Registered nurses (RNs) are among the most in-demand professionals in the country right now. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), around 175,000 jobs will open for nursing professionals each year through 2029—talk about job security! So, if you have chosen to pursue a professional career in nursing, we salute you. That said, exploring what healthcare specialty is right for you, or deciding where to begin your new nursing career, can be both exciting and challenging. With this in mind, we have the inside scoop from nurses all over the country on the best cities for nurses to live and work in.
Curious? Then read on for the lowdown on some of the highest-paying cities for nurses looking for a promising and rewarding nursing career.
Top 10 Cities for Nurses
After years of studying to be a licensed registered nurse in the U.S., you did it: You passed the NCLEX-RN and are now officially a new nurse looking for the best cities for new grads to work in. Perhaps you have the flexibility to throw a dart blindly at a map on the wall and take a chance at working as a professional nurse in any state in the U.S., or maybe you want to stay closer to home and kick off your career by picking up some great nursing shifts. Either way, what’s that saying? Oh yes, the world is your oyster—at least for newly graduated registered nurses craving job stability and plenty of work. That said, we have talked to hundreds of nurses and listened to their stories; as it turns out, some of the best cities to work, according to new nurses, also happen to be backed by statistics. Specifically, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. News & World Report, when factored together, rank the following top 10 cities as some of the best places for new nurses to work. In no particular order, check out the cities where new nurses can work and thrive in their careers:
- New York City, New York: Some call NYC the “City of Dreams,” and we understand why. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs constitute the largest healthcare occupation nationwide. Moreover, due to nursing shortages aggravated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, New York City is experiencing growth in demand for RNs—and this trend is expected to continue. And while it’s important for a new nurse to adjust to the local cost of living (yes, NYC is expensive), it can also be an ideal place for a new grad nurse to get a jumpstart in their career by living in one of the largest economies in the country.
- San Diego, California: Craving a dip in the Pacific Ocean after a long nursing shift? Well, if sand between your toes and an exciting new nursing career is what you want, sunny San Diego is waiting for you. As it happens, San Diego is ranked as one of the most fun places to live in the U.S. Moreover, the average nurse in San Diego can make more than $100,000 a year, which makes up for its higher-than-average cost of living. At the end of the day, if you’re a new nurse looking for a little more sunshine and plenty of nursing shifts, San Diego could be the perfect place for you.
- El Paso, Texas: El Paso, Texas, has put itself on the map lately due to its bustling economy paired with a relatively low cost of living. In fact, it was ranked as the seventh-best place to live in Texas because of its cultural offerings and its strong job market. Furthermore, El Paso happens to have plenty of job openings in healthcare, making it one of the best cities for new nurses to work in. And while the city sometimes gets a bad reputation for being so close to the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, it’s considered secure, with plenty of safe and sunny residential areas for singles and families to settle down.
- Boston, Massachusetts: Boston is a beautiful and historic city that boasts a long list of renowned hospitals and medical centers. In fact, in 2015, Massachusetts received a prestigious ranking as the top state with the best cities for new nurses to work in. With that in mind, a registered nurse can earn an annual mean wage of $99,950, or $48.05 an hour in and around the city of Boston. Finally, Boston has consistently ranked as one of the top places to live because of its rich history, access to great schools, and vibrant culinary scene. Considering all of these factors, we are certain that Boston is one of the best cities for new nurses to work and live in.
- Phoenix, Arizona: Okay, so Phoenix may have some of the highest temps in the country during the summer season, but hey, at least it’s a dry heat. In all seriousness, did you know that Phoenix, Arizona, happens to be one of the greatest cities to work as a nurse due to its strong economy, thriving social scene, and endless outdoor activities? That’s right, Phoenix has some of the best-ranking medical facilities in the nation, so finding a career as a new nurse fresh out of grad school has never been easier. Topped off with the fact that Phoenix is packed with nature-based activities, modern restaurants, and a strong educational system, this city is an ideal place for new nurses to plant their feet.
- Chicago, Illinois: Chicago is filled with cultural gems, great food on every street corner, and plenty of professional sports teams to root for. It also happens to be one of the highest-paying cities for nurses all around. As a matter of fact, the annual mean wage of a registered nurse in Chicago is $81,300. And while the cost of living is relatively high, as in other hub cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or NYC, Chicago is considerably more affordable, particularly when it comes to the housing market. Ultimately, however, the fact that Chicago has plenty of entry-level nursing jobs and a lively social scene puts it on the list of one of the top 10 cities for nurses to work.
- Atlanta, Georgia: Good eats, welcoming neighborhoods, and that good old southern hospitality are a few of the perks you can expect to find in Atlanta, Georgia. Moreover, Atlanta happens to be among the best cities for nurses after factoring in the cost of living. That’s because compared to other major metropolitan cities, the cost of living in Atlanta is generally lower, especially if you choose to live in a suburb outside the major metro area. With this in mind, the annual mean wage of a registered nurse in the Atlanta Sandy-Springs-Roswell area hovers around $75,380. All things considered, high nursing salaries and high demand for nurses make Atlanta, Georgia, a desirable place to work as a registered nurse.
- Houston, Texas: Speaking of southern hospitality and charm, Houston, Texas, tops the list as the best city for high nursing salaries and pleasurable living. That’s because registered nurses in Houston can expect to make an annual mean wage of around $79,120 and upwards. What’s more, Houston has the second lowest living costs compared to other populous metro areas across the country. Finally, Houston is considered a safe place to live and has plenty of city thrills and attractions for new nurses to enjoy.
- Austin, Texas: Locals who live in Austin, Texas, will say that it’s a Texan city distinct from the rest. In fact, residents of Austin proudly refer to themselves as Austinites, an eclectic mix of students, artists, musicians, tech workers, and families. Austin is known to be forward-thinking and liberal. It also happens to be a fantastic hub for new nurses to find employment. In fact, Austin boasts a competitive pay scale: A registered nurse can expect to make, on average, from $60,000 to upwards of $80,000 a year. Combined with a moderately low cost of living and a cool, hip, and laid-back lifestyle, Austin is a fantastic place for new nurses to find employment.
- Los Angeles, California: This sunny and iconic city tends to be overlooked when scouting out new nursing jobs. That’s because Los Angeles happens to be one of the most expensive metro areas to live in the country. Yet, while the cost of living in Los Angeles is particularly high, nurses are always in high demand. Consequently, the demand means that job opportunities for nurses in LA are plentiful. Moreover, the city offers some of the highest compensation for its nurses. Therefore, if you are a new grad looking for an exciting and great-paying city to work in, LA may just be the right fit for you.
High-Paying Cities for Nurses
If you are a new nurse looking for a stable and high-paying nursing gig, it’s best to shop around and compare local nursing salaries with the cost of living in a particular city. At the end of the day, the best cities for nurses will provide both career advancement and plenty of fun recreational activities to participate in while not on shift. After all, every nurse deserves some free time to do what they love best.
Want some inspiration to get started on your new nurse job hunt? Check out open per diem nursing shifts in your local area and get a headstart in your career.