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Highest Paying States for Nurses in 2021


Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you considering a career in nursing? Perhaps you have already entered the nursing industry but are considering a change in roles. Have you wondered, "What are the highest paying states for nurses?" It's only natural that income potential is one factor that contributes most to a person's career choice. In this article, I will share information about the highest paying states for nurses in 2021. As you continue reading, you will find information about the different career opportunities within the nursing industry and learn which states are the highest paying states for each.


WHAT IS THE HIGHEST PAYING STATE FOR A NURSE?


There are many levels of nursing care, and each has a wide variety of skills and education requirements. The level of education and scope of practice of each professional are two of the most important factors taken into account when compensation is considered. As with any profession, the nursing team members with the least education and responsibilities earn lower incomes. The more education, job responsibilities a nursing professional has, the higher pay they may earn.

Alaska, California, Florida, and Oregon are the four highest paying states for nurses and certified nursing assistants. Certified Nursing Assistants and Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurses make the most in Alaska. California is the highest paying state for registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse-midwives. Florida is the highest paying state for nurse educators, and Oregon pays certified registered nurse anesthetists the most. Of all the nursing professionals featured in this article, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) in Oregon earn the most, with salaries of about $113.70 per hour or $236,540 annually.

Type of Nurse Highest Paying State Average Hourly Salary Average Annual Salary
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Alaska $20.43 $42,500
Licensed Practical Nurse/ Licensed Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN) Alaska $32.51 $67,620
Registered Nurse (RN) California $57.96 $120,560
Nurse Educator (NE) Florida $56.08 $116,650
Nurse Practitioner (NP) California $70.18 $145,970
Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) California $76.73 $159,590
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Oregon $113.72 $236,540
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


WHAT ARE THE 10 HIGHEST PAYING STATES FOR CERTIFIED NURSING ASSISTANTS?


Certified Nursing Assistants, often referred to as nursing assistants or CNAs, are an essential part of the nursing care team. Nursing assistants work under the direct supervision of nurses and are primarily responsible for direct patient care needs.

In this section, I will share information with you about Certified Nursing Assistants, including what they do, how to become one, and tell you which are the highest paying states for nursing assistants. If you are interested in a career in the nursing industry but do not have a lot of time to devote to school or want to take a short course so you can begin work quickly, becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant could be the way to go. Each state determines the criteria for its CNA programs.

Typically, programs for certified nursing assistants involve classroom instruction where students learn the basics of medical terminology, anatomy, and how to perform assessments. CNA students participate in laboratory instruction where they learn to assess vital signs, what to look for that may indicate a change in a patient's status, how to document findings and the importance of reporting any abnormalities or concerns to the nurse. Certified Nursing Assistant programs also include a clinical component where students learn to implement hands-on skills they learned in the classroom and lab simulations. When the program is completed, students are eligible to take the CNA certification examination appropriate for their state.

Some job responsibilities include the following:

◦ Bathing, dressing, feeding patients
◦ Monitoring vital signs and reporting them to the nurse
◦ Tending to patient needs such as changing bed linens
◦ Transporting patients
◦ Moving and repositioning patients
◦ Assisting with other activities of daily living (ADLs).


Currently, the highest paying state for CNAs is Alaska, where Certified Nursing Assistants earn approximately $20.43 per hour or $42,500 annually. The CNA salary in Alaska is $10,450 or 32.61% higher than the national average for all CNA jobs. Certified Nursing Assistants in Alaska are credentialed by the Alaska Board of Nursing. They earn their certification based on training, examination, and background checks.

Connecticut is ranked #10 among the highest paying states for certified nursing assistants. CNAs in this state make an average of $2,950 each month, equivalent to $35,400 yearly. Certified Nursing Assistants in Connecticut make $3,350 more than the national average, a difference of 10.45%.
HIGHEST-PAYING CNA STATES
Rank State Salary Comparison to National Average
Hourly Monthly Annual Number %
1 Alaska $20.43 $3,540 $42,500 +$10,450 +32.61%
2 New York $19.53 $3,390 $40,620 +$8,570 +26.74%
3 California $18.88 $3,270 $39,280 +$7,230 +22.56%
4 Hawaii $18.58 $3,220 $38,650 +$6,600 +20.59%
5 Massachusetts $17.87 $3,100 $37,160 +$5,110 +15.94%
6 Oregon $17.84 $3,090 $37,100 +$5,050 +15.76%
7 Washington $17.46 $3,030 $36,310 +$4,260 +13.29%
8 Minnesota $17.33 $3,000 $36,040 +$3,990 +12.45%
9 North Dakota $17.07 $2,960 $35,510 +$3,460 +10.80%
10 Connecticut $17.02 $2,950 $35,400 +$3,350 +10.45%
U.S. $15.41 $2,670 $32,050 0 0.00%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


WHAT ARE THE 10 HIGHEST PAYING STATES FOR NURSES WORKING AS LICENSED PRACTICAL NURSES/ LICENSED VOCATIONAL NURSES?


In this section, we will discuss another type of nurse, the Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse. A Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse is often referred to as an LPN or LVN. Licensed Practical Nurses work under the direct supervision of the registered nurse and/or physician. In some settings, and depending on state guidelines, they may supervise Certified Nursing Assistants.

To be accepted into an LPN program, an applicant must possess a high school diploma or the equivalent and is usually required to pass an entrance examination. LPN programs typically last from eighteen to twenty-four months. The curriculum includes classes such as Anatomy and Physiology, Psychology, Pharmacology, and Nutrition, to name a few. Students also learn to perform venipunctures to draw blood for laboratory tests and to start IVs. At least fifty percent of a Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse program is completed in a clinical setting. After completing the program and meeting state requirements, a graduate may request to take the licensure exam, the NCLEX (National Council for Licensure Examination).

Alaska and California are the two highest paying states for nurses working as licensed practical nurses. Alaska, which is ranked #49 when it comes to the demand for licensed practical nurses, is the highest paying state for LPNs. There are almost 7,000 licensed nurses in the state. Less than 770 of those licensed are at the practical nursing level, which is believed to be one of the contributing factors to the high income earning potential there. In fact, in Alaska, licensed practical/vocational nurses earn about $67,620 annually, $17,530 or 35% more than the national average.

Alaska not only offers excellent LPN salaries, but the state also pays residents to live, thereby offering them an opportunity to participate in the Permanent Fund Dividend Program. In 1976, Alaskans voted to amend the state constitution to put at least 25% of the oil money earned by the state into a dedicated fund, referred to as the Permanent Fund. The idea was to save money for future generations who may no longer have oil as a source of income. Through this Fund, once a person has lived in the state of Alaska for at least one full year and who intend to remain a resident of Alaska indefinitely, they are eligible to receive a small portion of the state’s oil interests.

The second highest paying state for nurses working as LPNs is California, where licensed practical nurses earn $64,000, equivalent to 27.95% or $14,000 more than the national average for LPNs in other states. The top ten states for LPNs to work pay between 12.60% and 35% more than all other states nationwide.
HIGHEST-PAYING LPN/LVN STATES
Rank State Salary Comparison to National Average
Hourly Monthly Annual Number %
1 Alaska $32.51 $5,640 $67,620 +$17,530 +35.00%
2 California $30.81 $5,340 $64,090 +$14,000 +27.95%
3 Massachusetts $29.04 $5,030 $60,400 +$10,310 +20.58%
4 Washington $28.74 $4,980 $59,780 +$9,690 +19.35%
5 Nevada $28.70 $4,980 $59,700 +$9,610 +19.19%
6 Rhode Island $28.41 $4,920 $59,090 +$9,000 +17.97%
7 Connecticut $28.09 $4,870 $58,430 +$8,340 +16.65%
8 New Jersey $27.69 $4,800 $57,590 +$7,500 +14.97%
9 Oregon $27.56 $4,780 $57,320 +$7,230 +14.43%
10 New Hampshire $27.12 $4,700 $56,400 +$6,310 +12.60%
U.S. $24.08 $4,170 $50,090 0 0.00%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


WHAT ARE THE 10 HIGHEST PAYING STATES FOR NURSES WORKING AS REGISTERED NURSES?


The highest nursing license you can earn without a graduate degree is that of a Registered Nurse. Associate and Bachelor of Science degrees in Nursing are two undergraduate RN degree programs. While LPNs and RNs perform some of the same job duties, there are some things only registered nurses can do. Additionally, RNs practice with more autonomy.

It typically takes two and a half to four years to earn a degree as a registered nurse, depending on which degree option you choose. Although associate degree programs may advertise a two-year curriculum, students who do not have qualifying prerequisite credits may take a little longer. Baccalaureate nursing programs usually take at least four years to complete. While registered nurses with both an associate and a bachelor's degree may work in supervisory roles, those with a BSN are typically favored for management or administrative positions.

The highest paying state for nurses working as registered nurses is California, where RNs earn an average of $120,560 yearly. The state employs more registered nurses than any other state in the United States, with more than 300,000 RNs actively working. The metropolitan area, which includes Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Anaheim, employs more than 109,790 registered nurses.

In addition to the generous income earning potential offered in California, another factor that makes nursing different in the state is the nurse-to-patient ratio law. The California state nurse-to-patient ratio law mandates there must be at least one nurse for every five patients in general care and a ratio of one nurse to two patients in intensive care units or critical care facilities.

Registered nurses in Hawaii earn $104,830, making it the second-highest paying state for RNs. The national average income for registered nurses in the United States is $80,010. There are currently over 11,260 registered nurses who reside in the state of Hawaii, and there is an anticipated increase of over 12% by 2028, which will create almost 1,420 new RN jobs. The population in Hawaii is estimated to be 1.4 million. The number of people that make up the population compared to the number of registered nurses is one nurse for every one hundred twenty-seven people. These numbers are a strong indication of why Hawaii is in the top two of the highest paying states for nurses who hold a registered nurse license.

The top ten highest paying states for nurses working as registered nurses offer pay ranging from $4,840 to $40,550 more than the national average for all RN salaries. These differences in wages equal 6.05% to 50.68% more than other states in the country.
HIGHEST-PAYING RN STATES
Rank State Salary Comparison to National Average
Hourly Monthly Annual Number %
1 California $57.96 $10,050 $120,560 +$40,550 +50.68%
2 Hawaii $50.40 $8,740 $104,830 +$24,820 +31.02%
3 Massachusetts $46.27 $8,020 $96,250 +$16,240 +20.30%
4 Oregon $46.26 $8,020 $96,230 +$16,220 +20.27%
5 Alaska $45.80 $7,940 $95,270 +$15,260 +19.07%
6 Washington $43.90 $7,610 $91,310 +$11,300 +14.12%
7 New York $43.15 $7,480 $89,760 +$9,750 +12.19%
8 Nevada $43.15 $7,480 $89,750 +$9,740 +12.17%
9 New Jersey $41.21 $7,140 $85,720 +$5,710 +7.14%
10 Connecticut $40.79 $7,070 $84,850 +$4,840 +6.05%
U.S. $38.47 $6,670 $80,010 0 0.00%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


WHAT ARE THE 10 HIGHEST PAYING STATES FOR NURSES WORKING AS NURSE EDUCATORS?


Have you experienced the satisfaction of teaching someone else how to perform a skill or accomplish a goal? Do you love nursing and have an interest in sharing that love with others. If that sounds like you, a career as a nurse educator could be what you have been searching for.

Nurse educators typically work in academic settings in community colleges, technical schools, or universities. However, they may work in hospitals or other healthcare organizations. They are responsible for many aspects of learning, training, and the development of nursing students.

Nurse educators act as mentors and role models, preparing students equipped with expert knowledge and the necessary skill set to enter the nursing profession. As such, a Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice is the recommended degree for aspiring nurse educators.

Florida is the highest paying state for nurse educators, offering an average of $56.08 hourly or $116,650 yearly. This income is $39,290 or 50.79% more than the national average for nurse educators.

The following are a few reasons Florida may be the highest paying state for nurse educators.

First, Florida is a popular retirement destination and has over 5.3 million residents aged sixty or older to support that. Older populations come with a plethora of health conditions, even in the Sunshine State.
Second, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an increase in nursing instructor jobs of 22% between 2020 and 2030.
Further, according to the Florida Center for Nursing, roughly forty percent of nurses practicing in Florida will reach retirement age by 2029. As the population in Florida ages and practicing nurses retire, the need for qualified nurses to provide care and fill open jobs will increase as well.
Employers recognize this need and know that the only way to meet the needs of patients is by educating nurses ready to take on vacant jobs, and they are willing to pay nurse educators handsomely to get the job done.

When comparing national averages, the top ten highest paying states for nurse educators offer to pay between $87,580 and $116,650, which is $10,220 and $39,290 higher than other states, a difference of 13.21% to 50.79%.
HIGHEST-PAYING NE STATES
Rank State Salary Comparison to National Average
Hourly Monthly Annual Number %
1 Florida $56.08 $9,720 $116,650 +$39,290 +50.79%
2 Massachusetts $51.42 $8,910 $106,950 +$29,590 +38.25%
3 California $51.16 $8,870 $106,420 +$29,060 +37.56%
4 New York $47.52 $8,240 $98,850 +$21,490 +27.78%
5 Connecticut $46.45 $8,050 $96,620 +$19,260 +24.90%
6 Maryland $45.23 $7,840 $94,080 +$16,720 +21.61%
7 New Jersey $43.94 $7,620 $91,400 +$14,040 +18.15%
8 Indiana $43.90 $7,610 $91,310 +$13,950 +18.03%
9 Rhode Island $42.16 $7,310 $87,700 +$10,340 +13.37%
10 Colorado $42.11 $7,300 $87,580 +$10,220 +13.21%
U.S. $37.19 $6,450 $77,360 0 0.00%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


WHAT ARE THE 10 HIGHEST PAYING STATES FOR NURSES WORKING AS NURSE PRACTITIONERS?


Are you a nurse who wants a more hands-on role in patient care? Does the idea of having your own practice or working as part of an interdisciplinary healthcare team in a leadership role interest you? Perhaps you see yourself as a primary care provider for patients, but you are not interested in medical school. If any of this sounds like you, a career as a nurse practitioner could be calling your name!

If so, you may be interested to know that you aren't the only one with this career goal in mind. In the 2019-2020 school year, more than 36,000 new nurse practitioners graduated with an NP degree. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, there are more than 325,000 nurse practitioners licensed in the United States.

Nurse practitioners are an integral part of cost-effective, high-quality, patient-centered healthcare. They provide a broad range of health services, including assessing patients, performing, ordering, and interpreting diagnostic tests, and diagnosing and treating various healthcare conditions. Nurse practitioners focus on the health and well-being of clients by using a holistic approach to healthcare, helping patients make informed healthcare decisions that promote healthy lifestyle choices and improve patient outcomes.

Nurse practitioners must earn at least a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. However, many decide to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), which is a terminal nursing degree. Nurse practitioners may choose to work in clinical or administrative roles. Some of the NP specializations include the following.

◦ Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
◦ Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (Acute, Primary, or Dual)
◦ Adult/Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
◦ Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
◦ Acute care Nurse Practitioner
◦ Family Nurse Practitioner


California is the highest paying state for nurse practitioners. In California, nurse practitioners earn an average annual income of $145,970, $31,460 more than NPs in other states. This income is 27.47% higher than the national average for nurse practitioners.

Have you wondered what information is used to determine the salaries that certain professionals are offered? Here, let's consider some other numbers. The state of California has a reported population of 39.7 million residents. California currently has 60,752 licensed physicians, and of the 325,000 nurse practitioners nationwide, approximately 30,000 practice in California. The total of licensed physicians and nurse practitioners of 90,752 means there are four hundred thirty-seven people for every one practitioner. Keep in mind, these numbers are not broken down by specialty. If they were, it would indicate an even higher need for primary care providers in the state.

Following behind California, among the highest paying states for nurse practitioners, New Jersey, Washington, New York, and Massachusetts are in the top five. Nurse practitioners working in these states earn between 10.08% and 14.30%, or $11,540 to $16,380 more than other nurse practitioners nationwide.
HIGHEST-PAYING NP STATES
Rank State Salary Comparison to National Average
Hourly Monthly Annual Number %
1 California $70.18 $12,160 $145,970 +$31,460 +27.47%
2 New Jersey $62.93 $10,910 $130,890 +$16,380 +14.30%
3 Washington $60.81 $10,540 $126,480 +$11,970 +10.45%
4 New York $60.79 $10,540 $126,440 +$11,930 +10.42%
5 Massachusetts $60.60 $10,500 $126,050 +$11,540 +10.08%
6 Nevada $57.64 $9,990 $119,890 +$5,380 +4.70%
7 Minnesota $57.16 $9,910 $118,900 +$4,390 +3.83%
8 Wyoming $57.12 $9,900 $118,810 +$4,300 +3.76%
9 Hawaii $57.11 $9,900 $118,780 +$4,270 +3.73%
10 Oregon $57.02 $9,880 $118,600 +$4,090 +3.57%
U.S. $55.05 $9,540 $114,510 0 0.00%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


WHAT ARE THE 10 HIGHEST PAYING STATES FOR NURSES WORKING AS CERTIFIED NURSE-MIDWIVES?


Have you wanted to find your place in the healthcare industry within a specific population? Do you have a desire to work as a nurse who specializes in women's reproductive health and to provide care related to childbirth? You can do that with a career as a certified nurse-midwife.

Certified nurse-midwives are registered nurses who have completed a graduate-level nursing program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education and who have passed a national certification exam administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board.

Certified nurse-midwives (CNM) perform a variety of job duties, including providing primary care for expecting mothers, diagnosing and treating clients, performing prenatal and postnatal examinations, assisting with labor and delivery. They may work in private offices, birthing centers, physicians' offices, or hospitals.

California, which is one of the highest paying states for nursing professionals of at least three-degree levels, is also the highest paying state for nurse-midwives. Certified nurse-midwives in the state earn a little more than $13,000 each month, nearly $160,000 annually. These specialists make 38.13% or $44,050 more than certified nurse-midwives in other states across the nation.

According to the California Board of Registered Nursing, three hundred eighty-six midwives are licensed to practice in the state. There are approximately 1,440 Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Last year, nearly half a million babies were born in California. If all the births that occurred in the state were attended by an OB/GYN or a certified nurse-midwife, that would be the equivalent of 280 deliveries per practitioner. No wonder California is the highest paying state for nurse-midwives!
HIGHEST-PAYING CNM STATES
Rank State Salary Comparison to National Average
Hourly Monthly Annual Number %
1 California $76.73 $13,300 $159,590 +$44,050 +38.13%
2 Utah $64.27 $11,140 $133,680 +$18,140 +15.70%
3 Mississippi $61.52 $10,660 $127,960 +$12,420 +10.75%
4 New York $60.47 $10,480 $125,780 +$10,240 +8.86%
5 Minnesota $59.42 $10,300 $123,600 +$8,060 +6.98%
6 West Virginia $59.35 $10,290 $123,450 +$7,910 +6.85%
7 Arizona $58.43 $10,130 $121,530 +$5,990 +5.18%
8 Maine $57.23 $9,920 $119,030 +$3,490 +3.02%
9 New Jersey $56.28 $9,760 $117,070 +$1,530 +1.32%
10 New Hampshire $55.65 $9,650 $115,760 +$220 +0.19%
U.S. $55.55 $9,630 $115,540 0 0.00%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


WHAT ARE THE 10 HIGHEST PAYING STATES FOR NURSES WORKING AS CERTIFIED REGISTERED NURSE ANESTHETISTS?


Have you considered a job in anesthesiology but are unsure where to start? Maybe you enjoy being a nurse but are looking for a job with more autonomy and higher earning potential. A career as a certified registered nurse anesthetist could be the perfect job for you.

Certified registered nurse anesthetists, also referred to as CRNAs, work as part of an interdisciplinary healthcare team. This team includes physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other professionals while overseeing the use of anesthesia during medical procedures. The primary responsibility of CRNAs is to administer anesthesia during medical procedures and to monitor clients during recovery. Because of the risks associated with anesthesia, certified registered nurse anesthetists must complete in-depth education and training, and they are held to a standard of accountability that many other nurses may not be subjected to.

Daily responsibilities of certified registered nurse anesthetists include the following.

◦ Conduct patient assessments
◦ Interview patients about previous surgeries and any reactions to anesthesia
◦ Educate the client about surgery and the recovery process
◦ Determine the type and amount of anesthesia to be administered
◦ Administer anesthesia and monitor the patient during the procedure
◦ Monitor the patient throughout the recovery process


The national average for certified registered nurse anesthetist salaries is $189,190. The ten highest paying states for nurse anesthetists offer salaries ranging from $205,360 to $236,540, which are between 8.55% and 25.03% higher than the national average for all other states.

The highest paying state for nurse anesthetists is Oregon, where certified registered nurse anesthetists earn $47,350 more than the national average for their peers practicing elsewhere. There are currently more than 260 certified registered nurse anesthetists practicing in Oregon. In Oregon, CRNAs provide more than 80% of the anesthesia required in rural communities.
HIGHEST-PAYING CRNA STATES
Rank State Salary Comparison to National Average
Hourly Monthly Annual Number %
1 Oregon $113.72 $19,710 $236,540 +$47,350 +25.03%
2 Wisconsin $111.31 $19,290 $231,520 +$42,330 +22.37%
3 Wyoming $111.18 $19,270 $231,250 +$42,060 +22.23%
4 Nevada $107.54 $18,640 $223,680 +$34,490 +18.23%
5 Connecticut $104.50 $18,110 $217,360 +$28,170 +14.89%
6 New York $104.35 $18,090 $217,050 +$27,860 +14.73%
7 Montana $104.05 $18,040 $216,420 +$27,230 +14.39%
8 Minnesota $103.87 $18,000 $216,050 +$26,860 +14.20%
9 New Jersey $99.76 $17,290 $207,500 +$18,310 +9.68%
10 California $98.73 $17,110 $205,360 +$16,170 +8.55%
U.S. $90.96 $15,770 $189,190 0 0.00%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


Summing It Up


In this article, you have found the answer to the question, “What are the highest paying states for nurses?" Many factors are taken into consideration when salaries are tallied and offered, including the cost of living, the number of licensed providers and their specialties, and the patient populations they serve. The highest paying states for nurses in 2021 across different degrees or specialization levels are Alaska, California, Florida, and Oregon. Overall, the highest paying state for nurses is Oregon, where certified registered nurse anesthetists earn approximately $236,540. If you are considering a career as a nurse or thinking of getting a higher nursing degree or specialization, and geographical location is not a pressing matter to you, considering the opportunities for pay may be something to look at more closely.


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).