How Much Do Chief Nursing Officers (CNO) Make?

Rebecca Munday
Updated March 27, 2023
Chief nursing officers lead the nursing staff and care within a healthcare setting. Learn how much they make and what factors influence their salaries.
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How much does a chief nursing officer (CNO) make? Chief nursing officers earn one of the highest salaries in nursing. Find out how their location, education, skills, certifications, and experience affect their earning potential.

Average Salary for Chief Nurse Officers

Chief nursing officers make an average of $138,380 per year, according to Payscale data from February 2023. The lowest-paid CNOs make $98,000 annually, while the highest-paid CNOs make $214,000 annually. This salary equals an average of $60.98 an hour.

CNOs can increase their pay if they:

  • Gain leadership experience
  • Have skills in operations management and quality improvement or assurance
  • Earn certifications
  • Get a dual master’s degree or increase their education

Average Annual Salary
Source: Payscale, February 2023

Average Hourly Wage
Source: Payscale, February 2023

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The Highest-Paying States for Chief Nursing Officers

Most of the highest-paying states for CNOs are also the most expensive states to live in, according to the 2022 cost-of-living index. Hawaii and Massachusetts offer CNOs the highest average annual salaries, and they also have two of the highest costs of living in the country.

Nevada and Rhode Island are the only states on the list that are not in the category of states with the highest costs of living. However, Nevada is one of the best states for nurses to work because of its high salaries and growing and diverse nursing field.

The states with the highest annual pay for chief nursing officers are:

Highest-Paying States for CNOs
StateAverage Salary
Rhode Island$152,741

Source: ZipRecruiter, February 2023

The Highest-Paying Cities for Chief Nursing Officers

Cities that pay the highest salaries to CNOs have excellent hospitals and greater salaries for comparable roles. Many of the top-paying cities are in states with a high cost of living, according to the 2022 cost-of-living index, except Green River, Wisconsin.

New York and Massachusetts pay all medical and health services managers higher than average salaries, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from February 2023. Boston, Massachusetts, and New York City, New York, also offer two of the best hospitals for nurses.

The cities with the highest annual pay for chief nursing officers are:

Highest-Paying Cities for CNOs
CityAverage Salary
New York City, NY$172,006
San Mateo, CA$166,909
Green River, WY$166,701
Daly City, CA$163,879
Boston, MA$163,479

Source: ZipRecruiter, February 2023

How Do Chief Nursing Officer Salaries Compare to Other Nurses?

CNOs are some of the highest-paid professionals in nursing. When compared to other nurses in leadership or with advanced degrees, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA), who are doctorally prepared, are the only nurses on this list that make more than CNOs.

4 Ways to Increase Pay as a Chief Nursing Officer

CNOs can increase their salaries by earning certifications, getting a dual master’s degree, completing their doctorate, and gaining leadership experience.

  1. 1

    Consider Pursuing Certifications

    CNOs are not required to have any certifications, but certifications in leadership and informatics from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONE) may help you earn a higher salary.
  2. 2

    Increase Your Education Level

    With the increased knowledge in leadership, quality improvement, and healthcare policy provided by a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree, you may earn more than average.
  3. 3

    Earn a Dual Master’s Degree

    You can earn a post-graduate certificate in business or a dual master’s degree in nursing and healthcare administration (MSN/MHA) or nursing and business administration (MSN/MBA). Additional graduate education in healthcare administration or business administration can make you a more competitive applicant and help you earn higher salaries.
  4. 4

    Gain Leadership Experience

    You need a lot of leadership experience, in addition to your clinical experience, to compete for CNO roles and earn an increased salary. Working as a charge nurse, nurse administrator, nursing director, or nurse manager can help you gain leadership experience.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chief Nursing Officer Salaries

What is the highest salary of a chief nursing officer?

The highest-paid 10% of chief nursing officers salaries are $214,000 annually, or $92.72 an hour, according to Payscale data from February 2023.

Is a chief nursing officer higher than a director of nursing?

Yes, chief nursing officers rank higher than directors of nursing. Chief nursing officers oversee all nursing staff and nursing care in an organization, but directors of nursing are usually the nursing staff and care within a group of units or departments within an organization.

What is the salary of a CNO?

The average salary of a chief nursing officer is $138,380 annually, according to Payscale data from February 2023. They make an average of $60.98 an hour.

Do chief nursing officers get paid well?

Chief nursing officers salaries rank near the top in the nursing profession. Their average salary of $138,3800 annually, according to Payscale data from February 2023, is higher than the salaries of other master’s degree-prepared nurses, such as nurse practitioners, nurse educators, and certified nurse midwives.

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