How Much Do Surgical Nurses Make?

NurseJournal Staff
Updated July 8, 2022
Learn about the average surgical nurse salary, which states pay the most, how to maximize your income as a surgical nurse, and more.
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RNs can work in many specialty areas of healthcare, including surgery. Surgical nurses, also called operating room (OR) nurses, prepare patients for surgery, assist surgeons and anesthesiologists in the OR, and monitor patients during recovery.

If you are considering a nursing career in surgery, you may be interested in learning about the average surgical nurse salary. Keep reading this guide to find out how much a surgical nurse gets paid, the highest-paying states for surgical RNs, and how to maximize your yearly earnings as a surgical nurse.

Average Salary for Surgical Nurses

According to Payscale figures from July 2022, the average yearly surgical nurse salary in the U.S. is $76,650 or $34.55 per hour. This pay compares favorably to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) 2021 report of the national median RN salary of $77,600.

Payscale data indicates that salaries for surgical nurses increase with experience. According to July 2022 figures, an entry-level OR nurse makes an average of $28.95 per hour. Surgical nurses with 1-4 years of experience earn $31.02 per hour, while later-career surgical nurses make $37.38 per hour. Experienced OR nurses earn an average hourly pay of $40.40.

Average Annual Salary
Source:Payscale, July 2022

Average Hourly Wage
Source:Payscale, July 2022

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The Highest-Paying States for Surgical Nurses

The states with the highest annual pay for registered nurses are:

Highest-Paying States
StateAverage Salary
Washington, D.C.$98,540

Source:U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Cost of living is a primary factor in the difference in pay from state to state. Areas where goods and services cost more, including housing, usually feature higher salaries for all nurses.

Geography is another factor that affects RN salaries. Rural areas pay less than big cities, and regional differences also play a role in how much nurses make. According to the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN), nurses working in rural areas make approximately $7,000 less annually than nursing professionals in urban areas.

The Pacific area of the West Coast is the highest-paying geographical area for RNs. These workers make, on average, $22,900 more each year than the national average pay for nurses.

4 Ways to Increase Pay As a Surgical Nurse

  1. 1

    Consider Pursuing Certifications

    There are two different certifications for surgical nurses: certified perioperative nurse (CNOR) and certified ambulatory surgery nurse (CNAMB). CNOR is a specialty credential involving the knowledge needed to work as a perioperative nurse. CNOR-certified nurses must have a minimum of two years of experience in clinical practice and at least 1,200 hours working in a perioperative setting. The CNAMB credential suits perioperative nurses looking to demonstrate their proficiency in the field.

    Certification can lead to a considerable boost in income. Payscale data from July 2022 indicates that certified surgical nurses make an average annual salary of $100,000.

  2. 2

    Increase Your Education Level

    The average RN salary also depends on a nurse’s level of education. Surgical nurses can increase their salary potential by pursuing master of science in nursing degrees and nurse practitioner (NP) credentials. NPs can make significantly higher salaries than RNs.

    Surgical nurse practitioners have extensive experience and training in the operating room. These professionals assist surgeons and often consult with patients and family members. Payscale reports that surgical nurse practitioners make an average yearly salary of $97,380, but this figure is based on fewer than 50 respondents.

  3. 3

    Gain Experience in Administrative Roles

    Nurses with management experience, such as surgical nurses who oversee or train new nurses, may qualify to pursue roles as nurse administrators. According to Payscale, the average base salary for nurse administrators across all specialties is $88,620 per year.

  4. 4

    Change Practice Setting

    Changing your practice setting also offers a potential way to increase your salary. Surgical nurses who work in urban settings often make significantly more than those in rural areas.

    Surgical nurses looking to increase their salary may consider a lateral move to a clinical setting that pays more, such as ambulatory care. Ambulatory surgery involves working as a surgical nurse in an outpatient surgery setting. BLS data indicates that registered nurses who work in outpatient care, which includes ambulatory surgery nurses, make an average salary of $93,070.

How Do Surgical Nurse Salaries Compare to Other Nurse Specialties?

According to Payscale data from July 2022, surgical nurses make an average of $76,650 per year, ranking just above the average salary of a critical care nurse at $75,370. OR nurses make more than many other RN specialties, such as pediatric nurses, who earn an average annual salary of $61,450. However, surgical nurses take home lower incomes than other specialties, such as ambulatory care nurses.

Frequently Asked Questions About Surgical Nurse Salaries

question-mark-circleHow much does a surgical nurse make annually?

The average annual pay for surgical nurses in the U.S. is $76,650. Surgical nurses who are certified and those with experience usually earn more. According to Payscale, surgical nurses in the 10th percentile make $25.24 per hour, while the top 10% earn an hourly pay of $44.88.

question-mark-circleHow long does it take to become a surgical nurse?

Qualifications for a surgical nurse include an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing degree, along with an active RN license. It takes two to four years, respectively, to earn these degrees.

question-mark-circleWhat RN specializations earn the highest salaries?

Ambulatory care nurses are some of the highest-paid nurse specialists. These professionals work in outpatient surgery settings, for which the BLS reports annual earnings of $93,070.

question-mark-circleAre surgical nurses in high demand?

Yes. As with all RNs, OR nurses remain in high demand. According to AORN, a 2020 salary survey indicates that 42% of hospitals had a shortage of surgical staff significant enough to result in interruptions in surgery schedules.

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