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Registered nurses in North Carolina can expect expanding career opportunities, job security, and a comfortable lifestyle.
Although the state ranks 35th in the nation for RN salaries, much lower than the national average, the U.S. Department of Labor projects a 10.8% increase in RN employment in the state between 2018 and 2028.
This increase is expected to add over 7,000 job openings. Use this guide to learn more about what factors impact RN salary in North Carolina.
- Average North Carolina RN Salary: $71,220 (Ranks 17th among all states)
- Hourly North Carolina RN Salary: $34.23
- Projected North Carolina RN Employment Growth (2018-2028): 10.8%
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Average RN Salaries in North Carolina
Over 100,000 RNs work in the Tar Heel state. A registered nurse salary in North Carolina is an annual median of $72,220, or an average hourly wage of $34.72.
Although an RN salary in North Carolina falls significantly below the national average of $82,750, compensation varies by type of employment, location, and work experience. Salaries range from $51,420 for the lowest 10th percentile of RNs to over $95,000 for those in the highest 90th percentile.
Several factors offset the relatively lower wages for North Carolina's RNs. This state offers natural vistas, a moderate climate, a lower cost of living than the national average, and hospitable communities known for their friendliness and Southern charm.
As a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) state, North Carolina appeals to aspiring nurses. Graduates of North Carolina RN nursing programs can earn a multistate license to practice in 39 NLC member states.
The demand for RNs will continue to grow, due to the increasing need for healthcare, especially for the aging population, expected nurse retirements, and projected nurse shortages.
A 2021 report on the US healthcare labor market estimates a 5% increase in the national demand for RNs. North Carolina faces a shortfall of 13,000 nurses through 2026, ranking it among the five worst states for nursing shortages.
North Carolina RN Salary, Adjusted for Cost-of-Living
Cost of living impacts RN earning potential. RNs employed in states with higher-than-average cost of living rates may need to adjust their salary expectations around personal needs, family obligations, and desired quality of life.
The cost-of-living index measures how much a person must spend to achieve a certain standard of living. For this data, a rank of 100 equal to the national average.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the cost-of-living index adjusts salary based on regional price parity (RPP) and the cost of essentials: housing, food, utilities, medical care, and transportation.
Compared to all 50 states, North Carolina's cost of living index ranks 39th. The $72,220 median annual registered nurse salary in North Carolina falls more than $10,000 below the national average. The state’s 91.8 cost of living index ranks 8.2% lower than the U.S. average.
The low cost of living indicates that RNs can expect to pay less in North Carolina for key essentials. When adjusted for cost of living, North Carolina RNs earn an average annual salary of $77,038, ranking 29th of all states.
- Average RN Salary Adjusted for Cost of Living: $77,038 (Ranks 29th among all states)
- Cost of Living Index (RPP): 91.8 (8.2% lower than the U.S. average)
Highest-Paying Cities for RNs in North Carolina
Each of the five top-paying cities for RNs in North Carolina offers annual salaries above the state average, expanding employment prospects, and an affordable and appealing quality of life, all within easy access to the state's stunning beaches and sweeping mountain views.
Fayetteville, best known as the headquarters for Fort Bragg, is the site of the state's eighth largest healthcare system, Cape Fear Valley Health. Atrium Health, one of the largest health systems in the southeastern states, operates more than 40 hospitals throughout the Charlotte metro area.
The Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, not only serves as an important technological center, but is home to several prestigious hospitals.
The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital has grown into the most comprehensive and largest healthcare center within the five-county region surrounding Greensboro.
Medical schools are some of the largest employers of RNs in the state. Durham-based Duke University, in collaboration with the Duke Medical Center, employs over 6,000 RNs.
These five urban areas also host North Carolina's 14 Magnet hospitals. The Magnet hospital designation, awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, indicates quality patient care outcomes, best nursing practices, high levels of nursing satisfaction, and top salaries.
|City||Average RN Salary|
|Charlotte — Concord — Gastonia, NC — SC||$73,260|
|Winston — Salem, NC||$73,030|
|Durham — Chapel Hill, NC||$73,000|
|Greensboro — High Point, NC||$72,370|
Average Salaries for Other Nursing Roles in North Carolina
Nursing salaries vary by education level, experience, workplace responsibilities, and location. Nurses without a college degree earn significantly less than RNs across the U.S. North Carolina’s nursing assistants and LPNs rank among the lowest paid in the country.
Although RNs can begin their careers after completing an associate degree, many employers prefer to hire RNs who earned a bachelor’s. A bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) not only expands career prospects and boosts salary, but provides the preparation for graduate study in advanced practice nursing roles.
RNs who earn a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP degree), with advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) specializations as nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists, rank with the highest-paid nurses in the nation.
In North Carolina, APRNs with MSNs and DNPs routinely make six figure salaries, earning considerably more than RNs with BSN degrees.
- Nursing Assistants: $29,410
- LPN/LVNs: $49,210
- Nurse Midwives: $102,960
- Nurse Practitioners: $112,730
- Nurse Anesthetists: $206,450
Methodology and Sources
Registered nursing salary data by state is collected from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program, released on March 31, 2022. Data reflects RN salaries as of May 2021. The highest-paying cities and states for RNs are ranked by average annual salary.
Cost-of-living data is collected from the U.S Bureau of Economic Analysis real personal income for states and metropolitan areas, released on December 14, 2021. RN salary adjusted for cost of living is calculated by multiplying each state's RN salary by its regional price parity (RPP). RPP measures differences in the cost of goods and services in a region compared to national prices.
Projected employment growth data by state is collected from Projections Central.
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