Acquiring a license as a Registered Nurse paves the way for fantastic job opportunities and a sturdy earning potential. Your particular job, location, experience, and education level determine your salary.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), on average, Registered Nurses earn around $37 per hour, $76,945 per month, and $11,301 overtime annually. The projection is that by 2030, there will be more than 276,800 new jobs.
The BLS anticipates a need for more nurses in outpatient care facilities and long-term rehabilitation centers. With such lucrative options available, it's best to understand more about your earnings as a licensed Registered Nurse.
Recommended Reading - What is a Registered Nurse (RN)?
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.
RN Salaries in the United States
Salary is an essential factor when considering the city or state to work. The variations in different cities come from labor conditions, nursing demand, and the cost of living.
California is leading as the highest-paying state for Registered Nurses. RNs receive an average annual salary of $125,340 or $106,529 with an adjusted cost of living. Next on the list is Hawaii, with an average of $ 111,070, as Oregon follows with $ 99,410 and Alaska at $99,110.
Although California and Hawaii pay the highest salaries in the country, they have more expensive living costs. States that offer lower wages have more affordable lifestyles, but the lack of a powerful union movement for RNs causes the wages to remain low.
How Much Does an RN Make a Year?
Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for a Registered Nurse is $76,945.
The top 10% of R.N.s earn upwards of $116,230 while lowest 10% earn less than $53,410.
How Much Does an RN Make an Hour?
On average, a Registered Nurse in the US earns $37 per hour. Most RNs prefer payment hourly instead of weekly or monthly compensation. It's the easiest way to ensure all hours of hard work get adequately compensated.
The hourly wage can be higher depending on your education and experience. More experienced RNs make upwards of $50.00 per hour, about $10.00 more than new nurses.
RN Salary by State
Registered Nurse Salaries can vary significantly from state to state.
Hourly median wage
Annual median wage
Compared To National Average
District of Columbia
Although the earning potential is higher in busier and larger cities, some rural areas have a high demand for RNs; hence, the pay is better.
Some examples are:
Highest Paying Non-metro Areas
California non-metropolitan area- Eastern Sierra-Mother Lode Region
Northern Mountains Region of California nonmetropolitan area- North San Fernando Valley and the area around Mount Shasta
North Coast California nonmetropolitan- Coastal region between the Oregon border and San Francisco Bay
Alaska nonmetropolitan area- Rural areas outside Ketchikan, Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks
Hawaii nonmetropolitan area- Kauai island
Factors That Affect How Much an RN Makes
Registered Nurses earn a decent income. The actual figures vary due to factors such as:
Education and Experience Level
The most significant factors that affect your earnings as a Registered Nurse are the number of years of experience and your specific degree.
As a nurse, a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree or a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) are sufficient for you to work as a Registered Nurse. The main difference between a BSN-trained nurse and an ADN-trained nurse is the particular institution they attended.
Although there are places you can work as a Registered Nurse with an associate degree, there are more opportunities that require a minimum of a BSN. You’ll earn less and find it more challenging to find a job with an associate degree.
You can boost your career and earn more by becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or a nurse practitioner (NP). Nurse practitioners have more responsibilities and experience, but they make an average of $117,670 annually. You'll achieve this by acquiring a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).
Your experience level also significantly affects your salary. Some institutions offer better incentives for more experience.
Where You Work
One of the essential benefits of having an RN license is the high number of places where you can work. Every workplace has different work environments, expectations, and requirements. As an RN, you can select your workplace based on your particular interests and working hours.
You can work in:
1. Outpatient Care Facilities - Average salary- $93,070
In outpatient care facilities like physician offices or clinics, nurses help with patient procedures and appointments that need no overnight stay. RNs are responsible for discussing health care plans, registering patient vitals, vaccinations, and ambulatory care services.
2. Surgical and General Medical Hospitals- Average salary- $85,020
Registered Nurses in hospitals are responsible for various patient care functions in emergency rooms and wards.
3. Mental Health Facilities - Average salary- $80,260
Registered Nurses can work in community mental health centers, psychiatric and substance abuse facilities, and state, federal, and correctional facilities.
They assist with treatment monitoring and administration, crisis intervention, and mental health assessment.
Your location largely affects your salary and benefits. For instance, the wages in metropolitan areas are higher than in rural areas. Northern states, except California, also offer higher wages than western or southern states.
You can specialize in various areas and sharpen your skills as a Registered Nurse. It requires additional training and certification, but it's a worthwhile investment.
It allows you to follow your passion and creates more income and job opportunities.
Some specialties with higher salaries you can consider are:
Perinatal or neonatal nursing - Average salary $71,530
Travel nursing - Average salary $87,959
Case management - Average salary $72,905
Nurse education - Average salary $76,480
Oncology - Average salary $73,624
How Quickly Can You Become an RN and Start Earning?
There are several degrees you can acquire to fulfill the responsibilities of a Registered Nurse. The time it takes you to get the degree and license depends on the particular nursing program and degree you select. Becoming a Registered Nurse can take between sixteen months and four years.
Technically, an associate degree in nursing is enough for a role as a Registered Nurse. However, most employers consider applicants with a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). It’s like a default requirement for a Registered Nurse.
Once you finish the degree, you’ll have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). If your first attempt is unsuccessful, you can retake the exam after 45 days.
After passing the NCLEX, you’ll apply for a license in the state where you intend to practice. It can take a few days or weeks, based on the state’s application process and backlog.
How Much Does an RN Make Against Other Nursing Jobs?
Average Annual Salary
Nursing Assistant (CNA)
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN)
Registered Nurse (RN)
Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
How Much Do RN Salaries Increase With Each Year of Experience?
As with most professions, more experience often translates to higher salaries. For RNs, the increase is as below.
Years of experience
Rate per Hour
Less than one year
1 to 2 years
3 to 5 years
6 to 9 years
More than ten years
RN Salary FAQs
Am I Being Paid Fairly as an RN?
RN salaries vary significantly based on your location, education and experience level, and the area you specialize in. If you'd like to confirm whether your pay is fair, you can use an online salary calculator.
Are RNs Paid Mostly Hourly or Annually?
Although RNs can get hourly or annual compensation, most nurses get paid hourly. Generally, RNs involved with direct patient care receive hourly pay, such as BSNs and ADNs.
Those in administrative positions often receive a salary, and it's a pre-determined, fixed amount from the institution they work for.
Do RNs Get Paid Overtime?
Yes, RNs get overtime compensation. Overtime pay comes from the hours the RN works beyond the scheduled weekly hours, usually 36-40 hours.
Most institutions double the payor and offer one and half times more than the regular hourly pay. For instance, if the standard rate is $50, the nurse makes $75 or $100 for every extra hour.
Do RNs Get Paid More Privately or in Hospitals?
RNs get higher salaries when working in the private sector than in hospitals. Here's a salary comparison.
Office Administrative Services
Federal Executive Branch
Merchant Wholesalers, Nondurable Goods
Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing
Non-scheduled air transportation
What State Pays RNs the Most Per Hour?
The highest paying state for Registered Nurses is California, with an average hourly pay of $57.96
What is the Starting Salary for an RN?
At an entry-level, RNs earn an average of $28 per hour. RNs with four years or less experience make $29 per hour, including overtime and bonuses.
Can You Live off an RN’s Salary in the USA?
In the USA, the average salary for Registered Nurses is above the average national wage. Additionally, the unemployment rate is only 1.2% for RNs.
Most high-paying states have high transportation, food, and housing costs and vice versa.
How to Increase Your Pay as an RN
If you are considering furthering your career as a Registered Nurse, or simply want to make more money from this career path, below are some options for your future steps forward.
Consider Pursuing Certifications
Acquiring certification in a specialty is an excellent way to validate your skills and knowledge. It advances your career and increases your earning potential. Certification requires specific years of experience and passing the qualifying exam.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Certification Program offers various specializations. Once you get certified by the ANCC, the next step is becoming a Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC) in your specialty area.
Some certifications that can help you boost your earnings include:
Pediatric Nursing Certification
Gerontological Nursing Certification
Ambulatory Care Nursing Certification
Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification
Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification
Informatics Nursing Certification
Nursing Case Management Certification
Pain Management Nursing Certification
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification
Get a More Advanced Nursing Degree
You can increase your earning potential significantly by getting a more advanced degree. With a Master of Science in nursing degree, you can handle leadership roles and broaden your scope of practice to earn more.
Positions that require an MSN have a higher average salary of $111,840. The difference is nearly 45% more than the average RN salary. If you started earning an RN with a nursing diploma or ADN, you could enroll in a bridge program to achieve your BSN while still working.
Get Some Experience in Administrative Positions
When senior-level RNs and nurses retire, the administrative roles become available to experienced nurses.
Most healthcare institutions offer mentorship and leadership development programs to train and support nurses transitioning into managerial roles. If you have some experience as an RN, you can join an online graduate or executive certification program for nursing administration as you work.
Try a Different Practice Setting
Most RN positions are available in physician offices, hospitals, and outpatient care facilities. However, there are other practice settings with high demand and better salaries.
Look for openings in other industries like nondurable goods, non-scheduled air transportation, medicine manufacturing, and merchant wholesalers.
Clock in More Overtime
Working overtime is another effective way to increase your income. Most RNs work overtime regularly as it’s their main source of additional income. According to federal law, the overtime pay should be at least one and half times more than the regular pay.
For instance, if your overtime pay is 75$ per hour, picking one extra eight-hour shift every week earns you $2,000 per month.
Consider a Professional Membership
Nurses have a better earning potential if they associate with a professional membership organization or a nurse-affiliated labor union. Such an organization helps to negotiate better salaries for its members.
For instance, RNs in unionized hospitals are in a better position to voice their concerns and ask for higher salaries or better benefits.
Your Future as a Registered Nurse is Bright
As a Registered Nurse, your location significantly affects your income. Some cities have better workplace cultures in the healthcare industry. This leads to higher salaries and better benefits or compensation packages.
Now that you know your earning potential as an RN, it’s time to take action. ShiftMed will assist you with finding available shifts in nearby facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities.