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Nursing Salaries: What region has the highest wages?

Career News October 6, 2013

Some of the most rewarding, stable careers in the medical field are found in the nursing profession. From labor & delivery nurses to public health nurses to trauma nurses who work in emergency rooms across the country, any doctor or health care professional would testify that these specially-trained individuals make up a fundamental part of the health care system. Nurses provide a link between doctors and patients to provide essential patient care.

How much do nurses make?

Nursing salaries are among the most stable in the job field, as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for nurses across all states was just under $65,000 per year in 2010. With a growing medical field and a promising job outlook for nurses in the next decade, nurses can look forward to a secure, promising career future.

Nursing Salaries by Region

Although the national salary average was $65,000 in 2010, that average reflects some significantly higher and some much lower salaries paid to nurses depending on their geographic location. Nurses in small-town Texas, for example, sometimes only earn about half as much as a similarly-qualified nurse in San Diego, California.

The following chart with information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics contains nursing salary statistics on the five states with the highest average annual salary for nurses:

State Total Employment Employment per thousand jobs Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
California 250,230 17.82 $43.68 $90,860
Texas 184,890 17.94 $32.49 $67,580
New York 176,180 20.91 $36.23 $75,370
Florida 164,800 23.04 $30.78 $64,020
Pennsylvania 130,740 23.56 $32.28 $67,140

Information on this chart is found on the Nursing Outlook page at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website.

Interestingly, these are also the five states that employ the most nurses; most of them centered in areas with large research centers such as New York City, Houston, the Boston-Cambridge metropolitan area, and the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA area.

Region-by-region statistics show that the most highly-paid nurses live in typically uniform broad geographical areas, as well. In general, nurses working on the west coast–from Seattle, Washington down to Southern California–are typically paid significantly more than nurses in the sparsely-populated Midwestern states like Kansas, Missouri, the Dakotas and Iowa.

A high concentration of more highly-paid nurses can also be found in New England; there are more positions and positions with higher salaries along the coast between southern Maine and Maryland/Delaware. Wherever there are large concentrations of people, there are typically more high-paying jobs for qualified nurses.

Nurses are also in high-demand in these more sparsely-populated areas, as well. Because overall salaries are lower in areas farther from metropolitan areas, these populations often cannot afford to pay medical professionals as much as those who live in regions with higher paychecks (and higher costs-of-living).

Nurses are just as essential in farming communities, in Iowa, as they are in Cambridge, MA, but they are often more overlooked, with fewer perks to attract well-qualified candidates to those areas. However, these areas are well-worth considering; competition for jobs, while keen in high-population-density areas isn’t as cutthroat in smaller towns.

While small-town salaries tend to be significant lower than those of metropolitan areas, so is the cost of living. A nurse, who takes a lower-paying job, in a small town, might end up with more spending money than an RN taking home $85,000 a year, in upstate New York.

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