Charge Nurse Salary Guide

by Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
• 5 min read
Reviewed by Shrilekha Deshaies, MSN, RN, CCRN

A charge nurse salary should reflect the added responsibility and leadership that come with the role. Here are three ways you can improve your pay.

Charge Nurse Salary Guide
Credit: Morsa Images / DigitalVision / Getty Images

The role of the charge nurse is a step up on the clinical ladder. Duties may vary depending on the facility and specialty. However, there are professional standards developed by the state board of nursing that must be consistent. A charge nurse career often comes with a salary increase.

On this page, we break down the charge nurse salary by education, years of experience, and geography. We also discuss the impact COVID-19 has had on how much a charge nurse makes and discuss three strategies charge nurses can use for a pay increase.


Fast Facts About Charge Nurses

A charge nurse's annual salary varies. As of September 2021, Salary.com reports the median annual salary as $90,350, while ZipRecruiter cites an average salary of $69,650. Seven of the top 10 highest-paying cities for charge nurses are located in California. According to Salary.com, nurse recruiters are paid a comparable salary.

Sources: ZipRecruiter / Salary.com (as of September 2021)


Average Salary for Charge Nurses

To become a charge nurse, you may hold one of three degrees. Nurses who have a two-year associate degree in nursing, four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, or master of science in nursing degree may be charge nurses. The degree you hold influences the charge nurse salary you can expect. For instance, a BSN charge nurse can expect higher pay. In some places, your degree also influences the extent of your responsibilities.

Degree Average Salary
Associate degree/certification $87,180-$91,110
Bachelor's degree $87,760-$91,860
Master's degree (and above) $88,240-$93,370
Sources: ZipRecruiter / Salary.com (as of September 2021)

COVID-19 Effects on Charge Nurse Salary and Employment

The pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on nursing staff across the country. Areas of the country that were hardest hit began advertising traveling nurse jobs that paid much more than what nurses were making in their hometown. This increased the nursing shortage in rural areas that were already experiencing low numbers.

Charge nurses in the pandemic are being called to work as if they are leading on a battlefield. An effective charge nurse requires several leadership skills such as critical thinking in nursing, flexibility, calm confidence, strong communication, and disciplined decision-making. Good leadership has a significant impact on nurses, especially during the pandemic.

One analysis discovered how critical leadership in a crisis protects the well-being of bedside nurses. When leadership is more visible it can help lessen the impact of negative experiences. The research also found that using different leadership styles supported nurses better.

Charge nurses are in the unique position of leadership and bedside nursing. This means they can provide feedback to nursing managers that help refine leadership styles to support the emotional and physical well-being of nurses working on their unit.

What Kind of Salary Growth Can Charge Nurses Expect?

Ways to Increase Pay As a Charge Nurse

A charge nurse salary depends on several factors. These include geographical area, facility, certification, clinical focus, and years of experience. For example, nurses working in the intensive care unit (ICU) often make more than nurses working on a medical-surgical unit. This reflects the added experience and sometimes nursing certifications needed to practice in the ICU.

$88,910
0-5 Years Experience

$92,160
11-15 Years Experience

$99,250
20+ Years Experience

Sources: ZipRecruiter / Salary.com (as of September 2021)

Highest- and Lowest-Paying States for Charge Nurses

You may have considered moving to a state that offers a higher nurse salary. However, it is important to remember that these states usually also have a higher cost of living. It can be more expensive to live in the area, so hospitals compensate nurses with a better salary.

Becker's Hospital Review published in 2020 found that California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska had the highest-paid registered nurses (RNs). These are areas where the cost of living is also greater. Other states with higher salaries include New York, Hawaii, and Massachusetts.

The regions with the lowest-paid nurses included Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. These states have more rural areas and a lower cost of living. The differences in salary by geographic region are consistent with the general RN salary found across the U.S.

How Do Charge Nurse Salaries Compare to Similar Occupations?

There are several ways to work in healthcare. The table below compares salaries across other clinical professions. Remember that clinicians working in the following professions may also have advanced specialization or certifications that can affect compensation.

Career Median or Average Salary
Licensed Practical Nurses $48,820
Registered Nurses $75,330
Clinical Nurse Specialists $109,630
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics / Salary.com (as of September 2021)

3 Ways to Increase Pay as a Charge Nurse

The average annual salary for a charge nurse falls in a range according to ZipRecruiter. From the lowest 10% to the highest 10%, a charge nurse salary can be anywhere from $39,000-$121,500 as of September 2021. The range correlates with geographical location, education level, years of experience, and certifications in your nursing specialty. You can influence each of these factors, which can then increase your salary potential.

1. Consider Pursuing Certifications

Certifications are offered by professional nursing organizations in your specialty to demonstrate your advanced knowledge to employers. Most certifications require experience after graduation. Certifications can lead to better job prospects and higher salaries because they demonstrate a higher level of clinical competence. New nurses can start with the advanced cardiovascular life support certification before passing certifications in their specialty.

2. Increase Education Level

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) published the BSN by 2020 Initiative, calling for 80% of hospital nurses to have a BSN degree. The goal is to improve patient outcomes, which BSN-prepared nurses have proven to do. Licensed nurses can complete a nursing bridge program to move to the next academic level. Many RN-to-BSN online programs can be completed while you continue to work.

3. Switch Workplace Setting

Your workplace determines the charge nurse salary based on the job description and several other factors. This might include supply and demand, geographical location, and company budget. You may perform the same duties at two hospitals in the same region for different salaries. As you are seeking career advancement, take care to evaluate all aspects of your compensation package, including salary and additional registered nurse benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions: Charge Nurse Salaries


Does a charge nurse make more money?

Charge nurses are usually paid more than staff nurses, depending on how the role is defined by your hospital. For example, some units do pay a differential for charge nurses, but units that rotate the charge position each day do not. However, nurses who are promoted to a permanent charge nurse position generally receive a salary raise.

What is the highest-paid nurse?

A certified nurse anesthetist is the highest-paid clinical nurse position. The mean annual salary for this position is $189,190 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest-paid nurse administration job is nursing director. The salary for this position depends on the geographical area and can range from $68,880-$100,950.

What type of nurse is most in demand?

BSN nursing is the most sought after as hospitals seek to raise the percentage of BSN nurses to 80%. With this four-year degree, nurses can practice at the bedside, become a charge nurse, or advance to other leadership and management roles.

What are the ranks of nurses?

There are four main levels of nursing professionals: certified nursing assistant, licensed practical/vocational nurse, registered nurse, and advanced practice registered nurse.

Learn More About Charge Nurses


Reviewed by:

Shri Deshaies, MSN, CCRN, RN, is a nurse educator with over 20 years of teaching experience. She is a certified critical care nurse and has worked in various surgical intensive care units, including cardiovascular, trauma, and neurosurgery. She is a founding member of Nurses Serving our Neighbors which advocates for the homeless population.

Shri Deshaies is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network. Learn more about our review partners.

NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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