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The Best and Worst States to Be a Nurse

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Are you thinking about going into nursing? It’s a field that’s growing rapidly in both pay and opportunity across the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of registered nurses in the country is expected to increase 15 percent in the next eight years.

Although some of the highest-paying jobs in the U.S. are in the medical field, GOBankingRates set out to find out how much nurses make across the country. The study identified the sates where nurses make the most — and the least — along with how many nursing jobs exist statewide.

Click through to see the states that offer the best and worst pay for nurses.

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50. South Dakota

Annual mean wage: $57,010

The Mount Rushmore State isn’t one of the best states for nurses — in fact, it’s the very worst. Still, the mean salary for nursing is 40 percent higher than the state’s overall average of $40,770. On the upside, South Dakota is the No. 1 state for nursing job opportunities, with 30 nursing jobs per 1,000 overall jobs within the state. Another benefit of working as a nurse: It’s one of the professions with the most job security.

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49. Mississippi

Annual mean wage: $57,700

At No. 49 out of 50, salaries in the Magnolia State are among the lowest in the nation for the nursing pool. The good news is that Mississippi tops the states where you can enjoy the lowest cost of living. There is also a bounty of nursing jobs, with 22 percent more in Mississippi than across the U.S. in general. In fact, it’s in the top 5 states, with 25.7 nursing jobs per 1,000 jobs.

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48. Alabama

Annual mean wage: $57,890

Alabama might have one of the lowest salaries for nurses in the nation, but it also has one of the lowest costs of living. The Yellowhammer state is one of the more accessible states to enter the profession, with 25.6 nursing jobs available per 1,000 overall. It ranks as the No. 6 state for job opportunity — there are about 22 percent more positions than across the nation in general. Working as a nurse is a good opportunity for part-time work, too. Nursing is one of the highest-paying part-time jobs.

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47. Iowa

Annual mean wage: $57,930

Iowa doesn’t have the best salaries for nurses. In fact, the average yearly wage is just $13,200 more than the mean annual salary for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are slightly more opportunities for nurses in Iowa than the national average, however — about 4 percent — with nursing jobs at about 21.7 per 1,000. In Iowa, nurses and police officers earn about the same amount, but there are many more job opportunities for nurses.

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46. Arkansas

Annual mean wage: $58,810

Nurses in Arkansas make $18,280 more than the average worker in the state, according to the BLS. Job opportunities for Arkansas nurses are 2.9 percent lower than the national average — there are 20.3 nursing jobs per 1,000 jobs in the state.

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45. Kansas

Annual mean wage: $59,940

Kansas nurses don’t have the highest wages in the nation, and the number of nursing jobs in the state is essentially equal to the national average. There are 21.1 nursing jobs for every 1,000 jobs in the state.

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44. Tennessee

Annual mean wage: $60,050

Tennessee’s average wage for all occupations is $43,550 according to the BLS, meaning nurses earn 38 percent more. Nursing opportunities in the state roughly match the national average, with 20.4 nursing jobs per 1,000 in Tennessee.

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43. West Virginia

Annual mean wage: $60,380

The Mountain State isn’t one of the best paying states for nurses, but it stands out in other ways. West Virginia is where you’ll find the No. 2 location for nursing opportunities. The state has 29.6 nursing jobs per thousand overall, about 42 percent higher than in the U.S. as a whole.

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42. Kentucky

Annual mean wage: $61,530

Although the mean salary for nurses is $19,120 more than annual mean wage across all occupations in the state, the Bluegrass State ranks in the bottom 10 as far as nursing salaries across the country. The state has 13 percent more nursing jobs than the U.S. in general, however, at about 23.7 per thousand total jobs. A separate GOBankingRates study found Kentucky was one of the best states to move to if you’re unemployed and want a job.

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41. Oklahoma

Annual mean wage: $61,640

Not only is Oklahoma in the bottom 10 for nursing salaries, the Sooner State ranks No. 43 when it comes to opportunity for nurses. The state has just 17.8 nursing jobs per 1,000 total jobs, or 15 percent fewer opportunities for nursing than in the U.S. as a whole.

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40. Nebraska

Annual mean wage: $62,210

Just missing the bottom 10 states for lowest nursing wages across the U.S., Nebraska offers more opportunities than average. Nursing jobs constitute 23.6 out of every thousand jobs in the Cornhusker State, 13 percent more than in the U.S. as a whole.

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39. Indiana

Annual mean wage: $62,450

Indiana isn’t a top-paying state for nurses, but the salary tops the mean annual salary of $43,950 in the state by 42 percent, according to the BLS. There are 8 percent more job for nurses here than in the U.S. in general. For every 1,000 jobs in the state, 22.7 are nursing opportunities.

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38. North Carolina

Annual mean wage: $62,560

North Carolina’s nursing wages aren’t the best in the nation, but there are 11 percent more jobs than in the U.S. in general. Slightly more than 23 of 1,000 total jobs are nursing opportunities in the Tar Heel State. The state also boasts two of the most cutting-edge nursing degree programs across the nation, according to Nursing School Hub. Duke University ranked as the No. 3 choice and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill came in at No. 9.

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37. Utah

Annual mean wage: $63,050

Utah isn’t among the best-paying states for nurses, but it ranks dead last when it comes to opportunity. The state has the fewest nursing jobs per total jobs of any state in the country, meaning there are 28 percent fewer opportunities in Utah than average. Nursing jobs constitute a mere 15.1 jobs per every 1,000 in the state. If you specialize as a nurse anesthetist, though, you’ll increase your average salary dramatically. It’s a hot job that pays more than $150,000.

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36. North Dakota

Annual mean wage: $63,140

Salary-wise, North Dakota is a middle-of-the-road place for a nursing career. The percentage of nursing jobs to total jobs is average, too — for every 1,000 jobs in the Peace Garden State, 21.6 are nursing-related.

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35. Missouri

Annual mean wage: $63,300

Missouri has some of the best nursing programs in the country. Washington University in St. Louis is in Nursing School Hub’s top five picks for the best cutting-edge programs in the country. Another good choice is St. Louis University, whose nursing degree program recently received $8.4 million to fund scholarships. The state is No. 4 in opportunities, too, with 23 percent more jobs than the U.S. in general — 25.8 nursing jobs per 1,000 total jobs.

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34. Louisiana

Annual mean wage: $63,560

Louisiana ranks No. 34 when it comes to nursing salary, but it is one of the best places to find a nursing job. It ranks No. 9 in employment, with the state offering 16 percent more nursing jobs than the U.S. average. A bonus: Average nursing pay is 53 percent higher than the overall annual mean wage of $41,590 for the state, according to the BLS.

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33. South Carolina

Annual mean wage: $63,630

South Carolina nurses enjoy a mean wage that is 51 percent higher than the state’s overall mean wage of $42,240 for all occupations, the BLS reported. The Palmetto State has 3 percent more nursing jobs than the U.S. average, with 21.5 jobs in the state out of every thousand total jobs.

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32. Idaho

Annual mean wage: $64,520

Idaho nurses might not be the highest paid in the nation, but they enjoy an annual salary that’s 53 percent higher than the BLS-reported average for all occupations of $42,240. Just 19.4 jobs out of every 1,000 in the state are related to nursing, so there are 7 percent fewer nursing jobs in the Gem State than across the U.S. in general.

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31. Florida

Annual mean wage: $64,890

With a robust retirement-aged population and many luxury retirement communities, you might expect to find more than the average number of nursing opportunities in Florida. The state has essentially the same number of nursing positions as the national average — 21 jobs out of every 1,000 are nursing jobs. The pay isn’t bad, though — the average nurse salary is 45 percent more than the BLS-reported annual average for all occupations of $44,790.

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30. Wyoming

Annual mean wage: $64,900

Wyoming has 12 percent fewer opportunities than the national average for nursing. Just 18.3 jobs out of every 1,000 are devoted to nursing occupations. The pay compared to the overall state mean wage of $47,650 for all occupations is 36 percent more — closer than some other states.

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29. Ohio

Annual mean wage: $65,500

The average nurse’s salary in Ohio is still below the national average for nurses of $70,226. Compared to the BLS-reported mean wage for all occupations in Ohio of $46,950, it looks better. Not only do nurses enjoy a 40 percent higher average salary, but there are also 11 percent more nursing career opportunities in the state than in the U.S. in general.

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28. Maine

Annual mean wage: $65,890

Nurses in Maine enjoy a 45 percent higher salary than the average occupation wage in Maine of $45,300, according to BLS statistics. The number of nursing jobs per thousand total jobs puts Maine in the No. 10 spot. Nearly 24 of every 1,000 jobs in the Pine Tree State go to nurses.

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27. Montana

Annual mean wage: $66,280

Compared to other states, nurses in Montana don’t make all that much. But nurses in the Treasure State enjoy a salary that is 56 percent higher than the mean wage of all occupations, according to BLS statistics. There are 5 percent more nursing jobs in Montana than the national average, with 21.9 jobs per thousand devoted to nursing.

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26. Georgia

Annual mean wage: $66,750

Georgia ranks 45th out of 50 states when it comes to nursing employment per thousand jobs. The Peach State has 17 percent fewer jobs than the U.S. average, with only 17.4 per thousand related to nursing. However, a nurse in this state does make 41 percent more than the average income across all occupations of $47,200. Get your nursing degree at Emory University in Atlanta — Its nursing program was ranked as one of the top 10 most cutting-edge schools across the nation by Nursing School Hub.

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25. Virginia

Annual mean wage: $67,990

Working as a nurse in Virginia doesn’t give you as big of a salary boost as it does in some other states. Its average wage for nurses is only 26 percent higher than the state’s mean income for all occupations of $53,980. It’s also a low No. 47 when it comes to opportunity. There are 19 percent fewer nursing jobs per thousand total jobs in Virginia, compared to the national average. You can increase your salary by working as a nurse practitioner instead of a registered nurse.

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24. Michigan

Annual mean wage: $69,120

Michigan is one of the better places for nurses to work, with an annual mean wage that’s 43 percent higher than the state’s average wage of $48,300. There are 22 nursing jobs per 1,000 in the Great Lakes State, equalling 5 percent more nursing jobs than the U.S. average.

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23. Wisconsin

Annual mean wage: $69,200

Nurses make 50 percent more per year than the mean wage of all occupations in the state, according to BLS statistics. With 19.8 out of every 1,000 jobs devoted to nursing, the Badger State has 5 percent fewer nursing jobs than in the U.S. as a whole.

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22. Vermont

Annual mean wage: $69,560

Nursing wages in Vermont are 42 percent higher than the annual mean wage for all occupations of $48,840, according to BLS statistics. Green Mountain State nursing jobs are 20.5 per thousand jobs, essentially equal to the average U.S. number.

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21. Pennsylvania

Annual mean wage: $69,820

Pennsylvania is one of the best places to work as a nurse, with wages that are 43 percent higher than the state average for all occupations. It’s also home to one of the best nursing degree programs in the country. The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia ranks as Nursing School Hub’s No. 2 choice for a cutting-edge program. The Keystone State ranks eighth for opportunities, with about 19 percent more nursing jobs than the U.S. average — 24.7 nursing jobs per 1,000 total jobs.

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20. New Mexico

Annual mean wage: $69,840

If you work as a nurse in New Mexico, you’ll get a large salary bump compared to the mean wage across all occupations. Nurses in the Land of Enchantment reap 56 percent more in wages compared to the state average of $44,840. The opportunities in New Mexico are the same as the U.S. average, with 20.3 nursing jobs for every 1,000 jobs in the state.

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19. New Hampshire

Annual mean wage: $70,040

New Hampshire nurses enjoy earnings that are 37 percent higher than the state’s average wage of $51,040. Opportunities in the state closely parallel the U.S. average, with 20.3 of every 1,000 jobs nursing positions. Another benefit of working as a nurse in New Hampshire: It’s the best state for families to live a richer life.

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18. Texas

Annual mean wage: $72,070

Texas is the first state where its annual mean wage for nurses is higher than the national average of $70,226. However, Texas is in the bottom 10 when it comes to the number of opportunities. The state ranks 42nd out of 50 with 17.8 out of 1,000 jobs dedicated to nursing and 15 percent fewer nursing career opportunities overall.

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17. Illinois

Annual mean wage: $72,090

With nursing salaries in Illinois averaging 38 percent higher than the mean income all occupations according to BLS statistics, Illinois is one of the best places to be a nurse. Career opportunities are the same as average U.S. figures, with 20.8 jobs per thousand related to nursing.

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16. Colorado

Annual mean wage: $72,570

Although there are 8 percent fewer nursing jobs in Colorado than the U.S. average per thousand jobs, nurses enjoy a 34 percent higher salary than the $54,050 average for all careers. It’s also home to one of the best cutting-edge nursing degree programs in the country, according to Nursing School Hub, which ranked The University of Colorado College of Nursing No. 7 in its recent study.

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15. Delaware

Annual mean wage: $73,180

Delaware is among the best-paying states for nurses, with a salary that’s 40 percent higher than the state average of $52,200 for all careers. The state is also the third-best when it comes to opportunities, with 26.2 per 1,000 jobs related to nursing. This ratio is 25 percent higher than the national average.

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14. Arizona

Annual mean wage: $75,110

It’s advantageous to work as a nurse in Arizona. The annual nursing salary is 56 percent higher than the average for all occupations in the state, according to the BLS. The state is comparable to the national average when it comes to nursing jobs per thousand overall jobs, with 20.2 per 1,000 devoted to nursing careers.

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13. Maryland

Annual mean wage: $75,250

Maryland is home to one of the top 10 nursing school degree programs in the country, according to Nursing School Hub. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore ranked sixth in a recent evaluation of the most cutting-edge nursing programs. There is roughly the same ratio of nursing jobs in the state per thousand to the U.S. as a whole. If you earn the mean nursing wage in Baltimore, you’ll make enough to live comfortably in the city.

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12. Rhode Island

Annual mean wage: $76,650

Rhode Island’s mean nursing wage is 44 percent higher than the occupation-wide average in the state, according to BLS. It ranks No. 7 for opportunities related to nursing, with 24.8 jobs per 1,000 and 18 percent more nursing jobs than across the nation as a whole.

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11. Minnesota

Annual mean wage: $77,540

Minnesota just misses the top 10 when it comes to states in the U.S. that pay the most for nursing careers. The job pays 47 percent more than the state’s average of $52,730 for all occupations, according to BLS. Nursing jobs in Minnesota are 22.7 per thousand total jobs, an average of 9 percent more than across the U.S. as a whole.

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10. Washington

Annual mean wage: $79,810

Nurses in Washington enjoy a salary that is 39 percent higher than the average for all occupations in the state, according to the BLS. However, when it comes to opportunities, the Evergreen State ranks in the bottom 10. With 17.8 nursing career opportunities per 1,000 jobs, the state has 15 percent fewer nursing jobs than the U.S. as a whole.

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9. Connecticut

Annual mean wage: $80,200

Wages are relatively high in Connecticut, so nurses only make 35 percent more than the mean wage for all occupations combined, according to BLS statistics. Opportunities for a career path in the Constitution State are average, too, with the number of nursing jobs per thousand matching the U.S. average.

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8. New Jersey

Annual mean wage: $82,010

With a state mean wage of $56,970, nurses in New Jersey enjoy an average salary that is 44 percent higher. Employment opportunities are a little lower than average, with 20.1 nursing jobs per thousand available.

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7. New York

Annual mean wage: $83,450

New York is one of the best states for nurses thanks to an annual mean wage that is $23,350 higher than the mean for the state. There are 19.5 nursing jobs per thousand in the Empire State, just under the national average. The state is also home to Columbia University, the nursing school with the most cutting-edge program in the country, according to Nursing School Hub. Just make sure nursing school doesn’t increase your student loan debt amount too much.

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6. Nevada

Annual mean wage: $84,980

Nevada is a competitive state for nurses, with only 16 jobs per thousand in the state — 23 percent fewer than the national average. If the odds are in your favor, enjoy a jackpot job that pays 89 percent more than the state’s mean wage of $45,040. This is the largest difference of all the states.

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5. Alaska

Annual mean wage: $87,510

Want to be a nurse working on the Last Frontier? It might be harder than you think. Employment per thousand jobs is 17.5, 16 percent lower than the national average, but the annual nursing pay is 52 percent higher than the state average wage of $57,750.

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4. Oregon

Annual mean wage: $88,770

Nursing is a competitive field with high wages and generous benefits like pensions. In Oregon, that means a job that pays 74 percent more than the mean salary in the state of $51,010 according to the BLS.

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3. Massachusetts

Annual mean wage: $89,330

An average nurse salary is 44 percent higher in Massachusetts than the state’s average wage of $62,110, and the job outlook is one of the best in the nation. There are 23.5 nursing jobs for every 1,000 total jobs in the state — 12 percent more than the national average.

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2. Hawaii

Annual mean wage: $96,990

Just 17.1 jobs out of every thousand jobs in the state are for nurses, a number that’s 18 percent lower than the national average. Working as a nurse pays off in the Aloha State, though. Nurses enjoy an average pay that’s 86 percent higher than the state mean wage for all occupations.

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1. California

Annual mean wage: $102,700

Nursing is one of the jobs where you’re least likely to live paycheck to paycheck in the Golden State, where the average nurse salary is 79 percent higher than the mean wage of $57,190 for all occupations, according to BLS. But California is 48th when it comes to its employment ratio. There are just 16.9 nursing jobs per thousand in the state, 19 percent lower than the national average.

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Nurses do well in every state in the country, always out-earning the overall mean wage for all occupations. In western states they do particularly well, though, earning more than 50 percent of the overall mean.

Click through to see the company with the most job openings in every state — many of them are in the healthcare field.

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.