How Much Does an RN Earn?

by Samantha Ley

Students who wish to become registered nurses, or RNs, can earn a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree or a diploma. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing considers the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to be the minimum education required for nurses to be prepared for professional practice, and some employers may set the BSN as a hiring requirement. Many students earn either an associate’s degree or a diploma and then begin working towards a bachelor’s degree once they have secured an entry-level nursing job.

Earnings by Industry

According to information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2011, RNs earned the most money when working in personal care services, where the average annual salary was $85,940. Positions in medical equipment and supplies manufacturing also earned a high average salary of $80,290. In contrast, RNs who worked in general medical and surgical hospitals, which had both the highest levels and concentrations of employment, earned $69,810 per year. The average salary for RNs across all industries was $69,110.

Earnings by State

RNs in California made the highest salaries of those in any other state, bringing in an average $90,860. Other top-earning states included Massachusetts, with an average annual salary of $86,810; Hawaii, where RNs made $83,950; Alaska, with average earnings of $82,080; and Nevada, where salaries averaged $77,840. In general, the highest-earning states for RNs were clustered in the Northeast and the West.

Earnings by Metropolitan Area

According to the bureau, all ten of the top-earning metro areas for RNs were located in California, the top-earning state. RNs in the Vallejo-Fairfield region took home $120,540 per year, on average. Those working in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area made slightly less, with an average salary of $117,590. Nurses in the Oakland area, which employed the largest number of RNs out of all of the top-earning metro areas, averaged $106,730.

Earnings by Nonmetropolitan Area

Nearly all of the top-earning nonmetropolitan areas for RNs were also located in California. RNs in the Northern Mountains region earned $93,930 per year on average, while those in the Mother Lode region took in $90,490. RNs working in the North Valley and Eastern Sierra regions made an average of $88,170 and $87,710 per year, respectively. The fifth-highest-earning area was Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, where RNs averaged $81,690.

About the Author

Samantha Ley writes career and education articles for various online publications. She also works in social media management and creates test materials and other educational content for various companies. Ley holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Kenyon College and an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia.

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