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Find out which cities pay their nurses the most, and which pay the least, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We also have results that are adjusted for cost of living.

Where Do Nurses Get Paid the Most and Least?

Where Do Nurses Get Paid the Most and Least

The field of nursing provides an opportunity to serve people in need, and demand for all types of nurses has been rapidly growing. However, location can make a huge difference on salary. So where do nurses get paid the most and least?

We've compared salary information from across the nation to determine which metro areas have the highest pay for nurses. We looked at three main types of nurses: Licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners. We have also analyzed which salaries pay most and least after taking into consideration cost of living data. For example, your salary may actually be high if you're living in Honolulu, Hawaii, but because the cost of living is so high, your actual earnings may be much less than in other places.

The data below is based on average salary figures from May 2015, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

1
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN/LVN)

These nurses provide basic medical care under the direction of registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians. They monitor a patient's health, change bandages, assist with bathing and dressing, and report back on a patient's condition.

Cities that pay LPNs the MOST


  • San Francisco, California - $61,820
  • San Rafael, California - $60,360
  • Oakland, California - $59,870
  • Barnstable Town, Massachusetts - $59,440
  • Peabody, Massachusetts - $59,130

These higher salaries are meant to offset the notoriously high cost of living in each area. That said, the San Francisco Bay Area in general pays well for LPNs, with a number of Bay Area cities in the top ten highest-paying. Powerhouse institutions of medical research, such as Stanford University and the University of California San Francisco, make the Bay Area a bevvy of innovation in the field of health care and draw health care providers from around the world.

Cities that pay LPNs the LEAST


  • Pine Bluff, Arkansas - $32,050
  • Jackson, Tennessee - $33,230
  • Beckley, West Virginia - $33,500
  • Morristown, Tennessee - $33,560
  • Gadsden, Alabama - $33,730

These cities likely pay less because they have smaller populations, which often means less demand for medical care. Pine Bluff itself only has 48,339 people. In addition, these areas may have a weaker economy compared to other states, which drives salaries down overall. The Bureau of Economic Analysis ranks Arkansas 34th for its Gross Domestic Product. California, on the other hand, ranks first.

Consider, after adjusting for cost of living...

  • The city that pays most is McAllen, Texas ($57,487)
  • The city that pays least is Honolulu, Hawaii ($25,767)

2
Registered Nurse (RN)

Registered nurses coordinate patient care and educate and support patients and families around health concerns. They are often the ones in charge of medical records, giving medications and treatments to patients, and consulting with doctors on setting up a patient care plan. They may oversee LPNs and home health aides, which is why their pay is significantly higher than that of LPNs.

In addition to the managerial responsibilities, registered nurses get paid more due to the higher education requirements. While LPNs typically complete a one to two year program at a technical school or community college, registered nurses must obtain associate degrees and, in many cases, bachelor's degrees from approved nursing programs.

Cities that pay RNs the MOST


  • San Francisco, California - $133,650
  • Vallejo, California - $128,480
  • Oakland, California - $124,910
  • San Rafael, California - $123,940
  • Santa Cruz, California - $123,250

The Bay Area in general performed very well for registered nurse compensation. This is most likely due to the higher cost of living in these cities. California is full of highly-competitive urban areas with diverse health care needs; in order to attract registered nurses, health care facilities need to pay wages that reflect the cost of living.

Cities that pay RNs the LEAST


  • Florence, Alabama - $47,990
  • Joplin, Montana - $48,930
  • Springfield, Ohio - $49,720
  • Pine Bluff, Arkansas - $49,900
  • Decatur, Alabama - $50,430

Keep in mind that many of these cities have small populations, which again greatly reduces the demand for registered nurses overall.

Consider, after adjusting for cost of living...

  • The city that pays most: Sacramento, California ($98,090 per year)
  • The city that pays least: Honolulu, Hawaii ($48,515 per year)

3
Nurse Practitioner (NP)

These are registered nurses with specialized graduate degrees that allow them to prescribe medication or order diagnostic tests. They consult with doctors and other health care providers as part of a health care team, and they often specialize in a specific group of people, such as children or the elderly.

Cities that pay NPs the MOST


  • Columbus, Indiana - $160,050
  • Vallejo, California - $156,340
  • San Jose, California - $143,050
  • San Francisco, California - $142,430
  • Oakland, California - $136,840

One of the drivers for this may be Columbus Regional Health, an award-winning hospital that serves the ten counties in and around Columbus. It has been in operation since 1917 and employs 1,650 people who provide care in numerous specialities. In today's health care climate, the world of technology and medicine are inextricably linked. This may be part of the reason why the cities surrounding Silicon Valley have such great demand for advanced nurses, and great salaries to match.

Cities that pay NPs the LEAST


  • Auburn, Alabama - $71,970
  • Springfield, Ilinois - $72,550
  • Grand Island, Nebraska - $74,020
  • Mobile, Alabama - $74,170
  • Longview, Texas - $74,650

Auburn, Alabama pays nurse practitioners the least out of all cities in the nation. The average annual salary for this profession is $71,970 there. Though this is considerably higher than what LPNs make in San Francisco, keep in mind nurse practitioners must attain master's degrees in their area of specialization.

Consider, after adjusting for cost of living...

  • The city that pays most: McAllen, Texas ($160,497 per year)
  • The city that pays least: Honolulu, Hawaii ($63,660 per year)

The take-away is that when it comes to salary, at least on paper, California may be a great place for nurses to work. However, it is important to consider that a higher cost of living in these areas may drive down earnings in the long run. Nurses in this high-demand field should take economic factors into consideration, in addition to an area's health care climate, when deciding where to devote their career.

Sources:

  1. Bureau of Labor Statisics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nurse Practitioner, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
  2. Bureau of Labor Statisics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Licensed Practical Nurse, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm
  3. Bureau of Labor Statisics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm
  4. Columbus Regional Health, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbus_Regional_Health
  5. Comparison of U.S. States and Countries by GDP, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_between_U.S._states_and_countries_by_GDP
  6. Florence, Alabama, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence,_Alabama
  7. Pine Bluff, Arkansas, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_Bluff,_Arkansas
Vocational & Technical Schools by State

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