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10 States With Highest RN Salaries and Cost of Living Adjustments

Registered nurses play an essential role in the facilities in which they work. Their role is to care for patients and ensure they have all their needs met and treatments are carried out to promote the best possible outcomes.

Many of the functions of RNs raise the quality of care in the healthcare facilities or hospitals in which they work. Nurses are the human side of medical care. You will find nurses listening to patients, reassuring them, treating their wounds, attending to their basic needs, medicating, administering IVs, and ensuring their safety and well-being. Registered nurses deserve high salaries. This article takes a deeper dive at the highest-paying states for RNs for those interested in increasing their salary by working and living where the money's at in the field.

How Much Do Nurses Make?

Nurse salaries vary widely from state to state and city to city, but on average, a nurse earns $82,750 annually. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for nurses is 77,600 (referring to the 50th percentile).

picture of a nurse holding a piggy bank
How much do nurses make?

As you can see, the compensation varies significantly from some states with high salaries to those with lower wages. The top-paying state for registered nurses is California which pays an annual mean wage of $124,000, while South Dakota has a meager salary of only $60,540 annually. Of course, there are many more considerations to consider when moving from one state to another, such as the cost of living, the amount of work RNs can get, the overall quality of life, climate, etc.

What are the Highest Paying States for Nurses?

Some states have sky-high salaries, which can be convenient for RNs to know. The states where RNs earn the most are California, Hawaii, and Oregon, as shown in the following list along with the rest of the top ten:

Ranking State Annual Salary Hourly Mean Wage
1 California $124,000 $59.62
2 Hawaii $106,530 $51.22
3 Oregon $98,630 $47.42
4 District of Columbia $98,540 $47.38
5 Alaska $97,230 $46.74
6 Massachusetts $96,630 $46.46
7 Washington $95,350 $45.84
8 New York $93,320 $44.86
9 New Jersey $89,690 $43.12
10 Connecticut $88,800 $42.56

10 States with Highest RN Salary Considering Cost of Living

Each state has significant variations, and it is also worth taking into account about the salary is the cost of living, that is to say, the states in which the pay lasts longer or in which the RNs can save more, as shown in the following list:

Ranking State Salary adjusted to Cost of Living
1 California $106,529
2 Oregon $96,131
3 Alaska $92,512
4 Nevada $92,416
5 Hawaii $89,296
6 Washington $87,961
7 Massachusetts $87,527
8 Washington $85,538
9 Minnesota $85,223
10 New Mexico $84,705

By considering and comparing the best-paying states, RNs can decide to have a better salary, which they fully deserve for the noble work to which they are dedicated.

picture of the United States with pin points
Some states on the map pay better than others for PRN RNs.

How to Become a Registered Nurse?

To become a registered nurse in the United States, they must follow the following steps:

1. Have a high school diploma to access an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree program that accredits registered nurses in the state you live. There are ADN and BSN programs (bachelor science in nursing) that are obtained in 2-5 years of higher education; there are also programs for nurses who have not received the BSN and wish to get it that last between 12 to 14 months, commonly referred to as bridge programs; finally, there are programs for students who have obtained another degree that is not a nursing degree that lasts between 16 to 24 months.

2. Once they have completed their studies, they must take the NCLEX exam (national council licensure examination for registered nurses), which is an exam that ensures that registered nurses are ready for the work and the patients they will be caring for. To become licensed in each state, they must first pass the NCLEX exam.

3. Finally, they must obtain state licensure in nursing, which varies from state to state, and work in any city. To work in other states, they need to get a license from other states since they have different requirements. This does not apply when the nurse has a license in a state that is part of the nurse licensure compact and they wish to work in another compact state.

Once the license is obtained, RNs can look for work wherever they see fit in that state, and to start looking for convenient job options, the Nursa application is a great solution, especially if they are interested in getting high-paying or PRN jobs.

There are many nursing specialties for RNs, which allow nurses to get new knowledge and work in something specialized, but also will enable them to earn more money. For example, certified registered nurse anesthetists have the highest salaries of all specialties (over $200,000 annually). All these specialties are pretty exciting and may be an excellent option for some nurses.


Booher, RN
Blog published on:
March 7, 2023

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