Public health nurses work in many environments — such as community health clinics, smoking cessation programs, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Public health nurses focus more on prevention than other nursing professions.
With two pandemics raging across America and no end in sight, public health nurses are in heavy demand. Still, public health nurses aren’t the highest paid among nursing professions. Being a public health nurse has some great perks, though. For example, while finding jobs with consistent schedules in nursing is hard, many such opportunities exist for public health nurses.
This article will detail how much money the average public health nurse makes, where to work to make the most money, which are the best paying employers, and how you can become a public health nurse.
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Public health nurse salaries in the United States
Public health nurse salaries vary a great deal based on geographic location. Other factors can affect pay, such as the type of employer, years of experience, and certifications. We’ll drill down into these factors. But first, let’s look at the big picture.
How much does a public health nurse make a year?
According to Zippia, the average public health nurse salary in the United States is $60,319 per year. The entry-level salary is $42,000 per year. The bottom 10% of public health nurses make $42,000 or less. The top 10% of public health nurses make $84,000 or more.
The state with the lowest pay for public health nurses is Oklahoma, where the average salary is $42,456 per year. Alaska pays the highest salary for public health nurses at $84,738 per year.
How much does a public health nurse make an hour?
Many factors affect how much a public health nurse makes per hour. The average hourly wage for the United States is $29.00 per hour.
Public health nurse salary by state
As you can see in the table below, the pay rates vary greatly depending on the state where you’re working. The column on the right compares each state to the national average. The rows with the red shade pay below the national average and those with the green shade pay higher than the national average.
Keep in mind that these are state-wide averages. There are metro areas in each state that vary significantly from each other. For example, in New York City, the average salary is $78,297. While in Buffalo, the average salary is almost $3,000 less at $75,648.
The type of employer, certification and relevant experience also affects the pay average in every state.
Compared to Nation Avg
Factors that affect how much a public health nurse makes
Location isn’t the only factor that affects pay rates for public health nurses. Other factors affecting the pay rate for public health nurses include:
The type of employer
Certifications and education
1) Type of employer
A public health nurse working for the government makes $63,393 per year or $30.48 per hour. A public health nurse working in the healthcare industry makes $60,641 or $29.15 per hour. These are broad categories that cannot capture the many settings where you’ll find public health nurses.
Public health nurses may work in any of the following environments:
Community health clinics
The CDC and other governmental organizations
Home health care
International organizations like the Red Cross
A public health nurse teaching at a university or working in research at the CDC is probably going to earn much more than one working in home health care. Of course, that’s a general rule, and there are always exceptions to such rules.
2) Certifications and education
A public health nurse with a degree from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is probably going to have a higher starting pay than one that graduated from a state school. But after a few years of experience, the nurse from the state school may earn more than the Harvard graduate. In the workplace, what matters most is your performance, not your degree.
There’s strong data showing the degree earned can affect your earnings. Public health nurses with a bachelor’s degree earn $66,414 on average. If you have a master’s degree, the salary jumps to $73,305. If you’ve reached the doctorate level, you can expect around $68,562. That makes little sense. How can more education mean less money?
There could be many reasons for this anomaly. Those with a master’s degree may take higher-paying positions that are more demanding. A public health nurse working in an office is more likely to have a typical nine-to-five schedule but at lower pay.
A public health nurse working in a hospital may have to work irregular hours, but at higher pay. Those with more education may choose a better work-life balance rather than higher pay. Many nursing environments can be very demanding. Being able to choose more stability is more important to many people than earning more money.
As with any job, you can expect a higher salary or wages if you’re certified. It’s a good idea for public health nurses to get their Certificate in Public Health (CPH). It will open doors to higher pay and more employment opportunities.
Having certifications in other nursing specialties could also improve your pay and your available job opportunities.
3) Work experience
This can be the most important factor. Your work performance record is where you separate yourself from the pack. While other factors are more important for starting pay, this is where you can excel in the long run.
There are the usual pay increases with experience that you’ll receive, even if you’re merely average. At the entry level, the average pay is $42,000. If you’ve reached mid-level, the average pay is $60,000. At the senior level, the average pay is $83,000.
How quickly can you become a public health nurse and start earning?
While there are no specific nationwide educational requirements to be a public health nurse, you should at least have an associate’s degree in nursing. States handle the licensing requirements for public health nurses. State requirements vary.
If you want your Certificate in Public Health (CPH), you’ll need a bachelor’s degree and five years’ of public health work experience. If you have a relevant master’s degree, you’ll only need three years of public health work experience.
If you’re in a graduate program but haven’t graduated yet, you’ll need a certificate from your school or program for public health. You must be in an accredited school or program. If not accredited, you’ll still meet the requirements if your school or program has a pending application for accreditation with the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). You’ll also need three years of public health work experience.
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Compare how much a public health nurse makes against other nursing jobs
Other nursing specialties have higher average salaries. But many of these higher-paying jobs have higher education requirements and less stable work hours. The average salary for a public health nurse across the nation is $60,319 per year. The following are the salaries for select nursing specialties.
Home Health Aide (HHA) $28,314.90
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) $32,500.98
Registered Nurse (RN)$76,944.90
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)$140,357.71
Public health nurses salary FAQs
Am I being paid fairly as a public health nurse?
It’s not as easy as looking at a number when determining if you’re paid fairly. You must consider many factors. What point are you in your career? What environment are you working in? What state and/or metro area are working in? Are you certified?
You can look at the salary information we provided in this article to get part of the picture. But it’s also a good idea to ask others working in similar positions what they’re paid.
If you think you’re being underpaid, now is a good time to look for another job. With COVID-19 and Monkeypox, the demand for public health nurses is very high. Don’t wait to see what you can make elsewhere. If you like where you’re working but want higher pay, let your supervisor know about any higher offers you receive. The first step to getting a raise is to ask for more money.
Are public health nurses paid mostly hourly or annually?
Whether you’re paid hourly or by salary depends on your work environment. The government usually pays salaries. In private industry, you could be paid by the hour —
especially if you’re working part-time.
Do public health nurses get paid overtime?
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) determines who must receive 1.5 times their regular pay when they exceed 40 hours of work in a week. The United States Department of Labor provides this guidance on when nurses may not qualify for overtime pay.
It’s important to understand that the federal government provides the minimum requirements. State laws may provide overtime pay requirements for nurses where federal law does not. The states cannot provide less protection than the federal government, though. With this in mind, some states have overtime laws that are better than the federal requirements.
Do public health nurses get paid more privately or in hospitals?
The general rule among nursing professions is that academia pays much more than hospitals. But, since those with their doctorate are paid less than public health nurses with their masters’ degree, this is probably not the case with public health nurses. Unlike some other categories like RNs and CRNAs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide hard data for public health nurses.
What state pays public health nurses the most per hour?
Hawaii pays the highest hourly rate at $46.03 per hour. It is followed by —
California$44.24 per hour
Rhode Island$42.90 per hour
Alaska$40.74 per hour
New York $37.57 per hour
Can you live off a public health nurse's salary in the USA?
You can live off a public health nurse’s salary with rare exceptions. An exception would be a place like Manhattan. If you’re earning the average pay for a public health nurse in New York City at around $78,000 and work at a Manhattan hospital, you’ll probably need to live in the outer boroughs or New Jersey. The same is true for most professions. The good news is New York City has a good commuting system.
See the table below for the cost-of-living index in each of the states. If shaded red, the cost of living is higher than the national average. If shaded green, it’s lower than the national average. Keep in mind that the cost of living can vary significantly between rural and urban areas within the same state.
Compare the results in this table with the average salary in each state from the first table in this article. It’s important to make this comparison as it will show you what your earnings are in actual purchasing power for each area. For example, if you earn $100,000 in an area where the cost of living is twice the national average, it’s the same as earning $50,000 in an area where the cost of living is at the national average.
Cost of Living Index
A note about our data. We use the median of the data gathered from The BLS at data.bls.gov and other salary data sources such as Salary.com, Indeed.com and Zippia.com. We believe that this is the best average to follow, rather than the mean or mode. The mean will find the average of all salaries in each state; the mode will favor the most frequently reported salaries. However, the median will find the middle. All data in this report will favor the middle salary from all ranges, which means 50% will fall below and 50% will be above the salary data reported below. On another note, we have removed data from Puerto Rico, Guam, and The Virgin Islands from the data we have sourced as we have focused on the 50 US States plus The District Of Colombia.