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Registered Nurse Salary in 2021

Registered Nurse Salary in 2021

Nursing in America is a vast profession that covers millions of people employed in a multitude of job types and roles. Your potential earnings as a registered nurse are based on your experience role, locale, industry, and education. You can kick off your nursing career as a registered nurse or certified nurse assistant. Perhaps you’ve earned a master’s degree in nursing and become a nurse practitioner

Granted, some scales can be brought down in average hourly wage by including an LPN with a registered nurse. However, other scales from job sites and the like can be increased by including a higher-paid senior and clinical nurse specialist. Regardless of the pathway, you choose, gaining insight into the typical salary for your nursing career in your respective jurisdiction (as discussed in this guide) is beneficial. 

Registered Nurse Salary By Place of Employment

Your place of employment and location can significantly affect the size of your paycheck. A registered nurse salary is higher in urban than rural areas. It’s also higher in Northern states compares to Western and Southern states, with California being the exception. The physical setting also impacts an RN salary. 

A registered nurse who works in a hospital usually has a higher median salary compared to a licensed vocational nurse who works in a home health care setting, long-term care, and outpatient facilities. Nonetheless, this can differ based on whether you work in management or as a staff nurse. 

The pay for a registered nurse who works in an office also varies depending on their job description. In May 2011, the median salary for a registered nurse employed in a hospital was $33.56 per hour. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), working from a home-health facility pays an average salary of $31.31. In contrast, a registered nurse working in a nursing home earns $29.25 hourly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

A nurse practitioner who works in a hospital, except for substance abuse and psychiatric facilities, takes home an average of $34.72 per hour. On the other hand, a registered nurse working in substance abuse and psychiatric facilities within a hospital earns $31.85 hourly. 

Average Registered Nurse Salary by State

Not surprisingly, the highest RN salary pay areas are usually the costliest to live in. Therefore, unless you’re prepared for the higher cost of living, don’t pack up and hastily move to a higher-paying area. An LPN working in California earns $43.68 on average. 

If the same registered nurse packs up and moves to Mississippi, they can expect their earnings to go down to $28.59 per hour. In Boston, a registered nurse can earn $45.48 hourly, on average, compared to the same RN taking home an hourly wage of $39.93 in New York City and $41.03 in Los Angeles. Additionally, living in Dallas means taking a pay cut of $32.86 per hour. According to the BLS, the high-paying metropolitan areas for RNs are in California. 

Average RN salary differs considerably from one state to another. Overall, in the US, the average salary of a registered nurse is $80,010, whereas the 50th percentile (median) is $75,330. With average annual RN salaries of $120,560, there’s no denying that California is the highest-paying state as of May 2020. Alabama is $60,330 lower than California’s average, ranking at $60,230. With a broad potential salary range for a nurse practitioner, it may pay off for a registered nurse to move to one of the higher-paying states. 

The cost of living index measures the relative buying power of a dollar for transportation, groceries, and housing. Regions where these essentials are pricier than the US average have a greater cost of living index. Likewise, areas where these necessities are cheaper are estimated to have a lower cost of living. As of 2020, Hawaii tops the list at 198.6, whereas Mississippi comes in last at 84.5. 

Despite it being a costlier place to reside, Nevada edges out California, topping the list as the highest paying state for a registered nurse after adjusting to the cost of living. Nevada’s adjusted RN salary is $84,770, which is considerably higher than the non-adjusted $75,700 courtesy of the lower cost of living. Texas and California follow closely behind at $83,478 and $84,663, respectively. 

Here’s a table depicting the 5 lowest paying states for a registered nurse. 

State Annual/Hourly Wage
South Dakota $58,340/ $28.05
Mississippi $58,490/ $28.12
Iowa $59,130/ $28.43
Alabama $59,470/ $28.59 
Arkansas $60,780/ $29.22 

 

When it comes to the career outlook, the average annual salary of a registered nurse compared to all occupations in the US is $73,000, according to the BLS. RNs in California take home the highest average annual salary of more than $113,240. Other high-paying states are Oregon, Washington DC, Massachusetts, and Hawaii. 

Within the realm of the health care sector, a registered nurse works in various sub-industries such as ambulatory care services, nursing care facilities, the government, and hospitals. The BLS projects a 7% growth of nursing jobs, including a certified nursing assistant, and by 2029 largely because of the aging population in the US. An increasing number of older people require health care services. 

Skills That Affect a Registered Nurse’s Salary

RNs play a crucial role in the health care system. They’re the main contributors to comforting, analyzing, and assisting patients. In addition to their key roles, a registered nurse can be a mediator between the patient’s family and the doctor, giving them insight into the medical condition of their loved one, offering future and present treatment plans, and explaining the physician’s aftercare instructions. 

In addition to the fundamental educational requirements, a certified nursing assistant or registered nurse must learn to embody particular skills and qualities. Although these skills should usually be acquired during the registered nurse process at nursing school, it’s still essential to show them by emphasizing them in your cover letter when applying for a job. 

1. Organizational Skills

Each registered nurse should perform activities and be organized in a planned manner largely because each nurse can be juggling multiple patients simultaneously. Therefore, it’s more ideal if a nurse is prepared to shoulder all the responsibilities. 

With excellent organizational skills, an RN can efficiently allocate medications and file medical charts while helping with overall patient care. As nursing informatics and digital records infuse a modern touch to a myriad of tasks, a clinical nurse specialist must be well-organized to collaborate with other staff to provide the best care to patients. 

2. Stress Management

A nurse practitioner can experience constant stress, physical and mental trauma, making the workload overly hectic. Many scenarios may occur throughout the day that can intensify an RN’s stress. They include a plethora of patients, understaffing, and moody patients, to mention a few. When these incidences arise, a nursing assistant or RN must try to maintain composure. In doing so, they can successfully conduct their duties and offer the best care to their patients. 

3. Kindness and Compassion

These go hand in hand with the character of an RN and are a crucial component of the metaparadigm of nursing. An efficient nurse must be non-judgmental, considerate, and sympathetic with the ability to provide mental and emotional comfort to patients. At times, a nurse has to concurrently take care of patients of all demographics, which calls for them to depict composure, calmness, kindness, and compassion. 

4. Impeccable Communication Skills

It’s one of the most vital qualities that an LPN displays as they must interact with doctors, patients, and coworkers. The lack of great communication skills deters them from providing complete care to patients. Additionally, a nurse should display impressive listening skills and converse in a polite and soft tone. An LPN with knowledge of multiple languages has a higher average annual income

5. Patience and Dedication 

Working effectively as a nurse without patience and dedication can be an uphill battle. The quality of patience can conquer anxiety, permit rational decisions, and overcome misunderstandings. If you want to be successful in your nursing job, you must show commitment to your work. Exuding patience and dedication can help a potential RN gain better experience, boost their education, and ultimately enter a leadership position in the medical field. 

6. Detail-Oriented

An RN who is keen on detail-focused and agile will administer medications and prepare patient reports efficiently. As a result, they’ll avoid mishaps such as misdiagnosing patients, administering the wrong medication, and mixing up patient records, which can usher in adverse problems. Although these repercussions may stem from seemingly minor errors, they can adversely risk a patient’s life. In this field, each minor detail holds significance. 

7. Critical Thinking

As a nurse gains good experience, commits to further education, and gains clinical knowledge, they can recognize a patient’s problems without supervision. An RN must have enough competence to be self-sufficient through critical thinking that helps them adapt according to the changes. Critical thinking is a crucial trait that helps a nurse assess situations and make the necessary decisions. 

8. Observant and Alert 

A registered nurse must be vigilant and attentive. When a stressful scenario arises, for instance, a traumatic event, tragic illness, and medical emergency, a nurse must remain cautious, alert, and calm, more so, in the doctor’s absence. Any form of inaction or delay can be fatal for a patient. 

9. Responsible

An excellent RN can perform their duties responsibly and with utmost precision and care. The activities of a licensed practical nurse directly impact a patient’s life, which is why there’s no room for error. A nurse must carry out all their tasks without negligence and is responsible when causalities and emergencies arise. 

10.  Mental and Physical Endurance

A registered nurse must be physically and mentally strong. They must also respond quickly and constantly display agility. Additionally, they must be active during extended shifts and on-call duties. Contrarily, some incidents arise when a nurse faces mental pressure and trauma when dealing with patients. Therefore, mental stability is a requisite to thrive in a nursing job. 

11. Decision Making and Judgment 

Each RN must possess the skills to observe, analyze, and review various healthcare field scenarios. They are tasked with judging the situation, making accurate observations, and taking the necessary measures without getting riled up or overwhelmed. Given that each second counts, any slight distraction or delay can trigger a fatality. 

Aside from completing the requisite education, the acquisition of these skills is crucial to becoming a registered nurse. These traits are essential to thrive in a nursing career and handle patients in the best way possible. Incorporating these skills into your everyday practice as a licensed practical nurse guarantees tremendous success in the field. 

The responsibilities that affect a nursing salary are: 

Working Night Shift

Many people cringe at the thought of working at night because of the significant change in sleeping habits. Nonetheless, most night shift positions offer higher nursing pay. It could be a dollar amount that entails an additional $1 to $3 per hour or a percentage increase in the pay. Either way, working the night shift typically boosts your average registered nurse salary. Granted, it’s not for everyone. However, if you’re willing to do it, you can reap the benefits. 

Working in Critical Care Areas

If you work as an ICU nurse or critical care nurse in high-stress environments such as ER trauma centers, you’re more likely to earn a higher hourly rate. The reason is that these areas are significantly stressful and demanding, to say the least. A registered nurse encounters adverse situations that require quick response and thick skin, so it’s a no-brainer that you’ll earn a premium. In some health care facilities, it’s referred to as ‘critical care pay’ that calls for a bigger paycheck. 

Participating in Career Ladder Programs

Typically offered by large health care organizations such as hospitals, these programs usher in the opportunity for a registered nurse to earn a bonus upon completion. Depending on your tier, you might have a wage increment by 2% to 6%. 

Moving Into Management, Shifting Leadership, or Charging Nursing Positions

There’s a wealth of ways to progress in your nursing career, one of which is to apply for a leadership or leadership role. By becoming a shift leader, nurse manager, or charge nurse, you stand to earn a large bump in your earnings. The great thing about an RN career is that it offers many paths from which you can take your pick if you want to delve into a nursing specialty. 

As noted above, that typically comes with a salary raise. To help you decide on the most appealing career direction for you, let’s explore some of the nursing specialties with a higher salary.  

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

An advanced nurse practitioner who earns an average salary of $96,387 annually must earn a master’s degree and a special certification in family practice. An FNP provides primary care in a nursing home, clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital and usually performs a boatload of the same functions as a doctor but without intense working hours. That ranges from prescribing medications and administering medication to assessing patients.

Certified Nurse Midwife 

Also known as a delivery nurse, it’s an incredible option for a registered nurse whose interest is piqued by obstetrics, prenatal care, delivery, and labor. A nurse midwife can expect to earn an average annual salary of $97,681. They usually work in OB-GYN offices and other health care settings. However, a certified nurse midwife can open their private practice. Keep in mind that a special certification is needed to practice as a delivery nurse. 

Neonatal Nurse 

For anyone whose passion lies in caring for newborns, becoming a neonatal nurse is the perfect fit for them. Additionally, it commands an impressive salary of $35.09 per hour, and a neonatal nurse who also works as an ICU nurse in this field can earn more. 

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

They take home an average of $110,550 annually. To become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you must have a master’s degree under your belt. Typically, you’ll start as a nursing assistant under the supervision of a psychiatric physician to provide patient care. 

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) 

Of all the nursing specialties, a certified nurse anesthetist commands the highest salary range of up to $158,616 per year. As a highly skilled profession, a nurse anesthetist preps and administers anesthesia to patients. Further education is necessary to gain a license from the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). 

Pain Management Nurse 

With certification as a nurse practitioner specializing in pain management, you have the required credentials to facilitate pain management for patients during a health crisis or post-surgery. The annual average salary for this specialized LPN is $60,000

Certified Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (CGNP)

After becoming a CGNP, your career entails administering specialized health care that elderly patients require. The median annual salary for a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner is $51.89 hourly or $98,551 yearly

General Nurse Practitioner (GNP)

Although there is a multitude of additional credentials you can pursue as a registered nurse, a general nurse practitioner can work as part of a health care team or private practice. Annually, GNPs with this designation can expect to rake in $98,086. 

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

By taking this route, you’ve chosen to work in a specialized clinic or unit. Given that a clinical nurse specialist requires additional advanced and training skills, the median salary is $91,301.

Nurse Educator 

It’s no secret that some NPs deviate from the realm of patient care to work directly with other RNs, helping them achieve the continuing education credits. They also help staff with remediation and facilitate nursing training programs. If you choose to become a nurse educator, you can take home $76,668 annually

Nursing Administrator

As one of the behind-the-scenes RN positions, you can become a nursing administrator. In this role, you’ll oversee the business side of nursing that entails HR functions and budgets. A nurse administrator can earn $87,879 per year

Travel Nurse

RNs can serve shifts in various settings, typically working in areas with nursing shortages. A travel nurse usually spends months or weeks in one place. Alternatively, they can work in remote locations that lack health care facilities, providing normal mobile services in the absence of standard hospital equipment. The average median earnings for travel nurses is $37.16 hourly and $100,000 or more yearly. 

Forensic Nurse

An RN in this specialty has an array of responsibilities. They include educating and treating patients, providing crisis intervention to patients, referring patients to ongoing programs, examining prospective suspects as part of an investigation, and using forensic photography for evidence recovery. 

Furthermore, a forensic nurse is responsible for serving victims to help with crime-based injuries and testifying in court as a witness. The salary range for a forensic nurse is $30.61 to $37.37 per hour or $73,985 to $77,730 annually. 

Pediatric Nurse 

By specializing in special training in pediatrics, an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) can become a pediatric nurse. Doing so allows them to take on responsibilities that revolve around teens, babies, and toddlers. For instance, a pediatric RN can work in the pediatric department of a health care facility. 

To qualify for this position, they must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) under their belt, in addition to being a certified registered nurse. Pediatric nurses earn $27.83 per hour or $83,400 per year, on average. 

Charge Nurse 

As an RN, a charge nurse is in charge of the ward in their respective health care facility during their shift. They perform a multitude of the tasks that a general nurse does, but with supervisory duties. On average, charge nurses earn $22.79 per hour, but a senior RN in this specialty can take home up to $36.94

How to Improve Your Salary as a Registered Nurse

When it comes to health care professions, acquiring an advanced degree almost always pays off. The average annual salary for a licensed practitioner nurse (LPN) in the US is $52,133, and that of a registered nurse (RN) is $30.27 per hour, which translates to a maximum of $90,000. 

By enrolling in a certificate or diploma nursing program, you can become an RN in a year. However, with an Associate Degree in Nursing that takes about two years, you can boost your annual earnings by nearly $30,000. Over a 40-year career, that’s more than $1 million in earnings. 

Similarly, becoming a CRNA requires a master’s education and earnings of $158,616. While earning a master’s requires more schooling, you earn up to $90,000 more than an RN with only a bachelor’s degree or associate degree, among other nurse outcomes

You can acquire certifications for a plethora of nursing specialties that could be directly offered by your employer or may entail signing up for a certification course through a reputable credentialing agency. 

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), for instance, offers certifications for nearly any nursing specialty. Once you’re certified, your employer may offer a salary increase. Furthermore, you’ll open up opportunities for progression throughout your nursing career. 

A licensed vocational nurse (LVN) and a licensed practical nurse (LPN) have the least education requirements among other types of nursing and therefore pay the least. Nonetheless, LPNs and LVNs can boost their income by earning a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree in nursing. 

An entry-level RN with less than 1-year experience will typically earn an average salary of $27.05 per hour that includes overtime compensation, bonuses, and tips. An early career as a licensed nurse practitioner with 1 to 4 years of experience earns an average total of $28.62 based on about 26,000 salaries. 

A mid-career RN with anywhere between 5 and 9 years of experience earns $31.22 per hour, on average, based on about 14,000 salaries. A registered nurse with over a decade of experience under their belt earns a $34.01 to $36 per hour (with negotiation) based on approximately 13,350 salaries. 

The Top Registered Nurse Resources 

American Nurses Association Enterprise (ANA) 

It leverages the combined strength of the American Nurses Foundation (ANF) and the American Nurses Association (ANA) for the promotion of wellness, health, and safety of nurses in all practice settings. It also provides the network and information that nurses require to thrive in their practice. 

American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN)

As a national organization, it provides scholarships, awards, fellowships, and grants to registered nurses. The ASRN offers access to leading journals and scholarly research related to nursing, such as the Journal of Advanced Practice Nursing and the Journal of Nursing. Members can utilize the career center’s virtual job affairs, career board, and instant interviews.

TravelNursing.org

It helps match registered nurses willing to take short-term assessments around the country. A hospital facing seasonal staffing or staff shortages depends on travel nursing companies to provide well-trained nurses to deliver incredible patient care. The website welcomes nurses from all specializations for assignments ranging from a few weeks to more than six months.

Doctors Without Borders

As a global nonprofit organization, it delivers medical aid in more than 60 countries worldwide. Founded in the 1970s, Doctors without Borders responds to humanitarian crises triggered by war, drought, famine, floods, and disease. They provide internship and volunteer opportunities through field projects and at their headquarters in New York. Additionally, the organization offers non-medical and medical staff positions.

 

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RNtoBSNProgram.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Nursing Articles

Degree Finder
RNtoBSNProgram.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.