How Much Do Nurses Make?
How much do nurses make and what are the financial benefits of being a nurse?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a registered nurse in 2016 was $68,450. The upper 90% of RNs earned more than $102,990 per year while the lower 10% made about $47,120 per year.
The chart below shows the latest 2016 published median annual salaries of practitioners and registered nurses compared to the total median annual wage of all U.S. jobs. Practitioners make around 111% more, on average, than all other occupations and registered nurses make 85% more.
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Where Do Nurses Earn the Most?
Highest-Paying Locations for Nurses
Nurses that worked in the following locations were the highest-paid nurses in 2016 according to reported average annual mean wages.
- California – $101,750 average annual salary
- Massachusetts – $89,060 average annual salary
- Hawaii – $88,910 average annual salary
- Oregon – $87,000 average annual salary
- Alaska – $86,450 average annual salary
Highest-Paying Industries for Nurses
Nurses in the following industries earned the highest annual median salaries of any of the industries that employ nurses*.
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools – local government owned – $ $96,500
- Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing – $88,970
- Specialty hospitals – State government owned – $84,890
- Federal Executive Branch – $84,610
- Federal government, including USPS – $84,590
*Only industries that employed over 200 nurses were included in this data set.
Factors That Influence Nursing Salaries
Nurse salaries are influenced by several factors, including:
- Level of education and/or type of degree(s) earned
- Related nursing credentials, licensing, and training
- Years of experience in a specific field of nursing
- State and city where you work (influenced by demand and cost of living)
- Type of work performed
- Type of nursing specialty
Nursing Salaries by Career
To learn more about the nursing salaries and benefits of a particular nursing specialty or field, choose from the selection below.
Clinical Nurse Specialist
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), the median salary for clinical nurse specialists is $68,450. The average salary in the United States is between $47,120 and $102,990 per year.
Annual salaries are affected by specialty and region of the country in which the nurse is practicing. The job growth between 2014-2024 for clinical nurses according to the BLS is much faster than average, 16% or higher.
As of 2017, critical-care nurses salaries averaged $62,122 per year. Critical-care nurses typically earn slightly more than registered nurses in other fields. The median annual starting salary (0-5 years of experience) for critical-care nurses is $56,000.
After acquiring 20 years of work experience, critical-care nurses typically earn more than $91,000 per year.
Emergency Room Nurse
Annual salaries for emergency room nurses are greatly influenced by the employer, specialty, and location. Because nurses are in-demand nationwide, many healthcare organizations currently offer emergency room nurses relocation and sign-on bonuses.
The majority of emergency room nurses earn between $43,106 (low-end) and $92,703 (high-end); median nationwide salary is $64,653 per year. Emergency room nurses with experience and specialized training earn an average of $73,000-$77,000 per year.
Pallative Care Nurse
The national average median nursing salary for those specializing in hospice care is $63,153. Hospice nurses providing home care with salaries in the upper 10th percentile earn up to $83,084 per year. Hospice nurses practicing in New York City earn the highest salaries, averaging $77,810 to $83,000 annually. New York-based hospice nurses with salaries in the upper 10th percentile earn more than $91,000 per year.
Clinical nurse specialists that provide hospice care must have a graduate degree, at least five years of work experience, and specialize in geriatrics, oncology, or pediatrics. They can earn more $70,822 per year. Hospice clinical nurse specialists with annual salaries in the upper 10th percentile can earn more than $91,000 per year.
Labor and Delivery Staff Nurse
A Labor and delivery nurse’s salary can span a wide range, making it a bit more difficult to pinpoint just how much Labor and Delivery nurses make. On average, their salaries are set anywhere from $47,875 to $92,293 per year depending on experience, education, employer, and location.
Annual salaries for labor and delivery nurses who specialize can also 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 per year.
As of 2017, neonatal nurses’ salaries averaged between $39,941 and $92,928. While this is a wide range, the pay for this profession largely depends on your experience. According to Payscale, an entry-level neonatal nurse with less than 5 years of experience typically earns an average salary of $56,000.
A neonatal nurse in the middle of their career (5 to 10 years) earns on average $65,000 a year and experienced neonatal nurses with 10 to 20 years of experience can expect to receive an average annual compensation of $65,000. The most experienced neonatal nurse practitioners (20 or more years of work experience) on average earn more than $111,000 per year.
Annual salaries for nephrology nurses typically increase as nurses gain relevant experience. Nephrology nurses with one to four years of nursing experience earn median salaries exceeding $73,000 per year. Nephrology nurses with five to nine 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 per year. Those with 20 or more years of work experience can earn up to annual median annual salaries of $80,200.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse anesthetist salaries average between $107,960 and 189,880 per year; with an average mean annual wage of $164,030. According to Payscale.com, nurse anesthetists with less than five years of experience typically earn around $133,000 per year.
More experienced nurses, 20+ years, typically earn $167,000 per year. The highest paying jobs for nurse anesthetists are found in Montana ($242,140), Wyoming ($233,400), California ($215,530), Oregon ($199,860), and Nevada ($192,330).
Nursing Instructors and Teachers
Across the nation, nurse instructors and teachers earn annual salaries averaging $75,030. Nurse educators with annual salaries in the lower 10th percentile of all nurse educators average $41,010 per year, while those with salaries in the upper 90th percentile make more than $117,540 annually.
Nurse educators working in California ($105,030), New Jersey ($94,530), New York (91,700), Connecticut ($89,990), and Massachusetts ($88,240) earn the highest average annual salaries.
Nurse educators who are employed at specialty hospitals (except psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, which are the second highest paid industry) typically earn the highest salaries nationwide, averaging $106,910 per year, but the highest percentage of nursing instructors and teachers work at colleges, universities, and professional schools.
As of 2017, the median annual salary for nurse executives was $218,421, according to Salary.com.
Nursing directors have similar responsibilities as nursing executives. Nationwide, nursing directors earn median salaries exceeding $81,234 annually, according to Payscale.
Nursing directors with less than 5 years of experience can expect to earn on average $78,000 annually, while those with more than 20 years of experience receive $111,000 or more per year.
As of November 2017, certified nurse midwives earned median annual salaries of $90,012, according to Payscale. The total pay range for Certified Nurse Midwifes is $73,667 to $117,673.
Those with less than 5 years of experience can expect to earn about $85,000 in average annual compensation, whereas those with more than 20 years of experience can receive an average salary of $104,000.
Nurse practitioners are among the highest paid of all nursing professionals. As of May 2016, the median annual salary of these professionals was $100,910, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The bottom 10% of the nurse practitioners can expect to receive an average compensation of $72,000, while the top 90% will receive about $140,930 per year on average.
Nurse researchers earn salaries averaging $65,520 per year, according to Glassdoor.
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 Payscale, as of 2017, registered nurses specializing in occupational health earn an average salary of $68,906, while those with the highest salaries make $87,254 or more per year. It’s not uncommon for experienced occupational health nurses to earn even more.
As of 2017, oncology nurses earn salaries averaging between $48,323 and $92,522 per year, or $23.11 to $44.72 per hour. As with most nursing positions, oncology nurses can earn more as they acquire more work experience.
Oncology nurses with less than five years of experience typically earn an average total compensation of $58,000 per year, with 5 to 10 years of experience, more than $67,000 per year and with 20 or more years of experience they can expect to earn more $85,000 per year, according to Payscale.
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 per year.
A pediatric nurse’s salary can be increased by obtaining professional certifications in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), critical care, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
As of November 2017, pediatric nurses made between $38,377 to $80,657 in average total compensation, according to Payscale.
Those with less than 5 years of experience can expect to receive an average total compensation of $52,000, those with 5 to 10 years of experience typically receive $64,00 per year on average, and those with more than 20 years of experience make about $70,000 to $80,000 per year on average.
Perioperative (O.R.) Nurse
Operating room (Perioperative) nurses on average make between $66,000 and $81,315 per year. On average, operating room nurses earn $73,557 in median annual salary.
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse
According to Payscale, as of 2017, psychiatric mental health nurses earn average salaries between $47,438 and $83,897 per 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 November 2017, public health nurses earn between $41,069 and $83,309 per year, according to Payscale.
View Public Health Nursing Colleges and Universities.
Registered Nurse (RN)
As registered nurses (RNs) can specialize in a 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 $47,120 and $102,990 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. RNs that have a BSN, MSN, or graduate degree in nursing typically earn more than nurses with lower levels of education.
As of October 2017, Salary.com reports the median annual School Nurse salary is $47,884.
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 non-certified school nurses.
The average salary for a general staff nurse (RN) in the United States ranges between $48,425 and $92,688 per year.
Annual compensation and salary level for staff nurses 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 an average salary of $38,000 per year, while those with 20 years or more experience typically earn about $54,033 on average per 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 per year.
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners typically have one to nine years of work relevant experience. Practitioners with less experience that are just getting started typically earn less.
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