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Average Salary of a Nurse in USA

The mean registered nurse salaries vary significantly from state to state in the USA. As of May 2020, the average salary of a nurse in USA $80,010, and the median was $75,330. California stood out as the highest-paying state for nurses, with an average of $120,560.

With the lowest salary being $58,270 in the state of West Virginia, it may pay off for registered nurses to consider changing locations to higher-paying States. On the flip side, it may not pay off: considering the differences in living costs between states.

Read on to learn more about which states pay registered nurses the most and factors that determine the salary of a nurse in the USA.

Factors Determining Salary of a Nurse in the USA

The salary of a nurse in the USA is influenced by some factors such as specialization, additional education, experience, location, and more. Additionally, some registered nurses may earn bonuses throughout the year, boosting their annual salaries.


The number of years you work as a registered nurse can affect your salary. Most of the time, working at the same place for several years will increase your salary.

Most hospitals, especially if they are unionized, have moved from a merit pay scale to a time-based scale, where all registered nurses with ten years experience, for instance, will make the same amount.

According to the Lippincott’s Nursing Center, the average registered nurse with less than five years of experience will make around $45,500 per year. This increases to about $55,000 annually for those with six to ten years of experience and rises to about $57,300 for those with between 11 years and 15 years of experience. Registered nurses with more than 15 years of experience make about $63,500.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2021, the average salary for a hospital-employed registered nurse was $33.56 per hour. Registered nurses working in a home-health facility earned an average of $31.31 per hour, while nursing homes took home $29.25 per hour.

Registered nurses working in specialty hospitals, apart from substance abuse and psychiatric hospitals, take home an average of $34.72 per hour. On the other hand, substance abuse and psychiatric hospitals pay registered nurses an average of $31.85 per hour.


The location of your place of work as a registered nurse in the USA has a significant impact on the size of your paycheck. Urban areas tend to pay more than rural areas, and pay is also higher in Northern states than Western and Southern states, except California.

Average Salary of a Nurse in USA

According to research done in 2020, a registered nurse earned a median salary of $75,330. The lowest-paid 25% made $61,630 that year, while the best-paid 25% made $93,590.

The earnings varied based on location and place of employment.

Some cities and states paid better salaries compared to others, as illustrated in the tables below:

Best-Paying Cities for Registered Nurses

The metropolitan cities that pay registered nurses the highest salary are San Francisco, San Jose, Vallejo, Sacramento, and Salinas.

City Salary
San Francisco, California $149, 200
San Jose, California $146, 870
Vallejo, California $142,140
Sacramento, California $134,350
Salinas, California $132,160


The Best-Paying States for Registered Nurses

The highest mean salary for registered nurses (RNs) is in California, where the average salary statewide is $120,560. The lowest mean salary is in West Virginia, where the average registered nurse salary statewide is $58,270.

Here are states that pay registered nurses the highest average:

State/District Salary
California $120,560
Hawaii $104,830
Massachusetts $96,250
Oregon $96,230
Alaska $95,270


Average Salary of A Nurse in the USA by Place of Employment

Apart from education and region, factors such as an employer, experience, and industry affect the salary of a nurse in the USA.

The best-paying industries with the highest average annual salaries for registered nurses are business support services paying $106,670, the federal executive branch paying $96,230, pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing paying $92,110, other investment pools, and funds paying $91,990, and office administrative services paying $89, 490.

Registered nurses working in nursing homes and hospitals generally offer 24-hour care during their shifts and mostly work at night, on weekends, and even holidays. Nonetheless, the level of experience varies depending on work location.

Nurses whose employers are facilities, schools, and offices that do not offer 24-hour services may work during regular business hours.

A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) earns the most among the different specialty levels in nursing. As a registered nurse, you need additional certification to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist.

On the other hand, Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) have minor education requirements among nurses and tend to earn low incomes compared to other nursing specialties. LPNs and LVNs can boost their income by obtaining an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

How A Registered Nurse Can Increase Their Salary

A registered nurse can increase their salary by considering the following options:

  • Shifts with differentials: These are often included in holidays, weekends, overnight shifts, PRN, and float pools.
  • Leadership Roles: In addition to regular responsibilities, these require supervisory and managerial tasks.
  • Higher Education: Nurses with a master’s degree or doctorate or advanced practice nurses tend to be the highest earners. Nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists fall into this bucket.

Read also: Why You Should Consider A Nurse for A Life Partner!

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