These States Offer the Best and Worst Pay for Nurses

Find out how much nurses make in your state.

There is a shortage of nurses in the United States, with the number of unfilled positions expected to rise to over 1 million by 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nurses frequently are the unsung heroes of the healthcare industry, providing essential care and dealing directly with patients.

However, depending on which state you hail from, the nurses in your area might be more or less “unsung” in terms of their wages, according to a new study from GOBankingRates.

The study looked at the mean salary for nurses in every state and ranked them by this figure. The study also included two other statistics for reference, including a state’s employment rate per 1,000 jobs and the location quotient, which is the ratio of a state’s employment for nurses compared to national levels.

The study revealed large disparities in how much nurses should expect to earn in different parts of the country, with nurses in California — the top-ranked state — earning more than six figures on average and their counterparts in South Dakota, — the state with the lowest mean wages — earning just over half that much.

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One unsurprising trend is that the compensation rate for nurses appears to strongly correlate with the state’s cost of living. The 10 states with the highest average salary for nurses include eight of the top 10 states with the highest average cost of living. Among the bottom 10 states are seven of the 10 states with the lowest costs of living, so it appears as though market dynamics might be pushing up nurse salaries when the cost of living is higher in an area.

The same states also pop up among the top and bottom states for median income, again painting a picture where the market for wages in an area appears to lift or lower salaries for nurses. The top 10 states for nurses’ average wages include six of the states with the 10 highest median incomes. Meanwhile, the 10 bottom states for average nurse incomes have seven of the states with the 10 lowest median incomes.

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What’s more, five states finished among the top 10 in all three categories (average nurse’s salary, cost of living and median income): Connecticut, Alaska, Massachusetts, California and Hawaii.

Likewise, another six states are in the bottom 10 for all three of those lists: Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Kentucky, all of which points to nurses’ wages appearing to be driven by several factors in the local economy and rising to meet high costs in wealthy areas — or falling to fit with low costs in poorer areas.

Here are the best and worst states for nurses when it comes to wages, with No. 1 being the best:

RankStateAnnual Mean WageEmployment Per Thousand JobsLocation Quotient
1California$102,70016.9080.83
2Hawaii$96,99017.0690.84
3Massachusetts$89,33023.4881.15
4Oregon$88,77019.1950.94
5Alaska$87,51017.5040.86
6Nevada$84,98016.0710.79
7New York$83,45019.5670.96
8New Jersey$82,01020.1040.99
9Connecticut$80,20020.7411.02
10Washington$79,81017.8510.88
11Minnesota$77,54022.7391.12
12Rhode Island$76,65024.8361.22
13Maryland$75,25020.1540.99
14Arizona$75,11020.2030.99
15Deleware$73,18026.2461.29
16Colorado$72,57019.3090.95
17Illinois$72,09020.7661.02
18Texas$72,07017.8480.88
19New Hampshire$70,04020.2961.00
20New Mexico$69,84020.3331.00
21Pennsylvania$69,82024.7561.21
22Vermont$69,56020.5381.01
23Wisconsin$69,20019.8010.97
24Michigan$69,12022.0031.08
25Virginia$67,99016.9550.83
26Georgia$66,75017.4270.85
27Montana$66,28021.9431.08
28Maine$65,89023.7061.16
29Ohio$65,50023.2031.14
30Wyoming$64,90018.3330.90
31Florida$64,89021.1821.04
32Idaho$64,52019.4300.95
33South Carolina$63,63021.4991.05
34Louisiana$63,56024.1681.19
35Missouri$63,30025.8521.27
36North Dakota$63,14021.6491.06
37Utah$63,05015.1270.74
38North Carolina$62,56023.0821.13
39Indiana$62,45022.7021.11
40Nebraska$62,21023.5671.16
41Oklahoma$61,64017.7990.87
42Kentucky$61,53023.6691.16
43West Virginia$60,38029.6471.45
44Tennessee$60,05020.3561.00
45Kansas$59,94021.1091.04
46Arkansas$58,81020.3181.00
47Iowa$57,93021.6761.06
48Alabama$57,89025.6381.26
49Mississippi$57,70025.6921.26
50South Dakota$57,01029.8751.47

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Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the best and worst states to be a registered nurse by ranking them from highest to lowest mean wage. Two other factors that are included for additional information, but do not influence the ranking, are the employment rate per 1,000 jobs and the Location Quotient. The Location Quotient is the ratio of the state’s employment for a given profession in comparison to the national level of employment. A Location Quotient greater than one indicates that the occupation has a higher share of employment than average. A quotient of less than one indicates that the occupation is less prevalent than average in the state. Data was sourced from Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates.