Registered Nurse Starting Salary and Maximum Earning Trends
Registered Nurse Starting Salary and Maximum Earning Trends

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Registered Nurse Starting Salary and Maximum Earning Trends

By:
Cross Country TravCorps
Posted:
September 22, 2017 14:30 PM (EDT)
Categories:
RN Salary Compensation Demand Series

Nationally, healthcare related careers, and specifically RN jobs will continue to grow at a rate far exceeding the US average for all jobs. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for RNs is expected to grow by an average of 16% per year — more than double the average for all jobs—which is 7%. 

As a headline, this data would strongly suggest that the US nursing shortage will not only continue into the foreseeable future, but that the gap between jobs and the availability of qualified nurses will continue to widen. While this may be true, it is important to remember that employment data is only relevant to us if we are evaluating supply and demand within our local job market.

Cross Country TravCorps, a national leader in nursing and allied contingent staffing, has published a series of documents to help healthcare professionals better understand the US job market and provide insight to help RNs navigate their careers over the next 10 years. The series explores local job markets by state and metropolitan area, salary variations by location and by cost of living factors, economic and other factors that may be tightening the job market for RNs, the skills gap and ways that RNs can improve their opportunities for both placement and career advancement. 

This article in this series, Registered Nurse Starting Salary and Maximum Earning Trends, looks more deeply at both starting salaries for RNs across the US and in major metropolitan areas as well as maximum earning potential. By evaluating both, we can identify markets with high demand for recent college graduates as well as those markets that offer the greatest long-term earning potential for RNs. 

For entry-level nurses, the national mean wage is $47,120, and the most experienced nurses can earn as much as $102,990, on average. Over a career, this suggests that the income growth potential for RNs is $55,870—or about $1,400 in average increases per year during a 40-year career. 

However, as reported in our previous article, location plays a significant factor. RN residents of Savannah, GA have the smallest income growth potential at about $19,500 during their career while San Rafael, CA RNs enjoy about a $110,000 swing from entry level to peak earning potential. The first table below highlights the top ten states with the highest entry-level mean income for RNs. As we did in our previous article, we have also provided an adjusted income that considers the cost of living index for that state.   

Market* Mean Salary Entry-Level RNs Mean Salary Entry-Level RNs adjusted for cost of living
Oregon $64,270 $55,693
California $63,450 $47,070
Alaska $62,000 $47,112
Nevada** $61,860 $59,196
Hawaii $59,570 $35,585
New Jersey $57,540 $47,554
Connecticut $55,530 $42,487
Massachusetts $55,400 $41,128
Rhode Island $55,250 $45,250
Maryland $54,460 $43,568


*Data from all 50 states available at www.crosscountryhealthcare.com 
**Highest entry-level salary when adjusted for cost of living.


Table two below highlights the top ten states with the highest top-level mean income for RNs and again includes an adjusted income that considers the cost of living index for that state.   

Market* Mean Salary Top-Level RNs Mean Salary Top-Level RNs adjusted for cost of living
California $149,440 $110,861**
Massachusetts $134,300 $99,703
Hawaii $120,510 $71,989
Alaska $117,450 $89,248
Oregon $113,610 $98,449
Washington $113,600 $106,069
New York $113,450 $83,913
Nevada $105,880 $101,321
New Jersey $103,800 $85,785
Connecticut $101,740 $77,842


*Data from all 50 states available at www.crosscountryhealthcare.com
**Highest top-level salary when adjusted for cost of living.

While entry-level and top-level compensation are valuable tools when evaluating a market, annual increases are also a consideration. In a previous article, we covered mean income by state and major metropolitan area. Additionally, in this article we will also evaluate earning potential — the difference between starting salary and peak salary in a location. The next table highlights those markets with the greatest variation between starting salaries for RNs and peak earning potential. We will also adjust those numbers by the cost of living index.

Market* Anticipated lifetime salary increases Anticipated annual compensation increases (40 year career) Lifetime salary increases adjusted for cost of living
California $85,990 $2,150 $63,791**
Massachusetts $78,900 $1,973 $58,575
Hawaii $60,940 $1,524 $36,404
New York $60,390 $1,510 $44,667
Washington $59,550 $1,489 $55,602
Alaska $55,450 $1,386 $42,135
Illinois $52,490 $1,312 $54,963
Minnesota $49,650 $1,241 $49,110
Oregon $49,340 $1,234 $42,756
Virginia $48,440 $1,211 $48,343


*Data from all 50 states available at www.crosscountryhealthcare.com
**Highest lifetime salary increase when adjusted for cost of living.

States with the highest cost of living adjusted salaries for both entry-level and top-level RNs are shown in the table below.

Market* Entry-level salary cost of living adjusted Market Top-level salary cost of living adjusted
Nevada $59,196 California $110,861
Michigan $58,492 Texas $106,604
Oregon $55,693 Washington $106,069
Texas $55,524 Illinois $104,283
New Mexico $54,242 Michigan $103,061
Arizona $53,680 Nevada $101,321
Wisconsin $53,395 Arizona $100,703
Delaware $52,485 Massachusetts $99,703
Colorado $51,254 Minnesota $98,823
Ohio $51,140 Oregon $98,449


*Data from all 50 states available at www.crosscountryhealthcare.com

Depending upon where you are in your career, knowing salary ranges within your market as well as the markets in other US cities is a key tool when considering relocation or when contemplating travel nursing. While travel nurses are not paid annual salaries, their compensation is based upon local market conditions as well as cost of living. Markets such as Nevada, Michigan, Oregon, Texas and Arizona appear to compensate well for both entry-level and top-level RNs.    

 

If you’re ready to explore a new nursing assignment in one of these states, let us know today.

 

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