To become a registered nurse, students usually complete one of three possible educational programs: a diploma program, an associate’s degree program or a bachelor’s degree program. Educational programs typically combine classroom lectures with clinical experience, and a bachelor’s degree is often required for nurses who wish to advance to administrative staff positions. All registered nurses must hold a state license, which is earned by first obtaining an accredited degree, then passing the National Council Licensure Examination.
Registered nurses earned an average annual salary of $69,110 a year, or $33.23 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 2011. The middle 50 percent of this group earned between $53,770 and $80,390 per year, equaling $25.85 and $38.65 per hour. The bottom 10 percent of registered nurses made $44,970 per year, while the top 90 percent took in $96,630 per year.
Salaries by Industry
Registered nurses who worked in the industry of personal care services took in the highest wages, making $85,940 per year, according to 2011 BLS statistics. Other lucrative positions for registered nurses included working for lessors of real estate, where they earned $81,850 annually, and securities and commodities brokerages, where they made $81,090 per year. Registered nurses working in the oil and gas extraction industry made similarly high salaries, earning $80,700 per year, as did those within the medical equipment and supplies manufacturing industry, with an average salary of $80,290 per year. In comparison, general and surgical hospitals were the employers with the highest levels and concentrations of employment, but registered nurses earned only $69,810 annually.
Salaries by State
California paid its registered nurses the most of all states. They made $90,680 per year on average, according to the BLS. Other top-paying states were Massachusetts, with an average salary of $86,810; Hawaii, where registered nurses took in $83,950 per year; Alaska, where they earned $82,080; and Nevada, where average earnings were $77,840 yearly.
Salaries by Area
According to the BLS, all of the country’s top 10 highest-paying metropolitan regions were located in California. Registered nurses made the most in the Vallejo-Fairfield area of California, where annual earnings were $120,540. California was also home to four of the five top-paying non-metropolitan regions of the country for registered nurses; nurses earned the most in the Northern Mountains Region, where the average salary was $93,930 a year.
2016 Salary Information for Registered Nurses
Registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $68,450 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, registered nurses earned a 25th percentile salary of $56,190, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $83,770, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 2,955,200 people were employed in the U.S. as registered nurses.
Samantha Ley writes career and education articles for various online publications. She also works in social media management and creates test materials and other educational content for various companies. Ley holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Kenyon College and an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia.