Share this

Top 20 Cities for Nursing Salaries 2022

Updated September 2, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Discover which cities offer registered nurses higher-than-average salaries and what factors affect their salaries.
Top 20 Cities for Nursing Salaries 2022
Maskot / Getty Images

Are you a registered nurse (RN) looking for more pay? Moving to another city might help. California holds all top 10 cities that pay registered nurses higher-than-average salaries.

California isn't the only state where nurses can earn a high salary. Other states, including Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii, offer above-average salaries for RNs, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from May 2021. Learn which cities offer RNs the top salaries, how the average RN salary compares to the cost of living in each city, and other factors that may explain increased pay for RNs.

Highest-Paying Cities for Registered Nurses

California offers RNs an average annual salary of $124,000, which is $41,250 higher than the national average salary of $82,750, according to BLS data. Depending on where in California you work, nurses can make up to $31,000 more than the average RN salary statewide. Find out more about these top-paying metro areas.

All BLS salary data was updated in May 2021.

1. San Jose — Sunnyvale — Santa Clara, CA

Average Salary: $155,230

The San Jose — Sunnyvale — Santa Clara, California, metro area pays RNs the highest-average salary in the United States. According to BLS data, RNs in San Jose — Sunnyvale — Santa Clara metro area make $155,230 annually, which is $72,480 higher than the national average.

Cost of living explains most of this higher-than-average salary. RNs who live here can expect their cost of living will be 53% higher than the national average, according to Payscale data from August 2022. Housing alone is 143% percent higher than the national average.

2. San Francisco — Oakland — Hayward, CA

Average Salary: $151,640

The San Francisco — Oakland — Hayward, California, metro area ranks second on the top 10 list of cities with the highest-average salaries for RNs. RNs in this city earn an average of $151,640, which is $68,890 more than the national average annual salary, according to BLS.

Magnet designation and increased cost of living contribute to the above-average pay of RNs in this city. This area holds two hospitals with the Magnet designation. RNs who accept a job here can expect a cost of living to be 94% higher than average, according to Payscale data from August 2022. The California State website reports that the sales tax is between 15.87-18%. Housing costs alone cost residents 241% more than the national average, according to Payscale data from August 2022.

3. Vallejo — Fairfield, CA

Average Salary: $146,360

The Vallejo — Fairfield, California, metro area ranks third on the list of cities with the highest-paying salaries for RNs. RNs who work here can expect to make an average of $146,360, which is $22,360 more than the national average annual salary, according to BLS data.

Historical landmarks and Magnet designation may attract nurses to these areas. Vallejo is a historical city as the first official capital of California. NorthBay Health Group in Fairfield received Magnet designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) in 2014 and 2019.

4. Santa Rosa, CA

Average Salary: $141,440

Santa Rosa, California, ranks fourth on the list of cities with the highest-paying salaries for RNs. RNs who work here can expect to make $141,440, which is $58,690 more than the national average, according to BLS data.

Increased grocery prices may explain why Santa Rosa pays RNs higher-than-average salaries, according to Numbeo data from August 2022. A dozen eggs in Santa Rosa costs $5.19, but the national average cost of a dozen eggs in June 2022, according to BLS data, was only $2.71.

5. Napa, CA

Average Salary: $139,680

Napa, California, ranks fifth on the list of cities with the highest-paying salaries for RNs. RNs who work here can expect to make $139,680, which is $56,930 more than the national average, according to BLS data.

The cost of housing in Napa explains much of the increased salary for RNs. According to Numbeo data from August 2022, a one-bedroom apartment in Napa is between $150-$512.50 more than a one-bedroom in Hayward, California. Also, Napa residents pay between $1,050-$1,062.50 more than they would for a one-bedroom apartment in Modesto, California.

6. Santa Cruz — Watsonville, CA

Average Salary: $139.590

The Santa Cruz — Watsonville, California, metro area pays RNs the sixth-highest annual average salary of $139,590. RNs who work here earn $139,590, which is $56,840 more than the national average, according to BLS.

7. Salinas, CA

Average Salary: $130,520

Salinas, California, ranks seventh on the list of cities that pay higher-than-average salaries to RNs. RNs can expect to make an annual average salary of $130,520, which is $47,770 higher than the national average, according to BLS.

High demand and a Magnet-designated healthcare facility may contribute to increased salaries. More nurses work in Salinas than in Napa, Santa Cruz, and Watsonville combined. Salinas employs 3,250 nurses, according to BLS data. The Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System received Magnet designation in 2021.

8. Modesto, CA

Average Salary: $127,730

Modesto, California, ranks eighth on the list of highest-paying salaries for RNs. RNs who work here can expect an average annual salary of $127,730, which is $44,980 more than the national average, according to BLS data.

Cost of living explains most of the higher-than-average salary in Modesto. RNs who live here can expect their cost of living will be 18% higher than the national average, according to Payscale data from August 2022. RNs can expect to pay 45% more for utilities.

9. Hanford — Corcoran, CA

Average Salary: $124,790

The Hanford—Corcoran, California, metro area ranks ninth on the list of highest-paying salaries for RNs. RNs who work here can expect an average annual salary of 124,790, which is $42,040 more than the national average, according to BLS data.

10. San Luis Obispo — Paso Robles — Arroyo Grande, CA

Average Salary: $122,730

The San Luis Obispo — Paso Robles — Arroyo Grande, California, metro area ranks 10th on the list of cities that pay RNs higher than average. RNs who work here can expect an average annual salary of $122,730, which is $39,980 higher than the national average. This is the only city in the top 10 that pays less than California's state average salary for RNs by $1,270.

Highest-Paying Cities for RNs Outside of California

Outside of California, elevated cost of living explains most of the higher-than-average salaries for RNs. The highest-paying cities for RNs outside of California are located in Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, New York, and Alaska. These states all scored over 100 on the cost of living index from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center in 2022.

1. Urban Honolulu, HI

Average Salary: $107,680

Urban Honolulu, Hawaii, pays RNs the highest-average salary outside of California. RNs can expect to make an average annual salary of $107,680, which is $24,930 more than the national average, according to BLS data.

Magnet designation and cost of living contribute to the higher-than-average salary. Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu received ANCC Magnet designation.

RNs who live here can expect their cost of living to be 93% higher than the national average, according to Payscale data from August 2022. Groceries, ultitles, and housing all cost more than 50% higher than the national average. Housing costs 215% more than the national average.

2. Kahului — Wailuku — Lahaina, HI

Average Salary: $107,600

RNs can find the second-highest average salary outside of California in the Kahului — Wailuku — Lahaina, Hawaii, metro area. RNs who work here can expect to make an average annual salary of $107,600, which is $24,850 more than the national average, according to BLS data.

Cost of living explains most of the higher salary. According to data from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center in 2022, the cost of living index for Hawaii is 192.7 overall and 320.7 for housing alone, which is higher than any other state, including California.

3. Portland — Vancouver — Hillsboro, OR-WA

Average Salary: $101,710

RNs can find the third-highest average salary outside of California in the Portland — Vancouver — Hillsboro, Oregon-Washington, metro area. RNs who work here can expect to make an average annual salary of $101,710, which is $18,960 more than the national average, according to BLS data.

Elevated cost of living and Magnet designation of five healthcare facilities in the area may contribute to increased salaries for RNs. RNs who live in this area will have a cost of living about 30% more than the national average, according to Payscale data from August 2022. Portland holds four of the five health are centers with Magnet designation in Oregon.

4. Boston — Cambridge — Nashua, MA-NH

Average Salary: $99,950

The Boston — Cambridge — Nashua, Massachusetts-New Hampshire, metro area ranks fourth on the list of highest average salaries for RNs outside of California. RNs who work here can expect to make an average of $99,950 annually, which is $17,200 more than the national average, according to the BLS.

5. Seattle — Tacoma — Bellevue, WA

Average Salary: $99,310

The Seattle — Tacoma — Bellevue, Washington, metro area offers RNs the fifth-highest average salary outside of California. RNs who work here can expect to make an average annual salary of $99,310, which is $16,560 more than the national average, according to the BLS.

Cost of living explains the higher-than-average salary. RNs living in Seattle and Bellevue can expect a cost of living 53% and 68% over the national average, respectively, according to Payscale data from August 2022. Housing alone in Bellevue and Seattle costs more than 100% over the national average.

6. New York — Newark — Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

Average Salary: $98,460

The New York — Newark — Jersey City, New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania, metro area offers RNs the sixth-highest average salary outside of California. RNs who work here can expect to make an average annual salary of $98,460, which is $15,710 more than the national average, according to the BLS.

High demand, 13 healthcare facilities with Magnet designation, and higher-than-average cost of living explain the salary increase. This area employs 180,540 nurses, the largest number of nurses of any metropolitan area in the country. New York City has eleven healthcare facilities with Magnet designation and Jersey City has two.

Cost of living in Jersey City and Newark is 24% and 29% higher than the national average, respectively, according to Payscale data from July 2022. In New York City, the cost of living is 155% more than the national average. In all three cities, housing accounts for the largest amount of increased cost of living.

7. Eugene, OR

Average Salary: $97,330

Eugene, Oregon, ranks seventh on the list of cities outside California that offer RNs the highest-average salaries. RNs who work here can expect to make an average annual salary of $97,330, which is $14,580 more than the national average, according to BLS data.

8. Anchorage, AK

Average Salary: $96,160

Anchorage, Alaska, ranks eighth on the list of cities outside California that offer RNs the highest-average salaries. RNs who work here can expect to make an average annual salary of $96,160, which is $13,410 more than the national average, according to BLS data.

The higher cost of living may contribute to the higher-than-average salary. RNs in this area can expect a cost of living that is 26% more than the national average. Housing that costs 37% more than average explains most of the increased cost of living.

9. Medford, OR

Average Salary: $95,020

Medford, Oregon, ranks ninth on the list of cities outside California that offer RNs the highest-average salaries. RNs who work here can expect to make an average annual salary of $95,020, which is $12,270 more than the national average, according to BLS data f.

10. Albany, OR

Average Salary: $94,820

Albany, Oregon, ranks 10th on the list of cities outside California with the highest-average salary for RNs. RNs who work here can expect to make an average annual salary of $94,820, which is $12,070 more than the national average, according to BLS data.

Sources

California city & county sales & use tax rates. (2022). https://www.cdtfa.ca.gov/taxes-and-fees/sales-use-tax-rates.htm

Cost of living data series. (n.d.). https://meric.mo.gov/data/cost-living-data-series

Find a magnet organization. (n.d.). https://www.nursingworld.org/organizational-programs/magnet/find-a-magnet-organization/

History around these walls. (n.d.). https://www.visitvallejo.com/about-vallejo/architectural-heritage

Numbeo. (2009-2022). https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/

Payscale. (2022). https://www.payscale.com/

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics. (2021). May 2021 metropolitan and nonmetropolitan area occupational employment and wage estimates. https://www.bls.gov/oes/home.htm

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022). Average price data. https://www.bls.gov/charts/consumer-price-index/consumer-price-index-average-price-data.htm

NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.