Nurse Starting Salary Guide

8 Min Read Published October 3, 2023
Nurse Starting Salary Guide

Nursing has consistently been ranked as one of the most rewarding and trustworthy professions, providing practitioners with remarkable career opportunities and financial stability as well as the ability to make a real difference in the lives of their patients and their patient’s families. But if you’re considering this career, you may be wondering, “How much is a nurse's starting salary?”

This article will serve as a guide to the average salary registered nurses can expect when they’re starting out, as well as other helpful and relevant information.

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Purdue Global

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Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Georgetown University
Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 19 months.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY and WA.

What is the Average Starting Salary for Nurses?

According to Salary.com, the average nurse's starting salary in the United States is $68,485. The salary range typically falls between $61,435 and $78,289.

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Entry-Level Nurse Salary Range

ZipRecruiter reports that annual nurse starting salaries range from a low of $45,500 per year to as much as $89,500. 

The biggest factors that impact a nurse’s starting salary are their education, geographic area, and any certifications or special skills that the nurse may possess.

Nurse Starting Salary by State

State

Annual Salary

Hourly Wage

Hawaii

$73,447

$35.31

Nevada

$72,276

$34.75

Massachusetts

$71,444

$34.35

Rhode Island

$69,911

$33.61

Oregon

$69,796

$33.56

Alaska

$68,836

$33.09

North Dakota

$67,983

$32.68

Washington

$66,738

$32.09

New York

$65,252

$31.37

South Dakota

$65,193

$31.34

Maryland

$64,231

$30.88

Virginia

$62,431

$30.02

Kentucky

$61,733

$29.68

Colorado

$61,499

$29.57

Idaho

$61,268

$29.46

Delaware

$60,599

$29.13

New Hampshire

$60,444

$29.06

Nebraska

$60,267

$28.97

California

$60,187

$28.94

South Carolina

$59,969

$28.83

Vermont

$59,371

$28.54

Tennessee

$58,930

$28.33

Arkansas

$58,429

$28.09

Connecticut

$58,070

$27.92

Arizona

$57,638

$27.71

Illinois

$57,614

$27.70

Oklahoma

$57,588

$27.69

New Jersey

$57,457

$27.62

Michigan

$57,300

$27.55

Wyoming

$57,195

$27.50

Maine

$57,070

$27.44

Minnesota

$56,647

$27.23

Missouri

$56,475

$27.15

Indiana

$55,653

$26.76

Montana

$55,045

$26.46

West Virginia

$55,001

$26.44

Texas

$54,407

$26.16

Pennsylvania

$53,693

$25.81

Wisconsin

$53,483

$25.71

Ohio

$53,368

$25.66

Iowa

$52,882

$25.42

Utah

$52,553

$25.27

Kansas

$50,950

$24.50

New Mexico

$50,643

$24.35

North Carolina

$50,250

$24.16

Alabama

$50,207

$24.14

Mississippi

$49,974

$24.03

Florida

$47,291

$22.74

Georgia

$46,191

$22.21

Louisiana

$45,353

$21.80

Via ZipRecruiter

Popular Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University
GCU’s RN-BSN program is tailored to meet the needs of the RN adult learner and to maximize the strengths that the working RN already possesses. Transfer up to 90 credits and earn a BSN in as little as 12 months. GCU’s online classes allow you to study at the times that work for your schedule while still enjoying a close connection with your classmates and instructor via online discussions.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington’s online programs are designed to help you achieve more in your nursing practice with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. They offer convenient, flexible options for completing your RN to BSN or BSN online, both designed to fit into your busy schedule.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Nurse Starting Salary by Work Setting

Work setting is one of the most important variables that determine nursing salaries, and this is just as true for starting nurses as for those with years of experience. The setting describes both the type of work being done and the geographical setting.

Generally speaking, compensation will track with the cost of living for the locale where the nurse is working, and entry-level nurses who work in major metropolitan areas will be paid significantly more than those who work in rural areas. 

Similarly, nurses who work in either California or the Northeastern states will be paid more than those who work in the South, the Midwest, or the West. 

As for the work being done, starting nurses who work in hospitals tend to be paid more than those who work in outpatient facilities, long-term care facilities, or home health agencies. 

How to Increase Your Salary as a New Nurse

Even recent graduates of nursing programs have the ability to increase their salaries beyond the base amount being offered by the hiring facility. 

One of the best ways to do so is by demonstrating your commitment to the profession and to patient health by continuing your education and earning certifications. Certifications would be dependent on the unit and specialty that you work in.

Other ways to increase your nursing salary include,

  1. Working nights or weekends, where you are paid a higher per-hour wage

  2. Apply for the clinical ladder

  3. Offer to be a part of a unit or hospital-based committee

  4. Pick up over time on your unit or throughout the hospital, if needed

  5. Work per diem

Continuing Your Nursing Education

Graduating as a registered nurse opens the door to numerous professional opportunities, but is just a starting point. Hospitals and other healthcare employers are extremely interested in hiring nurses who plan on expanding their nursing knowledge and may be willing to pay more to nurses who are continuing their education.

Certifications

There are countless nursing certifications available to new nursing graduates that indicate your passion for high-quality patient care and which can significantly add to your value as a member of the nursing staff. A few of these include:

  1. Acute/Critical Care Nursing (Adult, Pediatric & Neonatal)
  2. Certified Emergency Nurse
  3. Certified Ambulatory Surgery Nurse
  4. Certified Ostomy Care Nurse

While each certification does require a minimal amount of experience, often one to two years of experience, and require a minimal number of hours  - newer nurses can still earn these certifications. 

Negotiation

Though some new graduates have sparse work experience beyond the practice hours included in their education, others come to the profession with years of experience in other occupations that can translate into higher pay. If you have served in leadership roles or have significant experience working with patients prior to earning your degree, you may be able to leverage them towards a higher salary.

Hours and Type of Work 

You can also increase your earning potential by,

  1. Signing on for nursing assignments with travel nurse agencies after gaining the appropriate experience

  2. Sign up for overtime

  3. Work weekends, nights, and holidays for the shift differential

  4. Working in less desirable settings or understaffed areas for which facilities are willing to pay more

>> Show Me Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Nurse Starting Salary FAQs

  • Are nurses paid well? 

    • Nursing has always been well-compensated and that has never been truer than in the last few years as the nursing shortage has expanded. Starting salaries for entry-level nurses are over $68,000, well above the annual mean wage for all occupations in the United States.
  • How much do the lowest-paid nurses make? 

    • Nursing salaries vary depending on geographic location, type of facility, and an individual nurse’s education and experience level. ZipRecruiter reports that Louisiana is the lowest-paying state for graduate nurses with an average annual salary of $45,353 or $21.80 an hour. 
  • What kind of nurses get paid the most? 

  • Is it worth it to become an RN?

    • In addition to the personal rewards that Registered Nurses derive from their profession, RNs earn generous compensation and benefits as they become employed. They are respected by their community, and have the opportunity to pursue additional credentialing and education that provides even greater advantages and career advancement. Though the job is often physically and emotionally demanding, it can also be extremely fulfilling.
Terri Heimann Oppenheimer
Terri Heimann Oppenheimer
Nurse.org Contributor

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is a freelance writer and editor who is driven by details. She loves to dive into research, ensuring that the information she provides educates, engages and illuminates. Before starting her own business she spent years working in advertising and raising three kids. Today she lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where her she and her husband enjoy travel, the Jersey Shore, and spoiling their grandchildren.

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