November 5, 2019

RNs in California are paid the highest average annual salary of RNs in any state, while RNs in South Dakota are paid the lowest, according to a Forbes analysis of recently updated Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.

Millennial nurses are a third of our workforce—here’s how to retain them

For the analysis, Forbes used 2018 BLS data. The data was most recently updated in September 2019.

How much nurses are paid in your state

Overall, RNs are paid a relatively high salary compared to other occupations in the United States, according to Forbes. BLS data shows that RNS are paid $75,510 per year, while the average annual salary in the United States for all occupations is $51,960.

Below is a breakdown of the average annual pay for RNs in each state in 2018:

The highest- and lowest- paying states for RNs

The five states with the highest average annual salary for nurses are:

  1. California, at $106,950;
  2. Hawaii, at $98,080;
  3. Massachusetts, at $92,140;
  4. Oregon, at $91,080; and
  5. Alaska, at $89,310.

The five states with the lowest average annual salary for nurses are:

  1. South Dakota, at $58,340;
  2. Mississippi, at $58,490;
  3. Iowa, at $59,130;
  4. Alabama, at $59,470; and
  5. Arkansas, at $60,780.

The list of highest-paying states for nurses is dominated by states in the West and Northeast regions, according to Forbes. By contrast, the lowest-paying states are concentrated in the South and Midwest.

In California, the highest-paying state, nurse salaries increased by 10.3% over the last five years. However, some states with the lowest average annual salary have also shown signs of increase over the years, too. For instance, the average nurse salary in West Virginia, the eight lowest-paying state, increased by 11.8% between 2013 and 2018 (DePietro, Forbes, 10/31).

How to attract nurses when salaries are stagnant

Beyond recruitment innovations, retaining nurses once hired is essential, and that goes far beyond maintaining a competitive salary structure.

Focusing on the key drivers of nurse engagement is essential; to learn more about how to engage nurses in their work, read our study on The National Prescription for Nurse Engagement.

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