Flight nurses, are registered nurses that are trained to provide medical care as they transport patients in either a helicopter or an airplane. They often transport critically ill or injured patients to trauma centers.
Flight nursing requires advanced skills and nurses can be expected to work longer than typical shifts and sometimes travel to other states or countries depending on their job.
Find out everything you need to know about flight nurses, average salaries, salary by state, and ways to increase your earning potential.
Part One What is the Average Flight Nurse Salary?
According to the BLS, registered nurses of all specialties earn a median salary of $77,600 annually or $37.31/hr. While the BLS does not differentiate between different specialties of nursing, ZipRecruiter reports that the average flight nurse salary is $81,093 per year or $39.00 per hour.
Flight nurse salaries range between $64,000 to $99,000 with some making upwards of $105,000 annually.
Part Two Flight Nurse Salary by City and State
Highest Paying Cities for Flight Nurses
Flight Nurse Salary By State
Part Three Flight Nurse Salary Factors
Flight Nurse Salary by Years of Experience
Flight Nurses can earn a higher annual salary with increased years of experience.
- Less than 1 year of experience earn an average hourly wage of $27.76
- 1-4 years of experience earn an average hourly wage of $32.06
- 5-9 years of experience earn an average hourly wage of $33.19
- 10-19 years of experience earns an average hourly wage of $37.62
- 20 years and higher years of experience earn an average hourly wage of $38.00
Flight Nurse Salary by Work Setting
Flight nursing is a unique specialty because nurses work directly on either an airplane or helicopter. They do not have a typical home unit like other nursing specialities.
Additionally, when flight nurses are not transporting a patient via aircraft - they will have a location to stay and wait for the next transport call.
Flight nurses can be employed by:
- Trauma centers
- Fire stations
- Search and rescue teams
- Disaster Response and/or Emergency Preparedness
- Emergency response team
- Government agency
- Medical clinic
Part Four How to Increase Your Salary as a Flight Nurse
You can increase your salary as a flight nurse by several different methods:
1. Earning the Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) certification
Certification is optional for some positions but highly encouraged and can help increase your earning potential. Most flight nurses hold this advanced certification and more often than not it is required. The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing offers the Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) to eligible nurses.
2. Working nights or weekends, where you are paid a higher per-hour wage
3. Advance your education by earning a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or higher
4. Work per diem or become a travel flight nurse
5. Training to be a preceptor for new hires
6. Climbing the clinical ladder within the organization
Part Five Has Covid-19 Affected the Salary of Flight Nurses?
Overall, COVID-19 affected all nursing salaries. Flight nurses didn’t necessarily see an increase or decrease in salary as a direct result of the pandemic. However, it is impossible to say exactly as there is no current data available on this topic.
There was an increased need because of transporting patients to/from community hospitals to higher-level care facilities. For that reason, a lot of flight nurses earned more than in previous years because of overtime.
Furthermore, many hospitals, especially in southern states, did not have ICU beds available. Flight nurses were needed to transport these patients to hospitals in other states. Unfortunately, many of them were not stable enough to be transported via ambulance so they had to be taken via helicopter or plane.
Part Six Is Becoming a Flight Nurse Worth it?
Typically, flight nurses are BSN educated. Flight nursing requires critical thinking, strong communication, and quick thinking.
How Much Does it Cost to Become a Flight Nurse?
There is no one set cost for nursing school, but you can expect to spend anywhere from thousands for a shorter degree program to as high as over $80,000 and even sometimes $100,000 for private or Ivy league nursing programs.
There is a multitude of factors that affect the cost of a nursing program including:
- Full time or part-time status
- Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- RN to BSN bridge program
- Community college vs. state college vs. private college
- Nursing Uniforms
- Lab Fees
- Transportation to classes and clinical sites
Regardless of the cost, nursing is a rewarding career and it is worth taking the risk. While the typical college student will leave school with debt, there are ways for it to be paid back by the government, hospital, or military. It’s important to speak to a counselor or hospital HR department regarding options.
Part Seven Flight Nurse Salary vs Other Specialties
Flight nurses earn an average annual salary of $81,093 per year or $39 per hour. Here’s how that compares to some other nursing specialties:
- ER nurses: $93,405 per year or $45 per hour.
- Telemetry nurses: $109,061 per year or $52 per hour
- OB nurses: $91,798 per year or $44 per hour
- NICU nurses: $101,727 per year or $49 per hour
- Corporate nurses: $82,880 per year or $40 per hour
- ICU nurses:$95,000 per year or $46 per hour
Salaries via ZipRecruiter
Part Eight Flight Nurse FAQs
How do I become a flight nurse?
- To become a flight nurse you must first earn your RN degree by either attending an ADN program or BSN program. Then after successfully passing the NCLEX, you must gain bedside experience in both an intensive care unit and emergency room. Most flight nurse positions will require a minimum of three to five years of experience.
Are flight nurses in high demand?
- Flight nurses, like all other specialities are in high demand. The demand for this position continues to grow as patients are requiring higher levels of care and need to be transported quickly and safely to the medical facilities. Furthermore, because of the disparities in healthcare and high level trauma centers in parts of the country, flight nurses are needed to transport these patients to major cities and bigger hospitals.
How many years does it take to become a flight nurse?
- On average it can take between 5 and 9 years to become a flight nurse. Earning your RN can take 2 to 4 years depending if you are in school for a ADN or BSN degree. Flight nurses are typically required to have 3 to 5 years of bedside experience in both an intensive care unit and emergency room.