How Much Do Registered Nurses Make?

Joey Morris
Updated October 6, 2023
Edited by
Want to know how much nurses make? This guide covers the states, cities, specializations, and workplaces that offer the highest pay for RNs.
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Registered nurses (RNs) can enjoy one of the most stable and rewarding healthcare occupations. They earn a high average salary and have increased demand to serve an aging population.

Nursing students can become RNs in 2-4 years and earn salaries exceeding the U.S. average. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs earn an average annual salary of $89,010. Factors such as location, specialty certification, and experience can lead to salaries of more than $120,000.

Fast Facts About Registered Nurse Salaries

  • The average annual RN salary is $89,010 or $42.80 an hour.
  • RN salaries increased by 15% over the last three years (2019 to 2022).
  • The highest-paying states for RNs are California, Hawaii, and Oregon.
  • 45% of nurses feel they are fairly compensated.

Sources: BLS, 2022 | Medscape RN/LPN Compensation Report, 2022

How Much do Registered Nurses Make?

With an average salary of $89,010, registered nurses (RNs) earn 44% higher salaries compared to the average for all U.S. occupations. RNs earn competitive salaries that can lead to rewarding and financially stable careers. The demanding nature of the profession can contribute to RNs’ high earning potential, along with the extensive education and training required and nurses’ critical role in healthcare.

Average Annual RN Salary

Average Hourly RN Salary

The salary range for RNs is broad, allowing for growth and advancement based on education, certification, and experience. Most nurses earn $61,250-$129,400 annually for the lowest and highest-paid earners. The median annual salary for RNs is $81,220 or $39.05 an hour.

Registered Nurse Salary, by Percentile
PercentileAnnual SalaryHourly Salary
50% (median)$81,220$39.05
Source: BLS, 2022

Registered Nurse Salary by Education

RNs can enter the field after completing a nursing diploma or two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN). However, earning a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) has become the norm. BSN-prepared nurses earn a higher starting salary and have access to more job opportunities.

Generally, the higher the degree, the greater the compensation level. RNs with master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees can earn an average of $23,000 more than individuals with BSNs.

Registered Nurse Salary by Specialization

RNs can receive specialized training to gain in-depth knowledge and advanced skills. As such, RN salary levels vary with board certification and specialization. The following information provides average salaries for some common specializations.

Some of the highest-paying registered nurse specializations include family health, acute/critical care, and emergency/trauma nursing.

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Registered Nurse Salary by State

While RNs receive relatively high salaries compared to other occupations, some areas of the country pay far more than others. Overall, the Western states offer the highest salaries, while some Southern and Midwestern states pay the least.

Factors such as cost of living, nursing demand, and labor conditions account for RN salary variations across the country.

California and Hawaii, which rank among the most expensive states for cost of living, attract nurses by paying the top salaries in the country. Lower-paying states generally offer a more affordable lifestyle, but the absence of a strong union movement for nurses may keep wages below the national average.

The top five states by median annual salary for registered nurses are California, Hawaii, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington. The top five states by median annual salary adjusted for cost of living are California, Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada, and Alaska.

Registered Nurse Salary, by State
StateMedian Annual SalarySalary Adjusted for Cost of Living
New York$100,370$91,662
District of Columbia$98,970$88,922
New Jersey$98,090$89,908
Rhode Island$85,960$84,192
New Mexico$81,990$91,201
New Hampshire$80,550$78,585
North Carolina$76,430$81,482
South Carolina$75,610$80,694
West Virginia$74,160$81,674
North Dakota$69,640$76,443
Source: BLS, 2022

Note: Salary adjusted for cost of living was calculated using RN median annual salary and regional price parity by state from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Highest-Paying Cities for Registered Nurses

RNs working in densely populated cities typically earn more than RNs in rural areas. California, the most populous state, has ten of the highest-paying metro areas for RNs in the country.

RNs in the top-five California metro areas below earn well above six figures. Employers in these areas may offer higher-than-average salaries due to nursing shortages among underrepresented groups, the high cost of living, and the strong union movement among the state’s nurses.

The Highest-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Registered Nurses
Metropolitan AreaAverage Annual Salary
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA$164,760
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$160,020
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA$158,340
Santa Rosa, CA$151,150
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA$149,750
Source: BLS, 2022

Registered Nurse Salary by Industry

RN salaries vary substantially by workplace setting. Among the most common industries for RNs, those working at outpatient care centers and general medical and surgical hospitals report the highest earnings.

Registered Nurse Salary, by Industry
IndustryAverage Annual Salary
Outpatient Care Centers$97,200
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals$90,600
Home Health Care Services$82,920
Offices of Physicians$79,810
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)$77,190
Source: BLS, 2022

How Do Registered Nurse’s Salaries Compare to Other Nurses?

RNs, while earning less than advanced practice nurses, make much more than nurses without college degrees.

Compared to other nursing professions, registered nurses earn $53,000 more than certified nursing assistants and $33,000 more than licensed practical nurses. But, RNs earn $36,000 less than nurse practitioners.

Nurse anesthetists are the highest-paid nurses. These highly trained nurses must earn their doctorate in nursing and spend seven or more years completing education and training.

What Kind of Salary Growth Can Registered Nurses Expect?

Like most professions, a nurse’s salary can increase with more experience and education. Higher RN salary levels correspond to recent changes in expectations about RN roles and responsibilities.

Nursing training has become more specialized, with a growing emphasis on technology and preventive care. As advanced graduate nursing degrees become more common, RNs can move into senior leadership roles with higher salaries.

Four Ways to Increase Pay as a Registered Nurse

Board certifications and specializations in high-demand practice areas can boost RN salaries significantly.

Earnings vary among healthcare employers and locations. RN salaries range from $61,250 for the lowest-paid 10% to $129,400 for the top 10% of earners, according to the BLS. The highest-paid RNs typically possess advanced degrees and have worked in the field for 10 or more years.

  1. 1

    Consider Pursuing Certifications

    Certification validates an RN’s expert knowledge and specialized skills, advancing their professional development and salary potential. Board-certified RNs earn an average annual income of $92,000, compared to $81,000 for those without certifications, reports Medscape. RNs apply for certifications through the American Nurse Credentialing Center or other organizations for specialty practice fields.

  2. 2

    Earn a More Advanced Nursing Degree

    RNs with a nursing diploma or an ADN often return to school to expand their career opportunities. Bridge programs offer a popular option for RNs to earn BSNs or graduate degrees while continuing to work. RNs with MSNs or doctor of nursing practice degrees can earn the highest salaries in many clinical and non-clinical roles.

  3. 3

    Gain Experience in Administrative Roles

    Nursing shortages and senior-level RNs retiring drive the demand for experienced nurses in administrative positions. Many healthcare facilities offer leadership development and mentoring programs to provide managerial training and support for nurses transitioning into these roles. Experienced RNs can pursue nurse executive certification or enroll in online graduate programs in nursing administration while continuing to work.

  4. 4

    Switch Practice Setting

    While hospitals, outpatient care settings, and physicians’ offices hire the most RNs, nurses who switch practice settings may find a high demand for their services and better pay.

    Among the most common work settings for nurses, those in outpatient care centers, general and surgical hospitals, and home health care services earn the most.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Registered Nursing (RN) Salaries

What kind of nurses get paid the most?

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) rank among the highest-paid nurses. APRNs, such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, can earn over six figures depending on their certifications, employment settings, and experience. Nurse anesthetists earn the highest salaries, averaging $205,770 annually, according to the BLS.

How much do RNs make hourly?

RNs earn an average hourly wage of $43. However, hourly pay ranges from $29-$62. Factors determining RN pay rates include specialization and types of certifications, workplace setting and location, and experience level.

What is the starting pay for an RN?

Entry-level RNs earn an average hourly rate of $31, according to Payscale data from September 2023. RNs who enter the field with BSNs earn higher hourly pay than those with nursing diplomas or ADNs. Midcareer RNs with 5-9 years of experience earn an average of $34 an hour, including bonuses, overtime, and other compensation.

Do nurses make six-figure salaries?

Nurses practicing in high-demand cities, states, or specialties can earn six-figure salaries. RNs working overtime or have travel nursing contracts can also earn upwards of $100,000.

RN salary rates have climbed significantly in recent years, with APRNs receiving the highest increases. Nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists all earn six-figure average annual salaries.

Learn More About Registered Nurses

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