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May 12, 2017

Highest Paying Cities For Nurses

By Kathleen Colduvell RN, BSN, BA, CBC

Nurse salaries differ in cities across the U.S. due to cost of living and other factors. If you’re thinking of moving, knowing the highest paying cities can help you decide where to settle.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for RNs in 2016 was $68,450. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,120, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $102,990. 

The highest paid RN positions are in California, including San Francisco and Bakersfield. In fact, the top ten cities in terms of salary are located in California.

Here’s a short list of some of the highest paying cities that nurses might consider when looking for a job.

San Francisco, CA

Always at the top of the BLS report, nurses working in San Francisco enjoy a reasonable cost of living. A good transportation system and the popularity of cycling help save money on transit. 

Median hourly rate: $65.68/hr

Annual Mean Wage: $136,610

Highest Paid Skills: Critical care, telemetry, oncology, cardiologyacute care 

Overall Cost of Living: 53% above national average 

Monthly Cost of Living (Single Adult): $3,632 

Annual Cost of Living (Single Adult): $43,581 

Find the best-paying jobs in San Francisco now.

San Jose - Sunnyvale - Santa Clara, CA

San Jose, the “Capital of Silicon Valley,” is the third largest city in California. Since cost of living is high, it’s one of the highest paying cities for nurses.

Median hourly rate: $58.02/hr

Annual Mean Wage: $120,680

Highest Paid Skills: Cardiology, oncology, telemetry, critical careintensive care

Overall Cost of Living: 40% above national average 

Monthly Cost of Living (Single Adult): $3,449 

Annual Cost of Living (Single Adult): $41,386

View 353 open nursing positions in the Sunnyvale area now.

Boston, MA

Rich in American history, Boston is a popular city for nurses. There are numerous medical and research facilities located in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area, most of which are affiliated with universities. Boston also boasts the presence of The Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s, and other famous institutions. 

Boston has one of the highest costs of living and currently has the highest pay scale for nurses on the East Coast. Nurses planning post-graduate studies may want to consider Boston for the many opportunities available in the greater metro area, including Cambridge, the home of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

Median hourly rate: $47.13/hr

Annual Mean Wage: $98,040

Highest Paid Skills: PACU, Oncology, Labor and Delivery, Intensive CareCardiology

View 597 open nursing positions in Boston now.

New York, NY

With a population of 8.6 million, New York City has many healthcare facilities. The cost of living in NYC is one of the highest in the country, but the extensive subway system is an excellent mode of affordable transportation. 

The cost of living in NYC is one of the highest in the country, but the extensive subway system is an excellent mode of affordable transportation. 

If Manhattan is your dream destination for your nursing career, consider living in the surrounding boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and The Bronx) or northern New Jersey, and commuting into the city. Brooklyn is becoming much more expensive, so it may not be the best choice in terms of cost of living. Plenty of high-quality healthcare facilities are located in the outer boroughs, northern New Jersey, and Long Island. 

Median hourly rate: $42.36/hr

Annual Mean Wage: $88,100

Highest Paid Skills: Oncology, Critical CareTelemetry

Overall Cost of Living: 49% above national average 

Monthly Cost of Living (Single Adult): $3,627

Annual Cost of Living (Single Adult): $43,519 

Make it big in New York by viewing open nursing jobs now.

Baltimore, MD

The top employer of nurses in Baltimore is Johns Hopkins Hospital. Cost of living is reasonable in comparison to nurses’ median salary. As the largest and fastest growing city in Maryland, there are currently numerous job opportunities for nurses.

Median hourly rate: $29.71/hr

Annual Mean Wage: $65,280

Highest Paid Skills: Oncology, Recovery/Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, Hospice, NICU

Overall Cost of Living: 16% above national average

Monthly Cost of Living (Single Adult): $2,833

Annual Cost of Living (Single Adult): $33,994 

Phoenix, AZ

While nurses in Phoenix are not paid as high as other cities, a reasonable cost of living, warm sunny weather, and numerous job openings make Phoenix a great city to relocate to. With a large retirement community, opportunities in geriatrics and hospice are the highest paid. 

Median hourly rate: $36.03/hr

Annual Mean Wage: $74,930

Highest Paid Skills: Geriatrics, Hospice, Case Management

Overall Cost of Living: 5% above national average 

Monthly Cost of Living (Single Adult): $2,349 

Annual Cost of Living (Single Adult): $28,187

View all open nursing positions in Phoenix.

Philadelphia, PA

Dozens of large health systems make Philadelphia an ideal place for relocation. Home to one of the largest and most recognized children’s hospitals in the country, pediatric nursing jobs are never in short supply. 

Median hourly rate: $39.04

Annual Mean Wage: $81,210

Highest Paid Skills: Pediatrics, NICU, Trauma, Intensive Care

Overall Cost of Living: 16% above national average 

Monthly Cost of Living (Single Adult): $2,814

Annual Cost of Living (Single Adult): $33,765

Search hundreds of registered nursing jobs in Philadelphia now. 

Anchorage, AK

High turnover rates in hospitals ensures ample job opportunities for those looking to experience the far north. While experience is needed to be hired into a speciality unit, new nurse residency programs are becoming increasingly popular in major Alaskan hospital systems. 

Median Hourly Rate: $41.75/hr

Annual Mean Wage: $86,850

Highest Paid Skills: Labor and delivery, intensive care, cardiology

Overall Cost of Living: 16% above national average 

Monthly Cost of Living (Single Adult): $2,751

Annual Cost of Living (Single Adult): $33,015

View high-paying nursing jobs in Anchorage.

Honolulu, HI

Honolulu is currently not experiencing a nursing shortage like most other states. High retention rates and a desirable location make finding a job a little more difficult in this area.

Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, a state-run health care system, is investing millions in new healthcare facilities over the next several years. This should open up more nursing positions.

Median hourly rate: $42.93/hr

Annual Mean Wage: $89,290

Highest Paid Skills: Geriatrics, Hospice, Trauma

Overall Cost of Living: 53% above national average 

Monthly Cost of Living (Single Adult): $3,859 

Annual Cost of Living (Single Adult): $46,308

Search the best nursing jobs in Honolulu now.


Where Are The Best Nursing Job Opportunities?

High-paying nursing opportunities abound. As a registered nurse, you are in control of your career. Check out the best jobs from coast to coast on our job board. Get the pay and career path you deserve. Click here to see open positions for nurses now.

Recommended for you: Highest Paying States For Registered Nurses

Kathleen Colduvell RN, BSN, BA, CBC graduated with a degree in english and journalism before going back to nursing school. After graduating from Villanova University, she became a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse. Currently, she works at one of the leading children’s hospitals in the country in the NICU, PICU, and CICU, as well as working as a Certified Breastfeeding Consultant.

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