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Flight nursing, a registered nurse (RN) specialty area, requires 3-5 years of experience in an emergency room (ER) or intensive care unit (ICU) and certification. Job listings on Indeed indicate a current demand for flight nurses and employers willing to pay generous salaries.
Flight nurses work in fast-paced nursing careers saving lives aboard helicopters and airplanes. This guide provides information about average flight nurse salaries, top-paying states and workplaces, and ways to increase earnings.
Average Salary for Flight Nurses
As of June 2022, Payscale lists the average annual flight nurse salary at $73,470 or $33.28 per hour. An RN needs at least three years of experience working in an ER or ICU, but any additional time on the job can lead to pay increases.
Earning flight nurse, emergency medical technician, and trauma certifications can also affect salaries. Flight nurse earnings also vary by geographic location and industry.
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The Highest Paying States for Flight Nurses
Flight nurse pay often correlates with regional cost-of-living figures. The more expensive areas, such as San Francisco Bay Area cities, tend to offer higher wages. Supply and demand also factors considerably in pay — remote locations in Alaska, for example, pay well.
As a specialty area of registered nursing, flight nurses earn six-figure annual incomes in California and Hawaii and salaries in the upper $90,000s in Oregon, Washington, D.C., and Alaska.
The states with the highest annual pay for registered nurses are:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
How Do Flight Nurse Salaries Compare to Other Nursing Specialties?
Flight nursing is one of many specializations available to RNs, and average salaries rank in the middle of all RN specialty pay rates. According to June 2022 Payscale data, school nurses earn $47,960 on average, while HIV/AIDS nurses make an annual average of $91,000. Note that the sample size from Payscale for HIV/AIDS nurses is fewer than 50 respondents.
Average wages earned by comparable nursing professionals include $73,000 for emergency nurses, $74,860 a year for critical care nurses, and $78,480 for trauma nurses.
4 Ways to Increase Pay As a Flight Nurse
Flight nurses can increase their pay by pursuing certifications, higher degrees, and administrative experience, along with changing to different geographical areas or professional roles.
Consider Pursuing Certifications
Certified flight registered nurse (CFRN) credentials are awarded to those who pass an examination administered by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. Top-paying employers may require or strongly prefer candidates with CFRN certification. Additional certifications common to flight nursing include certified emergency nurse and certified critical care nurse.
Increase Education Level
Flight nurses who earn master of science in nursing or doctor of nursing practice degrees can increase their earnings. Advanced practice registered nurses, such as acute care nurse practitioners, bring more experience and expertise to the table and earn an average annual salary of $118,040.
Gain Experience in Administrative Roles
Nurse managers and administrators earn an average annual salary of $101,340 to coordinate the flight nurse medical evacuation and clinical services and supervise nursing staff. These professionals may hold graduate nursing degrees, obtain post-graduate certificates in nurse leadership, or receive workplace training. Some may pursue business degrees to augment their resumes.
Switch Practice Setting
Flight nurse industries include hospitals, fire departments, private companies, and the military. Some of the highest-paying industries for RNs are nonscheduled air transportation with a $112,630 average annual salary and the federal government at $97,600. Office administrative services pay an average wage of $96,630. However, some of the top-paying industries also have low employment numbers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Flight Nurse Salaries
How much does a flight nurse make?
The average flight nurse salary totals $73,470 per year, according to June 2022 Payscale data, but flight nurses in states like California and Hawaii and at specific companies can earn six-figure incomes.
Is being a flight nurse hard?
Flight nurses serve on critical care teams that provide pre-hospital care to patients experiencing extreme trauma. The pressure and fast-paced nature of the job are compounded by a workplace high in the air.
What is the highest-paying registered nurse specialization?
The highest-paying RN specializations require certification and master's-level education. For example, May 2021 data from the BLS indicates that nurse anesthetists earned a median income of $195,610.
Is flight nursing a good job?
Flight nursing is challenging and rewarding, best suited for nurses experienced in working in high-pressure situations like acute care and emergency nursing. Flight nurses need the determination to spend 5-9 years preparing for the job through education, experience, and certification.
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