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The 5 States That Pay Nurses the Most

States that pay nurses high salaries

As a recent nursing school grad, the world is at your feet. You’re in demand, and because people need healthcare — and nurses — you have the option to move almost anywhere. Are you an adventurer? Want to move closer to family? Interested in the highest paying states for nurses? The good news is that you have many, many options in front of you. The bad news is that you will have to narrow it down somehow!

While many factors may influence your decision to relocate, if pay caught your eye, we did the hard part for you. Here are five states, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, where nurses can earn the highest salaries.

1. California

California beach at sunset where nurses get paid the highest salaries

If you’re an RN looking to move to or stay on the west coast, you might hit two birds with one stone by picking the Golden State as your residence. California ranks number one in annual registered nursing pay ($98,400) and usually has a slew of job openings. San Francisco has almost as many healthcare jobs as tech jobs. And if you’re a travel nurse, you can bet your best pair of scrubs there will be a job for you in California (LA in particular).

Pros: California truly has something for everyone. You will be a hop, skip, and a jump away from the avant garde culture of San Francisco, the glamorous draw of LA, and the beauty of Big Sur. The weather is hot to temperate, depending on where to you live, and the attractions and events are too numerous to mention, which will keep you and your family very busy on the weekends.

Cons: Traffic is a nightmare (again, depending where you live) and could affect your daily commute. Some areas, like LA, are plagued by air pollution, and the cost of living is above average there, and nearing New York-levels in San Francisco.

Related Resource: Why Nursing Careers Are Good for Wanderlust

2. Hawaii

Ocean and palm trees in Hawaii at sunset

Most of us dream of living in Hawaii. It’s the ultimate vacation destination because of its blue waters, trade winds, and comfortable temperatures (minus the rain season). You’re never more than a few miles from the beach, and every island has a lush, tropical side. Best of all, nurses in Hawaii can enjoy a higher average salary than most of their continental counterparts, clocking in around $88,230 a year.

Pros: It’s beautiful, secluded, and warm with marine life and beaches for miles! Your friends and family would love to visit, and the state ranked #1 on the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. That means Hawaii may be home to the happiest people in America — or at least the largest percentage of them.

Cons: Hawaii can seem picture perfect, but the view is a little obscured by the cost of living. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center reported that, as of 2015, Hawaii is one of the most expensive states in which to live. It’s not surprising, considering most food and goods need to be imported.

Related Resource: 6 Great Things about Going to College in Draper, Utah

3. Massachusetts

George Washington Equestrian-Statue at Public Garden in Massachusetts where nurses can earn top dollar

As a registered nurse, Massachusetts might not be on your radar, especially if you’re not from the east coast. If you didn’t consider it before, you might after you figure out that the average pay for RNs in the Bay State is $85,770. In addition to higher-than-average pay, Massachusetts ranked 11th in WalletHub’s 2015 Best and Worst States for Nurses report.

Pros: Massachusetts is one of the oldest states in the U.S., officially admitted into statehood in February 1788. With its age comes a lot of culture, lovely architecture, history, and diversity. Its citizens are very passionate about their sports teams, so if you love a good baseball game, you’ll feel right at home…as long as you’re not a Yankees fan.

Cons: If you prefer surf over snow, Massachusetts might not be the state for you to move to as a nurse. While Bostonians enjoy warm summers, their winters can be cold and snowy, with an average snowfall in Boston of about 43.8 inches. (Snowfall in Springfield, Lowell, and Worcester areas can reach as high 43.2,51.9, and 64.1 inches a year, respectively.)

4. Alaska

Snowy beach in Alaska where nurses can get paid a high salary

Alaska is known for its vast wilderness, diverse wildlife, and function-over-fashion lifestyle. If you’re champing at the bit to leave the city life behind, you’ll be happy to note that the mean salary for nurses is $85,740. If you’re looking to expand your horizon and become a nurse practitioner, Alaskan laws also favor NPs, who have more freedom and autonomy over prescribing, diagnosing, and treating patients than other states.

Pros: Your high nursing salary will receive a boost after you’ve lived in Alaska for a full calendar year. Called the Permanent Fund Dividend, Alaskans receive an extra $2,000, give or take, every year. Additionally, if you’re tired of over-congested cities, Alaska might be your safe haven, where there’s one person per square mile.

Cons: Speaking of population, there are fewer than 10 cities in Alaska with a population of over 10,000 people. Small, rural towns, a high cost of living, and a lot of cold days and nights are the norm here, which could be a blessing or a curse depending on your lifestyle. Also, they don’t call it the “Land of the Midnight Sun” for nothing!

Related Resource: These Are the Best States to Work As a Nurse Practitioner

5. Oregon

View of Portland Oregon City

Oregon has a bustling healthcare community, and cities like Salem, Springfield-Eugene, and Portland have seen considerable growth in nursing demand in the past few years. Nurses can earn on average of $82,940. Considering that the cost of living in the majority of the state (Portland as the exception) is relatively low, you can carve out a pretty good living in Oregon as an RN.

Pros: With the ocean and beautiful mountains in close proximity, not to mention hikes and bike trails galore, Oregon is a mecca for those who love the outdoors. Portland is abuzz with arts, music, food, and, of course, everything weird.

Cons: The rain. So much rain.


While we’re at it, let’s not forget about all that Utah has to offer! It’s a beautiful place to live and lay down some roots. Utah didn’t make the cut among the five highest paying states for nurses, but the job market in Utah is strong, it’s a safe place to raise a family, and you can get a quality nursing education in as little as two years. What’s not to love? If you have questions about our nursing programs, please feel free to contact us. We’d love to hear from you!

The 5 States That Pay Nurses the Most