Nurse Starting Salary Guide

5 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.

What is the Average Starting Salary for Nurses?

According to, 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


Annual Salary

Hourly Wage










Rhode Island









North Dakota






New York



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New Hampshire









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West Virginia
























New Mexico



North Carolina


















Via ZipRecruiter

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.


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. 


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

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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 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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