The best and worst states to be an RN in 2012

iStockphoto | Thinkstock

Good news for RNs! You’re going enjoy an excellent job outlook right through to 2018.

At least, that’s according to the authors of the Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-11 Edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),

Expect the biggest job rate growth in physician offices. That’s due to an increasing focus on preventive medicine and to advances in medical technologies, which allow for the treatment of more and more medical conditions on an outpatient basis.

Look to home healthcare as the second largest setting for RN job growth. That’s followed by nursing facility care, employment services and, lastly, hospitals. The BLS projects the creation of more than half a million new jobs for RNs from the period 2008 to 2018.

As an RN in the United States, where will you fare the best in terms of salary, job prospects and quality of living during this era of high job growth? Where will you enjoy that winning combination of a high salary and a fulfilling lifestyle?

Here’s the lowdown.

Next: Where the highest nursing salaries are →

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 View All

, , , ,

Scrubs Contributor

We welcome your ideas and submissions to Scrubs Magazine! Here's how to submit your own story or story idea to our editors.

Post a Comment

You must or register to post a comment.

38 Responses to The best and worst states to be an RN in 2012

  1. BurnNurse

    South Alabama is over-saturated with RNs, and due to this, the pay rates are very low and positions can be difficult to come by. Raises were suspended at my Hospital of employment in 2007 and have not resumed. Speaking to other nurses in the area, I have found them to be in similar situations. We can only hope the situation will turn around soon, but I would look into this before considering relocating to the Mobile area.

  2. New Nurse

    I have to disagree with your article. Nuses in Denver who are new grads and have families are stuck. They churn out hundreds of new grads every 4 months without a thougt as to where they will find work. They report getting at least 120 to 200 applications for each position. Have you read the medscape article? I can tell you that it is the truth.

    • mimic1983 LPN

      I would like to see this medscape article you speak of. I am a new grad in CO and already landed a new job even though I haven’t taken my state boards yet. Guess I was one of the lucky few.

  3. mom2kobendillon

    Somewhere it should be added in for the REASON Calif. is highest paid…Because it costs soooo darn much to live there! Nurses shouldn’t flock to CA just because the wage LOOKS higher…once you factor in state income tax, ect. one realizes you MUST make atleast 100K and even then, you are lucky if you can afford groceries! We left CA in 2006 and moved to WA…my husb & I combined pulled in over 175K and I worked TWO nursing jobs just to pay bills and we NEVER saw our kids because we were working ALL the time just to live! In Seattle, our cost of living was cut by 2/3s. Yes two-thirds. My wage is less but we actually take home more! Plus we are able to watch our boys grow fact, my husband (who works for Costco) was able to go parttime! Our kids became the biggest winner in this move and I can honestly say it was the BEST move we ever made!

    • Stephanie R

      It depends on where you live in CA. Many places in C have a high cost of living, but because most of the nurses there are protected by the union, the pay is consistently higher than other places, and your pay goes much farther.

    • Chanzrn

      Hi. I am new on here and was reading the forums on the best and worst states to be an RN. I came upon your comment and was wanting to get advise on what city in Washington would be a good place to raise 2 children. I am from Hawaii and in the process to relocate to another state due to the cost of living here. Please feel free to email me at Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you. Maile.


    Nursing is a field that is predominantly female to date, whether we like it or not. I made the decision, with my then husband, to stay home with the children. Now that I need to return to work as a single mother, the doors are all shut for me because I was out of work so long. I find nursing to be family unfriendly. Am I being “punished” for having chosen to stay home with my boys? I have no family that could have helped at the time and was unable to work, in part, because of serious marital problems. I hear about the horrible shortage of nurses yet no one will hire me. I believe that there are many nurses like me out there who have no voice. I have met some that have had to lie to get hired. The options are unacceptable. Hospitals will hire a new grad over me. What is the difference really? I have offered to work for less pay but have been rejected over and over again. Saadly , I have been a patient recently several times and clearly the new graduates have less skill than I. For a profession that is predominantly female, it is a very hostile towards mothers. When I graduated from nursing school, I had never even given someone an injection, yet new grads have open doors. Furthermore, some of the new grads are much younger and will have families and there will be much more mobility among them. I keep hearing about the nursing shortages, yet no one will hire me. How could I tell my children or others that nursing is a great career, when I have not found that to be true? I cannot. I would actually discourage any young person from going that route.

    • capitolyasa

      No worries- it is nearly impossible for new grads to get a job as well. Trust me, I m living proof. And I even have over 5 yrs experience as an EMT & as an LVN . So frustrating :(

    • Amednurse

      I disagree, it is almost impossible to get into nursing. Newly graduated nurses are unemployed for months to years or just going off to other fields that are actually hiring. I know I am, I can’t find anything and it’s been way to long, I burnt through my savings and now I am going to another field entirely.

      • mimic1983 LPN

        I find it interesting that so many new grads are having difficulty finding a job. I have yet to take my state boards and have already landed a dream job. I suppose it depends on which state you live in, what type of facility you’re applying for and who knows what other factors are contributing to the difficulty in finding a job.

        • JuniperRN

          I too am an RN in CO and it took a year for me to get a job after graduating. I was an LPN for 10 years prior to getting my RN and I applied to hundreds of jobs in my local area before I went back to the LTC I had worked for doing the same job I had done as an LPN. You were lucky to find a job as a new grad as I have friends that just graduated that can not find a job, many places here have suspended any new grad programs and are only hiring those with experience.

    • nnugern

      I also was out of nursing for 17 years, staying home to raise my family. I took a state certified nursing refresher course, which was mostly online and very doable. I was hired in Tampa. Fl. within a few weeks of placing applications. I feel sure my aggressive approach to re-entering my profession paid off, plus it made me more confident and knowledgeable when I started working again. It only took a few months and was not very expensive. I hope this helps. Yours, nnugern.

  5. ekgoof RN

    I have to totally disagree with Florida being a great place to be a nurse. Were did they come up with nurses making an average of $30 an hr (must live in the wrong part of Florida) I have been a nurse for 13 years and have worked in Florida for almost 8 years and I don’t make that much. In fact I still make less than what I did when I moved down here. I was told the cost of living is less, like heck it was. People seem to think because you are a nurse you can find a job anywhere that their is a shortage of nurses really were because I can’t seem to find a job that pays what I need in the field that I wont.

    • cardsrn RN

      I agree, ek! I have been down here for about 8 years, as well.. and the cost of living is NOT lower (the pay is, though)… and for every job posted, there are a TON of applicants. very frustrating!

    • amberbsn

      Where in Florida do you work. I am planning to move and trying to get a job at the VA but I was also looking into other hospitals in south Florida where do you suggest?

    • purplemommy

      Where in fl do you live? We’re in Tampa and I make decent $$. $33/hr plus weekend and night diff. Plus charge pay. I have 17yrs experience. This is the base pay in our area. By the time I work a few extra days (probably 10/yr) I make $75,000-80,000 yr. Our house is reasonable-$280,000 for a 3br in a gated community in one of the best school districts in our county. 20 mins from honeymoon island beach one way & downtown tampa the other way. If you move out to New Tampa it’s much cheaper.

      • cookieRN

        Hi. I saw your posting about working as an RN in Tampa. I will be moving to the area this summer with the family. My husband relocating for work. If you have any insight on RN jobs or areas to live I would greatly appreciate the input. I have 3 kiddos 7, 10, 16. I have been a nurse for 16years primarily float nurse in med/surg/tele. Over 30 units I float to. I have bls & ACls.

  6. nrsngharts RN

    I’m also in the Mobile area. I have been a nurse for 23 years. Took off a few years ago to take care of a sick family member. Now I’m having a difficult time finding a job. There are too many nursing schools here. The pay is bad. And I don’t see things changing here anytime soon. I’m afraid the only alternative is to move, but now is not the time to sell a house. Unemployed and stuck between a rock and a hard place. All I have to say, if you have a job right now be thankful.

  7. msr

    I definitely agree with Texas being on the best places to go list! I recently moved to Houston from Cleveland, Ohio where I had been laid off (yes RNs are getting LAID OFF)…Even prior to that, jobs were scarce and raises were suspended. I was making 25.00/hr in the ICU! I currently work a Med/Surg/Tele floor in Houston and make 31.00/hr… The cost of living is very reasonable (property taxes are a little high in some places I hear), and there are no state income taxes. I found that there is still lots of competition for jobs despite the huge amount of renowned medical facilities here, and I expect it to get worse as these schools continue to harvest new grads like crops!!! I have very few complaints though!

    • rtutunjian

      Trying to find a nursing job in houston with less than 2 yrs experience is literally impossible & the starting pay isn’t that great either. Internships/fellowships are the way to go if you can get just n .

  8. Pingback: Hey RNs! Work here, not there | Mighty Nurse

  9. jemaso

    I’m not sure that Pennsylvania is a state that needs nurses. I just graduated from RN school almost 4 months ago. I have applied to 29 jobs of every type. I was a LPN for 9 years without ever having a problem getting a job the first few years after graduating. I had to leave my old position due to several reasons; but I would have had to leave after graduation anyhow. My position was for a LPN only.
    I similar experience (from being a LPN) as some of the jobs I am applying for as a RN but I am not getting hired. Out of the 29 jobs I have applied for, I have had one interview. I am even branching out to apply as far away as over an hour drive one way. I have applied for a Maryland license since it is a compact state. When it is issued, I am not optimistic for any doors opening up. This area too has many nursing schools (BSN, ADN, and LPN) and is turning out a substantial amount of nurses every year.
    So as the article recommends, I have started to network to find a job. So far-not so good! I am making phone calls now instead of wasting time filling out an application and uploading my cover letter and resume. It’s easier to find out that an employer won’t even consider hiring me than giving myself an ounce of hope.
    I am considering working as a CNA, or taking just anything. if I can even get that job, just to have money to keep our family going. I still have my student loans hanging over my head too!
    I am literally thinking that I have just wasted my time and a huge amount of money. Plus, in the future we could see a nursing position requiring a Master’s degree for an entry level position. When I graduated from my Practical Nursing program hospitals were hiring LPNs not they are phasing them out.
    I feel almost like I did simply holding a high school diploma without any further education. I feel lost, depressed, and scared! I am between a rock and a hard place when the job description reads “Need 1-2 years of med/surg experience, etc….” how does one go about getting the experience? Getting a job in nursing in this area has the same chances as winning the lottery.

    • Amednurse

      It does feel like getting a RN job is winning the lottery, I have applied for over 1000 jobs (not exaggerating, got proof to show it). I have applied as far away as 8 hrs from where I live (Orlando, FL). I believe it is time for a career change even though I never worked as an RN. It’s just sad.

  10. capitolyasa

    New grads in LA have next to no opportunities extended to them. Just got an email from only hospital with a new grad orientation program telling me that they received over 1000 applications for 10 slots! It’s very frustrating.

    • htarceno RN

      by LA do you mean Los Angeles or Louisiana? I live in Louisiana and have been unemployed for the majority of the past 4 years. In that time my primary occupation has been job hunting. The only jobs I have been able to find are part-time, PRN, or temp. I still want to know where this so-called ‘nursing shortage’ is.

  11. nicolejones

    There is a lot of confusion among people as to which state is the best in the US for nursing jobs. To help sort out this issue, Affordable Nursing Schools has created a quick survey to gather information from the people, esp. health care practitioners, who know the living environment and the actual pay rates in the states across the country. Please fill in the survey so that people who are seeking education in nursing are guided properly as well as nursing professionals.

  12. patrings

    I know it’s hard sometimes for a new grad to get there first job, but here in Virginia, they due hire new grads at my hospital. i have been a LPN and RN for 20 years and my hourly wage is $40 base pay. Yes its expensive here in the DC area, but most of the hospitals here pay a pretty good salary.

  13. amyrh1

    This may or may not be the stupidest question, but..If I were to move from Washington to Texas and have taken a CNA course in WASHINGTON state, would be my certificate still be useful in Texas or would I have to take a CNA course in the state of Texas? I just don’t know if there is different state requirements..I’m curious!

  14. Julia

    I agree with Iowa having the lowest paid nursing jobs, many new grads start at higher wages in other states then I am at after 34 years! And we pay some of the highest state taxes in the country.

  15. bettymerchen RN

    South Dakota is under-rated as a place for nurses to get a good start. I live in Rapid City, where we have a first-rate regional hospital, and new grads as well as experienced nurses are welcomed! Pay is comparable to larger areas, and there are many opportunities for nurses in a large variety of specialty areas. You should give us a look!

    • MissQ

      I have worked in this hospital and I disagree. While they may hire new grads, I can tell you firsthand (and having worked in multiple states) their pay is not that great, b/c there is a lack of competition and Regional Health owns everything. It was a great place to work, as a per diem nurse, but the pay left something to be desired.

    • Stephanie R

      South Dakota is one of the 5 lowest paying states in the US. I also work at the hospital here in Rapid City. They have an absolute monopoly in this area. The wages here as so low for nurses that they graduate, work their one or two years, and immediately move to another state where they are paid decently. I moved here without 18 years of experience and took a 65% pay cut. Graduate RNs here start at $23.00 per hour, which is not enough to keep up with the cost of living, especially for a single parent. I am not sure where the writer recommending Rapid City as a place with fair wages has worked before, but it couldn’t have been in many other states.

  16. alissafein

    Portland Maine: Too few jobs, especially for new grads. Even experienced nurses have trouble finding work here. One of my instructors — a cardiac nurse with 10years critical care NP experience left due to inability to find a nursing job. The 4 local nursing schools churn out too many new grads each semester and we are a small state. As far as I can tell, the criteria for getting a job here as a new grad is this formula: know someone + young & attractive + bonus if you are male. I graduated top of my class, had an internship, and experience in healthcare. It took me 9 months to land a job in a nursing home/rehab facility working overnights (which is mostly not nursing work at all… the only reason nursing fill this position, as far as I can tell, is that state law requires a certain number of licensed RNs at all times). Most of my friends from nursing school have either moved away or gone back to things like waitressing & bartending. Some of those AFTER working in the environment here… because it is getting so cut-throat and there is little job stability once you’ve landed the job.

  17. MissLA

    Wow, this article really misinforms about FL!!!!!!
    I just went through the worst time in my life taking 9 months to get my FL license- all because I had a bout of situational depression last year and FL wanted to treat me like I was a criminsl nurse and not give me a license! !!!!! I had two psychiatrists, Several of my co-workers, two managers, and my psych nursing school professor all write letters on my behalf!!!!! I FINALLY got my license without any restrictions! !!! I want to fight for nurses rights to seek mental health without being reprimanded by the board!!!! Also, I went to three different job interviews in ICU: I was offered a salary lower than what I was making in Nashville, TN, which was already lower than the salary I made Kansas City, KS!!! The managers in FL said it was due to the low cost of living in FL, but that is a lie, too! Mycarvins tripled because of the location, the energy bill is through the roof, gas is higher, and more! I have friends that work in MN and they have great salaries snd are in union.

  18. cinnamon123

    Here in California I’ve noticed that the population of nurses being brought over from the Philippines has grown ten-fold since I began my nursing career 18 years ago. There are fewer and fewer non-Filipino nurses employed in the hospital settings now.
    If you don’t speak Tagalog you don’t fit in. Sad but true. From my understanding the hospitals here in the US sign these nurses up under contracts for less pay and in turn the get work visas to come to the USA …the hospitals then get away from paying the nurses here what we are worth…thus lack of jobs for new grads and experienced nurses.

  19. pickles

    Very helpful salary breakdowns by state.

    • kimmyac

      Agreeing with info about Texas. I worked in San Antonio, and made more there, about $31/hr in 2011 w/15 yrs experience (with lower cost of living) than I do now in Colorado (with higher cost of living)….but I love Colorado (as does everyone!)

  20. Mrt388

    I am from South Carolina, and I feel like for the cost of living compared to nursing salary is good. Average pay for new nurses is around &23-25 per hour.