Triage nurse standing outside

Whether in the ER or an urgent care center, triage nurses are usually your first point of contact when you need emergency care. Their primary role is to quickly assess your condition and determine the level of urgency and care a patient may need. 

And while every patient’s medical needs are important, many cases are considered critical or even life-threatening. It’s in these cases that Triage Nurses are trained to identify and prioritize over others. 

There are four distinct categories of triage, which include:

  • Immediate: Category I

  • Urgent: Category II

  • Delayed: Category III

  • Expectant: Category IV

Each category is color coded, which helps medical personnel know which patients need life-saving intervention and which patients are not in immediate danger.  As a triage nurse, you need to know how to recognize the tell-tale signs of someone in distress, even if they are not evident to the patient. 

Many serious medical conditions, like a heart attack or stroke, present subtle symptomatology, which only a trained triage nurse or another medical professional can recognize. 

To become a triage nurse, you must have sharp critical thinking skills, be a problem-solver, and be able to remain calm in stressful situations. Since triage nurses encounter patients with life-threatening conditions, staying calm and facilitating proper care is imperative.

How much does a triage nurse make a year?

Given the required skills and nature of the role, triage nurses, on average, earn approximately $64,000. However, the exact amount varies depending on years of experience, where you live, and any additional nursing certifications or credentials you hold.

For instance, triage nurses who earn a master’s degree or have additional certifications in emergency care tend to earn more than a triage nurse who only earned a bachelor’s degree. 

How much does a triage nurse make an hour?

On average, triage nurses earn $42.29 an hour in the United States. Those just starting out may earn approximately $44,000 a year, whereas those with years of experience and seniority can earn upwards of $92,000. (Zippa, July 2022). 

Triage nurse salaries by state 

Below is a table that breaks down how much a triage nurse can earn state by state, including the hourly pay and annual salary. This data was retrieved in June 2022. 

State

Hourly median wage

Annual median wage

Compared To National Average

Alabama

$41.26

$65,331.00

-6%

Alaska

$34.40

$84,810.00

22%

Arizona

$40.46

$73,134.00

6%

Arkansas

$38.10

$61,089.00

-12%

California

$45.03

$107,540.00

55%

Colorado

$39.27

$78,353.00

13%

Connecticut

$53.28

$98,065.00

42%

Delaware

$43.46

$61,084.00

-12%

District of Columbia

$52.07

$75,120.00

8%

Florida

$37.87

$59,826.00

-14%

Georgia

$45.31

$67,609.00

-2%

Hawaii

$55.55

$99,272.00

43%

Idaho

$38.47

$69,054.00

0%

Illinois

$45.96

$62,845.00

-9%

Indiana

$38.75

$54,736.00

-21%

Iowa

$38.57

$53,161.00

-23%

Kansas

$37.54

$58,676.00

-15%

Kentucky

$41.00

$58,918.00

-15%

Louisiana

$37.35

$65,167.00

-6%

Maine

$42.82

$67,259.00

-3%

Maryland

$43.56

$71,321.00

3%

Massachusetts

$47.59

$77,134.00

11%

Michigan

$45.70

$79,592.00

15%

Minnesota

$41.46

$66,067.00

-5%

Mississippi

$41.38

$62,767.00

-9%

Missouri

$43.08

$67,728.00

-2%

Montana

$38.54

$55,088.00

-20%

Nebraska

$37.55

$53,872.00

-22%

Nevada

$40.05

$79,630.00

15%

New Hampshire

$44.54

$65,827.00

-5%

New Jersey

$44.79

$76,351.00

10%

New Mexico

$37.76

$70,306.00

1%

New York

$52.51

$82,541.00

19%

North Carolina

$44.69

$63,166.00

-9%

North Dakota

$43.08

$53,511.00

-23%

Ohio

$37.11

$60,684.00

-12%

Oklahoma

$38.93

$58,209.00

-16%

Oregon

$39.57

$92,081.00

33%

Pennsylvania

$42.42

$81,651.00

18%

Rhode Island

$48.38

$75,815.00

9%

South Carolina

$39.38

$54,454.00

-21%

South Dakota

$37.72

$49,889.00

-28%

Tennessee

$44.27

$57,348.00

-17%

Texas

$42.11

$69,877.00

1%

Utah

$34.11

$63,373.00

-9%

Vermont

$40.10

$63,098.00

-9%

Virginia

$45.58

$64,947.00

-6%

Washington

$47.38

$97,110.00

40%

West Virginia

$39.89

$68,822.00

-1%

Wisconsin

$47.43

$68,998.00

0%

Wyoming

$39.53

$61,160.00

-12%

National Average

$42.29

$69,283.65

Factors that affect how much a triage nurse makes

Where you live and your years of experience are two of the biggest factors that can affect how much you earn. 

Experience and location are the biggest factors that influence how much any nurse earns, including flight nurses. You can consider getting additional certifications if you want to increase your earning potential.

How quickly can you become a triage nurse and start earning?

If you’ve decided that triage nursing is right for you, you first need to consider your education. Through research, we discovered that approximately 40.4% of all triage Nurses hold a bachelor’s degree. We also found that approximately 6.7% of triage Nurses hold a master’s degree. 

It’s important to note that while some triage Nurses hold a degree, you can become one as a high school graduate or GED. However, you still need to complete formal training at an accredited nursing school with only a high school diploma or GED. Upon graduation, you will have to sit for the NCLEX-RN examination before you start working. 

To earn a degree, it’s important to understand which program you should choose to streamline the process. Some triage Nurses earn an associate’s degree in nursing, while others continue their studies and earn their BSN. 

In some cases, you can earn your ADN and then sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. You can then start working immediately and complete your BSN at a later time. Since it can take three to four years to earn a BSN, many triage Nurses choose to earn their ADN, sit for the exam, and then earn their BSN online. This allows you to gain valuable experience and work full-time while studying. Some triage Nurses may opt to work only part-time while earning their bachelor’s degree. 

Compare how much a triage nurse makes against other nursing jobs

Average triage nurse salary – $69,283.65

  • Registered Nurse – $76,944.90

  • CRNA – $140,357.71

  • Nurse Administrator – $76,104.25

  • Charge Nurse – $73,298.27

  • Travel Nurse – $87,958.51

Triage nurse salary FAQs

Am I being paid fairly as a triage nurse?

To make an accurate assessment, you need to consider the average triage nurse salary and the average salary in your state. 

Depending on your credentials and years of experience, you may earn more than a traditional RN in your state. Being a triage nurse usually requires additional skills and credentialing compared to a standard RN. This means that you may earn a higher salary, in addition to a higher hourly rate. Take the time to compare your hourly and annual salary to the national average for your state. Depending on what you discover, it may be beneficial to present the findings to your employer.

Are triage nurses paid mostly hourly or annually?

Most nurses are paid hourly; however, this may vary depending on where you live, whether you work full-time or part-time, and the terms of your contract. Some triage nurses choose to work long weekend shifts, which usually pay more than traditional 12-hour blocks during the week. In addition, you may earn a higher hourly rate when you work on the holidays or if you work overtime. 

Do triage nurses get paid overtime?

Triage nurses are paid overtime. On average, triage nurses earn $10.344 per year in overtime. (Indeed, 2022). Triage nurses are also protected by the U.S. Department of Labor’s overtime provisions. These provisions include being paid overtime for hours worked that extend beyond the 40-hour workweek.

You can read more about overtime pay here

Do triage nurses get paid more privately or in hospitals?

Triage nurses work in both the hospital setting and urgent care centers. triage nurses specialize in assessing patients' need for emergency medical care in triage. Compensation depends on your nursing experience, credentials, and the type of contract you have. Senior triage nurses tend to earn more than recent graduates or those with less than five years of experience. 

What state pays triage nurses the most per hour?

Triage nurses earn approximately 16% more than the national average in New York, with an average hourly rate of $36.65  per hour. 

Triage nurses can earn a higher hourly rate in

  • Chicago, Illinois: $34.43

  • Atlanta, Georgia: $33.45

  • Charlotte, North Carolina: $32.43

  • Nashville, TN: $32.29

Can you live off a triage nurse salary in the USA?

Triage nurses can earn enough to live comfortably.  Depending on where you reside and your lifestyle choices, you should be able to live comfortably on a triage nurse’s salary. If you’d like to estimate how much money you’d have after taxes, living expenses, and extras, you can always create a financial chart that considers these. 

Once you deduct all of your expenses, including student loans, taxes, and social security deductions, you should better understand your monthly and annual cash flow. You should account for any money you want to put into your savings. 

It’s also important to note that since salaries in certain states are higher, and experienced triage nurses with additional certifications usually earn more, you have to account for this if you’re just starting your career. In some situations, it might be beneficial to relocate to a state that has a lower cost of living or apply for a position in a state where the annual salary is higher. 

This answer depends on your situation, financial needs, and career goals. You can always find employment where you currently reside to gain experience and apply for a job elsewhere once you have acquired additional credentials. 

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.

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