Average Registered Nurse (RN) Salary by State

Average Registered Nurse (RN) Salary by State

Health Carousel Travel Nursing
Share this post

Are you ready for your next travel nurse assignment but unsure of where you want to go next? Health Carousel Travel Nursing has put together a list of the average registered nurse salaries of each state to help you decide where to take your next assignment.

Average registered nursing salaries vary significantly from state to state. According to Zip Recruiter, the average travel RN salary is $106,030 annually. Travel nurse registered nursing salaries currently range between $80,000 to $127,500 depending on location and specialty. The average staff registered nurse's salary is $77,976 per year.  


Salaries also depend on the nurse's specialty, certifications, and experience. Registered nurse salary is typically influenced by education levels. A licensed practical nurse salary is below average when compared to registered nurses. However, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) require less schooling and a different national council licensure examination than registered nurses. An associate degree in nursing (ADN) is the minimum requirement for RNs, however, a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) is preferred by most healthcare systems. According to the BLS, nurses with a BSN earned a median annual wage of $80,010 in May 2020, compared to $73,300 for those with an ADN. RNs with a master's degree in nursing (MSN) can earn even higher salaries, particularly if they become nurse practitioners or specialize in areas like an acute care nurse practitioner or a neonatal nurse practitioner.

This article will explore the average registered nurse salary by each state, factors that influence salary variation, and how salary relates to nursing roles and responsibilities.

The Average RN Salary by state according to BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics :









District of Columbia










































New Hampshire


New Jersey


New Mexico


New York


North Carolina


North Dakota










Rhode Island


South Carolina


South Dakota














West Virginia






Although salary isn't the only reason why nurses choose to travel, it can be a big deciding factor. Nurses have plenty of options when it comes to choosing where to work. You will find that some assignments are more attractive than others based on location, lifestyle choice, and your preferred career path.

Highest Paying States

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS occupational employment), the 5 highest paying states for nurses include:

  • California $ 124,000
  • Hawaii $ 106,530
  • Oregon $ 98,630
  • District of Columbia $ 98,540
  • Alaska $ 97,230

Nurses in California and Hawaii receive a significantly higher salary than the national average for RNs. Both states also have a higher cost of living than the rest of the United States, which can offset the higher salaries. These five states offer great salaries, excellent healthcare facilities, and high job demand for nursing professionals. California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Alaska offer amazing adventures for nurses who love to be in nature. Whether you are just starting your nursing career or looking for new opportunities, these highest paying states are great places to consider.

Lowest Paying States

The 5 lowest median annual salary states largely include the south and midwest:

  • South Dakota $60,540
  • Alabama $61,920
  • Mississippi $63,130
  • Iowa $64,990
  • Arkansas $65,810

The annual salary for RNs in South Dakota is significantly lower than the national average for nurses. Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Arkansas nurses are paid significantly lower or below the national average compared to nurses in other states. Lower salaries can make it difficult for nurses to pay off student loans or cover living expenses. However, these states often have a lower cost of living, especially in rural areas, which may help nurses cover their expenses comfortably.

Some states offer more job opportunities, higher salaries, and a better quality of life. By comparing salaries, employment opportunities, and cost of living, you can choose the best state that would benefit you to work in.

If salary is more important to you than location, you may want to consider a travel nursing job in one of the higher-paying states.

Salary Advice for RNs

There is a wide range in the median annual wage of nurses within many states throughout the US. A registered nurse salary varies depending on the nurse's specialty, level of experience, education, and geographic location. Salary also depends on the nursing specialty, for example, a neonatal intensive care nurse and a nurse who works in the intensive care unit may make more than a medical-surgical nurse.

Factors such as the cost of living and demand for healthcare services can impact overall job opportunities and your earning potential. When considering a travel nursing contract in one of the highest paying states, you should also factor in the amount of money needed to cover living expenses, such as housing, transportation, utilities, taxes, food, and childcare. States like Hawaii or California's cost of living will be significantly higher than most other states in the US. Try to calculate your cost of living versus net salary when making a decision about where your next travel nursing assignment should be.

Geographical location also plays a significant role in nursing salaries. Nurses in metropolitan areas tend to earn higher salaries than those in rural areas. However, living costs are also typically higher in metropolitan areas, so this must be taken into account when deciding where you want to work and live.

Nurses who are interested in the highest paying travel jobs may want to consider furthering their education to become advanced practice registered nurses or attending nursing health administration programs. Nurses in health administration positions ensure that the hospital runs smoothly that all standards are met and that all protocols are followed. They help coordinate patient care and ensure that the nursing staff develops care plans according to healthcare industry standards.

Nurse practitioners provide professional nursing care like registered nurses, however, they usually do not work at the bedside often. They can prescribe medications and assess and diagnose conditions under the direction of a physician. There are many nurse practitioner specialties available for nurses to choose from depending on their preferences and area of focus. It is natural for a neonatal intensive care nurse to become a neonatal nurse practitioner, however, you may decide that you prefer to become a womens health nurse practitioner instead.

Advanced practice registered nurse specialties include acute care nurse practitioner, mental health nurse practitioner, womens health nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, or psychiatric nurse practitioner, as well as many others. Advanced practice nurses have one of the highest paying jobs available in nursing, but it comes with a lot of responsibility and extra schooling, as well as an additional national council licensure examination.

Find More Nursing Help with Health Carousel Travel Nursing

Health Carousel Travel Nursing offers full circle support to help travel nurses start their careers and improve their average annual salary. Our recruiters are well-versed in travel nursing salaries and which states offer the best pay. HCTN has created an On Demand app to make it easy to see how much you could earn each week for each travel nursing job. Download the app to view available contracts and create a profile to start searching for travel assignments.

Travel nurse salaries vary significantly depending on which state the nurse practices in. Nurses can increase their salaries by accepting assignments in higher paying states, obtaining certifications, and furthering their education. Nurses may choose their travel assignment location based on various reasons such as salary, cost of living, climate, proximity to family, and available entertainment and adventures. It is essential to choose a travel nurse assignment that is best suited to your interests, skills, and desired salary range.

Contact one of our nurse recruiters at HCTN to discuss which state you should go to for your next travel assignment. Whether you are a new traveler or a seasoned travel nurse, our recruiters will help guide you through the process of landing your assignment, as well as help you maximize your compensation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which state has the highest salary for nurses?

California is the highest paying state for registered nurses. The average pay for nurses is $124,000 annually. The cost of living is high in California, but increased pay offsets some of the high costs of living. This state offers a high standard of living, with multiple job opportunities, good weather, and excellent healthcare facilities. The demand for nurses in California is high, especially in urban areas.

What nursing job pays the highest?

The highest paying nursing job is a certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA). Nurse anesthetists can administer anesthesia and mainly work in the operating room. They stay with the patient during surgery constantly monitoring their reaction to anesthesia and the patient's pain level, as well as monitoring medical equipment used to deliver oxygen to the patient. In the United States, CRNAs earn an average income between $150,000 and $250,000 a year.

What kind of nurse practitioner is most common?

A primary care nurse practitioner is the most common type of nurse practitioner. These NPs treat patients of all ages with chronic or acute diseases. They prescribe medications, therapies, and treatments. An NP records patient histories and develops patient care plans. A primary care nurse practitioner, similar to a family nurse practitioner, can treat and diagnose illnesses across the spectrum but will often refer to specialists for specific illnesses.

How can a nurse increase their salary?

Nurses can increase their salary by pursuing advanced education, certifications, and specialized training, as well as by gaining experience in high-demand specialties or locations. They may also negotiate for higher pay with their employer or seek out higher-paying job opportunities.

Which state pays registered nurses the lowest salary?

South Dakota pays nurses the lowest salary ( $60,540) compared to any other state in the United States. While the cost of living is lower in South Dakota, nurses are still making far less than in most other states. The difference between a nurse's salary in South Dakota and a nurse's salary in New York City is about $63,000.

Nurse Bio

Lauren Rivera is a nationally certified neonatal intensive care nurse with over 15 years of experience. She serves as a nurse expert offering support and educational classes for women from preconception through childhood. Lauren is also a freelance health and wellness writer with works published on several nursing sites. She develops and curates content for various healthcare companies, and writes continuing education modules for other healthcare professionals.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

mobile phone mockup


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

mobile phone mockup


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

View Top Jobs in

Search, apply and be the first in line for your dream job today.

View Top Jobs in

Search, apply and be the first in line for your dream job today.

Apply to Top Jobs in

Search, apply and be the first in line for your dream job today.

mobile phone mockup

Get Started in

Search, apply and be the first in line for your dream job today.

Take Control of Your Career with

Search, apply and be the first in line for your dream job today.