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 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). See our comparison chart to explore details and differences in average nurse salaries by specialty:
Registered Nurses (RNs) are state-licensed to provide and coordinate patient care after receiving specialized education and passing a comprehensive national test (NCLEX-RN). RNs care for patients in a variety of settings including clinics, hospitals, schools and care facilities. Compare RN salaries, employer type, and details below.
Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are trained to assess, diagnose, order, and interpret medical tests, prescribe medications, and collaborate in the care of patients. The scope of practice for a nurse practitioner varies from state to state, or even from hospital to hospital. Nurse practitioners must have earned a master's degree in nursing (MSN) or higher. Compare NP salaries, employer type, and details below.
A Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) is a type of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) focused on women's gynecological health, as well as prenatal and postnatal care. CNMs provide care and practice in a variety of settings, including private practices, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), hospitals, health departments, and birthing centers. CNM licensing occurs at the state level and falls under specific state laws. As with other APRNs, license requirements for CNMs can vary from state to state. Compare CNM salaries, employer type, and details below.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who administer anesthesia and other medications, and also monitor patients who are receiving and recovering from anesthesia. CRNAs have completed extensive clinical training, and have passed a certification exam approved by the National Boards of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). Compare CRNA salaries, employer type, and details below.
Licensed Practical nurses (LPNs), also known as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN) or vocational nurses, care for disabled, sick, or injured patients. An LPN/LVN certificate program typically takes one year to complete and requires a high school diploma or GED. LPNs can work in hospitals, care facilities, physicians’ offices, or in-home. Compare LPN/LVN salaries, employer type, and details below.
A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), also referred to as a Nursing Assistant, Patient Care Assistant (PCA), or Nurse’s Aid, provides basic care to patients, helping them with daily activities they might have difficulty with on their own such as bathing and dressing. CNAs are required to have a high school diploma or GED and to have completed nursing assistant training. Working under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), most CNAs are employed by hospitals, nursing care facilities and/or assisted living facilities for geriatric patients. However, CNAs can also be employed by physician’s offices, urgent care centers, community clinics, or as in-home health aides. Compare CNA salaries, employer type, and details below.
The average salary of a nurse can vary depending on many factors, including specialty, location, and education level. Compare the specialties you've selected below with the average salaries by degree and employer type.
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).
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|
|District of Columbia||$98,540||11,540|
Going further, the average pay for nurses vary significantly by city. As BLS reported the top-paying metropolitan areas for RNs include San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA, San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA, and Vallejo-Fairfield, CA. In fact, all of the top 10, highest-paying metropolitan areas for nurses are located in California.
|Metropolitan area||Annual mean wage||Employment|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||$ 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|
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|
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Many factors impact the average pay for nurses, including:
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, new 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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