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If you are a registered nurse (RN) looking to relocate, you may be interested in learning about the top 15 highest-paying states for nurses. This guide explores average salary ranges, top-paying cities, and cost of living. Discover which U.S. states and cities offer the best opportunities for negotiating a competitive RN salary.
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15 Highest-Paying States for Nurses
California tops the list of 15 highest-paying states for nurses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for RNs in California is $124,000 per year, or $59.62 per hour, compared to the national average salary of $82,750. The salary range for RNs across the state starts at $78,070 for the bottom 10th percentile and $165,620 for the top 90th percentile.
The top-paying California cities include:
- San Jose — Sunnyvale — Santa Clara: $155,230
- San Francisco — Oakland — Hayward: $151,640
- Vallejo — Fairfield: $146,360
The high cost of living in California, at 10% over the national average, can offset RN salaries. The state also features an increased demand for nurses. In fact, Projections Central data shows a projected employment growth rate for California RNs at 16.7% for 2018-2028, compared to the 9% national average.
Hawaii ranks second on the list of top 15 highest-paying states for nurses. The BLS reports the average salary for RNs in Hawaii at $106,530, or $51.22 per hour. The lowest 10% of Hawaii RNs earned an annual salary of $75,380, while the top 90% of RNs earned a yearly $129,670.
In 2021, the BLS listed top-paying cities for RNs in Hawaii:
- Urban Honolulu (Oahu): $107,680
- Kahului — Wailuku — Lahaina (Maui): $107,600
A popular vacation destination, Hawaii ranks high on the cost-of-living index at 112, compared to the national average of 100. The state's high-paying RN salaries can help balance the increased cost of rent, food, and other living expenses. In addition, Hawaii's remote location fuels the state's need for nurses and keeps RN salaries competitive.
Oregon ranks third for highest-paying states for RNs. The average yearly salary for RNs in Oregon is $98,630 ($47.42 per hour). BLS data from March 2022 also shows a full salary range of $76,180-$127,680 across the state. Keep in mind that salaries can vary by location, education, certification, and experience.
The highest-paying cities in Oregon include:
- Portland — Vancouver — Hillsboro: $101,710
- Eugene: $97,330
- Medford: $95,020
The cost-of-living index in Oregon is 113.1 overall and 148.9 for housing alone. Despite these high numbers, when adjusted for the higher cost of living, the average Oregon RN salary becomes $96,066 annually. This adjustment still represents a significant income for RNs in the state.
According to the BLS, RNs in Washington, D.C. make an average annual salary of $98,540, or $47.38 per hour, ranking the nation's capital city at fourth on the list of top 15 highest-paying states for nurses. Across the city, the average RN salaries range from $62,700 for the lowest 10th percentile to $129,670 for the highest 10th percentile.
Factors that impact the increased pay rate for RNs in Washington, D.C. include a higher-than-average cost of living at 152.1. Factoring in the cost-of-living index, RNs in Washington, D.C. earn an adjusted average salary of $87,208 per year.
Alaska ranks fifth on our list of the top 15 highest-paying states for nurses. The BLS reports the average salary for RNs in Alaska at $97,230 per year, with an hourly rate of $46.74. The salary range for RNs from the lowest-paid 10% to the highest-paid 10% is between $77,450 and $127,020, respectively.
The top-paying city for RNs in Alaska is Anchorage, paying RNs an average annual salary of $96,160.
In addition to its remote setting and high cost of living, Alaska shows an increased demand for nurses. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Servicesprojects a need for over 5,000 nurses between 2014 and 2030. This demand can drive salaries for RNs willing to work in the state.
The average annual salary for RNs in Massachusetts is $96,630, 22.4% higher than the national average. BLS data shows the lowest 10th percentile of RNs earned $61,180, while the top 10th percentile made $151,310 annually.
The top cities for average RN salaries in Massachusetts include:
- Boston — Cambridge — Nashua, MA-NH: $99,950
- Barnstable Town: $91,240
- Leominster — Gardner: $88,940
Massachusetts ranks high on our list of the top 15 highest-paying states for nurses due to its increased cost-of-living index of 127.2. Despite the state's small size, Massachusetts hosts nine hospital systems with Magnet designation. This symbol of nursing excellence is reflected in RN salaries.
According to the BLS, RNs in Washington earn an average of $95,350 annually, ranking seventh among our top 15 highest-paying states for nurses. Per hour, RNs in Washington make an average of $45.84. The 90th percentile of RNs working in the state report earning up to $127,320 each year, according to the BLS.
Top-ranked metropolitan areas for Washington RN salaries include:
- Seattle — Tacoma — Bellevue: $99,310
- Spokane — Spokane Valley:- $92,620
- Wenatchee: $91,470
Washington's high cost-of-living index is, in part, due to its competitive housing market. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Washington's regional price parity (RPP) is 107.4, compared to the national average of 100. When factoring in RPP, the adjusted annual income for RNs becomes $88,294, a figure that still exceeds the national average RN salary of $82,750.
New York's average annual salary for RNs at $93,320 ($44.86 per hour) is 12.8% higher than the national average. In addition, BLS data shows a median RN salary of $96,170 throughout the state.
Top-paying cities in New York for average RN salary rates include:
- New York — Newark — Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: $98,460
- Buffalo — Cheektowaga — Niagara Falls: $80,740
- Kingston: $78,080
Living expenses in New York cost more than many other areas of the U.S., particularly in larger cities like New York City and Buffalo. The state's housing market is also particularly competitive, which drives up the cost of living. However, New York demonstrates a great need for RNs, with the BLS reporting a projected employment growth of 24.6% between 2018 and 2028. This demand for RNs, combined with a higher cost of living, calls for increased nurse salaries in the state.
In 2022, New York granted full practice authority to nurse practitioners. RNs seeking an increased salary and more professional autonomy should consider earning a master of science in nursing to become a nurse practitioner.
According to the BLS, the mean yearly salary for RNs in New Jersey is $89,690, or 43.12 per hour. New Jersey RNs in the lowest 10% of earners reported an average $70,920 annually, while the top 10% of earners reported salaries of $117,990 and above.
The average RN salaries in the top-paying cities in New Jersey include:
- Trenton: $86,330
- Atlantic City — Hammonton: $84,550
- Vineland — Bridgeton: $82,210
- Ocean City: $80,450
New Jersey's RPP ranks 11.2% higher than the national average, bringing the adjusted salary for RNs in New Jersey to $79,645. The state's dedication to quality nursing is represented through their 24 hospitals with Magnet designation.
With the average annual salary of $88,800 ($42.69 per hour), Nevada ranks 10th on our list of highest-paying states for nurses.
The top-paying cities in Nevada for RNs include:
- Las Vegas — Henderson — Paradise: $90,230
- Carson City: $86,410
- Reno: $84,590
Nevada's strong demand for nurses explains the high-paying RN salaries. In fact, the BLS projects an employment growth rate of 22.3% for Nevada nurses between 2018 and 2028, compared to the national projected growth rate of 9%.
BLS data from May 2021 shows Connecticut RNs earned an average annual salary of $88,530, or $42.56 per hour. The average annual salary across the state for all occupations was significantly less at $66,130 per year.
Top-paying cities in Connecticut include:
- Danbury: $94,370
- Bridgeport — Stamford — Norwalk: $90,950
- Norwich — New London — Westerly, CT-RI: $89,250
- New Haven: $89,530
- Waterbury: $85,670
According to the Bureau of Economic Advancement, the RPP reported for Connecticut is 103.4, compared to the national average of 100. The adjusted income for RNs in Connecticut then becomes $85,520.
Rhode Island ranks 12th on the top 15 highest-paying states for nurses. According to the BLS, the average annual salary for RNs in Rhode Island is $85,270, or $40.99 per hour. The lowest 10% of earners reported earning $61,340 and below, while the highest 10% of earners made $101,650 and above.
The BLS combines data from Providence, Rhode Island and Warwick, Massachusetts to determine the top-paying city in Rhode Island for RNs, with an average annual salary of $85,200.
The smallest U.S. state, Rhode Island's RPP is slightly higher than the national average at 101.8. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects a deficit of 100 nurses between 2014 and 2030, increasing the demand for RNs in the state.
The BLS reports an average annual salary for RNs in Minnesota at $84,030 per year ($40.40 hourly). This figure outpaces the mean annual salary ($60,480) for all occupations in the state by more than $24,000.
The top-paying cities in Minnesota include:
- St. Cloud: $87,350
- Minneapolis — St. Paul — Bloomington, MN-WI: $86,690
- Rochester: $86,470
Minnesota offers nurses an increased salary due to its great demand for nurses within the state's renowned healthcare facilities, such as Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Overall, the BLS projects RN jobs in Minnesota to grow by 12.4% between 2018 and 2028.
According to the BLS, the average annual salary for RNs in Maryland is $82,660, or $39.74 per hour. The salary range across the state begins at $60,420 for the lowest-paid 10% of RNs to $101,650 for the highest-earning 10% of RNs.
The top-paying cities in Maryland include:
- Baltimore — Columbia — Towson: $83,080
- California — Lexington Park: $77,880
- Salisbury, MD-DE: $77,400
Maryland's cost-of-living index reaches 113, driving the higher salaries for RNs. The state also shows an increased demand for nurses, as reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at 11.2%.
Arizona ranks 15th in the U.S. among the top-paying states for RN salaries. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from 2021 shows the average annual salary for RNs at $81,600 ($39.23 hourly). The top 90th percentile of earners reported making $100,200 and above.
The highest-paying cities across the state include:
- Prescott: $84,930
- Phoenix — Mesa — Scottsdale: $82,630
- Yuma: $80,770
Considering the number of retirees in the state, Arizona's demand for nurses remains high. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 32% of the residents are over age 50; this equates to more than 2 million seniors and elderly citizens in need of healthcare.
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