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30 Best States for Nurses in 2021


Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you a nurse or considering a career in the nursing industry? Maybe you are wondering if nursing is a good career choice, and if so, what are the best states to be a nurse? As far as nursing being a good career, I have good news! According to a Gallup poll, nursing has been rated as the most respected career for nineteen years in a row! To give you some better insight, in this article, I will share information about the 30 best states for nurses in 2021. Starting with the best state to be a nurse, we will review all the 30 best states and provide state-specific facts about the profession.


Ranking Methodology – How We Ranked the Best States for Nurses?


When it comes to ranking the best states for nurses, we chose four different areas and assigned a weight percentage to each. Job outlook and salary are two factors that most people look for when choosing a career or where they will settle down and work. Therefore, we assigned seventy percent of the ranking weight to those areas: 35% to Average RN Salary and another 35% to the 10-year outlook for registered nursing jobs. Annual RN job openings account for an additional 20%, and the states that have implemented the Nurse Licensure Compact guidelines make up 10% of the ranking weight.

Factor Weightage
Average RN Salary 35%
10-Year RN Job Outlook 35%
Annual RN Job Openings 20%
Nurse Licensure Compact 10%
Yes 100%
No 0%


Why We Considered the Following Factors to Rank the Best States for Nurses?


Average Registered Nurse Salary (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics): When people are deciding which profession to pursue, their income earning potential is one of the most influential factors in making a final decision. Therefore, as we researched the best states for nurses to work, we went to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The Bureau of Labor Statistics is known as the “fact-finding agency for the federal government” across a wide variety of statistics and economics. It is an independent national agency that collects and analyzes data for local, state, and federal agencies, Congress, and the general public. Additionally, the BLS serves as a statistical resource for the United States Department of Labor.

10-Year Registered Nurse Job Outlook (Careeronestop.org): When considering a career or new position, looking at the long-term job outlook is a critical way to determine the potential of job security for years to come. The higher the percentage on the job outlook scale for a position, the better the chances you will have of finding and keeping a job in that field. For example, our team used data from careeronestop.org to determine the projected employment outlook for nurses in the United States, which indicates a 7% increase in registered nursing jobs nationwide from 2019-2029. As you continue reading, you will find data that shows the top thirty best states for nurses and the job outlook in each.

Annual Registered Nurse Job Openings (Careeronestop.org): Considering the ten-year outlook for nursing jobs can help you determine the chances of finding long-term employment. Careeronestop.org also provides information about the projected annual job openings for nurses. We believe using the projected annual registered job openings in our rankings is another excellent way to share with you, our readers, where to find the best states for nurses.

Nurse Licensure Compact (National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc.): The National Council of State Boards of Nursing is an independent, non-profit organization through which regulatory nursing bodies counsel and act together regarding matters of common interest and concern about matters of public health, welfare, and safety, including the development of licensure examinations for practical and registered nurses.

Lawmakers in each state may impose restrictions on specific professions, including nursing, which may make it necessary for a nurse to get a state-specific license before practicing their profession in a new state. Although they are not required to do so, state lawmakers can choose to partake in the Nursing Licensure Compact. The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) allows nurses to have one license with multi-state jurisdiction for practice. A state’s participation in the Nurse Licensure Compact does not mean nurses are automatically licensed to practice in multiple states. Instead, nurses must opt for multi-state licensure when renewing their licenses with their state boards of nursing at such time as their renewal is due.


WHAT ARE THE BEST STATES FOR NURSES IN 2021?

(Based on the above-mentioned ranking methodology, the following are the 30 Best States to Work as a Registered Nurse in 2021.)

1. New York

New York has come in as #1 among the best states for nurses. With a projected increase of almost 17,000 new jobs each year, the ten-year job outlook is 24.63%. Registered nurses in New York earn between $57,990 and $126,660 yearly, with an average salary of $89,760. New York does not currently have legislation needed to become part of the Nurse Licensure Compact. Therefore, nurses who wish to practice in the state must apply for and receive a New York nursing license.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$89,760 +24.63% 16,910 No


2. Colorado

Colorado was the fourth state in the nation to join the Nurse Licensure Compact. Nurses who wish to practice in Colorado must declare a Primary State of Residence (PSOR) in a Nursing Licensure Compact state. A Primary State of Residence is where the nurse is registered to vote and holds a driver's license. Colorado nurses who wish to have a multi-state license must prove that Colorado is their Primary State of Residence, such as a driver's license, voter registration card, or completed W-2 form.

According to Careeronestop.org, Colorado should anticipate a 29.49% growth in registered nursing jobs over the next ten years, equal to 4,810 new RN job openings each year. The Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence estimates this projected increase can be attributed to healthcare reform, Colorado's aging population, and the number of baby boomer nurses who are reaching retirement age.

While different sources offer various pay ranges, registered nurses in Colorado earn an average of $37.43 per hour or approximately $77,860 yearly, making it another of the top states for nurses.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$77,860 +29.49% 4,810 Yes


3. Maryland

Registered nurses in Maryland earn approximately $81,590 annually, making it one of the highest paying states for RNs. If the income potential isn't enough, the state offers some of the best nursing programs in the nation, such as those found at Johns Hopkins University, Notre Dame University of Maryland, and Bowie State University. No wonder Maryland is ranked as one of the best states for nurses!

There are currently over 50,000 registered nurses in Maryland. The state, which is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact, has projected a 21.66% increase in RN jobs over the next ten years. With an estimated 5,150 registered nurse jobs expected to be added each year, the outlook for RN jobs in the state is promising.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$81,590 +21.66% 5,150 Yes


4. California

If sun, sand, vineyards, and wineries make you excited, California is a great place to find all of this. Besides those fun benefits, California offers excellent opportunities for nurses. Registered nurses in California earn an average of $120,560 each year, nearly $60,000 more than the national average of $75,330 for RNs.

The ten-year job outlook for California’s registered nursing industry anticipates a 16.70% increase in employment opportunities. This increase is expected to bring nearly 24,000 new RN positions each year!

California is also home to one of the largest union and professional associations of registered nurses in the United States. National Nurses United has more than 175,000 members nationwide. The organization established campaigns focused on advancing the interests of patients and direct care nurses across the country and promoting effective representation to all National Nurses United affiliates to promote the professional and economic interests of direct care registered nurses.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$120,560 +16.70% 23,850 No


5. Texas

Texas, also known as the Lone Star state, has the highest employment level of registered nurses in the U.S., with over 250,000 RNs actively practicing. The state has been a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact since 2000.

According to a recent article in the Texas Tribune, like many other states, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused burnout among nurses resulting in a shortage of qualified registered nurses to provide patient care. With more than 23,000 nursing positions vacant, registered nurse job candidates are being offered competitive salaries.

RNs in Texas currently earn an average annual salary of $76,800. There are projections for a 16.75% increase in RN jobs expected over the next ten years, an average of more than 16,000 new and replacement RN jobs. All these factors combined make Texas is one of the best states for nurses.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$76,800 +16.75% 16,130 Yes


6. Arizona

The National Nursing Database reports there are 100,441 licensed registered nurses who are assisting in serving the population of 7.3 million people in Arizona. RNs in Arizona earn an average of $38.64 per hour or $80,380 annually. There is an anticipated 35.01% increase in registered nurse job opportunities, with approximately 2,110 new or replacement jobs expected each year for the next ten years.

The state, which is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact, has implemented legislation that designates a nurse-to-patient ratio. Many registered nurses express their satisfaction working in places where nurse/patient ratios are enforced, as proper implementation of the rule helps promote patient safety and reduces the risk of nursing errors associated with having too many patients.

The following are examples of the Nurse-to-Patient Ratio exercised in Arizona:

◦ 1:1 Ratio: RNs serving clients who are receiving conscious sedation, those in active labor or with medical or obstetric complications, unstable newborns, and those in a resuscitation period
◦ 1:2 Ratio: Direct care registered nurses who work in intensive care units, critical care units, neonatal intensive care, post-anesthesia, critical care emergency, or burn units observe a 1:2 nurse-to-patient ratio
◦ 1: 3 Ratio: RNs who work in step-down or intermediate care units, immediate post-partum, must adhere to the one nurse per three patients ratio
◦ 1:4 Ratio: Registered nurses who work in the newborn nursery, medical-surgical units, pre-surgical admissions or ambulatory surgical units, mothers-only post-partum care fall in the 1:4 nurse-to-patient ratio.


Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$80,380 +35.01% 2,110 Yes


7. Washington

Registered nurses make up one of the largest components of Washington's healthcare workforce. Nearly 115,000 RNs are practicing in Washington. Factors such as low nurse-to-patient ratios, high-quality public hospital systems, and restrictions on mandatory overtime for nurses are believed to contribute to Washington's reputation as one of the best states for nurses. With a ten-year job outlook predicting a 20.48% increase and an average annual income of more than $91,000 for registered nurses, it’s no surprise that RNs like working in Washington.

Although Washington, like other states in the nation, is experiencing a shortage of qualified nurses, the state legislature has not yet approved joining the Nurse Licensure Compact. There are mixed opinions as to whether a state joining the NLC will help address the shortage. Many nurses and nurse advocates in Washington argue that choosing not to join the Nurse Licensure Compact means there is less competition for resident nurses. On the other hand, many healthcare service providers feel that joining the NLC is one way to attract the nurses needed to fill the void the COVID-19 pandemic has caused. The job outlook suggests that 5,820 new or replacement registered nurse jobs will be available in Washington each year, which means if the state does not join the Nurse Licensure Compact and nurses do not move to the state and seek state endorsement, the need for qualified RN graduates will continue to increase, as well.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$91,310 +20.48% 5,820 No


8. Georgia

Registered nurses in Georgia earn moderate salaries compared to other states. Salaries for RNs range from $51,000 to over $98,000, with the average coming in at around $71,500 annually. However, one perk is that the cost of living in the state is among the lowest of all states in the United States, and that seems to create balance where an extremely high salary may be lacking. The balance between living costs, income potential, and the benefits associated with the state's safe neighborhoods and warm hospitality make Georgia one of the top states for nurses.

According to careeronestop.org, Georgia’s registered nurses can expect to see an increase in job opportunities by 22.49% over the next ten years, with approximately 6,340 new and replacement RN jobs becoming available each year. Because the state is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact, nurses who live in other NLC states and wish to relocate to Georgia can begin work as soon as they move.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$71,510 +22.49% 6,340 Yes


9. New Jersey

New Jersey is home to 2.81% of the United States licensed registered nurses, with over 137,000 RNs in active practice. Because of its proximity to major metropolitan areas and the state’s size, New Jersey is considered an excellent place to earn a nursing degree and enjoy a career in the industry.

Registered nurses in New Jersey earn an average of $85,720 a year, and a ten-year job outlook study estimates there will be an 11.26% increase in employment opportunities. The state expects to see nearly 6,000 annual job openings for registered nurses, including new positions and replacement positions.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$85,720 +11.26% 5,780 Yes


10. Oregon

In 2020, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics named Oregon the fourth-highest paying state for RNs in the United States. The average salary for registered nurses in the state is $96,230, approximately $20,000 more than the average median pay for RNs nationwide. Several sources report Oregon as being one of the best states for registered nurses to work.

Factors such as the state's aging population, working registered nurses reaching retirement age, and the nationwide shortage of nurses are believed to be the main reasons a 15.21% increase in RN jobs is expected over the next ten years. This increase includes an anticipated 3,010 job openings each year. Some of the job openings will be the result of new positions that are created, while others are what are considered "replacement" jobs, which are jobs that are left vacant by a nurse who has retired or made a career move.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$96,230 +15.21% 3,010 No


11. Pennsylvania

There are currently 235,961 registered nurses in Pennsylvania and a ten-year job outlook that predicts a 12.50% increase in RN jobs. Annual job openings are expected to exceed 10,000 per year over the next decade. Registered nurses in the state earn salaries ranging from $53,000 to over $99,000, with an average annual income of $74,170.

In addition to being a state with a rich history and high-ranking healthcare institutions, Pennsylvania offers some of the best nursing schools in the country, with programs like those at the University of Pennsylvania, Lasalle University, and the University of Pittsburgh. With excellent learning and career opportunities in some of the best colleges, universities, and healthcare facilities, Pennsylvania is one of the best states to be a nurse.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$74,170 +12.50% 10,510 Yes


12. Utah

Utah has a population of 3.2 million people and 39,166 registered nurses, an average of one RN for every eighty-two people, which indicates RNs should not have much trouble finding work in the state. While several sources report that registered nurses in Utah express satisfaction with their jobs, there is still a need for nurses to fill positions that are currently vacant and the anticipated 2,090 annual job openings that will occur over the next ten years. The ten-year job outlook for RNs in the state is expected to see a 28.15% increase.

With an average salary of $70,370 registered nurses in Utah are not among the highest-paid RNs in the nation. However, there are some benefits to working in the state. Although the overall cost-of-living does not always seem to equal out with the average salary RNs are offered, because the state is ranked third nationally in terms of the severity of nursing shortage, even RNs with less experience may be able to negotiate higher salaries or at least bargain for excellent benefits packages.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$70,370 +28.15% 2,090 Yes


13. Delaware

Delaware is one of the smallest states in the country. However, its location within a central metropolitan area makes it a great place to work as a nurse. Although registered nurse salaries in Delaware are slightly lower than the national average, approximately $74,330, the low cost-of-living and projected employment growth of more than 20% over the next ten years make it one of the best states to be a nurse. It is also considered a good choice for those planning to pursue a nursing career.

There are currently 21,361 licensed registered nurses in Delaware, making up 0.42% of the nation's over five million registered nurses. Delaware is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact, which removes complications for nurses who may choose to move to the state and practice. Current projections indicate there will be close to 1,000 annual job openings for RNs throughout the next decade. and

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$74,330 +20.02% 950 Yes


14. Florida

Florida, also known as the “Sunshine State,” is considered one of the best states for nurses to live and work. According to data from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, there are 339,956 registered nurses practicing in Florida. Yet, the demand for qualified RNs continues to grow as the COVID-19 pandemic does not seem to be easing its grip. With a population of over twenty-one million and the most per capita hospitalizations of COVID-19 cases in the country, it is surprising to many that the average registered nursing salary in Florida is about 14% less than the national average, just under $70,000.

So, if Florida pays less, why is it considered one of the top states for nurses? There are actually a few reasons. · Although the average annual salary comes in at $69,510, there is no cap on earning potential. In fact, many RNs in Florida earn six-figure incomes.

◦ Florida is one of the most popular retirement destinations, which means large numbers of aging people require the skills offered by registered nurses employed by home health agencies or skilled nursing facilities. These types of facilities often provide higher salaries, and many come with excellent benefits packages.
◦ Florida is home to some well-known Magnet Hospitals. A Magnet Hospital is a medical facility that is considered the gold standard for nursing practice. The American Nurses Credentialing Center has designated both Holy Cross Hospital (Fort Lauderdale) and Miami Children’s Hospital as Magnet Hospitals several times.
◦ A ten-year job outlook in Florida predicts a 16.08% increase in job openings, approximately 14,000 yearly.


Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$69,510 +16.08% 14,000 Yes


15. Nevada

Although Nevada ranks in the lower five percent of states when it comes to nurses per capita, RNs who practice there still report satisfaction with their decision to work there, and it continues to rank as one of the best states to be a registered nurse. RNs in Nevada make an annual salary of nearly $90,000, much higher than the national average.

The growth in Nevada's resident population and the number of baby boomers who are aging, many with one or more chronic health conditions, make the state a place for registered nurses to find employment. Further, the state anticipates growth of registered nurse jobs by 540 each year, or 22.29% within the next ten years.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$89,750 +22.29% 540 No


16. New Hampshire

According to the Bi-State Primary Care Association of Vermont and New Hampshire, nurses are in high demand in almost every part of New Hampshire. Careeronestop.org estimates the ten-year job outlook for registered nurse jobs in the states to increase by 12.65%, with about 960 employment opportunities becoming available each year.

Registered nurses who work in New Hampshire, which is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact, have an average annual income of $75,970. Salaries vary quite a bit across the state, though. The highest salaries are found in metro areas, including Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, where RNs earn as much as $100,000. New Hampshire, also known as the Granite State, ranked #2 on U.S. News & World Report's list of best places in the United States to call home. The quality of life and a thriving economy make it one of the best states for nurses to work.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$75,970 +12.65% 960 Yes


17. Virginia

Virginia is a great place to live with a strong economy, low crime rate, and excellent healthcare options. It's even better if you are a registered nurse or planning on becoming one! Virginia is among the top states for nursing schools, including Marymount University, the University of Virginia, and George Mason University.

RNs in Virginia earn an average of $35.76 hourly or $74,380 yearly. With a positive job outlook and anticipated 4,500 job openings yearly, it ranks as one of the best states to be a nurse.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$74,380 +11.74% 4,500 Yes


18. Illinois

Illinois is considered an economic powerhouse in the United States. It is a major hub for not only food processing, chemical products, and fabricated metal products. As far as nursing goes, job satisfaction rates make Illinois one of the best states to work as a nurse.

Unfortunately, there is a significant difference between the number of people in the population versus the number of RNs available to provide care in Illinois. The healthcare industry in the state experienced a nursing shortage before the coronavirus pandemic made its way across the United States. Now, with little more than 215,000 registered nurses and a population of over 12.6 million people, the state is in desperate need of qualified nurses to fill the gap. While the average annual salary of registered nurses in Illinois is $74,560, many RNs have found that the dire need for professional nurses has made it possible for them to negotiate higher wages.

Illinois’s nursing industry is set to experience a 12.44% increase in job opportunities, according to a ten-year job outlook released by careeronestop.org. This increase means there will be more than 9,300 annual job openings for registered nurses in the state.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$74,560 +12.44% 9,260 No


19. Missouri

Although Missouri does not boast of the highest nursing salaries, it is still considered one of the best states to be a nurse. RNs in the state make nearly $66,000 a year, which is less than the national average. However, the cost of living in Missouri is much lower than the national average, especially regarding housing costs, which seems to give some balance to anyone scrutinizing the earning potential for nurses there.

Missouri offers several top-ranked hospitals where registered nurses can find steady work. Barnes Jewish Hospital, Mercy Hospital Springfield, Mercy Hospital St. Louis, and Cox Medical Centers are a few of the best-rated hospitals in the state. If you are searching for a place to find employment and currently do not live in Missouri, that’s not a problem. Missouri is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact, which means if you are currently licensed in another NLC state, you can work there. Also, the state has a ten-year job outlook that predicts a 16.24% increase in registered nursing jobs.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$65,900 +16.24% 5,530 Yes


20. Minnesota

If you have ever been to Minnesota, you probably know there is a lot to love about the state, and not just for tourists. There are some great things about being a registered nurse in Minnesota.

Although a nationwide trend indicates a shortage of nurses, many areas of Minnesota are ranked among some of the nation's best locations for nursing employment, making it one of the best states to work as a nurse. The employment level is expected to continue to see an increase with an anticipated job outlook of a 12.40% increase within the next ten years.

Minnesota is also home to world-renowned healthcare facilities and companies. For example, Mayo Clinic, which is known for medical research and education, treated over a million patients in 2020 from all over the world. Abbott Northwestern Hospital and St. Cloud Hospital were ranked by U.S. News and World Report are also located in Minnesota. Last but certainly not least, registered nurses in Minnesota are among the top-earning RNs in the United States, with average annual incomes of $80,960.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$80,960 +12.40% 4,900 No


21. Idaho

Idaho’s registered nurses account for less than 0.5% of the RNs in the U.S, with 24,553 currently licensed. With a population of nearly 1.8 million, Idaho has one registered nurse for every 73,300 people who live in the state.

Don’t let these numbers scare you, though. Registered nurses in Idaho make an average salary of $71,640, and there is a projected ten-year career outlook for registered nurses that includes an anticipated growth rate of 19.87%. According to a national cost-of-living index, it is less expensive to live in Idaho than in many other states.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$71,640 +19.87% 280 Yes


22. Massachusetts

From housing costs, education quality, and income growth, Massachusetts is considered one of the best places to live. If you consider income earning potential an important factor, it is also one of the best states to be a nurse. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses in Massachusetts earn an average of $96,250 a year or $46.27 hourly.

Massachusetts registered nurses make up 2.94% of the RN population nationwide, with nearly 150,000 in current practice. According to our research, the state will see an 8.20% increase in career opportunities during the next ten years, with an average of 5,720 job openings per year.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$96,250 +8.20% 5,720 No


23. Wyoming

WalletHub, a personal-finance website, ranked Wyoming in the top ten of the best states for nurses to work in the nation. While the average RN income is not the highest, Wyoming offers affordable home prices and no state income tax, which more than make up the difference between the state's average RN salary of $72,600 and the higher salaries offered in some other states.

The ten-year job outlook for registered nurses in Wyoming suggests an increase in jobs by 16.17% or three hundred eighty job openings each year. If you are just now considering becoming a registered nurse, Wyoming has some excellent home-state opportunities for you! Western Wyoming Community College (Associate of Science in Nursing), Central Wyoming College (Associate and Bachelor of Science in Nursing), and Casper College (Associate of Science in Nursing) are a few examples of some of the top nursing programs in Wyoming.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$72,600 +16.17% 380 Yes


24. Hawaii

Hawaii is currently ranked as one of the highest paying states for registered nurses in the U.S., with RNs earning $104,830 annually on average. The state has 24,841 licensed registered nurses and anticipates 800 annual job openings over the next decade for an increase of 12.22% in RN jobs.

Hawaii is not part of the Nurse Licensure Compact. The state has several nursing schools which offer Associate, Bachelor's, and Master's in Nursing programs as well as LPN to RN, RN to BSN programs. If you are interested in pursuing a registered nursing career in the Aloha State, here are a few schools to consider.

Kapi’olani Community College
Hawaii Pacific University
The University of Hawaii at Manoa


Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$104,830 +12.22% 800 No


25. New Mexico

With cities like Albuquerque ranking as the best cities to be a nurse, it comes as no surprise that New Mexico is among the top states to be a nurse. RNs in New Mexico can expect to earn around $75,700 a year on average, which is on par with the national average. The state has low home prices and lower than average cost-of-living, which along with its rich history and unique culture, make it an excellent place to live and work.

It is estimated that the ten-year job outlook for registered nurses in New Mexico will demonstrate an increase of 11.35%. While this percentage increase is not the highest among the top states to be an RN, it is still a strong indication that the need for registered nurses there will remain constant.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$75,700 +11.35% 1,240 Yes


26. North Dakota

North Dakota is the 47th populous state in the nation, with less than 800,000 residents. Despite its low population, North Dakota consistently ranks among some of the top states to live and work. The NCSBN reports there are 16,469 registered nurses in the state. The average annual salary for registered nurses in North Dakota is $69,630, which falls short of the national average. However, the cost-of-living index for the state ranks at 89.9 on a scale of 100, which means residents enjoy a lower cost-of-living than those living in other states.

The state is expected to see seven hundred thirty annual job openings for registered nurses, a 16.53% increase over ten years. The state offers several nursing programs for would-be nurses considering earning their degrees in North Dakota. The North Dakota Board of Nursing website has a complete list of approved nursing programs, including Bismarck State College, Lake Region State College, North Dakota State University, and the University of Jamestown.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$69,630 +16.53% 730 Yes


27. Ohio

As a labor shortage continues nationwide, the Ohio state healthcare system is among many feeling the pressure to fill vacant positions. While there are 231,171 registered nurses in the state, they only make up 3.8% of the more than 5 million RNs nationwide.

Despite the average registered nurse salary of $69,750 being lower than the national average, Ohio continues to rank as one of the best states for nurses. The state offers residents excellent education opportunities, various recreational opportunities, and a low cost of living, which makes it an attractive state. Registered nurses in Ohio consistently indicate satisfaction with their jobs. Of approximately 225 hospitals evaluated by U.S. News, nineteen in Ohio met the standards needed to be ranked in the top 100.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$69,750 +9.61% 8,360 Yes


28. Indiana

Indiana is a state full of large cities, and large cities need nurses to provide care to their residents. While the RN salary in Indiana is not the highest, the state currently has 132,719 registered nurses. The registered nurses in Indiana earn an average of $67,490, but a dollar goes a long way here, with the cost-of-living less than forty-one other states.

Indiana's economy is mainly comprised of agriculture, automotive and manufacturing industries, and of course, healthcare. Nursing continues to be an essential commodity in the state's economy. According to the data we found at careeronestop.org, the state, which is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact, should expect a ten-year job increase of 12.43% or 4,750 new RN jobs yearly.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$67,490 +12.43% 4,750 Yes


29. North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the best places to live in the United States. Its excellent education system, financially solid scene, technology, and many career opportunities, including various nursing jobs, have made it a magnet for people seeking to settle down in a long-term career in a stable environment.

North Carolina RNs make a little less than the national average for registered nurses with yearly incomes of about $68,950. However, according to a previous report by researchers at Georgetown University, North Carolina could have one of the highest nurse shortages in the U.S. by 2025. The report was published before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a nationwide shortage of healthcare providers across all spectrums.

Although the shortage is unfortunate, it could create opportunities for nurses who want to live and work in the state to negotiate higher salaries. Presently, the job outlook indicates promise with an expected 10.77% increase in jobs over the next decade, an average of 7,020 job openings each year.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$68,950 +10.77% 7,020 Yes


30. Wisconsin

Wisconsin is considered a great place to live for several reasons, including superb schools, affordable big city living, and excellent healthcare services. The registered nurse population in Wisconsin of 109,925 makes up 2% of the RN population nationwide. Registered nurses in the state earn an average of $74,760 yearly, and there is the anticipation of a 7.76% increase in RN job opportunities in the next ten-year period.

Average RN Salary 10-Year RN Job Outlook Annual RN Job Openings (New + Replacement) Nurse Licensure Compact
$74,760 +7.76% 3,600 Yes


My Final Thoughts


Throughout this article, you have found the information to try and answer the question, "What are the best states to be a nurse?” The fact that a state is listed in our 30 best states for nurses in 2021 may not mean it is one of the states where you should choose to work. However, if you are looking for good career opportunities, growth potential, and steady income earning potential, these thirty states are great places to start.


Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).