An Overview of How Much Nurses Make, by Position

how much nurses make

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Nursing is an in-demand and rewarding career path. How much nurses make can vary significantly depending on a person’s highest level of education, certification, and licensing.

For instance, you can typically expect higher annual earnings with more advanced studies such as nurse practitioner degrees.

If you’re considering a nursing career, you likely want to know about median nurse salaries. This article provides an overview of the different nursing paths and their median salaries.

How Much Do Nurses Make? Median Annual Nurse Salaries by Position

The following salary statistics come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Indeed. The stats are based on nationwide data, and actual nursing salaries vary by state or region.

In areas where the cost of living is lower, such as Georgia, West Virginia, or Alabama, you can expect a lower annual salary. Alternatively, states with a higher cost of living tend to offer a higher salary. 

Find out the best-paying states for registered nurses, including California, Hawaii, and Alaska.

Many factors can affect a person’s nursing salary, including their type of nursing degree or specialization. The following sections will cover the average pay for the following nursing positions:

Travel Nurse Salary

Travel nurses work in different locations (sometimes across the country) for varying medical practices. In place of long-term employment at one location, travel nurses work in a hospital or healthcare facility on a short-term basis.

If you want to be a travel nurse, you’ll need to graduate from an accredited nursing program and get a nurse license in the state where you intend to work. Travel nurses working in a hospital may require that you have a bachelor’s degree in nursing by some employers. 

The average annual salary for travel nurses is $131,535, with North Dakota and California offering above-average salaries.

Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary

Labor and delivery nurses assist with the birthing process, provide care to pregnant women (during labor and after childbirth), and assist with postpartum care.

If you want to be a labor and delivery nurse, you need to complete at least an associate’s degree in nursing. In addition, some states require labor and delivery nurses to be licensed as Registered Nurses (RNs).
The average annual salary for labor and delivery nurses is $155,541. Northeast and west coast states offer above-average pay, especially California, New Jersey, and Washington state.

Registered Nurse (RN) Salary

Registered nurses provide patient care in several health care settings, such as schools, doctor offices, and hospitals. The duties of an RN can vary depending on the type of setting. For instance, critical care nurses work in hospital intensive care units (ICUs) and may care for critically ill or injured patients.

Registered nurses are licensed in their state and can take different paths to licensure. Candidates may receive an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from an accredited nursing school. Several programs exist for nurses with an associate degree to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

The median registered nurse salary is $77,600 per year with a steady job growth projection. States like Texas and Michigan fall slightly under this range, while Minnesota and Rhode Island offer higher-than-national average RN salaries.

nurse with iv bag

Pediatric Nurse Salary

A pediatric nurse provides medical care to infants, children, and adolescents. If you want to be a pediatric nurse, you need to complete an associate’s degree or diploma program at an accredited nursing school. Some states require pediatric nurses to be licensed as Registered Nurses (RNs).

The average annual salary for Pediatric Registered Nurses is $145,280, Northwest states lead the way in above-average salaries, including Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.

ICU Nurse Salary

Intensive care unit (ICU) nurses care for critically ill patients who need continuous monitoring and life-support measures. ICU nurses may operate in any hospital area, but typically work in an intensive care unit setting.

Most ICU nurses only need an associate’s degree, but you can pursue an RN license instead of just an associate’s degree.

The average annual salary for ICU Nurses is $157,706, with northeast states offering above-average pay, including New York, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Licensed Practical Nurse/ Licensed Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN) Salary

A licensed practical or vocational nurse (LPN/PVN) works under the supervision of registered nurses or doctors. They provide basic medical care, such as checking blood pressure, changing bandages, and helping patients with bathing, feeding, or dressing. 

In some states, an LPN or an LVN may even administer medication or IV drips. Regulations vary from place to place, so check with your state government for local guidance.

To practice as a licensed practical or vocational nurse, candidates must complete a state-approved nursing program. Attending as a full-time student may take up to 12 months.
As of 2020, the median pay for LPNs is $48,070 per year, with the highest median wages taking place in government and residential care facilities.

Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary

According to the BLS, the job outlook for nurse practitioners — also known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) — from 2020 to 2030 is 45%. Compared to the average growth rate for all occupations, this career path is experiencing exponential growth.

You can find nurse practitioners in various healthcare settings, such as doctor offices, hospitals, and clinics. They can provide primary care as a family nurse practitioner or specialize in managing complex illnesses or diseases.

Entry-level NPs carry a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN) and may specialize in an advanced practice nursing field, such as geriatrics, pediatrics, or mental health. Some may even choose to earn a Ph.D. or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

The median salary range for nurse practitioners is $120,680, with the highest-paying states including New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and some states along the West Coast.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) Salary

Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNP) focus on children’s health and provide care for common conditions like colds, ear infections, and asthma attacks. They have advanced training in pediatrics and can diagnose and treat common childhood illnesses without needing a physician’s orders or supervision.

PNPs have more education than other nursing professionals (like ICU nurses), but less than what is needed for those with advanced degrees such as clinical psychologists or psychiatrists.

PNPs make an average annual salary of $105,195 with Delaware, California, and Illinois offering more.

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) Salary

Certified nurse midwives (CNM) provide healthcare to women in various settings, such as family planning clinics, birthing centers, and hospitals. A CNM can provide maternity care, deliver babies, and provide wellness care, such as nutrition education.

A graduate-level education and certification with the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) is required to become a CNM. Many advanced placement nursing programs also want candidates who hold RN licensure from an accredited baccalaureate program. 

However, some APRN programs accept candidates with a related health science degree.

The average annual salary for certified nurse midwives is $112,830, and they work in many health care settings and might be on call to deliver babies.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Salary

This type of nurse is trained in administering general anesthesia before surgery and can monitor patient vital signs before, during, and after a procedure. They understand drugs, medications, and their physiological effect on the body and can develop the right plan of care based on the patient’s medical history, allergies, and current medications.

CRNAs earn a master’s degree and choose APRN coursework related to their field of specialty, such as advanced health assessment and pharmacology.

Nurse anesthetists earn a national average salary of $195,610 and work in health care settings like hospitals, surgical centers, and outpatient care centers.

nurses studying for exam

What Exams Do Nurses Have to Take?

There are a number of exams nurses need to take for preparation and licensure in their state. Depending on the pathway, candidates must complete and pass an exam for their certification or designation.

Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS)

One of the most common exams for LVNs/LPNs and RNs is the TEAS. This entrance test measures proficiency in areas of math, reading, science, English, and math. 

Nursing school is tough, and the exam is a good indicator if the candidate is prepared for its rigor. A passing grade is needed for acceptance into a nursing program.

Health Education Systems Admission Assessment (HESI A2)

Another type of entrance exam is the HESI A2. Much like a screening tool, the HESI A2 can help predict success in a nursing education program. The exam is more comprehensive than the TEAS exam and covers broader material in the sciences, including biology and chemistry.

National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)

The NCLEX is a state board exam required for nursing licensure, and is taken after graduation. Candidates may choose from the NCLEX-RN (Registered Nurse) or NCLEX-PN (Practical Nurse). 

Both exams cover many of the same topics, but the NCLEX-PN is shorter in duration and is designed for those seeking certification as a practical or vocational nurse (the NCLEX-RN is for candidates seeking RN licensure).

Prepare for Your Nursing Exam with Us

There’s a lot to look forward to as a nurse, especially with how much nurses make. But you first have to get through nursing school and licensure.

SimpleNursing offers top-notch exam resources, such as videos, hot-topic cheat sheets, and prep questions to help nursing students pass their exams on the first try.

Get the entrance exam info you need for the nursing program you want.