Registered Nurse (RN) Salary and Job Growth

Registered nurse salaries can be incredibly lucrative, with well-established patterns of growth all across the profession.

registered nurse stethoscope

Registered nurses are in high demand due to the nursing shortage. And while registered nurses (RNs) can earn a pretty decent paycheck, you'll find it's all very dependent on employer type, education, work experience and specialty.

Median Annual Salary

According to The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15, the median expected annual salary for registered nurses is $65,470. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.

What is my earning potential?

A registered nurse's earning potential is tied to a number of external factors. For instance, a more seasoned RN has the potential for raises or promotions compared to a newer RN. Education also plays a role as those with BSNs are qualified to work as supervisors or in other higher-level roles contributing to a higher salary than an RN with an associate's degree. An RN's specialty area, like acute care or surgery, factors into how much they're paid because certain specialties require more responsibility translating into a fatter paycheck.

The top-paying industries for registered nurses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are in government, general medical and surgical hospitals and home health care services.

How do registered nurse salaries compare?

Nursing Career Median Annual Salary*
EMT & Paramedic $31,020
Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurse $41,540
Physician Assistant $90,930 
Nurse Practitioner $89,960

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook; EMTs and Paramedics, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
 

Is there demand for this career?

The simple answer: Absolutely.

The current nursing shortage in the U.S. has created a high demand for registered nurses in all medical arenas.

The BLS says registered nurses will be especially in demand at home or residential care facilities since hospitals are under pressure to discharge patients as soon as they can. Plus, as the baby boomer population ages, more home healthcare will be necessary creating jobs for registered nurses. 

What is the job growth for the field?

The BLS anticipates registered nurse employment with grow 19 percent through 2022, which is faster than average. Be aware that national long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions.

Specifically, RN jobs in outpatient care centers that provide same-day procedures, like chemotherapy, some surgeries and rehabilitation, are expected to see faster than average growth. 

Additionally, new registered nurses will be welcomed with open arms as older RNs look to retire in the coming years.  

How much competition will I face for a job?

Registered nurses looking for jobs in physician offices and outpatient care centers may find they face heavy competition because these places usually offer regular, week-day hours and a more comfortable workplace environment.

Hospitals, which can be high-stress environments, tend to see higher turnover rates so job opportunities can be plentiful. To make the role more appealing, hospitals will sometimes signing bonuses, flex schedules and subsidize continuing education classes.

What kinds of institutions hire registered nurses?

Aspiring registered nurses have a range of options when it comes to their work location. The BLS reports the following industries employ the largest number of registered nurses:

  • General medical and surgical hospitals—61 percent
  • Outpatient care centers—7 percent
  • Home health care services—7 percent

How do I advance in my registered nurse career?

In most fields, furthering your education can help propel you to the next phase of your career. It's no different for the registered nurse profession. While an associate's degree in nursing is the gateway to entry-level nursing jobs, earning a bachelor's degree can help in a variety of ways. First, a BSN can mean higher pay and supervisory or leadership roles. Now imagine you enter the field, work for a few years and realize you want to do more, perhaps become a nurse practitioner. The BSN is a prerequisite for applying to graduate school to become an advanced practice nurse.

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