How Much Do Nurses Actually Make?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

In a world where an increasingly poor job market has left many graduates underemployed and overwhelmed with debt, nursing shines as a beacon of hope. Along with IT, software development, and a few other career choices, nursing continues to offer robust salaries that guarantee a good standard of living.

But how much do nurses actually make? Within nursing, there are different specialties and job titles. Here are the average salaries for different types of nurses in the United States. While there’s a good deal of variation, it’s pretty clear that nursing is a promising and solid career choice.

What Determines Nursing Salaries?

There’s no question that nurses make good money, and there’s a good reason for that. They’re highly educated professionals who are responsible for their patients’ health and well-being. Plus, there’s an ongoing nursing shortage that’s projected to get worse over the next five to ten years, and there are always jobs available.

However, nursing salaries can depend on several key factors:


  • Level of education and type of nursing degree. There are several different types of nursing degrees, ranging from two-year associate’s degrees to PhDs programs. The higher your education level, the higher your salary can be.
  • Years of experience. As you learn and grow throughout your career, your salary will increase.
  • State and city where you work. Your local cost of living also has a profound effect on how much you’ll make. Nursing salaries in a smaller city like Omaha, Nebraska are smaller than the salaries you’ll see in New York City or San Francisco, but they scale according to the cost of living. A job offer in a big city with a considerable salary bump might look great on paper, but it’s always important to take the cost of living into account.
  • The type of work you do. This, too, has an effect on your salary.
  • The nursing speciality you pursue. Some nursing specialties are higher paying than others, which may guide your career choices.


How Much Do Different Types of Nurses Make?

Here’s some general information about average salaries for different types of nurses with different types of degrees. Naturally, salaries vary according to location and the cost of living, and a nurse in Los Angeles makes more, on paper, than a nurse in Pensacola, Florida. But, these averages from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook, can give you a good idea of what you can expect to make as a nurse.


Licensed Practical Nurse (LPNs) – $42,490

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) take vital signs, compile patients’ health information, administer medications, assist with hygiene, supervise nursing assistants, and perform other basic patient care tasks. LPNs often obtain their degree and licensing through fast-paced, accelerated programs.

Some people go through an LPN-to-Associate’s degree program, which can generally be completed in one to two years. These programs are geared toward students who want to become an entry-level RN (registered nurse), and are often offered through community colleges and vocational schools. You’ll need to take liberal arts courses along with nursing curricula, which can extend the time it takes. For many people, an associate’s is a stepping stone for a bachelor’s degree.

After graduation, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN)

Registered Nurse (RN) – $66,640

To become a registered nurse (RN), students must have either a two-year associate’s degree, or a four-year bachelor’s degree. After graduation, they must pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

Actual RN salaries can vary substantially, depending on your specialty, years of experience, location, and other factors.


Advanced Practice Nurses (AP) – $100,000-155,000

Advanced practice nurses (AP) hold a master’s degree in their particular area of focus. They often provide one-on-one patient care, like a physician would. Salaries can depend on your particular specialty, but here are a few examples.


  • Certified Nurse Anaesthetist (CNA) – $153,780
  • Certified Nurse Midwife – $102,700
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) – $102,670
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP) & Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) – $102,670

Nursing Salaries Vary, But Are Relatively Substantial

As you can see, salaries for nurses can vary substantially, from as low as $40,000 to over $150,000. If you’re considering nursing as a career, and you’re interested in finding the highest-paying career track, CNAs are among the most highly paid nurses. However, nursing salaries are far from paltry, and it’s a stable and promising career choice.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.



  1. I have to agree with the above comments. Do not go into nursing for the money. It is not there. With the level of education you are required to have, and the competitiveness of the nursing schools, potential nurses have the intellectual ability to make so much more money in a different profession. The nursing jobs are always there because they stink.

  2. In Texas, while the nursing pay isn’t horrible, it is based on a reimbursement rate that has not changed in about 10 years. Raises aren’t really possible, since staying in the black with a budget is critical. This applies to hospital, clinic and home care. I make quite good money, however each year I go backwards since my rate cannot go up, regardless of living costs. I make my own money by working very very long weeks, all shifts (as in midnights, afternoon and day shifts all in the same week. What I have noticed, however, is that new nurses coming out of school are very unrealistic about nursing rates and pay and don’t understand the deductions from the reimbursement rates that go in to figuring out what their hourly rate is able to be. They don’t understand how some places will pay them “more” and with more benefits while receiving the same reimbursement rates. I work in a Consumer Directed Services household (would require a separate explanation though feel free to ask) and my job is to keep the budget in the black and not the red. Who knows what agencies do. Hospitals have so many ancillary staff that nurses don’t even get to be nurses and while their rate might not be great usually adding benefits into the mix should make those others realize they actually make more than that pay stub might suggest. There are also two kinds of nurses….paycheck nurses and nurses nurses. I do this not so much for the pay, but for what my career truly has to offer. Yes, this is a ramble, but the main gist is that most nurses don’t actually know the nuts and bolts of how their wages are determined. Regardless, we are not paid what we deserve or earn with our hard work, but that is something that needs to be addressed with your state legislators, the Feds, CMS and a host of others who sit back and decide how they want to cut down on patient costs and see what they can get away with and hopefully avoid killing patients in the process. It is getting pretty disgusting lately, frankly.

  3. I work in a hospital that has taken away 4 vacation days/year and only pays $0.35/hr as weekend differential . This weekend diff has not changed in 22 years! This system gives millions of dollars in free care yearly on the backs of their employees who pay more in deductibles, co-pay, and co-insurance each year. That being said, more RNs are getting their advanced degrees, leaving fewer bedside nurses. The younger set does not want to work shifts, weekends, or holidays. Before long, hospital systems will need to increase incentives for nurses to stay. The bedside nurse needs to receive be appreciated for all the work he or she does!

  4. CNA = Certified Nursing Assistant. CRNA = Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. There is a huge difference between the two. Also, I have to agree with the others..nurses are not paid adequately for what they do! I could elaborate on that but it’d be another article entirely. Bottom line..if u don’t know the facts, you shouldn’t be writing about it.

  5. I found the article unrealistic. I empathize with the previous comments. I am a nurse educator with 26 years of nursing experience. I love what I do, even if the pay is not that great. In order to be a nurse educator, you must have an MSN or better, if you want to be able to teach in any RN program that is ACEN accredited. Having said that, a nurse educator with an MSN or greater, usually makes less than our counterparts in other nursing fields. On top of that, many of my former students are now making more than I, after just 1 year post graduation.

  6. Walter, I would be ecstatic to make 66-70,000 a year. I’m an RN and have been a hospital nurse for 30 years and I barely make 42,500. Can you imagine my situation! They make us jump back and forth 12 .5 hour days to 12.5 hour nights, and I have yet to get a main holiday off. Oh yes and 4 years without any kind of raise. That’s what I get for moving to Tennessee.

  7. I think your article is ridiculous to say RNs make good money!! First of all I got a 1% raise for being the standard nurse. Horrible compared to nearly any other job with a yearly raise %. And considering the responsibilities of a nurse, the ongoing increase of the duties to perform and expectations to those at a 1000% all with a smile. And sadly the social interaction with patients declines because too busy documenting every little thing 3x a day. And health cost rising once again and oddly working for a hospital has no benefits to your actual health plan cost nor services provided. So earning 66-70,000 a year for what the RN is expected of is pathetic. Not to mention the stress of a nurse and poor vacation and sick time allowance!! Which any sick time counts against you in your performance evaluation. And 3 days a year allowance is not the standard norm in majority of career industries!! So please check your facts across standard industries. When people in retail and flight attendants make more then an RN I’d say something is incredibly wrong with RN salaries. I shouldn’t have to work somewhere 20 years to make a decent salary.


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