Note: The amount of money Registered Nurses (RNs) make varies by state, specialty, experience, certifications held, degree held, and facility.

Salary Comparison Tool

This tool will allow you to easily search and compare the average salaries of nurses for many cities and locations across the U.S. You can search by city and state. Salary data is provided through the BLS.

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How is Salary Determined for RNs?

Pay for RNs varies by location of employment, education, and experience level.

Salary by Location

Because of the differences in cost of living between each state, as well as how much RNs are in demand in each location, the pay can vary greatly from state to state. Typically more expensive areas, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York pay more than places where housing is more affordable. This makes sense to provide a nurse with a job which will pay the bills and cover housing wherever they live.

Highly sought after locations where people tend to vacation, such as Hawaii, may have a high cost of living and high housing costs, but pay less than places where living is cheaper because so many nurses want to work in this tropical paradise. The supply of nurses is high so facilities can pay less and still attract employees simply because of their location. However, the same holds true for the opposite. Less sought after locations may pay more to attract good nurses. Think rural small towns.

So utilizing the location factor for making a lot of money in nursing comes down to finding a location where you wouldn't mind living, even for a little while, that has a low cost of living and pays the most. A great way to explore options such as these is by being a traveling nurse.

RN Salary By Nursing Degree or Education

Typically, in the field of nursing, the more education the nurse has, the more he or she gets paid. Research has shown that hospitals who employ nurses with higher education have reduced mortality rates, better patient outcomes, and improved job satisfaction. This, and the ever-growing supply of nurses with advanced degrees, motivates healthcare employers to seek and hire registered nurses with more education.

To ensure maximum salary-earning potential over the long-term it is wise for nurses to earn as much education as possible. Advancing education in nursing will never be a negative on a resume and learning more about taking better care of one's patients is rewarding on a personal level, as well as a professional one.

Completing certifications within one's specialty may also increase salary. Each nursing specialty has it's own certification. Read more here.

RN Salary By Experience

Registered nurses will earn more money as experience increases. Experienced nurses with lower education levels may even earn more than new graduate nurses with higher education levels. However, eventually, the nurse with higher education will have a bigger salary, in more healthcare facilities.

Many facilities have a set pay scale and experience-level is the largest factor in determining starting salary. This is especially true for those hospitals with nursing unions.

Learn more about the BSN nurse roles.

Average RN Salary Breakdown by State

Pay may vary by specialty because the facility may be trying to attract more nurses to one particular area where they have a lot of need. Labor and delivery, emergency, and intensive care are usually higher paid than medical-surgical positions due to their increased demand.

Each facility usually has a set amount of money for new graduate nurses and it goes up from there with annual raises. Many facilities have a set pay structure for years of experience for experienced nurses.

Registered Nursing Salary Table

Location Total Employment Annual Salary
United States 2,745,910 $67,490
Alabama 44,000 $55,530
Alaska 5,910 $88,130
Arizona 49,800 $71,510
Arkansas 22,480 $55,660
California 255,010 $100,400
Colorado 45,760 $68,540
Connecticut 32,440 $76,460
Delaware 10,370 $71,060
District of Columbia 10,530 $79,630
Florida 168,870 $62,140
Georgia 68,980 $63,140
Hawaii 10,990 $92,290
Idaho 12,140 $60,960
Illinois 113,040 $67,140
Indiana 60,890 $57,890
Iowa 31,630 $53,910
Kansas 27,200 $56,320
Kentucky 43,630 $57,970
Louisiana 42,270 $59,780
Maine 14,210 $62,840
Maryland 51,100 $72,090
Massachusetts 83,780 $83,950
Michigan 91,130 $65,830
Minnesota 59,640 $72,130
Mississippi 27,810 $55,620
Missouri 65,860 $57,770
Montana 9,640 $60,720
Nebraska 20,600 $57,960
Nevada 19,470 $81,370
New Hampshire 12,720 $65,440
New Jersey 78,460 $79,230
New Mexico 15,110 $64,710
New York 171,880 $77,980
North Carolina 95,670 $58,950
North Dakota 8,370 $57,880
Ohio 126,270 $61,280
Oklahoma 26,080 $58,460
Oregon 32,490 $85,190
Pennsylvania 136,090 $65,690
Rhode Island 11,950 $76,300
South Carolina 42,440 $59,340
South Dakota 11,950 $53,420
Tennessee 55,710 $56,840
Texas 198,650 $68,590
Utah 19,930 $59,670
Vermont 6,360 $62,770
Virginia 63,340 $63,640
Washington 52,880 $77,020
West Virginia 20,020 $56,710
Wisconsin 55,460 $65,150
Wyoming 4,910 $60,780
Guam 520 $52,310
Puerto Rico 17,490 $32,130
Virgin Islands 250 $48,820

Table data taken from 2015 BLS (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm)

BSN Salary and Job Outlook

Certifications and whether the nurse has a Bachelor's degree or Associate's degree is also considered in determining pay. Typically a percentage is added into the RNs pay for each.

For example, critical care nurses are able to be earn the CCRN certification (Certification for Adult, Pediatric, and Neonatal Critical Care Nurses) which may add anywhere from 3-5% to a nurse's hourly pay depending on the facility. Similar certifications are available for almost every specialty in nursing. See our section on Certifications in nursing.

Holding advanced degrees in nursing, such as the BSN, can also increase pay. The amount of the increase depends on the facility but is usually a 3-5% increase for higher degrees.

LEARN MORE - RN Jobs

Associate's Degree RN vs BSN Salary Comparison

The Associate's Degree RN will be hired initially for less money than the Bachelor's educated RN. Once the BSN is completed, the nurse will be given a raise. Of course, this varies by facility, but this is typically the standard.

Years of experience may make up for not holding a Bachelor's degree, however. It's not uncommon for a nurse with many years of experience who holds an Associate's Degree to earn more money than a less experienced Bachelor's educated RN.

MSN Salary and Job Outlook

As nurses gain experience, many find themselves wanting to pursue graduate degrees. Graduate degree nurses make more money than those with a Bachelor's or Associate's degree and also hold a different role in patient care.

Nurses with a Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) may work in private practice, in emergency or acute care settings, in outpatient settings, in education, and more. Specialties are dependent upon the type of program the nurse chooses to pursue. Most nurses stay within their realm of experience but those who have grown weary of the specialty they work in may choose to pursue a different specialty for their Master's degree.

The salary for a Master's educated registered nurse is higher than that of a nurse who holds a Bachelor's degree. This is because employers will pay more to hire nurses who have advanced education. This tends to hold true for the field of nursing, in general.

DNP Salary & Job Outlook

The Doctorate in Nursing (DNP) is a relatively new degree in the field of nursing. Many nurses with a DNP choose to pursue a career in research or education. Some nurse practitioner programs are offering the DNP in anticipation of it becoming the standard in the future.

Salary tends to increase in nursing with increased education. The DNP educated registered nurse will earn more money than a nurse with a lesser degree.

More about APRN salaries: nurse practitioner salary, nurse midwife salary, nurse anesthetist salary

RN Employment Projections

The table below shows the projected employment growth of nurses over the next decade. As can be seen, the nursing profession is expected to see quite a sizable growth.

Occupation 2014 Employed 2024 Employed % Growth
Nurse Anesthetists 2,751,000 3,190,300 16%
Registered Nurse 38,200 45,600 19.4%
Nurse Midwives 5,300 6,600 24.5%
Nurse Practitioners 126,900 171,700 35.3%