Nursing Salaries: Where Are We Now?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nursing salaries increased an average of 1.3 percent per year between 2008 and 2014. Since then the trend has been an average 2.6 percent increase a year. Will this growth continue? There are several factors that figure into nursing salary trends.

These days, it’s surprisingly easy to research what nurses are earning in various job roles and geographic areas. There are several online salary calculators that allow you to see the local average for your specialty and experience range. These include:

Shortages in an area can translate into higher wages for nurses, and the upward trend in general runs parallel with an increased demand for healthcare services as the population ages and the Affordable Care Act has increased access to coverage. The BLS predicts that the demand for healthcare will continue to rise at least through 2024. Couple this with the expanded range of nursing specialties and it would appear the job market is wide open—not just with hospitals, but with ambulatory care centers, nursing homes, home health agencies, hospice, etc. As bedside nursing jobs expand, it’s likely that nursing specialties like case management and informatics will also expand.

When you’re researching average salaries, keep in mind the difference between median and mean. A median salary of $70,000 means that $70,000 is the middle point: in other words, half the nurses in that group earn more than $70,000, while half earn less. The mean is the average that you’re probably used to calculating—where you add up all the salaries in the population of nurses being studied and then divide by the number of nurses.

So what are the averages? A recent Medscape report showed the average gross salary of an RN in 2015 was $79,000. It also revealed that the highest RN salaries are in California and the Northeast, where the cost of living tends to be higher as well. The Southeast saw the lowest average salaries. The same report demonstrated that higher salaries correlate to higher educational levels. For example, an RN who earns a BSN can expect to earn an average of $6,000 more per year than a nurse with an associate’s degree. A nurse with an MSN can expect another $8,000 per year over the BSN-prepared nurse, and a nurse with a doctoral degree can earn even more, depending on the job role.

The Medscape report also showed how pay increases were correlated to educational levels. Nurses who completed an RN diploma or associate’s degree program earned an average of $73,000 per year, while BSN nurses earned $79,000. Nurses who had earned a master’s degree averaged $87,000 per year, and those with a doctoral degree earned about $96,000 per year.

The highest paying nursing job in the U.S. for several now has been the role of certified nurse anesthetist, with an average salary of $135,000. Other jobs with the potential to hit six figures include psychiatric nurse practitioner and certified nurse midwife. Clinical nurse specialists and informatics nurses also frequently appear in top-ten lists of the highest paying nursing specialties.

Are you interested in finding a rewarding and lucrative nursing specialty that fits your individual strengths and interests? Education can be your passport to the career of your dreams. We invite you to look at all the degree programs that are offered in a flexible, online format by American Sentinel University—empower yourself with knowledge through an online RN to BSN or RN to BSN/MSN degree! American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees, including programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in nursing education, nursing informatics, and executive leadership.