Registered Nurse Salary: Average Pay and Key Factors That Affect It


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The salary of a registered nurse (RN) is a critical factor to consider for those interested in pursuing this career. The average pay for RNs can vary based on several factors, such as experience, education, work setting, and location. 

Understanding the key factors that affect RNs’ salaries is crucial for making informed decisions about career choices and salary negotiations. In this article, we will explore the average pay for RNs in the United States, along with the key factors that impact their salaries.

Whether you are considering a career in nursing or are already an RN looking to advance your career and increase your earning potential, this article will provide valuable insight and information to help you make informed decisions about your career path.

What Is a Registered Nurse?

Registered nurses are healthcare professionals who have completed a nursing program and obtained a nursing license from the state’s board of nursing. RNs are responsible for providing patient care, collaborating with other healthcare professionals, and advocating for their patient’s well-being. They work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, and patient’s homes.

RNs perform a wide range of duties, including administering medication, monitoring vital signs, performing diagnostic tests, developing care plans, and educating patients and their families. They are also responsible for accurately documenting patient information and communicating with other healthcare professionals to ensure their patients receive the best possible care.

RNs must have strong communication skills, critical thinking skills, and the ability to work well under pressure. They must be compassionate, empathetic, and able to handle emotionally charged situations. 

Overall, registered nurses are essential to the healthcare system, and their crucial role ensures that patients receive healthcare services of the highest quality.

How Much Does a Registered Nurse Make?

The salary of a registered nurse varies depending on several factors, including location, education, experience, and specialty. According to Glassdoor, the average annual wage for RNs in the United States is $97,828. However, this figure can vary widely depending on location. RNs working in metropolitan areas or specialized healthcare settings can earn higher salaries than those in rural or non-specialized areas.

Experience is another important factor that can impact an RN’s earning potential. Generally, RNs with more years of experience tend to earn higher salaries than those just starting in the field. Additionally, RNs who hold advanced degrees or certifications can expect to earn a higher median salary than those without.

Work setting can also impact an RN’s salary. For example, RNs working in hospitals earn higher wages than those working in long-term care facilities.

Generally, RNs earn a competitive wage compared to many other professions, and the demand for these professionals is expected to grow as the population ages and healthcare needs increase. 

Below we discuss in more detail an RN’s salary according to state, years of experience, and work setting.

Registered nurse salary by state

Several factors can contribute to the differences in pay for registered nurses in different states. One major factor is the cost of living in each state. States with higher living costs, such as California and Massachusetts, may offer higher RN salaries to attract and retain healthcare professionals. 

Another factor is the demand for RNs in each state. States with higher demand for healthcare services may offer higher salaries to ensure an adequate supply of healthcare professionals. Finally, state-specific regulations and policies, such as state-mandated staffing ratios, can influence RNs’ wages in each state.

Take a look at the salaries of registered nurses across various states:

Registered nurse salary by years of experience


While RNs’ salaries vary based on location and industry, gaining experience can also lead to higher earning potential. RNs with more experience tend to earn higher wages. According to Indeed, RNs with less than one year of experience earn a median annual salary of $83,698. In contrast, those with ten years of experience (or more) earn a median yearly salary of $109,392

As RNs gain experience, they may also have opportunities to advance into management or leadership roles, which can offer even higher wages. Additionally, RNs specializing in anesthesia, critical care, or neonatal care may earn higher salaries due to the additional skills and training required for these roles.

Registered nurse salary by work setting

Registered nurses work in various settings, and their salaries can vary significantly depending on where they work. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2021, registered nurses working in the top industries earned median annual wages as listed below:


How To Increase Your Salary as a Registered Nurse

There are several ways to increase your salary as a registered nurse:

  1. Pursue additional education: You can increase your earning potential as a registered nurse by pursuing further education, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing. Employers typically pay higher salaries to nurses with advanced degrees.
  2. Specialize: You can also increase your salary by specializing in a particular area of nursing, such as pediatrics, critical care, or oncology. Specializing requires additional education and training, but it can lead to higher-paying jobs and opportunities for advancement.
  3. Seek out higher-paying positions: Nurses can also increase their salary by seeking positions such as nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, or nurse manager.
  4. Gain experience: As you gain experience as a nurse, you can become more valuable to employers, leading to higher salaries. Consider taking on leadership roles or obtaining certifications to demonstrate your expertise.
  5. Negotiate: When starting a new job or negotiating a salary increase, it’s important to research industry standards and come prepared with data to support your request. Be confident in your skills and the value you bring to the organization.

Overall, increasing your salary as a registered nurse requires a combination of education, experience, and negotiation skills. By pursuing additional education, specializing, seeking out higher-paying positions, gaining experience, and negotiating effectively, you can increase your earning potential and achieve greater financial stability.

Should You Become a Registered Nurse?

If you have a passion for helping others, a strong desire to make a difference in people’s lives, and a knack for science and critical thinking, becoming a registered nurse can be a fulfilling career choice. RNs work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and schools, and they play a vital role in providing direct patient care, administering medications, and monitoring vital signs. 

However, nursing is not for everyone, and it requires a significant commitment of time and energy to complete the necessary education and training. It’s important to weigh the benefits and challenges of becoming an RN carefully, as well as consider factors such as job prospects, salary expectations, and work-life balance, before making a decision. 

Ultimately, if you have a genuine interest in nursing and a desire to serve others, it can be a rewarding and fulfilling career path.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Understanding the average pay and key factors that affect the salary of a registered nurse is essential for making informed decisions about career choices and negotiating salaries. Experience, education, work setting, and location can significantly impact RNs’ wages. 

Pursuing advanced education and training, specializing in a particular area, and seeking opportunities for professional development can lead to higher wages and career advancement. Additionally, working in high-paying work settings, such as government or specialty hospitals, can also result in higher salaries. 

Overall, a career in nursing can be rewarding and fulfilling, both professionally and financially, and understanding the factors that impact RNs’ salaries can help individuals make informed decisions about their career paths and earning potential.

Want to learn more about the highest- and lowest-paying nursing specialties? Check out our nursing salary and career guides by clicking here.

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