If you’re a travel nurse looking to earn as much money as possible, your evaluation of possible assignments should focus on two main things: average cost of living and average annual salary. These two figures will allow you to predict how much money you’ll actually “earn” in a given position when it’s all said and done.
This discrepancy in pay and the amount you actually take home as a travel nurse is because states with the highest average salary for registered nurses also typically have a very high cost of living. This means that while you’ll still technically earn more than your colleagues in other states, their lower cost of living might mean that they actually “earn” more than you.
In order to find the place with the best pay for registered nurses you’ll need to break out the ole’ calculator, sharpen your pencil and get ready for some serious research, math, and more research. Sound like fun? We didn’t think so.
Fortunately, your friends at PPR have done the research for you. We calculated average salaries with cities that have above and below average costs of living to find the cities with the highest earning potential.
So sit back, relax, and take a look at the top 9 states where nurses just like you can earn the most money.
At over $100,000 per year, California has one of the highest average annual salaries for registered nurses in the country. That may seem like a lot of money, but if you live in San Jose, CA, where the average cost of living is 22% higher than the national average, it crunches out to be closer to $79k.
On the other hand, in Fresno, CA, where the cost of living is 2.4% below the national average, you could be living large with an income that feels more like $104,192 per year.
Earning Potential for Registered Nurses in California
• State’s Average Annual Salary: $101,750
• State’s Highest Cost of Living: San Jose, CA (+22%)
• State’s Lowest Cost of Living: Bakersfield-Delano, CA (-2.7%)
Massachusetts is home to many opportunities for registered nurses to earn excellent incomes while working at one of the state’s top medical facilities. Nurses here are paid, on average, around $89,000 per year or about $42.82 an hour.
When calculating cost of living, organizations take into account things like food, gas and housing costs. In Worcester, MA, for example, these things and others translate into a cost of living that is a little over 5% higher than the national average.
In Springfield, Massachusetts, the city where basketball was invented, the cost of living is relatively much lower, at 3.2% below the national average. This means extra cash for all those trips to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Earning Potential for Registered Nurses in Massachusetts
• State’s Average Annual Salary: $89,060
• State’s Highest Cost of Living: Worcester, MA (+5.5%)
• State’s Lowest Cost of Living: Springfield, MA (-3.2%)
Besides the beautiful forests, mountains, and beaches in Oregon, you can earn a cool 80 grand working as a registered nurse in this Pacific Northwest state. The average annual salary for a nurse working in Oregon is $87,000 per year.
If you’re looking to keep the maximum amount of what you earn, head east of the Cascade mountains to Bend, OR, where your dollar will go exactly 3.4% further than the national average.
Earning Potential for Registered Nurses in Oregon
• State’s Average Annual Salary: $87,000
• State’s Highest Cost of Living: Portland, OR (+0.5%)
• State’s Lowest Cost of Living: Bend, OR (-3.4%)
Alaska is home to some of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders. It’s also a great place to work as a registered nurse. Nurses here can earn on average $86,450 per year, or $41.56 an hour.
While some states have fluctuations which cause some cities to have both higher and lower cost of living averages, Alaska has it pretty much locked down in terms of high cost of living, which is why the lowest cost of living listed below is still well above the national average.
Earning Potential for Registered Nurses in Alaska
• State’s Average Annual Salary: $86,450
• State’s Highest Cost of Living: Anchorage, AK (+10.9%)
• State’s Lowest Cost of Living: Fairbanks, AK (+6.8%)
Nevada is one of the easiest states in America for registered nurses to max out their earning potential. That’s because not only is Nevada one of the states that pays nurses the most, but it’s also got one of the lowest cost of living indexes of any state we looked at.
If you’re a registered nurse living in Carson City, NV, you can expect to earn close to the state’s average annual base salary of around $40.28 an hour.
However, when adjusted to account for cost of living, your average income of just over $83k per year will feel more like $85,465.
Earning Potential for Registered Nurses in Nevada
• State’s Average Annual Salary: $83,790
• State’s Highest Cost of Living: Reno, NV (-0.5%)
• State’s Lowest Cost of Living: Carson City, NV (-2.0%)
New York state is one of the best paying states in America for registered nurses looking to earn maximum income. The one exception might be New York City, where the cost of living is a whopping 22.2% higher than the national average.
As far as RN salaries go, anything above $80,000 per year is going to place you among the top states for registered nurses in terms of salary. If you can avoid working in one of the larger metropolitan areas of a given state, you will typically be able to find much lower cost of living in smaller cities and towns.
For instance, in the same state, the city of Buffalo, NY, has an average cost of living that is over 6 percent lower than the national average.
Earning Potential for Registered Nurses in New York
• State’s Average Annual Salary: $80,830
• State’s Highest Cost of Living: New York, NY (+22.2%)
• State’s Lowest Cost of Living: Buffalo, NY (-6.2%)
With an average base salary of $80,580 per year, New Jersey is one of the highest paying states for nurses in the country.
It’s proximity to many major east coast cities along with its industry friendly economy, lead New Jersey to be one of the more popular Atlantic coast states. This translates into one of the higher costs of living among even some of the smaller cities.
For example, the state highest cost of living index is in Trenton, NJ, at 11.5% above the national average, is only 2 percentage points more than the state’s lowest cost of living index: Atlantic City, NJ. Despite this, New Jersey is still among the highest paying states for RNs in the United States.
Earning Potential for Registered Nurses in New Jersey
• State’s Average Annual Salary: $80,580
• State’s Highest Cost of Living: Trenton, NJ (+11.5%)
• State’s Lowest Cost of Living: Atlantic City, NJ (+8.4%)
While Washington, D.C. isn’t technically a state (it’s a federal district), we’ve included it on this list because registered nurses in Washington, D.C., earn one of the highest salaries in the nation.
RNs working in the nation’s capital have an annual average salary of $80,500 per year. This translates to around $38.70 per hour. You’ll need to consider, among other things, the fact that in addition to one of the top salaries, D.C. also has one of the highest cost of living indexes. At more than 20% higher than the national average, residents of this east coast gem will definitely need to clip coupons if they hope to save away a ton of extra cash while working here.
Earning Potential for Registered Nurses in Washington, D.C.
• Average Annual Salary: $80,500
• Cost of Living: (+20.4%)
Washington state is one of the best states for registered nurses looking to earn the most money while also enjoying a reasonable cost of living. The state offers many opportunities to profit from an excellent median average income combined with an affordable cost of living.
That is, of course, unless you’re living in Seattle, WA, where the cost of living is 7 percent higher than the national average.
Earning Potential for Registered Nurses in Washington
• State’s Average Annual Salary: $80,120
• State’s Highest Cost of Living: Seattle, WA (+7%)
• State’s Lowest Cost of Living: Longview, WA (-5.9%)
For registered nurses looking to earn the most money by combining a reasonable cost of living and a high-end salary to create the perfect earning potential regardless of location, below is a list of the top 10 cities in the United States where these two factors combine to create optimized “sweet spots” where you’ll take home more money than anywhere else.
U.S. Cities with Highest Earning Potential for Registered Nurses
• Fresno, CA – $104,192 per year
• Springfield, MA – $91,910 per year
• Bend, OR – $89,958 per year
• Portland, OR – $86,565 per year
• Buffalo, NY – $85,841 per year
• Carson City, NV – $85,465 per year
• Longview, WA – $84,847 per year
• Reno, NV – $84,209 per year
• Worcester, MA – $84,162 per year
• Fairbanks, AK – $80,570 per year
So there you have it, the top 9 states where nurses can earn the most money AND a list of the top 10 cities where cost of living and average salary combined create the best earning potential for registered nurses.
If you’re interested in learning more about specific jobs in any of the above areas, contact PPR today. One of our friendly staff is waiting to answer any questions you might have.