How Much Do Correctional Nurses Make?

Keith Carlson, RN, NC-BC
Updated January 11, 2023
Nurses must meet certain requirements to become correctional nurses. Explore nursing careers in corrections and learn about salaries and nursing specialties.
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Correctional nurses provide valuable nursing care to inmates (and sometimes prison staff) in need of high-quality healthcare. In this dynamic and in-demand nursing specialty, RNs, licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPNs/LVNs), and nurse practitioners might find a rewarding career path. In correctional nursing, nurses encounter and treat both acute and chronic conditions, as well as addictions and behavioral health. Correctional nurses might need to conduct dialysis, hospice, palliative care, and many other specialties.

Correctional facilities can have a diverse patient population spanning from adolescents to the very elderly. Correctional nurses must provide comprehensive service to that population.

The American Correctional Nurses Association (ACNA) advocates for correctional nurses and the care they provide through promoting health equity, professional development, nursing professional standards, and “the intrinsic value of all persons.

Average Salary for Correctional Nurses

As of May 2022, Payscale states the average correctional nurse salary is $54,000, with a median hourly wage of $27.47. Regional differences in salary may exist, and correctional nurses can increase their earning potential through some strategies outlined below.

Highest-Paying States for Correctional Nurses

Since most correctional nurses hold an RN license, our data on correctional nurse salaries is based on data for the general population of registered nurses and practical/vocational nurses.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the following as the five highest-paying states for RNs in 2021:

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Oregon
  • District of Columbia
  • Alaska

And the following states are identified by the BLS as the highest paying for LPNs in 2021:

  • California
  • Alaska
  • Washington
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
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3 Ways to Increase Pay As a Correctional Nurse

Prison nurse salaries, along with registered and practical/vocational nurse salaries, vary around the United States.

The median salary for LPNs/LVNs is $48,070 annually, per 2021 BLS data. LPNs/LVNS should see 9% job growth between 2020 and 2030, according to BLS projections.

The same growth projections hold for RNs, whose median salary is $77,600.

As mentioned above, Payscale data shows the average correctional nurse salary as $54,000. Payscale does not differentiate between LPNs and RNs in its salary data.

Given these salary figures, how can a correctional nurse increase their earning power? These three strategies can influence pay and perhaps lead to career growth:

  1. 1

    Consider Pursuing Certifications

    A nursing certification is additional training and/or education that provides specialized skills in a particular area of nursing practice. This often means intensive study and passing a certification exam.

    Certifications show employers that a nurse is serious about increasing their expertise, showing a high level of professionalism, and improving and growing in their chosen specialty.

    Some healthcare employers cover the cost of certification for their employees and may offer increased pay or career advancement upon successful certification completion.

    For correctional nurses, options include:

    • Certified Corrections Nurse (CCN) is a certification for both RNs and LPNs/LVNs who have worked in corrections for at least one year.

    • Certified Health Services Administrator (CHSA) is available to those RNs with three years of experience, or a bachelor of science in a health-related field; a master of science in administration, public health, or health services administration, and three years of experience serving as a health services administrator.

    • Certified Corrections Nurse Manager (CCN/M) is a certification available only to nurses with an associate, bachelor of science, master of science in nursing, or three-year nursing diploma who have served as a corrections nurse manager for a minimum of one year.

    • Certified Correctional Health Professional (CCHP-RN) is a specialty certification available to nurses who have demonstrated expertise in providing corrections-related healthcare services.

  2. 2

    Increase Education Level

    Certain employers may also contribute to an employee’s enrollment in a degree program.

    Before going after more education, find out if your employer will either cover any of the program costs, or if you could earn increased pay after getting that next degree. Look into whether other correctional employers offer higher salaries or career advancement for nurses who continue their education.

  3. 3

    Gain Experience in Administrative Roles

    Although there is no salary data about how much nurse managers and administrators earn in corrections, we know through data from the BLS that medical and health services managers in general earn a median salary of $101,340 per year and $48.72 per hour.

    If a corrections nurse is considering options for the future, developing leadership skills through serving as charge nurse or nurse unit manager might be a good step.

    Volunteering to sit on workplace committees, mentoring other nurses, being visible to managers and administrators, speaking up, and offering possible solutions to important problems are also ways to demonstrate leadership skills.

Frequently Asked Questions About Correctional Nurse Salaries

question-mark-circleHow much does a correctional nurse make?

As of May 2022, the average correctional nurse salary is $54,000 according to Payscale, with a median hourly wage of $27.47.

question-mark-circleWhich state pays correctional nurses the most?

Since there is no available state-by-state salary data for correctional nurses, we use data for registered nurses overall as a measure of the highest-paying states. According to the BLS, California has the highest salaries for both LPNs/LVNs and RNs.

question-mark-circleHow can a correctional nurse increase their salary?

A correctional nurse can increase their salary by pursuing a corrections nursing specialty certification, seeking a higher educational degree and training, and gaining experience in an administrative/leadership role where salaries may be higher.

question-mark-circleWhat nursing career pays the highest?

The highest-paying nursing career is Certified Nurse Anesthetist, with a mean annual wage of $202,470.

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