The best and worst states to be an RN: 2015 edition

Shutterstock | hans.slegers
Shutterstock | hans.slegers

If you’re an RN or thinking of becoming one, we have good news: The registered nurse is expected to be among the fastest growing professions in the United States in the coming years.

The latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predict that employment of registered nurses will grow 19 percent between 2012 and 2022. This is compared to 11 percent growth expected across all occupations during the same time period.

As we’ve discussed in recent articles on nursing salary and the highest paying nurse specialties, RN salaries vary widely across the U.S., from state to state and city to city. Of course, the cost of living varies just as widely.

With this in mind, check out the following data exploring what the nursing industry is like in different areas across the country, including states with the highest (and lowest) nurse salaries, cost of living and more.

We know that each nurse has his or her own definition of “best” and “worst” places to work; does this data impact your perceptions? Do the numbers reinforce that you are happy where you are working or make you want to explore possibilities in new areas? Let us know in the comments below!


Top Five RN Mean Hourly Wage by State

As it has for many years, California has the highest RN pay rate of any state, with an annual mean salary of $98,400, according to the BLS. The state also has the highest number of registered nurses in the U.S., with 253,310 RNs currently working.

California: $47.31
Hawaii: $42.42
Massachusetts: $41.23
Alaska: $41.22
Oregon: $39.87


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9 Responses to The best and worst states to be an RN: 2015 edition

  1. onlyme

    Up here in Canada a lot of the big hospitals are situated in the Toronto area. I guess to the statistics about cost of living can be added the location of the major employers, to get a fuller picture.

    • bs3400

      The US labor statistics can not be compared with the Canadian labor statistics. The influences of socialized healthcare and nurses being considered as government employees does not lend itself to comparisons across the border. I know both places, having trained in Ontario and working in the US. Thank you for being a nurse.

  2. Meghan Williams

    I can say that your West Virginia salary is grossly incorrect. In 2012, my starting salary in WV as a bachelor’s prepared nurse in a large teaching hospital was 21.18. When I left in 2015, my salary was $22.88. Obviously, that is no where near over $27 an hour. Night shift differential or weekend differential wouldn’t have even made my hourly rate that high. I suppose nurses who had worked there for over 10 years may have had a pay rate that high.

  3. Linds3evans

    To your criteria, I would add:
    # of Magnet hospitals
    Autonomy vs restrictions

    I look for Magnet hospitals, when relocating because that is usually a statement about respect for nurses, and good working conditions.
    I have lived in states which are so restricted, they don’t allow RN’s to give botox injections, & don’t allow NPs full practice authority. This is backward thinking!

  4. prouddad

    I am excited to have this opportunity to say a HEARTY THANK YOU to all nurses!!! I began reading SCRUBS because all my daughters (3) chose to serve as nurses. One of them was a nurse in the Air Force. As I write this all of them are sacrificing and going for yet another degree, from B.S. to M.S. to PhD. I was interested in nursing salaries, at the end of this article I realized that all my children listened to me and chose careers that they love dearly. I taught them that the ‘money’ was a secondary concern, that they would be properly remunerated should they choose to do that which they genuinely loved to do. They did!!! I am so proud of them. I am thankful and I appreciate all of y’all. God Bless.

  5. nursiemarcie

    Once again, as with most articles in Scrubs, it’s geared to RNs. This is why I don’t usually read anything your site has to say. I’ve been an LPN for 25 years. And yes, I’m a nurse, too.

    • Miclawlvn

      The thing; along with the LVN issue; that bugs me is that it’s all about hospitals too. I happily work private duty with peds, and have no desire to work in the hospital. But, unfortunately, from what I’ve seen here; which if I’m wrong, I’ll admit it; nurses only count in the hospital area.

  6. ami62481

    I live in North Alabama and the facility that I currently work at starts cardiac/telemetry nurses at $18/hour. I have no idea where in the state they are paying $27.


      Hi AMI62481,
      I recently moved from Chicago to Birmingham, AL in 2016 and it really was hell finding a job. Try ATC Healthcare, I’ve been with them for about two months and I like it. I am an RN with a ADN, but I am back in school to get my BS in Healthcare Management. You can forget about finding anything paying more than $25/per hr with anything less than an Associates. Nursing is way too competitive in Alabama so you have to have a Bachelors, preferably your bachelor’s or higher. I come from Chicago and I have worked in higher-paying jobs with my associate’s degree but you can’t really do that down South unless you know someone that can get you a position somewhere or if you willing to work in the hospital or nursing home which I can not do anymore. Good luck!!