How Much Do Military Nurses Make?

Daniel Bal
Updated June 13, 2022
Explore military nurse salaries and the highest-paying states in the profession. Discover ways to increase pay through education, certification, and rank.
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Military nurses are registered nurses (RN) who dedicate their careers to serving within the Army Nurse Corps, Air Force Nurse Corps, Army National Guard Nursing, and Navy Nurse Corps. They can work domestically or abroad at military bases, hospitals, or clinics alongside response teams during natural disasters or times of war.

Despite the emotional demands and stressful nature of the job, military nurses report great personal satisfaction in their work. This guide details information on the salary military nurses can expect, along with ways to increase their pay throughout their careers.

Average Salary for Military Nurses

The average military nurse salary depends on education, rank, and certifications. Although the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) does not provide specific data on military nurses, their figures indicate that all RNs earn an average annual salary of $82,750, which translates to $39.78 per hour.

RNs who specialize in military work can increase their salaries by earning advanced degrees, pursuing certifications, or increasing their ranks.

Average Annual Salary
Source:BLS, May 2021

Average Hourly Wage
Source:BLS, May 2021

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The Highest-Paying States for Military Nurses

While the BLS does not specifically track military nurse salaries by state, the average RN wage can offer a general look into this specialty’s earnings. The highest-paying states for RNs are mainly located in the western part of the country, including California ($124,000), Hawaii ($106,530), and Oregon ($98,630).

The BLS projects that employment for RNs will grow by 9% from 2020-2030, which is slightly higher than the 8% increase for all other occupations. However, there is a higher demand for nurses willing to be deployed overseas. Military nurses are often provided sign-on bonuses and student loan forgiveness as incentives to join.

4 Ways to Increase Pay As a Military Nurse

One of the best ways for military nurses to increase their pay is by advancing within the ranks of their military branch. These nurses can also pursue advanced degrees or specialty certifications. The following list offers additional details on ways to increase military nurse pay.

  1. 1

    Moving Up in Rank

    Since they are part of the armed forces, military nurses can advance in rank as they gain more experience, pursue higher education, and earn certifications. An increase in rank directly influences pay and provides nurses with additional stipends, such as hazard pay during their deployment.

  2. 2

    Advanced Degree

    A military nurse must have a minimum education of a bachelor of science in nursing. By pursuing an advanced degree, such as a master’s or doctorate, nurses expand their knowledge and demonstrate their commitment to the field.

  3. 3


    Military nurses have several certification options to help them prepare for the field. Certifications include basic life support, acute cardiac life support (ACLS), and pediatric advanced life support (PALS).

    The basic life support certification, which focuses on best practices in CPR, defibrillator use, and other life-saving techniques, is typically required for all military nurses. The ACLS certification trains nurses to recognize and manage respiratory issues and cardiac arrest, while the PALS credential teaches nurses to respond to emergencies involving children. These certifications are often voluntary but can increase military nurses’ earning potential.

  4. 4


    While incentives may not directly influence pay, they provide nurses with benefits for working in the military. Nurses often receive sign-on bonuses or student loan forgiveness opportunities. They also receive low-cost healthcare, retirement plans, housing allowances, and stipends for food. These incentives allow nurses to use their pay on other commodities.

Frequently Asked Questions About Military Nurse Salaries

question-mark-circleWhat is military pay?

Basic military pay is a service member’s primary salary. Military pay depends on years of service and rank. In this sense, nursing specialties do not impact pay in the military — an RN and certified registered nurse anesthetist who has served the same amount of time and has the same rank will receive the same pay. However, earning additional education and certifications can allow individuals to pursue higher ranks.

question-mark-circleDoes the military pay for nursing school?

Each military branch provides some form of loan forgiveness or reimbursement on top of stipends and sign-on bonuses. These benefits require nurses to commit a specific amount of time to the armed forces before or after their schooling to be eligible.

question-mark-circleWhat branches of the military have nurses?

Nurses can enlist as active duty or reservists in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard. Each branch provides incentives to attract nurses, such as living stipends, student loan repayment, and annual bonuses.

question-mark-circleDo nurses get paid more in the military?

While the base pay for a military nurse can be lower than civilian nurses, individuals serving in the armed forces earn additional financial compensation, including hazard pay, free medical and dental insurance, free relocation services, and retirement plans. These incentives often provide military nurses with more than their civilian counterparts.

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