Registered Nurses: Salary Overview
Registered nurses (RNs) work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare facilities where they care for patients and educate them, their families, and the public about health conditions.
They also have the role of providing emotional support to patients and their families.
A registered nurse’s job description typically includes assessing a patient’s condition, recording the patient’s medical history, administering treatment, consulting with physicians and other healthcare professionals, operating medical equipment, and teaching patients and their families how to manage a specific illness.
Their responsibilities vary depending on the place where they work and the type of patients they work with.
For example, addiction nurses care for patients who try to overcome addiction while cardiovascular nurses care for patients with heart or vascular diseases.
Other types of registered nurses include critical care nurses, genetics nurses, neonatal nurses, public health nurses, and rehabilitation nurses.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for registered nurses was $73,300 a year as of May 2019.
This tells us that half the workers in this profession earned less than this amount while half earned more.
Salaries, however, vary based on a wide range of factors, such as experience, specialty, and place of employment.
Most registered nurses earn between $50,000 and $110,000 but entry-level employees may earn less than the lower value of this range while experienced nurses can make more than $110,000-$120,000 a year.
Registered Nurse Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses held about 3.1 million jobs in 2018, most of them working in hospitals.
The average annual wage reported by nurses who worked for general medical and surgical hospitals was $79,460.
Registered nurses who were employed in offices of physicians reported an average annual wage of $69,570 while those who worked in the field of home health care services earned $73,660 a year, on average.
The mean annual wage was $69,740 for nurses who worked for nursing care facilities and $84,720 for those employed by outpatient care centers.
The highest-paying fields for registered nurses were the industry of business support services and the federal executive branch.
Nurses employed in the field of business support services reported an average annual wage of $92,200 while those who worked for the federal executive branch earned $90,340, on average.
Registered Nurse Salary by Specialty
Salaries for this profession vary not only depending on the field of employment but also based on the nurse’s specialty and their level of expertise.
According to nurse.org, the highest paying nursing jobs are certified registered nurse anesthetist, general nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwife, and neonatal intensive care nurse.
The average annual wage for certified nurse anesthetist was $167,950 as of May 2018, according to the same website.
The same report shows that psychiatric nurse practitioners earned, on average, $105,658 while neonatal intensive care nurses made $102,487 a year, on average.
Registered nurse salaries also vary depending on their level of education.
Although an associate’s degree or a diploma in nursing is enough for applying for the state license, going back to school and earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing through an RN-to-BSN program can improve your earning prospects.
Also, you may earn a master’s degree in nursing and become an advanced practice registered nurse (ARPN), a profession that, according to nurse.org, was paid with $106,028, a year on average.
As and ARPN you will provide primary and specialty care and in many states, you will also be allowed to prescribe medication.
As you gain experience and after completing continuing education classes you may be promoted to a better-paid management position as a charge nurse, director of nursing, chief nursing officer.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Registered Nurses. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.