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Getting Paid: The States Where Nurses Make the Most Money in 2021

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As much as you love taking care of patients, you also need to get paid for all the hard work you do. From student loan debt to taking care of yourself and your loved ones to saving for your first house, even a small pay increase can make a world of difference.

Nursing salaries tend to vary widely across the country. Some areas will pay you more than others, but the high cost of living can put a dent in your earnings. So, which states will help you earn the most? Use this guide to plan the next chapter of your career.

Licensed Practical Nurse

According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest paying states on average for LPNs are:

  1. Alaska: Yearly salary of $67,620 ($32.51/hr)
  2. California: Yearly salary of $64,090 ($30.81/hr)
  3. Massachusetts: Yearly salary of $60,400 ($29.04/hr)
  4. Washington: Yearly salary of $59,780 ($28.74/hr)
  5. Nevada: Yearly salary of $59,700 ($28.70/hr)

However, Alaska only employs around 330 LPNs. California, New York, Texas, Ohio, and Florida employ the most LPNs, so these tend to also be some of the best places to look for work.

Registered Nurse Salary

If you’re a registered nurse, these states will pay you the most for your services on average, according to the BLS:

  1. California: $120,560 annually ($57.96/hr)
  2. Hawaii: $104,830 annually ($50.40/hr)
  3. Massachusetts: $96,250 annually ($46.27/hr)
  4. Oregon: $96.230 annually ($46.27/hr)
  5. Alaska: $95,270 annually ($45.81/hr)

California is by far the country’s largest employer of RNs, with 307,060 working across the state. Texas comes in second with 219,330; Florida with 183,130; New York with 178,550 and Pennsylvania rounds out the top 5 with 146,640 providers.

Looking at the data by state doesn’t tell the full story, though. If you’re considering moving to a new city, these areas pay the highest averages:

  1. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $149,200 a year ($71.73/hr)
  2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $146,870 a year ($70.61/hr)
  3. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $142,140 a year ($68.34/hr)
  4. Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA: $134,350 a year ($64.59/hr)
  5. Salinas, CA: $132,160 a year ($63.54/hr)

Clearly, California is the place to be if you’re looking to earn the most money for your time. However, many cities in this state and several others also tend to be some of the most competitive.

If you’re looking to land your first job, these areas have the highest concentrations of RNs:

  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA
  • Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI
  • Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD
  • Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH
  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
  • Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX
  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL
  • Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

Let’s say you’re not a city person. If you’d rather live in the country without taking a massive pay cut, these are the highest paying nonmetropolitan areas on average:

  1. North Valley-Northern Mountains Region of California: $103,890/year ($49.95/hr)
  2. Alaska nonmetropolitan area: $102,390/year ($49.23/hr)
  3. Eastern Sierra-Mother Lode Region of California: $101,000/year ($48.56/hr)
  4. Hawaii / Kauai nonmetropolitan area: $97,950/year ($47.09/hr)
  5. North Coast Region of California: $92,760/year ($44.60/hr)

RN Salaries – Adjusted for Cost of Living

Let’s face it: living in New York, L.A., or Chicago isn’t for everyone. You’re probably spending most of your time at the hospital, so living in a big city might not be worth it. Cities like these are also among the most expensive to live in the world. Yes, we’re looking at you, San Francisco. If you’re looking to squeeze as much money out of your time as a nurse, these states pay the most when we adjust for the cost of living:

  1. New Mexico: $84,770
  2. California: $84,663
  3. Texas: $83,478
  4. Nevada: $82,491
  5. Michigan: $81,656
  6. Washington: $80,805
  7. Minnesota: $80,397
  8. Georgia: $79,721
  9. Arizona: $79,348
  10. Illinois: $78,484

Clearly, there’s a lot to consider when taking a job in another state. You might be able to maximize your paycheck by living cheaply in a major city or high-paying state like California. For example, you could get a roommate or live outside of the downtown area and take a train to work. 

Keep this information in mind as you look towards your post-pandemic future. And remember, you’re worth every penny. 

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