves from their peers and job competitors. Registered nurses with four-year Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) degrees are likelier to hold supervisor positions and earn higher salaries. Practicing RNs with Associate degrees or diplomas are also seeing the benefit with the percentage of BSN graduates who pursued an RN to BSN program soaring from 29.4% in 2009 to 47.2% in 2017.

RN to BSN Graduates

RN to BSN Graduates thru 2017


The need for registered nurses is growing twice as fast as the average occupation. By 2030, the demand for RNs is estimated to grow by 795,000 full-time positions, from 2.8 to 3.6 million jobs. Not all states are prepared to handle the rapid increase in need.

California will add the newest positions by 2030 – more than 110,000 – but is still estimated to be more than 40,000 nurses short. Likewise, Texas, New Jersey, South Carolina, Alaska, Georgia, and South Dakota are all projected to experience shortages in registered nurses. Florida, Ohio, and Virginia are estimated to have the most extensive excess of nurses.



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