Salary: Top pay for new nurses – the South


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Where in the U.S. are new nurses receiving top pay? Let’s take a look at the South (get our round up for the West Coast here). Keep in mind that the facts and figures are mostly related to new nurses and numbers might be higher for nurses with more experience or for those in specific specialties.

Did you miss our list of top 10 best paying nursing specialties? You can read that here!

Average pay (per hour) for top cities:

Dallas, TX: $28
Houston, TX: $29
Oklahoma City, OK: $23
Little Rock, AR: $23
New Orleans, LA: $25
Frankfurt, KY: $22
Nashville, TN: $24
Jackson, MS: $23.50
Birmingham, AL: $23
Atlanta, GA: $26
Miami, FL: $28
Columbia, SC: $24
Raleigh, NC: $24
Richmond, VA: $25
Charleston, WV: $23.50

Source: Nurse Zone

What nurses are saying about working in top Southern cities:

Dallas, TX:

“I work as a new grad and I make 23.00. I work for a hospital system that is known for being at the low end of the pay spectrum BTW (it has many more perks to make up for it though). If you want a really good idea check out Parkland Hospitals website. They pretty much set the standard for DFW.” – 

“One of my workplaces is a nursing home that is owned by Kindred Healthcare. This facility starts brand new RNs at $30 hourly. $28.50 would not be unheard of if the new RN is doing home health, private duty, or long-term care.” – 

Houston, TX:

“My advice is to stay away from the major cities and go for the small towns and mid-sized cities (San Angelo, Abilene, Midland, Odessa, Lubbock, Tyler, Longview, Wichita Falls, Waco, Eagle Pass, etc.). The job situation in the major metro areas is atrocious because so many nurses from out of state have been moving to Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio over the past couple of years. In addition, the bigger cities have too many nursing programs that churn too many new nurses into the local job markets when there are not enough jobs for them.” – 

“This is why getting your foot in the door prior to graduating is the best thing to do… because at least they know who you are and your work ethics and also its easier to apply internally then externally.” – 

Oklahoma City, OK:

“None of the hospitals in the Oklahoma City area are particularly high-paying. An RN with two to four years of experience is going to be offered in the low-to-mid $20s per hour at all of the major hospitals in the area. The OKC area can get away with lowball wages because there are numerous nursing schools in and around the city that continually pump new nurses into the employment pipeline, which keeps the pay rates at a certain level. Employers can literally pick and choose what they want to pay people. I attended a nursing program in OKC and live south of the state line, in Texas, where I feel that I am being paid what I am worth.” – 

“OKC is very low-paying overall hospital wise, I think going per diem or trying a nursing home would be the best bet. I intend to relocate after a year so I can get better compensation. I only know of the VA hospital paying slightly more for BSNs.” – 

Little Rock, AR:

“Check out the UAMS website. They list lots of jobs for new grads, and if you’re interested in continuing education the bennies can’t be beat. If nothing else, it would be a place to gain that year of experience everyone else wants.” – 

“I am starting at $24/hr but will have evening differential of $2/hr and night differential of $4/hr, plus an additional $1 for weekends. My shift is 12 hours, so 4 of those will be at evening differential and the other 8 at night differential. I don’t know if my starting salary is typical of the area, or even the hospital. Two of my classmates who were previous nurse externs at the same hospital are starting at $22.50/hr.” – 

New Orleans, LA:

“I’m in Basics, but I hear new nurse salary is around $22 an hour (days). Night and week-end pay is higher. I hear benefits are very good, but some (or most) of the hospitals have cut out the tuition reimbursement benefits. Also, new grads are having a hard time finding jobs right now. I just spoke with 2 new nurses and it took one 7 months and the other 5 months to find a job.” – 

“Actually they did ask about GPA on the initial phone interview and transcripts were required. However, Beejaycee made a good point about them wanting involvement especially students who are officers. All I can say is do whatever you can to get a ‘nurse tech/patient care tech/CNA or sitter/PCT’ position to get a foot in the door. Network during your clinicals to meet the unit manager and give them your resume with a cover letter and letters of recommendation from your instructors. That helped me land a tech job and I’m confident that I will have a job when I graduate. Make friends with a nurse and see if he/she will recommend you. There is just a lot of new grad competition so networking can really help.” – 

Frankfurt, KY:

“Pay rates for RN’ in Frankfort, Lexington area are about 22.00-24.00/hr. I suggest getting your LPN to see if you like it. I was an LPN for 13 years before going back to bridge and get my RN. I took a pay cut, due to being at my position for 10 years, and I have never worked so hard in my life. I’m responsible for everything!!! Seems to be harder to get a job these days for the new graduate. Not to discourage you, I’d look into it before spending the 25,000. plus needed to start your nursing program. It is expensive!!!” – 

“I am a new grad RN working at UK in Lexington, KY. Starting pay is $21.57 plus shift diffs (4.50 on nights, plus 3.25 on weekends). There are a good number of jobs here in Lexington, but there are also a million nursing schools here, so competition is fierce. I know of several experienced RNs from Louisville driving 1.5 hrs each day to come work in Lexington because there are no job openings in Lousiville. My per diem RN friends make about $35/ hour plus diffs.” – 

Nashville, TN:

“When I first came to Nashville I interviewed at Baptist, Centennial, and Vanderbilt. They are all great options but I took the Vanderbilt offer and I love it here. I have also heard good things about Centennial and the Ob at Baptist. The pay rates were similar at all three.” – 

“Nashville is a great city. I am an LPN and am starting to work towards my RN this fall–lots of opportunity for work, school, and everything else in between. I also have two boys–there’s great things for kids to do, and we’ve met a lot of really awesome and supportive friends. I transferred my license from NY and the TN board is really helpful.” – 

Jackson, MS:

“I work for the V. A. in Biloxi. I have worked here as a LPN and RN. As far as the hiring process, it can take weeks to months. Just when you have given up on hearing anything they call you.” – 

“North MS new grads start around 20.” – 

Birmingham, AL:

“To be honest, the market is really competative in Birmingham. I am a new grad and it took me until August to get a job. I had been looking since April. I like UAB personally, they have been great and answered all of my questions without making me feel silly. I would look at what you like as far as units. You can go to and look up the Units. It will tell you what the patient to nurse ratio is as well as the type of patients you will deal with.” – 

“I would suggest Trinity Medical Center Hospital on Montclair Rd. excellent place to work! Go online there to I know nurses who have left Veteran’s Hospital, Brookwood, St.Vincent’s, UAB to work here. Princeton Medical Center is another good hospital to work at.” – 

“UAB posts their wages. I believe it starts at 20.10/hr. Not sure about the others. I work in Gadsden and make $18.10.” – 

Atlanta, GA:

“My wife and I are both Atlanta area nurses, and yes, right now it is hard for a new grad to get job right now. I haven’t asked my wife to see if this has changed, but I know they were not hiring new grads were she works because of the expense associated with the training. That could have changed, and I will ask. Did you try Children’s Hospital? They have three hospitals and several clinics/outpatient areas. You might have to take nights/weekends. That is pretty much where they are starting new grads these days.” – 

“I work at Emory and the majority of the senior nursing students I’ve worked with lately said they are all having problems finding jobs–same reason as you. The only ones who had jobs were ones who were already working as CNAs at hospitals. I know Emory is hiring no new grads this year except ones with the Emory scholarship thingy. It sucks. I only graduated 3 years ago and it seemed like you only had residencies for certain specialty areas like L&D, OR, ICU, etc.” – 

“I graduated in Aug ’08 and moved to ATL at end of Feb. I work at Southern Regional, but I tried to get into Grady (shocking I know) because they are a disproportionate share hospital (DSH) so you can apply to the feds for loan repayment…you should look into that.” – 

Miami, FL:

“Just moved from California/LA area to Fort Lauderdale ( just north of Miami). I love living in Florida, the clean warm beaches & clean air. But Miami….is worse than LA. The population is very diverse. The drivers are crazy! The pay is low compared to California but so is the cost of living. Avg. pay $ 28.00-$30.00 for a new grad. ” – 

“If you don’t know Spanish or Creole it will be very hard to perform your job effectively, and some places won’t even consider hiring you in Miami. Same is becoming true of Orlando. I have a friend who works L&D in Miami and she makes $27.25 with 6 years experience.” – 

Columbia, SC:

“Palmetto Health is the largest system in the state. I really don’t know much about the other hospitals though, I did work for Palmetto Health for a long time.” – 

“I don’t know much about the working environments at any of the hospitals in Columbia, but I do know that Palmetto Health, Lexington Medical Center, and Providence all start new grads at about $22/hour. I haven’t heard anything bad about any of these places. I actually had clinicals at the VA hospital and we had staff telling us not to come work there because it was terrible. Although I know someone who works there and loves it.” – 

Raleigh, NC:

“I am from the Raleigh/Durham area. This area is saturated with nursing schools (Chapel Hill, Duke, NCCU, Greensboro, etc) which means many students looking for jobs. Yes we have excellent hospitals; however, I do not think the triangle area is hiring many nurses. If you like the state, I would say more rural hospital areas are hiring more than the triangle. If you choose to relocate to the triangle, I know Wake Med and Chapel Hill pay more than Duke and Durham regional. But Duke does have a good new graduate program. Good luck! P.S. tips about housing: Raleigh: expensive, Cary: expensive, Chapel Hill: you can find good deals if your not looking directly in town, Durham: be selective about where you live but cheaper housing.” – 

“Raleigh is a great place to live, inside the beltline (ITB), downtown area is the neatest in my opinion, Rex and Wake Med, and Duke Raleigh are the big hospitals on that side of town. Durham and Chapel Hill are also great places to live, and the hospitals are UNC and Duke. If you are interested in apartment life in the Raleigh area I would say an average price for a two bedroom goes from 700-900/month. Homes rent for 800-1200 for a rental for a two or three bedroom house, depending on the area. New grad jobs can be hard to come by if you are only emailing and doing your searching online, folks should never underestimate the old fashioned way of finding a job. Get on the phone and ask to speak with a nurse recruiter. If you can get past whoever is answering the phone you might be on to something. I don’t know anything about schools but I have heard that Orange County (Hillsborough, Chapel Hill) have great schools, but if you buy a house, taxes in O.C. are real high, so I’ve heard. Good luck and you can’t go wrong in this area, it’s the best and there are a lot of places to work” – 

Richmond, VA:

“The starting salary is pretty much the same in almost every hospital in the area, around $29 something, plus your past experience that you will bring with you.” – 

“Here’s the deal: If you want Magnet status, top notch research, Level 1 trauma center and AMAZINGLY diverse specialties, and a hospital that promotes your professional development, work at VCU medical center. Best out there. Bon Secours is also very nice, but faith-based (not against, just saying…) and community-hospital. No Bias, I don’t work for VCU, but I used to, and it’s amazing.” – 

“MCV is a great hospital to work at! Lots of interaction with all different kinds of patients, and it is a very popular hospital. Today actually, is the first time i’ve heard about Bon Secours, but it sounds like a very friendly hospital.” –  

Charleston, WV:

“I lived in Charleston a number of years. From what I read (past tense) in the papers, CAMC has a real long history of ramping up the staffing and hiring and spending like there is no tomorrow, only to be crying the blues about “no money” and laying off everyone a year or two or three later. Seriously. I can recall at least three huge boom/bust cycles like that in about 12 – 15 years. They’d go through there and cut programs like diabetes education, etc., and toss out all of those people that they’d brought in specially from out of state. Like I said, I never worked for them. But as a casual observer, a patient, and a resident of the community, I certainly got the impression that CAMC treats employees like dirt.” – 

“I work at both Huntington hospitals – one fulltime, the other per deim. Both enjoy good reputations in the state, but like anything else, it depends on who you talk to. The pay is generally several dollars higher to start, and the benefits are all paid much more generously than CAMC. The only thing CAMC has thats higher that I’m aware of is the shift differentials. But otherwise, much more profitable to be in Huntington. Also, both Huntington hospitals have just done major expansions, so both have REALLY nice new ICU’s. If you want to do pediatrics, PICU or burn – try Cabell Huntington. If you like cardiac, go to St Marys. Both do trauma well. There’s lots of options available. Personally – I know people who work in Huntington and Charleston both (I have too) – I think those from Huntington are happier. But talk to others, too – it’s all who you talk to… good luck!” – 

Live and work in the South? Share with the Scrubs community what you think about your area in the comments below.

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