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How Much Do Occupational Health Nurses Make?

Kristen Hamlin
Updated August 2, 2022
Occupational health nurse salaries generally align with clinical practice RNs, but nurses can earn more by becoming certified and earning advanced degrees.
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Occupational health nurses combine their knowledge of nursing and business to foster healthy workplaces. Businesses rely on their skills to develop programs and policies to protect workers and communities from illnesses and injuries on the job.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spotlight approaches to employee health, occupational health nurse salaries continue to increase, along with their demand.

Average Salary for Occupational Health Nurses

According to Payscale data from June 2022, the average occupational health nurse salary is $75,650, which amounts to $35.45 per hour. The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) reports a median annual salary of $75,000. This figure puts the earning potential for occupational health nurses on par with other registered nurses, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median salary of $77,600 for all RNs.

Factors that influence earning potential for an occupational health nurse include location, employment sector, experience, and education. Large private sector companies typically offer the highest-paying jobs.

Average Annual Salary
Source:Payscale, June 2022

Average Annual Salary
Source:Payscale, June 2022

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The Highest-Paying States for Occupational Health Nurses

Although state-specific data for occupational health nurse earnings is unavailable, BLS data for RNs indicates that the highest-paying locations for nurses are California, Hawaii, Oregon, the District of Columbia, and Alaska. Other states with solid RN salaries are clustered in the Northeast, like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

In general, the highest-paying states for nurses also have some of the highest costs of living. In Hawaii, for example, the cost of living is almost twice that of Mississippi, the least expensive state. Higher costs for housing and other expenses can offset these states’ bigger paychecks.

4 Ways to Increase Pay as an Occupational Health Nurse

Salaries for these healthcare professionals are competitive, but there are ways to increase earning potential. In addition to paving the way to a higher occupational health nurse paycheck, these strategies improve job skills and performance, opening doors to additional career opportunities.

  1. 1

    Consider Pursuing Certifications

    The AAOHN offers two certifications for occupational health nurses: the certified occupational health nurse (COHN) and the certified occupational health nurse – specialist (COHN-S). A licensed RN with at least 3,000 hours of documented experience qualifies for this exam-based certification, which demonstrates competency in the fundamentals of occupational health nursing.

    The COHN-S certification also requires each candidate to hold a bachelor’s degree, but it does not have to be in nursing. This certification emphasizes administration in the workplace. Either option can increase earning potential. The AAOHN notes that employers value individuals who commit to career growth and reward board certification with higher salaries. Some businesses may require or strongly prefer applicants with COHN and COHN-S certification.

  2. 2

    Increase Education Level

    Earning an advanced degree can also increase your eligibility for higher-paying occupational nursing jobs. The COHN-S credential requires each candidate to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, and the AAOHN notes that the COHN-S has an even greater impact on earnings than the COHN.

    Occupational health nurses need additional skills beyond nursing to manage the business management and administration aspects of the role. Increasing education with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing or healthcare administration can position you for higher-paying leadership positions.

  3. 3

    Gain Experience in Administrative Roles

    Successful occupational health nurses have experience beyond nursing, including business management, health information management, and health education. Seeking administrative roles to gain experience in these areas can prepare you to take on greater responsibilities and pursue executive leadership roles.

    Many occupational health nurses begin their careers as staff nurses in hospitals or other healthcare settings and move into leadership roles as they gain experience. Some administrative positions require additional education, which provides the experience necessary to take on the challenges of occupational health nursing.

  4. 4

    Switch Practice Setting

    Earning a higher occupational health nurse salary may require changing to a different practice setting. Although hospitals and healthcare providers employ occupational health nurses to meet the needs of the internal workforce, there are opportunities in many public and private sector workplaces.

    Industrial businesses may rely on occupational health nurses to provide clinical support for employees and health education. Government agencies hire occupational health nurses to help develop emergency response plans and industry regulations. Because the field offers such a wide range of opportunities and employment settings, exploring different industries and roles could deliver a bigger paycheck.

Frequently Asked Questions About Occupational Health Nurse Salaries

question-mark-circleDo occupational nurses need an advanced degree?

Although it is possible to work in occupational health as an RN with an associate degree, most employers prefer to hire occupational health nurses who have completed bachelor’s-level education. A bachelor’s degree is required for the COHN-S certification.

question-mark-circleWhere do occupational health nurses work?

Occupational health nurses work in many settings, including hospitals and medical clinics, private businesses, and the government. Insurance companies, schools and universities, community agencies, and nonprofit agencies also hire occupational health nurses.

question-mark-circleWhat skills do you need to be an occupational health nurse?

Clinical experience is a must for an occupational health nurse, as they are often called upon to provide assessments, diagnoses, and treatment for occupational and non-occupational conditions. Other critical skills include case management, health and safety education and training, business management, and legislative and regulatory knowledge.

question-mark-circleWhat states pay occupational health nurses the most?

State-specific data for occupational health nurse pay is unavailable. The highest-paying areas for all RNs are California, Hawaii, Oregon, the District of Columbia, and Alaska.

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