Geographical Earnings: Comparing Nursing Salaries Across the USA

Over the last several decades, the nursing profession has risen in popularity among aspiring professionals. One key reason for this is the financial stability found in these roles along with opportunities for career advancement.

This being the case, many are curious about the differences in salaries that nurses can command in different geographical locations. Gaining a deeper understanding of how different locations compare in terms of nursing salaries can make it easier for one to pursue a role in the industry.

Here is a comparison of nursing salaries across the USA.

The States with the Highest Nursing Salaries

For aspiring nurses, it’s important to understand which states allow them to command the highest salaries. This knowledge allows these young professionals to command the best salaries for their work.

States that typically rank highest for nursing salaries include:


In addition to employing the highest percentage of nurses, California also reports the highest nursing salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses in California made a mean annual wage of $133,340 in May of 2022.

When it comes to nurse practitioner salaries, the case is no different and California also ranks at the top. Experts estimate that the annual mean wage of nurse practitioners in California was $151,830 in 2021.

The high salaries offered to nurses in California make it an amazing choice for nurses entering the field and veteran nurses alike.


Though it’s not a state that typically comes to mind when thinking of high-paying medical practices, Massachusetts is one of the states with the highest nursing salaries. The BLS reports that the mean annual wage for registered nurses in Massachusetts was $104,150 in May of 2022.

In terms of nurse practitioner wages, Massachusetts also ranks above most other American states. The annual mean wage of nurse practitioners in Massachusetts in 2021 was $129,540.

For nurses just entering the field and for those looking to step into advanced positions to increase their salaries, Massachusetts is an amazing place to work as a nurse.

The States with the Lowest Nursing Salaries

Just like it’s vital for nurses to be aware of the top-paying states, it’s also important for them to be aware of which states rank the lowest in terms of nursing salaries.

Here are the states with the lowest nursing salaries.

South Dakota

For aspiring nurses from South Dakota, the nursing salaries in the state are bleak. The BLS reports that the annual mean wage of registered nurses in South Dakota was $64,500 in May of 2022. This is less than half of the annual mean wage of registered nurses in California in the same year.

For nurse practitioners, salaries in South Dakota also fall under the national average. According to the job board website Ziprecruiter, the average salary of nurse practitioners in 2023 is $117,341. Though this may seem like a lucrative salary at first glance, it’s important to remember that this is an advanced nursing role and less-advanced registered nurses in other states are commanding higher salaries than this.

West Virginia

West Virginia is one of the lowest-rated states in terms of nursing salaries. The BLS reported that the annual mean wage of registered nurses in West Virginia was $72,230 in May of 2022. This is more than $15,000 less than the national annual mean salary of registered nurses which is $89,010.

According to Ziprecruiter, nurse practitioner salaries in West Virginia are also disheartening. This organization estimates that the annual average pay for these professionals in West Virginia is $94,428.

Why It’s Important to Understand Nursing Salaries Across the Country

Though many nurses don’t even think about looking at nursing salaries in various areas, understanding the breakdown of nursing wages can make a huge impact on one’s career.

In fact, changing the state that one works in as a nurse can even, in some cases, double one’s salary. However, it is also important to remember other factors when deciding where to practice nursing.

States with the highest nursing salaries often have the highest living costs as well. This can make amazing wages less significant after expenses. Even so, understanding the range of salaries nurses can command empowers current and aspiring nurses to get the most for their skills and hard work.

Nursing Salaries Can Vary Widely

Though people are aware that locations can make a difference in job salaries, few are aware of how significant these salary discrepancies can be for nurses in different states. To be capable of making more informed decisions, it’s essential that nurses and those interested in entering the field have a thorough understanding of which states have the best and worst nursing salaries.

With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.