According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a registered nurse in 2012 was approximately $65,470. The top 10 percent of RNs earned an average of $94,720 a year while the bottom 10 percent made about $45,040 a year. Nurses specializing in government, hospital (state, local, and private) and home health care services earned the highest wages of any of the sectors in the nursing field. By location, the highest-paid nurses in 2010 were those working in major metropolitan areas of northern California, including areas in and surrounding San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Francisco.
The chart below shows the median annual wages of practitioners and registered nurses, compared to the total median annual wage of all occupations in the U.S. Economy.
Overall, nursing salaries are influenced by several factors, including:
- Level of education and/or type of degree earned
- Years of experience in a specific field of nursing
- State and city where you work (cost of living)
- Type of work performed
- Type of nursing specialty
To learn more about salaries and benefits for nurses select a nursing specialty or field from the selection below.
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Critical-Care Nurse
- Emergency Nurse
- Hospice/Palliative Care Nurses
- Labor & Delivery Staff Nurse
- Neonatal Nurse
- Nephrology Nurse
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Nurse Educator
- Nurse Executive
- Nurse Midwife
- Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Researcher
- Occupational Health Nurse
- Oncology Nurse
- Orthopaedic Nurse
- Pediatric Nurse
- Perioperative (O.R.) Nurse
- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse
- Public Health Nurse
- Registered Nurse (RN)
- School Nurse
- Staff Nurse
- Vocational/Licensed Practical Nurse
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
Clinical Nurse Specialist
As of 2010, the median salary for clinical nurse specialists was $81,586. Clinical nurse specialists earning salaries within the 50th percentile make anywhere from $75,111 to 88,833 a year. The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists reports that clinical nurse specialists practicing within the United States earn average salaries between $65,000 and $110,000 a year. Annual salaries are affected by specialty and location.
As of 2010, critical-care nurses earned salaries averaging $61,983 a year. Critical-care nurses typically earn slightly more than registered nurses in other fields. The median annual salary for critical-care nurses is currently about $68,000. After acquiring 20 years of work experience, critical-care nurses typically earn more than $70,000 a year. With retirement and healthcare benefits factored in, these specialists earn more than $85,000 a year.
Annual salaries for emergency nurses are greatly influenced by employer, specialty, and location. Because nurses are in-demand nationwide, many healthcare organizations offer currently offering emergency nurses relocation and sign-on bonuses. The majority of emergency room nurses earn about $60,000 a year, but emergency nurses with experience and specialized training can earn up to $90,000 a year.
Hospice/Palliative Care Nurses
As of 2011, the average median salary for nurses specializing in hospice care exceeded $65,000 a year. Hospice nurses providing home care with salaries in the upper 10th percentile earn more than $77,000 a year. Hospice nurses practicing in New York City earn the highest salaries, averaging $77,810 annually. New York based hospice nurses with salaries in the upper 10th percentile earn more than $91,000 a year.
Clinical nurse specialists that provide hospice care must have a graduate degree, at least 5 years of work experience, and specialize in geriatrics, oncology, or pediatrics. They can earn over $70,822 a year. Hospice clinical nurse specialists with annual salaries in the upper 10th percentile can earn more than $91,000 a year.
Labor & Delivery Staff Nurse
Labor and delivery nurses earn salaries averaging anywhere from $40,000 to 90,000 a year depending on experience, education, employer and location. Annual salaries for labor and delivery nurses who specialize can vary dramatically. For example, labor and delivery specialists employed as clinical nurse managers earn high salaries that exceed $83,000 annually. Additionally, women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) working in labor and delivery typically make more than $74,000 a year.
As of 2010, neonatal nurses with less than a year of experience earned salaries averaging between $49,296 and 68,784 a year. Those with more experience, 1 to 4 years, earned salaries averaging between $61,233 and 81,844 annually, while neonatal nurse practitioners with 5 to 9 years of neonatal nursing experience averaged $67,520 to 84,570 a year. Nurses with 10 to 19 years of neonatal nursing experience earn high annual salaries, averaging between $80,901 and 104,313 a year. The most experienced neonatal nurse practitioners, 20 or more years of work experience, on average earn more than $111,000 a year.
Annual salaries for nephrology nurses typically increase as nurses gain relevant experience. Nephrology nurses with 1 to 4 years of nursing experience earn median salaries exceeding $73,000 a year. Nephrology nurses with 5 to 9 years of experience earn median salaries exceeding $76,000 annually. More experienced nephrology nurses, with 10 to 20 years in nephrology nursing, earn median salaries of more than $77,000 a year. During 2010, those with 20 or more years of work experience earned annual median annual salaries of $80,200.
As of January of 2011, certified registered nurse anesthetists nationwide earned salaries averaging between $101,261 and 154,350 a year. Nurse anesthetists with less than one year of experience typically earn around 100,000 a year. More experienced nurses, 20+ years, typically earn $125,000 to $160,000 a year. The highest paying jobs for nurse anesthetists are found in Florida, Texas, New York, and California.
Across the nation, nurse educators earn annual salaries averaging $65,240. Nurse educators with annual salaries in the lower 10th percentile of all nurse educators average $38,200 a year, while those with salaries in the upper 10th percentile make more than $99,000 annually. Nurse educators working in California, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut earn the highest average annual salaries. Nurse educators employed at specialty hospitals typically earn the highest salaries nationwide, averaging $103,500 a year, but most nurse educators work at vocational schools, universities and colleges.
As of 2011, the median annual salary for nurse executives was $178,824. The bottom 25% of nurse executives earned less than $152,338, while the remainder earned annual salaries averaging more than $207,000 a year.
Nursing directors have similar responsibilities as nursing executives. Nationwide, nursing directors earn median salaries exceeding $120,000 annually. Those with wages in the bottom 25% percentile of all nursing directors can earn more than $106,000 a year, while the remainder of nurse directors can earn more than $136,000 a year.
As of 2011, certified nurse midwives earned median annual salaries of $91,321. Nurse midwives with annual wages in the 50th percentile of all nurse midwifes made between $84,035 and 99,548. Nurse midwives with annual earnings in the upper 10th percentile made $107,037 or more a year, while those in the lower 10th percentile earned $77,402 or less each year.
Nurse practitioners are amoung the highest paid of all nursing professionals.
Annual salaries for nurse practitioners increase as they gain relevant work experience. In 2010, median annual salaries for nurse practitioners with 1 year or less of experience was between $59,369 and 75,812 a year. Once they acquired at least 5 years of experience nurse practitioners earned between $70,898 and 88,435 annually. The most experienced nurse practitioners, 20 or more years, made between $71,314 and 93,777 a year.
Annual salaries for nurse practitioners are influenced by specialty. As of 2010, nurse practitioners specializing in critical care earned salaries averaging $108,000 annually. Neonatal care specialists earned annual salaries averaging $95,000. Nurse practitioners specializing in pediatrics made over $95,000 a year.
As of 2010, nurse researchers earned salaries averaging $57,000 a year. Salary and benefits for nurse research are influenced by work experience, geographic location, and employer. Nurse researchers employed full-time typically receive retirement and healthcare benefits.
Occupational Health Nurse
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2010, registered nurses specializing in occupational health earned average salaries of $66,530, while those with the highest salaries make $77,970 or more a year. It’s not uncommon for experienced occupational health nurses to earn even more.
As of 2010, oncology nurses earn salaries averaging between $53,257and 73,952 a year, or $25.19 and 34.37 per hour. As with most nursing positions, oncology nurses can earn more as they acquire more work experience. Oncology nurses with 1 to 4 years of experience typically earn $50,000 to 70,000 a year, with 5 to 9 years of experience, over $77,000 a year and with 20 or more years of experience they can expect to earn over $85,000 a year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median salaries for registered nurses nationwide exceed $62,000 annually. Among the highest paid registered nurses are orthopedic nurse practitioners. These specialists average more than $81,000 annually, and it’s not uncommon for them to earn up to $94,000 a year.
To maximize their earning potential, pediatric nurses often obtain professional certifications in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), critical care, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Since 2010, pediatric nurses with CPR certification earned between $38,500 and 61,000 a year, while those who were critical care certified made between $40,500 and 65,000 a year. Pediatric nurses that were ACLS certified earn between $37,400 and 55,800 a year.
Annual salaries for pediatric nurses are also influenced by specialization. For example, labor and delivery pediatric nursing specialists typically earn anywhere from $24,000 to 65,000 annually. Acute care specialists earn the highest annual salaries among pediatric nurses, $50,000 to 75,000 a year.
Perioperative (O.R.) Nurse
Operating room (Perioperative) nurses on average make between $62,415 and 74,664 a year, while the median annual salary for these specialists is $68,473. On average, operating room nurses earn $3,000 a year more than registered nurses (RNs) with generalized responsibilities.
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2010, mental health nurses earned salaries averaging $66,530 a year. According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA), advanced practice mental health nurses average about $64,000 a year.
Mental health nurses with work experience typically earn more than less experienced nurses. In 2010, nurses employed in entry-level positions started out making $35,000 to 40,000 a year.
Mental health nurses holding graduate degrees enjoy greater earning and employment opportunities, and many are promoted to nurse executive positions.
Public Health Nurse
Annual salaries for public health nurses are greatly influenced by work experience, education level, employer and employment location. As of 2010, public health nurses earned an average annual salaries of $72,000.
Registered Nurse (RN)
As registered nurses (RNs) can specialize in large variety of nursing areas, salary figures can vary greatly from one RN to another. In addition, annual salaries for RNs are affected by job responsibilities, employment location, work experience, and demand. In certain areas, salaries are affected by work availability as well. RNs typically earn salaries between $40,000 and 100,000 a year. RNs that have a BSN, MSN or graduate degree in nursing typically earn more than nurses with lower levels of education.
In 2010, school nurses earned annual salaries averaging $43,893. More than 50 percent of school nurses earned between $35,070 and 55,412 annually. School nurses employed in large cities typically earn higher annual salaries than those employed in rural or suburban areas. For example, school nurses employed in Boston earn average annual salaries of $88,024. School nurses with professional certifications, such as a licensed practical nurse certification, typically earn more than uncertified school nurses.
The average salary for a general staff nurse (RN) in the United States is about $65,500 a year. Annual compensation and salary level is greatly influenced by education level, experience, location and employer.
Vocational/Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN/LVN)
On average, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) employed in entry-level positions earn annual salaries of $30,000 to 40,000 a year. LPNs in California, New Mexico, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Connecticut are among the highest paid nationwide, earning an average of $49,000 to 52,000 a year.
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners specializing in general nursing care or family medicine, or those working at hospitals, earn annual salaries averaging between $70,234 and 90,639 a year. These professionals typically have 1 to 9 years of work relevant experience. Practitioners with less experience that are just getting started typically earn less.
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