Nurse Salaries / States
Average registered nurse salaries vary significantly from state-to-state. In the United States overall, the average registered nurse salary is $82,750 and the median (50th percentile) is $77,600. California, with RN salaries averaging $124,000, is the highest-paying state for nurses as of May 2021 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
$63,460 lower than California’s average is South Dakota, at $60,540. With such a wide possible salary range, it may pay off for nurses to consider moving to a higher-paying state. On the other hand, it may not; large cost of living differences between states means the same dollar you earn in one state may not go as far as in another.
Read on to learn more about which state pays their nurses the most, both in absolute terms and after factoring in the cost of living.
In this article:
- Highest-paying states for RNs
- Highest-paying states, adjusted for cost of living
- RN salaries in all 50 states
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Highest-paying states for registered nurses
California tops our list of the highest-paying states, where registered nurses make $124,000 per year on average. Following it is Hawaii, at $106,530, and Oregon at $98,6300. Washington, D.C., while not technically a state, also ranks among the top-paying U.S. regions with an average RN salary of $98,540.
Top 10 highest-paying states for registered nurses
|Rank||State||Average RN Salary||Local Estimates|
|1||California||$124,000||Get local estimates|
|2||Hawaii||$106,530||Get local estimates|
|3||Oregon||$98,630||Get local estimates|
|4||District of Columbia||$98,540||Get local estimates|
|5||Alaska||$97,230||Get local estimates|
|6||Massachusetts||$96,630||Get local estimates|
|7||Washington||$95,350||Get local estimates|
|8||New York||$93,320||Get local estimates|
|9||New Jersey||$89,690||Get local estimates|
|10||Connecticut||$88,800||Get local estimates|
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Kentfield, CA | $74,000 to $125,000 /year
South San Francisco, CA | $115,000 to $145,000 /year
Prairieville, LA | $56,000 to $88,000 /year
Fernandina Beach, FL | $55,000 to $90,000 /year
San Leandro, CA | $115,000 to $145,000 /year
Highest-paying states for RNs, adjusted for cost of living
The cost of living index is a measure of the relative purchasing power of a dollar for things like groceries, housing, and transportation. Regions, where these essential goods are more costly than the U.S. average, have a higher cost of living index; areas, where these same goods tend to be cheaper, are estimated to have a lower cost of living. As of 2021, Hawaii tops the list at 119.3, while Mississippi comes in lowest, at 87.8.
Adjusting each state’s average RN salary by its cost of living index gives us a potentially more accurate means of comparing where nurses get paid the most.
It’s not just about the absolute size of the paycheck, but about how far those wages will go for a nurse’s budget.
California sits atop the list of highest-paying states for nurses after adjusting for cost of living. The Golden State’s adjusted RN salary average is $106,529 – much lower than its $124,000 non-adjusted salary thanks to a higher cost of living. Following closely behind are Oregon ($96,131) and Alaska ($92,512).
Top 10 highest-paying states for registered nurses, adjusted for cost of living
Editor’s note: Cost-of-living salaries have not been updated as of April 4, 2022.
|Rank||State||Avg RN Salary (COL Adjusted)||Local Estimates|
|1||California||$106,529||Get Local Estimates|
|2||Oregon||$96,131||Get Local Estimates|
|3||Alaska||$92,512||Get Local Estimates|
|4||Nevada||$92,416||Get Local Estimates|
|5||Hawaii||$89,296||Get Local Estimates|
|6||Washington||$87,961||Get Local Estimates|
|7||Massachusetts||$87,527||Get Local Estimates|
|8||Washington, D.C.||$85,538||Get Local Estimates|
|9||Minnesota||$85,223||Get Local Estimates|
|10||New Mexico||$84,705||Get Local Estimates|
Registered nurse salaries in all 50 states
|State||Avg RN Salary||RNs employed||Cost of living index||Avg RN salary, adjusted for COL|
|District of Columbia||https://www.incrediblehealth.com/salaries/rn/dc/washington||$98,540||11,540||115.2||$84,314|
Annual Salary FAQ
According to the BLS, the average salary for registered nurses in the United States is currently $82,750.
Currently, California has the highest salary for nurses (even with cost of living factored in) at $124,000 per year on average.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists get paid the most, with an average salary of over $200,000. Get a full list of the highest-paid nurses here.
San Francisco, Sacramento, Portland and Los Angeles, are just a few of the cities with the highest national average nurse salary. To see our full list of the highest-paying cities for nurses, click here.
- “May 2021 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates.” bls.gov. Accessed April 1, 2022.
- “Regional Price Parities by State and Metro Area.” bea.gov. Accessed April 1, 2022.
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