How much can you expect to earn as a nurse?

Susanna Kahr

Nurses are in high demand across the US right now. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for registered nurses is set to increase by 15% from 2016 – 2026, with the need for licensed practical nurses increasing by 12% and nursing assistants by 11% within the same time period. So, if you ever wanted to join the nursing profession, there’s never been a better time. But how much can you expect to earn as a nurse and how high of a salary can you ask for?

America’s baby boomer generation is aging rapidly, meaning that people across the US are in need of more care than ever. At the same time, there’s also been an expansion in services, with more and more money being invested in home-health and digital health services, meaning that not only are there more nurses needed period, there are also more jobs available in new areas for qualified nurses. It’s an exciting time to be a nurse, but it’s also a time to make sure that you know what you’re worth on the labor market. We’ve done the hard part for you and found out just how much you can expect to earn across the country and in different industries, take a look. 

Average Wages for Registered Nurses

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average mean salary for registered nurses across the country was $75,510 in 2018, with the top group of nurses actually taking home $106,530! 

Whilst General and Surgical Hospitals are the biggest employers of registered nurses, the best paying industries to work in are Pharmaceutical Medical Manufacturing, which pays an average wage of $95,400, the Federal Executive Branch which pays RNs an average salary of $89,430 and Business Schools and Computer and Management Training which pays RNs an average wage of $85,920. 

Of course, wages also depend on the state that you live and work in, but we have some good news there too. The top paying states for RNs are California ($106,950), Hawaii ($98,080), District of Columbia ($92,350), Massachusetts ($92,140) and Oregon ($91,080). 

And, if you wanted yet more reasons to move to the sunshine state of California, you can earn the most as an RN in the following areas, Salinas ($131,710), San Francisco Oakland Hayward ($128,990), San Jose Sunnyvale Santa Clara ($128,610), Santa Cruz Watsonville ($127,440) and Sacramento Roseville Arden Arcade ($127,440). In fact, most of California pays RNs really well! 

“The pay is good and the building is beautiful.” – anonymous employer review at Luther Woods Nursing Home

Average Wages for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average mean salary for LPNs and LVNs was $46,240 in 2018. The top paid LPNs and LVNs were paid an average wage of $62,160. 

Nursing Care facilities hire the most LPNs and LVNs, but the top paying industries are Junior Colleges ($62,050), Agencies, Brokerages and other insurance related companies ($55,180) and Insurance carriers ($54,780). 

The top paying states for LPNs and LVNs are Rhode Island ($59,130), Massachusetts ($58,990), Alaska ($58,250), Nevada ($57,140) and Connecticut ($56,970). And the top paying areas in the US are San Francisco Oakland Hayward CA ($65,410), San Jose Sunnyvale Santa Clara CA ($63,650) and Santa Rosa CA ($62,480). So it looks like you might also want to think of moving to sunny California!

“High pay rate, but health insurance is terrible.” – anonymous employer review at Dedicated Nursing Associates

Average Wages for Nursing Practitioners

The average annual wage for nursing practitioners in 2018, was $110,030 with the top paid nurse practitioners taking home $150,320. 

The largest employers for Nurse Practitioners are Offices of Physicians which hired 84,720 nurse practitioners last year. But, the top paying industries are Personal Care Services ($139,770), Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services ($131,930) and Religious Organisations ($126,650). 

The top paying states are California, again, ($133,780), Alaska ($122,880), Massachusetts ($122,740), New Jersey ($122,100) and New York ($120,970). With the top paying areas being New Bedford, MA ($156,980), San Francisco Oakland Hayward, CA ($150,790) and Spokane, Spokane Valley, WA ($148,440), so it looks like you could find a high paying job on either coast as a nurse practitioner. 

“You get paid weekly, no bounced checks.” – anonymous employer review at A nurses touch

Average Wages for Nursing Assistants

Last but not least, it’s time to look at the average wages for nursing assistants in the US today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing assistants took home an average annual wage of $29,580 in 2018, with the top paid nursing assistants taking $39,560 for the year. 

Understandably, the biggest employers of Nursing Assistants are Nursing Care facilities followed by Retirement Communities and Assisted Living facilities for the Elderly. But, the top paying industries are Scientific Research and Development facilities ($41,990), the Federal Executive Branch ($39,110) and Junior Colleges ($37,620). 

The top paying states are Alaska ($39,830), New York ($37,010), Hawaii ($35,770), California ($35,220) and Nevada ($35,130). And the top paying areas for nursing assistant jobs are San Francisco Oakland Hayward, CA, again ($44,260), Salinas, CA ($42,590) and Fairbanks, AK ($40,710). 

“What I like about the company: the pay.” – anonymous employer review at Conestoga View Nursing

So, it’s time to get out there and get the salary that you deserve! We’ve even got some resources to help you with your application, from tips for writing an attention-grabbing cover letter, to the most common questions that you’ll get asked in your interview, to tips on how to negotiate your salary like a pro. And, once you’ve found some employers that you’d like to work for, you can check them all out on our employer rating platform to ensure you choose the right employer for you. 



Here at kununu, we’re on a mission to make the world of work more transparent. Are you a registered nurse, LPN, LVN or nursing assistant? Tell us what your job and your salary are like in a review on kununu and help other job seekers find the perfect employer, and paycheck, for them.