The Top Nurse Salary by State

By University Alliance

Registered nurses (RNs) enjoy fast-paced, challenging work and some may have the opportunity to earn very attractive salaries. The strong demand or qualified RNs means that hospitals, physicians’ offices, outpatient surgery facilities, nursing homes and other health care providers could now be offering higher salaries to attract the best nurses.

What You Can Expect to Earn as a Nurse

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2009 nationally, a registered nurse’s average annual salary was $66,530, while the middle 50% earned between $52,250 and $77,970. The lowest 10% of registered nurses earned average salaries of $43,970 annually, while the top 10% of earners brought in $93,700 in annual pay. Nurses with the minimum required education generally start out toward the lower end of the scale, progressing toward the top end with advanced nursing education and training.

Enrolling in an RN to BSN degree program is a great way to begin supplementing your knowledge and skills, which can lead you toward higher-paying nursing jobs.

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Location Can Mean High Pay for Registered Nurses

Nurses are in demand in numerous locations across the country. Since they can work anywhere, salary is often a top consideration when nurses decide where they’d like to live. According to the BLS, the following five states offer the highest pay for RNs; if you are thinking about relocation, perhaps a move to one of these states is in your future.

1. California

California’s approximately 233,030 registered nurses earn salaries that are much higher than the national average. According to the BLS, California registered nurses earned an average hourly wage of $40.90 in May 2009. This equals $85,080 in annual pay. In certain metropolitan areas, the average salary is even higher:

Metropolitan Area Average Annual Salary
Visalia-Porterville  $111,030
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara $110,080
San Francisco $98,900
Oakland-Fremont $97,280
Sacramento-Arden $89,770


2. Massachusetts

The BLS also reported that in May 2009, registered nurses in Massachusetts earned an average hourly wage of $39.32, or $81,890 annually. At that time, there were approximately 83,000 nurses employed in Massachusetts. Nurses in the Boston-Cambridge metropolitan area received above average annual salaries, at $88,730.

3. Hawaii

Hawaii offers nurses beautiful beaches, great surfing and high pay. In fact, according to the BLS, Hawaii’s nearly 9,000 registered nurses earned an average hourly wage of $38.47 in May 2009. Their annual average salary was $80,020. In the Honolulu metropolitan area, the average annual salary for registered nurses was even higher, at $82,150.

4. Maryland

In Maryland, a registered nurse can expect to earn an average hourly wage of $36.70, or $76,330 annually, based on May 2009 BLS reports. There are about 51,600 nurses employed in the state. In the following metropolitan areas, the average annual salary for RNs is even higher than the statewide average:

Metropolitan AreaAverage Annual Salary
Baltimore-Towson $79,150
Bethesda-Frederick-Gaithersburg $76,950


5. New Jersey

New Jersey’s approximately 74,730 registered nurses also earn salaries above the national average. According to the BLS, New Jersey’s average hourly wage for nurses was $36.05, or $74,990 annually, in May 2009. In the Newark metropolitan area, a nurse’s average annual salary is even higher, at $77,970.

RN to BSN Degree Programs Can Lead to Higher Pay for Nurses

Competition can be strong in many of these high salary areas, so you’ll want every advantage possible when applying for a nursing job. Pursuing advanced education, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, is a great way to stand out from the crowd. An RN to BSN degree program will not only increase your knowledge and skills, but earning a degree may lead to better job security as well. And when your professional resume includes a BSN, you’ll even enjoy enhanced opportunities for negotiating a higher salary – no matter where you choose to live.

Prospective students are encouraged to conduct research to determine actual earning potential as salary potential may vary depending on location, level of education, and experience.

Category: Career