April 1, 2024

Nurse Salaries in 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

Average registered nurse salaries for the U.S.

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Although most people refer to all types of nursing professionals as nurses, there are many different types of workers who meet these vital medical roles. Nurses fill a wide range of invaluable positions in the medical field, including caring for patients in a hospital setting, clinical care, and public education roles. Each nursing job has different requirements, and they can expect to make different amounts of income. How much salary a nurse earns depends on a range of variables.

Among the many options for nursing jobs, the most common title is registered nurse, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these healthcare workers earn $77,600 per year or $37.31 per hour. However, it's not accurate to say that's the average income for all nurses. The amount of annual salary someone can expect to make as a nurse depends on a number of factors, including their education, the specialty they focus on, where they are located, and more. Here are the facts about how much in annual wages different kinds of nurses earn on average and what factors affect their income.

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Types of Nurses 

The label "nurse" includes a variety of jobs and titles, and the differences between the positions are significant. These variations include the tasks they are expected to do, how much education they are required to have, and what their average annual income might be. To clarify the main differences between these jobs, here is a breakdown of some of the requirements to work in the various roles, how much annual income each type of job typically earns, and some of the duties the different nursing roles entail.

Education Options for Nurses

Of course, the first step to a career in nursing is education. How much education is needed depends on the type of nursing job you plan to pursue. Preparing for a nursing career requires different levels of training for nurses to be qualified for different types of jobs. How much education you need to qualify to work in different nursing jobs require varies from a few years of post-high school study all the way through a Ph.D. program.

According to Medscape, the jobs that require the least amount of education, Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), have an annual gross income of $50,000. The next level up, Registered Nurse (RN), has an annual gross income of $86,000. Medscape also reports that when you get to the highest level of nursing education, Advance Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), the average yearly gross income varies quite a bit by specialty, but it can be as high as $211,000.

To prepare for each of these types of roles, there is a range of levels and types of education required. The Office of Nursing Workforce explains that there are different paths that people can take into a nursing career, and that includes the amount of schooling that they will need to take. Here are the different education options that are available to prepare potential nurses to work in the medical field.

  • Diploma in Nursing - This is an older approach to training nurses. It is done on the job in a hospital setting and takes two to three years to complete. This approach is much less common than it used to be before the 1970s, and it is being phased out as an option.
  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) - This degree takes two years to complete, and it is done through a trade school or community college. These are popular programs, and as a result, they often have waiting lists to get in. 
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) - This is a four-year degree, but it can be completed in one to two years for someone who already has an ADN. The study for this degree is completed through a university, either online or on campus. 
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) - If someone already has an ADN or BSN, this postgraduate degree can be completed through a university in one and a half to two years. At this level of study, nurses are able to choose a specialty to focus on, which can have a big impact on their potential earnings. These specialties include Nurse Practitioner (NP), Certified Nurse Midwife, Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), Nurse Educator, School Nursing, or Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL).
  • Doctorate - A doctorate program in nursing can be accomplished in three to six years at a university and two to three years if the applicant already has an MSN. This degree can be a Doctor of Nursing (ND), Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc), or Doctor of Nursing Philosophy (PhD). 

What nursing roles are available with these education options?

To decide which level of education you want to pursue, it's important to look at the types of jobs each one prepares you for. The more education a nurse has, the more they can generally expect to be paid, although that isn't the only variable that affects their income. Starting with the nursing jobs that require the most education, here are the main types of roles nurses can expect to work in once they are fully qualified.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)

This category of nurse is very diverse, and it includes a number of important specialties. According to the American Nurses Association, an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) is someone who holds an MSN or Doctorate degree and practices a specialized role in health care. They often function as primary care providers. Here are some examples of different APRNs and how much average annual salary each specialty is expected to earn.

Nurse Anesthetists

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists care for patients by administering pain medication and anesthesia before, during, and after surgery. These medications provide pain relief and help patients stay asleep during surgery. 

While the patient is asleep, the Nurse Anesthetist monitors their vital signs to ensure they are safe and tolerating the medication well. After the surgery, they care for the patient to make certain they are recovering well and deal with any side effects they may have, such as nausea. Nurse Anesthetists can work with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and dentists.

The median annual salary for this profession is $203,090.

Nurse Midwives

Nurse Midwives function much like OB/GYN care providers. They provide standard prenatal care, such as regular checks and diagnostic care, including tasks such as ordering blood and urine tests. They also participate in labor and delivery, helping to deliver babies. Another role they fill is to give basic gynecological care, such as yearly exams and diagnostic work, including such tests as pap smears and breast exams. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Nurse Midwives earn a median annual salary of $120,880.

Nurse Practitioners

These nurses provide general medical care. The scope of their work is similar to that of a primary care provider.  They diagnose and treat illness, prescribe medication, and order and interpret diagnostic tests. They help patients manage their health conditions and can counsel them on medical questions.

Their median annual salary, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $121,610. 

Taking these three nursing careers together, the overall median annual salary is $123,780, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Registered Nurses (RN)

You may apply for licensure to be an RN if you have a diploma, ADN, or BSN, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most entry-level RNs have a BSN. 

RNs function in a wide range of roles, including administrative, public education, and clinic care work. In a clinical setting, they speak to patients, take notes about their medical history, record vital signs, and note their concerns for the doctor or APRN to see. They help prepare patients for their exams, and they can administer medications. They also educate patients about health problems, home care, and medication use. Medscape reports that more than half of RNs work in a hospital setting, where they do inpatient care.

The median annual salary for RNs is $77,600.

Practical Nurse (LPN or LVN)

To be a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN), applicants must have at least a postsecondary nondegree award, meaning that they must attend an applicable education program after they finish high school or receive a GED, generally an ADN.

LPNs and LVNs provide basic medical care to patients, such as wound care, transferring patients, feeding and toileting assistance, and bathing. Practical nurses can also monitor vital signs and patient health conditions. According to Medscape, the most common job for LPNs is working in a skilled nursing facility, such as a nursing home.

The median annual salary for a practical nurse is $48,070.

How much do nurses make in each state?

As with other professions, the average pay for nurses varies widely by state. Where you live can be expected to make a big impact on your income as a nurse. That said, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the more education a nurse has, the more they are likely to earn, no matter where they live. On top of that, even the lowest-paid nursing jobs pay more than the median annual wage for all occupations, which was $38,640 in 2018. The same year, LPNs on average earned $46,240 annually.

It's important to note that licensing and certification requirements vary by state, so if you're interested in pursuing a nursing job in another state, be sure to confirm their requirements. Having a nursing license in one state does not guarantee you will be able to be licensed in another state.

To get a glimpse into the average earnings for nurses by state, here's the average yearly gross income by state for LPN/LVN, RN, Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwife, and Nurse Anesthetist (as the information is available).

StateLVN/LPNRegistered NursesNurse PractitionersNurse MidwivesNurse Anesthetists
Arkansas$46,190$64,130$102,880- -
Kansas$49,250$66,460$108,350 -$166,590
Kentucky$49,210$75,800$104,630- -
New Hampshire$63,170$80,550$125,450$110,450$212,710
New Jersey$61,460$98,090$136,480$126,740$208,330
New Mexico$60,210$81,990$125,190$116,250$207,310
New York$57,670$100,370 -$127,360$226,340
North Carolina$51,300$76,430$111,140$119,020$206,750
North Dakota$50,710$69,640$107,680-$227,010
Rhode Island$62,810$85,960$121,310$127,390-
South Carolina$50,020$75,610$103,950$96,730$192,080
South Dakota$47,500$62,920$108,250-$197,970
Utah$55,290$77,240$112,490 --
Vermont$59,940$77,230$115,940 -$205,150
West Virginia$44,410$74,160$104,290$179,860$214,360


Are there variations in salary based on experience or education level? 

Both of these factors affect nurses' salaries significantly. As Medscape reports, there is definitely an increase in income with higher education levels, with the biggest jump being between nurses with a BSN versus the earnings of nurses with an MSN. How much experience a nurse has on the job also boosts their average salary, with RNs who have been in the field for 21 years or more making an average of $21,000 more than those who have been working for five years or less.

How much do nurses make with a bachelor's degree?

The amount a nurse can expect to earn depends on several different factors. These include their education level, what field they specialize in, where they live, and how much experience they have. Having a bachelor's degree generally opens up well-paying jobs for people in the nursing field. Most nurses with a bachelor's degree are RNs, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that RNs earn an average of $77,600 per year or $37.31 per hour.

What is the highest-paid nursing job?

In general, the highest-paid nurses are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN). Within that category, the average gross yearly income varies depending on what specialty they focus on. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest-paid nursing position is Nurse Anesthesiologist. These nursing specialists make an average of $195,610 per year, or $97.81 an hour. This job requires at least a master's degree and a national certification examination.

What is the most popular nursing degree?

According to Medscape, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, is the most commonly held nursing degree. This level of education prepares students to work as RNs, which provides a wide range of options for their careers. Although there are a range of degrees and certification programs available for future nurses, the BSN is the most versatile option for most people. Unfortunately, there appears to be a trend of fewer faculty available to teach in BSN programs, which may impact the number of RNs who are available in the future.

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