Registered nurses have traditionally enjoyed the rewarding nature of their work, a high demand for their services and appealing salaries across the country. In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a $67,490 median annual salary for registered nurses. Employment prospects and salary ranges will vary based on an individual’s work history, educational qualifications, experience and physical location.
While the statistics above provide a general, nationwide overview of salaries for registered nurses, there are some states that tend to realize higher averages. As of May 2014, the top five states for registered nurses in terms of mean salaries, according to the BLS, are as follows.
California has both the largest number of employed registered nurses and the highest mean annual salary. Its 255,010 registered nurses reported a mean hourly wage of $48.68, or $101,260 annually. The San Francisco area has particularly high salaries, with a mean annual wage of $128,070. The Los Angeles area, while lower than the state average with an annual $96,960, still has salaries that are notably higher than the national average.
While Hawaii has a relatively low number of registered nurses (10,990), its mean hourly wage of approximately $43.33, or $90,130 annually, presents an appealing option. The annual average is higher in Honolulu, at approximately $91,450.
In Massachusetts, nurses earn a mean hourly wage of $42.62, or an annual $88,650, according to the BLS. Massachusetts also has a comparatively high number of employed registered nurses at 83,910. Most registered nurses in Massachusetts are located in Boston, where the mean annual wage rises to $95,790.
As of May 2015, Alaska employed just 5,910 registered nurses — one of the lower numbers in the United States. However, the state compensates with a high hourly wage at average of $42.55, or $88,510 annually. In Anchorage, where more than half of employed Alaskan registered nurses are based, the annual average salary rises to $88,990.
Oregon’s approximately 32,490 employed registered nurses also appreciate salaries higher than the national average. Here, the average hourly wage comes in at $40.29, or $83,800 annually. Portland employs about half of the state’s registered nurses and notes an average annual salary of $85,170.
Areas where the average wage is higher can be more competitive, particularly in those states where the overall number of employed registered nurses is low. One differentiating factor between applicants is often education, with those who have obtained a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) typically having better prospects than those with a two-year associate’s degree. Regardless of the type of education you wish to pursue, however, you may find that each state has different benefits to offer nurses in terms of salaries and job security.