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5 Tips on Getting Ahead of the Average Nurse Salary

Career News July 13, 2013

Registered nurses made on average $69,110 in 2011, which is an increase greater than $4,000 from 2010. Nursing salaries may continue to increase, but there are things nurses can do directly to garner a higher wage. Nurses are in demand. Registered nurse jobs are expected to increase by nineteen percent from 2012 to 2022. The large baby boomer generation getting older means more healthcare professionals will be needed. A greater focus on preventative care also is creating more job opportunities for nurses. The increased need for nurses gives them better bargaining power and has increased pay for specialized nurses.

Earn Extra Cash

Nurses have many options to pick up some extra cash and increase their take home pay. A nearby nursing school may need tutors. Organizations sometimes need paid speakers for events. Races and other athletic events may employ nurses to staff first aid stations. Even community events may need healthcare professionals for the day or weekend. Nurses may also find work with insurance companies. A recent trend is for companies to employ nurses to be available by email and phone to answer patient questions and provide outpatient support. Nurses do not have to settle for the average nurse salary. Extra part-time work or pursuing more education is just some of the way nurses can get ahead financially. Nurses can speak with the human resource department where they work for additional ideas.


Nurses who are looking for a new job are in an excellent position to negotiate a better salary. Some employers who truly need nurses offer sign-on bonuses. Spread out over the long term, these sign-on bonuses actually increase a nurse’s salary, but have the benefit of a large sum upfront. Employers may also offer annual bonuses to nurses who qualify based on job performance.

Another consideration is benefit packages. Some packages offer more than others and increase overall compensation. Packages may include perks such as tuition assistance as well as expected benefits such as retirement plans and health insurance. Nurses should consider that their needs may change overtime and hold out for the ability to modify their compensation package.

Even nurses who do not want to seek new employment can look around at what other employers in the area are offering and use this information to negotiate a better deal from their current employer.

Seek Better Shifts

Some shifts are less desirable than others. Nurses who want to increase their salary should ask for in-demand shifts. An average nurse salary may increase by around $0.50 to $10.00 per hour just by signing up for different shifts, such as working times that most people prefer not to work. This may include nights and weekends. Some shifts do require additional certifications or training, but pay more because of the extra requirements. Nurses who specialize in areas such as the operating room or obstetrics are more likely to qualify for higher paying shifts.

Sign Up for In-House Training

Going back to school may not be the best choice for everyone. Nurses who are open to learning as a way to increase their salaries, but who do not want to fit school into their schedules, a reasonable solution is in-house training. Most employers offer training options and educational opportunities for their employees. Employers may have training software available that upon completion leads to a pay raise. Employers benefit from educating their current nursing staff instead of looking for new employees. Nurses can talk to their supervisor about training options and possibly advancement opportunities.

Go Back to School

Employees with higher degrees always qualify for larger salaries. Nurses who do not yet have their bachelor’s in nursing can get their degree by going back to school. Some programs are available online though most employers give their nurses flexibility so completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is easier than most people think. Nurses can also pursue a master’s of nursing as well. Employers benefit from nurses with more education so are typically supportive of their current staff taking classes. Registered nurses who already have a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can increase their salary by specializing in a field of nursing and becoming an advanced practice nurse. Options include becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Certified Nurse Midwife, or Certified Nurse Practitioner. Advanced practice nurses not only command higher salaries, but also are more marketable.

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