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What is the Average Salary for a Nurse?

Published June 15, 2022


Financial Planning
Life & Career

The average salary of a nurse can vary depending on many factors, including specialty, location, and education level. So, there are many factors that affect a nurse’s average salary.

The highest paying nursing jobs, for example, are nurse anesthetist (CRNA) and nurse practitioner (NP). Meanwhile, the highest paying states for nurses include California, Hawaii, and Oregon.

It’s important to research different types of nursing jobs and salaries — including the average nurse salary by state and degree — so you can understand how to increase your pay and find the best career opportunities for you.

Average nurses’ salary by specialty

Average nurse salaries fluctuate across fields and specializations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the highest-paid nursing specialties by median salary in 2021 include nurse anesthetists (CRNA), nurse practitioners (NP), and nurse midwifes (CNM).

What type of nurse makes the most money? CRNAs make the most money while clinical nursing assistants (CNAs) fall on the lower end of the salary range.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also breaks down each nursing specialty by median hourly rate and educational requirements, including those with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), a Bachelor Degree in Nursing (BSN), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

Nursing specialty Median salary Median hourly rate Educational requirements
Nurse anesthetist (CRNA) $202,470 $97.34 MSN or DNP
Nurse practitioner (NP) $123,780 $59.51 MSN or DNP
Nurse midwife (CNM) $114,210 $54.91 MSN or DNP
Registered nurse (RN) $82,750 $39.78 ADN or BSN
Nursing instructor $82,040 $35.21 MSN
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse (LPN/LVN) $48,070 $21.79 BSN
Clinical nursing assistant (CNA) $30,290 $14.56 High school diploma or GED

Average nurses’ salary by state

The average salary for an RN can also differ by state. According to BLS, the highest paying states for nurses include  California, Hawaii, and Oregon.

State Annual mean wage Employment
California $124,000 324,400
Hawaii $106,530 11,110
Oregon $98,630 37,780
District of Columbia $98,540 11,540
Alaska $97,230 6,060

Average nurses’ salary by city

Going further, the average pay for nurses vary significantly by city. As BLS reported the top-paying metropolitan areas for RNs include San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA, San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA, and Vallejo-Fairfield, CA. In fact, all of the top 10, highest-paying metropolitan areas for nurses are located in California.

Metropolitan area Annual mean wage Employment
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $ 155,230 20,640
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $ 151,640 41,160
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA $ 146,360 3,530
Santa Rosa, CA $ 141,440 3,510
Napa, CA $ 139,680 1,520

Average nurses’ salary by degree

The higher the nursing degree, the higher the average salary. Nurses with MSNs, for example, generally earn more than nurses with BSNs, according to PayScale. Nurses with advanced degrees in their field can gain the knowledge and skills they need to pursue higher-paying careers in leadership roles.

Nursing degree Average salary
Doctor of nursing practice (DNP) $107,000
Master of science in nursing (MSN) $98,000
Bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) $89,000

Average hourly rate for nurses

According to PayScale, the average hourly rate for RNs is $31.04 and the average hourly rate for CRNAs is $87.31.    Hourly rates across nursing specialties can also vary based on education level, skills, and experience. For example, entry-level RNs earn a median hourly rate of $27.79 while experienced RNs earn a median hourly rate of $36.60.

Nurses can also help raise their hourly rates by gaining skills in certain areas, such as operations management, health information management systems, diagnosis and treatment planning, and acute care.

How to increase your salary as a nurse

Nurses have a unique level of control over their salaries, especially due to the nursing shortage and many opportunities for career advancement.

Along with asking for a raise or promotion, you can use these tips to help increase your average nurse salary:

Adjust your placements and shifts

If night shifts pay more than daytime shifts do, try changing your schedule to take advantage of the higher paying shifts. Or you could take on extra shifts or holiday shifts to increase your pay.

Nurses can also move to different fields or care centers that offer higher wages. As BLS reported, RNs who work for government organizations and state, local, and private hospitals can earn more than nurses who work for nursing and residential care facilities.

Enhance your educational opportunities

Nurses can increase their salaries by furthering their education and developing advanced professional skills in their field. For example, nurses with BSNs might pursue an MSN while nurses with MSNs might pursue a DNP.

Generally, NPs with skills in diagnosis and treatment planning, psychiatric care, acute care, and occupational health can earn higher salaries than those without these skills.

Adjust your budget

Find opportunities to adjust your budget and increase your savings each month. You can use the 50/30/20 budget method, for instance. With this plan, 50% of your income goes to necessary purchases like rent and bills, 30% is used for things you want, and 20% is moved to savings.

You can make budgeting even easier with Laurel Road, which created the first checking account specifically for nurses. With our Loyalty Checking account, nurses can earn up to $540 in cash rewards in their first year with qualifying direct deposits.1 Or, if you refinance your student loans with Laurel Road and open a Linked Checking account, you could qualify for additional discounts on your refi rate.

Factors that impact Nursing Salaries

Many factors impact the average pay for nurses, including:

  • Career demand and growth – According to BLS, jobs for RNs will grow by 9% from 2020-2030. However, jobs for advanced practice RNs like NPs, CRNAs, and CNMs will grow by 45%.
  • Education and skills level – Nurses with DNPs can earn up to $18,000 more on average than nurses with BSNs.
  • Work environment – RNs who work for government organizations earn a median salary of $85,970 while those who work for nursing and residential care facilities earn a median salary of $72,420.
  • Location – Metropolitan areas in Northern California top the list of highest-paying cities for nurses.
  • Specialty – Nurses who specialize in anesthetics, midwifery, and clinical care can earn higher salaries than those who don’t.

Trends for nursing education & hiring

Job opportunities for nurses are expected to increase as the nursing shortage continues. Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses will be hired to provide telehealth services and outpatient care for those in need.

One of the biggest trends in nursing is that more companies are seeking to hire professionals with advanced-level degrees such as MSNs and DNPs. In fact, as of January 2022, CRNAs are required to have doctoral degrees instead of just master’s degrees. By 2025, APRNs will be required to have doctoral degrees as well. NPs can still build careers with MSNs, but DNPs will be the recommended degrees for these job roles by 2025.


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