ICU Nurse Salary By State – (2021 Figures)
Written By: Editorial Staff @ NursingProcess.org
Intensive care units (ICUs) are hospital units that provide critically ill or injured patients facing life-threatening complications with highly specialized monitoring and treatment interventions. In order to work in an ICU, a nurse must have specialized skills, and that’s the reason why ICU nurse salary is frequently higher than the salaries of nurses who work in other parts of a hospital.
In addition to technical competencies, such as performing or knowing how to assist with central line insertions, working with ventilators, titrating and administering potentially hazardous medications and managing code blues, ICU nurses must be team players with excellent critical thinking and time management skills. How much does an ICU nurse make? This article delves deeply into ICU nurse salary in 2021.
Is There A High Demand For ICU Nurses?
Approximately 15 percent
of the nation’s 3.8 million registered nurses
work in ICUs, neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), pediatric intensive care units (PICUs), and intensive cardiac care units (CCUs). There are more than 85,000 ICU beds
in the U.S. according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how high demand for these life-saving units can be, proving that even when intensive care units are not being filled, it’s vitally important to have them online as excess hospital capacity.
Nearly every state in the nation is facing a nursing shortage. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the nation will need a 9 percent increase in size of the RN workforce in order to keep up with current demand for their services
. Quantifying the demand for ICU nurses is a bit more challenging because demand for their services fluctuates, but at least one study notes that demand for ICU nurses shot up by 186 percent in 2020 compared to the pre-pandemic period
. A higher demand for the services of ICU nurses is likely to lead to higher ICU nurse salaries.
Where Do ICU Nurses Work?
The majority of intensive care unit nurses work in hospital critical care units like ICUs, NICUs, PICUs, and CCUs. But some intensive care unit nurses work in specialty hospital wards like emergency rooms and surgical operating theaters while others work in physicians’ practices and specialty clinics.
ICUs, NICUs and PICUs use much the same types of equipment, treatments and medications, but because NICU and PICU patients are younger and smaller than patients in standard critical care units, equipment like ventilators and infusion pumps may be modified to deliver smaller volumes, and medication must be measured in far smaller dosages. In an ER setting, ICU nurses may be tapped to help stabilize patients who are brought into a hospital with life-threatening illnesses or injuries.
Since the average stay in an ICU can cost anywhere between $7,000 and $11,000 a day
, most of which is billed to the patient’s insurance, ICU nurses are occasionally hired by insurance companies to cull through a patient’s medical records and make sure that that the ICU was an appropriate treatment setting for that particular patient.
What Is The Typical Work Schedule For ICU Nurses?
Hospitals never close. Traditional hospital shifts were day shift from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., swing shift from 3:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., and night shift from 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. In the 1970s, though, hospitals began switching to the 12-hour shift model as a means of alleviating the effects of a severe nursing shortage
. Today, between 75 and 81 percent of ICU nurses work 12-hour shifts
, either from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Three 12-hour shifts a week is considered full-time employment. Due to swing-shift and night-shift differentials, the salary of an ICU nurse working 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. is typically higher than his or her counterpart working the opposite schedule.
How Satisfied Are ICU Nurses With Their Jobs?
Critical care units like ICUs are high-stress environments linked to high incidences of burnout. A study published in a 2018 issue of The International Journal of Nursing Studies found that only 56 percent of ICU nurses describe themselves as satisfied with their jobs
Even before the pandemic, ICU turnover was a problem in critical care units; a recent survey conducted by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses found that COVID-19 has made 66 percent of ICU nurses think about abandoning their profession
. Comparatively high ICU nurse salaries can be seen as an incentive to keep critical care nurses at their jobs.
What Is The Salary Per Hour Of An ICU Nurse?
What is the ICU nurse salary per hour in 2021? The average ICU nurse salary per hour in 2021 is $33.85, but this varies with an ICU nurse’s level of experience. Entry-level critical care RNs earn 13 percent less than critical care RNs who’ve been pursuing their professions for one to four years. ICU nurses with five to nine years of experience earn 19 percent less than ICU nurses with 10 to 19 years of experience.
There is quite a bit of variation in the hourly ICU nurse salary from state to state. The highest-paid ICU nurses can be found in California. Critical care RNs in the Golden State average $51.01 an hour, which is more than twice the average hourly rate in Alabama—the state with the lowest-paid ICU nurses—where the hourly wage averages $25.49.
Why is there such variance in hourly pay rates from state to state? Hourly pay rates are heavily influenced by industry compensation for professionals in a similar line of work. The average hourly pay rate for non-ICU nurses in Alabama is $26.26
whereas at $31.41, the average hourly pay rate for non-ICU nurses in California is 20 percent higher
Another factor is at play here as well: Membership in a nurse union has been shown to have a big impact on nurse salary
. California’s nurse union has one of the highest membership rates in the nation, whereas most nurses in Alabama do not belong to a union. California’s hourly pay rate for nurses represents salaries found at both unionized and non-unionized hospitals throughout the state, but hospitals with ICUs are most likely to be found in the state’s urban centers where the influence of the California Nurses Association
is particularly strong, and that has resulted in higher hourly wages for the critical care RNs working there, which has weighted the averages in the rest of the state.
|Hourly ICU Nurse Salary|
|Level of Experience||Hourly Earnings|
|1-4 Years of Experience||$26.08|
|5-9 Years of Experience||$31.88|
|10-19 Years of Experience||$39.60|
|20 Years or More Experience||$49.18|
|Average Hourly Earnings||$33.85|
What Is The Starting Salary Of An ICU Nurse?
What is the starting salary of an ICU nurse in 2021? The starting salary of an ICU nurse in 2021 is $47,010 a year, which is 33 percent less than the average salary of an ICU nurse. This breaks down to $3,920 a month, $940 a week, or $22.60 an hour. Many hospitals and medical centers also impose a 90-day probationary period during which a newly hired ICU nurse doesn’t have access to benefits.
The ICU is a practice setting that requires a highly specialized set of skills, and these are skills that an RN cannot learn while working in a physician practice or on a non-critical care hospital ward. In a 2021 report, the recruitment firm NSI Solutions estimated the cost of training a new RN as $44,375
, and this doesn’t capture the additional training requirements for critical care nurses. It’s expensive to hire an inexperienced RN, and one of the ways hospitals and medical centers seek to recoup a portion of the operational costs involved in the ICU orientation process is to offer low entry-level salaries.
Entry-level salaries are also influenced by how competitive any given job market is, or, in other words, how much demand exists for a particular service. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is high demand for the services ICU nurses provide coupled with an exodus from the specialty by many seasoned ICU nurses who feel burned out by stress. It is likely that the entry-level ICU nurse salary will rise over the near future in order to provide an incentive that will lure more inexperienced RNs into this specialty.
|Starting ICU Nurse Salary|
What Is The Average Salary Of An ICU Nurse?
What is the average ICU nurse salary in 2021? The average ICU nurse salary in 2021 is $33.85 an hour, which multiplies out to $1,354 a week, $5,870 a month, or $70,417 a year. This is 41 percent less than the average annual salary of a nurse practitioner but in the same ballpark as the average annual salary of a NICU nurse, an ER nurse, or a hospice nurse.
Average salaries are primarily influenced by market pay rates in any given locality. Market pay rates, in turn, depend upon the cost of living in a specific locality, the number of people available to perform a specific job in a specific locality, competition for employees with the needed skills and education, and the availability of jobs.
In 2021, nearly two-thirds of hospitals in the U.S. had an RN vacancy rate that approached 8 percent
, and while this statistic doesn’t break out the ICU nurse vacancy rate specifically, anecdotal evidence suggests that rate is higher
. In many states, ICUs are seriously understaffed, many jobs are available and competition for experienced ICU nurses is fierce. In fact, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many hospitals and medical centers have begun turning to traveling nurses to staff their ICU units
. Traveling ICU nurses make significantly higher salaries though they don’t receive benefits.
Higher-earning areas also tend to have a higher cost of living. This drives up salaries because if high salaries aren’t offered, people can’t afford to live in an area with a high cost of living. We noted above that the highest-paid ICU nurses work in California. California’s cost of living is 50 percent higher than the average cost of living throughout all parts of the U.S., and that’s one of the reasons why the average ICU nurse salary in the Golden State is 51 percent higher than the average ICU nurse salary throughout all parts of the U.S.
|Average ICU Nurse Salary|
ICU Nurse Salary By Years Of Experience
Practice makes perfect. The more time you put in at a job, the better you get at it, and the salaries paid to ICU nurses takes this into consideration. ICU nurses typically hit the average salary mark some time during their seventh year in the specialty.
ICU nurses with one to four years of experience earn salaries that are 15 percent higher than their colleagues who are just starting out; ICU nurses with five to nine years of experience earn salaries that are 22 percent higher than their colleagues with one to four years of experience. There’s a 24 percent jump between the salaries of ICU nurses with five to nine years and those with 10 to 19 years of experience.
ICU nurses with 20 or more years of experience make 24 percent more than ICU nurses with 10 to 19 years of experience, which comes to significantly more than twice their entry-level salaries. As noted above, staff turnover is a substantial issue for ICUs. Increasing the compensation that experienced ICU nurses earn is a way of keeping those ICU nurses on the job.
|Level of Experience||Hourly||Weekly||Monthly||Annual|
|1-4 Years of Experience||$26.08||$1,043||$4,520||$54,240|
|5-9 Years of Experience||$31.88||$1,275||$5,530||$66,300|
|10-19 Years of Experience||$39.60||$1,584||$6,860||$82,370|
|20 Years or More Experience||$49.18||$1,967||$8,520||$102,290|
Average Annual Compensation (Salary + Benefits) For ICU Nurses
In addition to cash salaries, ICU nurses also receive non-cash compensation called benefits, which can add up to a substantial portion of the remuneration they earn. Benefits are perks that are offered separately from base salaries or wages. Benefits fall into two categories: Mandated benefits include COBRA insurance, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation that are required by state or federal law; unmandated benefits include paid time off, medical insurance and 401(k) contributions, and are offered at an employer’s own discretion. ICU nurses frequently receive specialized benefits as well like liability insurance and reimbursement for professional development activities.
When evaluating any employment offer, it’s important to look at what benefits are offered with the job. While ICU nurses working in the private sector can expect to earn an average ICU nurse salary of $70,100 a year, the average cash value of non-cash benefits that come with the job add an additional value of $29,616 annually, bringing their total compensation package to $99,716 a year. ICU nurses working for state and local government average $71,970 a year but receive benefits that average $71,970 in value annually so that their total compensation package is $116,268 a year. Benefits average 30 percent of a private sector ICU nurse’s total compensation and 38 percent of a public sector ICU nurse’s total compensation.
|Component||Private Industry||State and Local Government|
|Retirement and Savings||$3,390||$14,417|
|Average Annual Salary||$70,100||$71,970|
7 Ways You Can Increase Your Salary As An ICU Nurse
If you want to earn more than the base ICU nurse salary, there are many ways you can augment your annual earnings. Here are seven:
1. Work the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift:
Most hospitals and medical centers pay a shift differential to employees for hours worked outside of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. so long as those employees are not salaried employees.
2. Pick up extra shifts:
Patient volumes can fluctuate dramatically in an ICU, but when an ICU is close to capacity—as has been common throughout the COVID-19 pandemic—that ICU urgently needs additional staffing.
3. Train as an ICU charge nurse:
ICU charge nurses assume operational responsibility for an ICU over the course of one shift, coordinating staffing, planning patient activities, and evaluating the outcomes of unit activities. In some hospitals, the role is assigned on a rotating basis while in others, it’s a permanent position.
4. Pursue specialized clinical training:
Pursuing training and certification in a clinical specialty such as pediatric or neonatal critical care nursing, or cardiac surgical care, will increase your marketability.
5. Sign up with a registry:
Nurse registries are agencies that provide per diem nursing staff to hospitals, medical offices, and individuals as the need arises.
6. Become a traveling ICU nurse:
As noted above, many medical centers are relying upon traveling nurses to staff their ICUs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As noted above, there’s a great deal of variation in the average ICU nurse salary from state to state and, often, even in the average ICU nurse salary among cities in the same state. Moving to a place where ICU nurses earn higher salaries is always an option.
What Is The Future Outlook For ICU Nurse Salary?
The U.S. has experienced periodic shortages not just of ICU nurses, but of all nurses, for at least 50 years. The magnitude of the current nursing shortage is so great, however, that some analysts estimate 1.2 million new nurses will be needed by 2030 to meet demand
. States with the highest demand for the services of ICU nurses include Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Delaware, and Illinois
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt throughout the U.S., and while this remains true, the demand for ICU nurses will continue to be high. Demand for critical care interventions is also driven in part by the greying of the Baby Boomer generation: 28 percent of hospitalized Medicare patients between the ages of 65 and 84 are admitted to the ICU at least once during their hospitalizations
. High demand is positively correlated with higher salaries, so the future outlook for ICU nurse salaries is good.
ICU NURSE SALARY COMPARISON
ICU Nurse Salary VS. All Other Occupations
The average annual ICU nurse salary is 20 percent higher than the average salary for all occupations across the U.S. Most ICU nurses in the U.S. are hourly rather than salaried employees, which means that they’re covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act
and must be paid one and one-half times their standard pay rate for any hours they work over 40 hours in a week.
|ICU Nurse||All Occupations||Comparison|
ICU Nurse Salary VS. Similar Nursing Jobs
In the course of any given workweek, ICU nurses may do a little of everything with patients in the intensive care unit. They may administer chemotherapeutic agents, hook up dialysis machines and assist with catheterization procedures when patients are too unstable to be transferred out of an ICU. But ICU nurses are not specialists in cardiac, oncology, or dialysis care. ICU nurse salaries average 26 percent less than cardiac nurse salaries, 7 percent less than oncology nurse salaries, and 6 percent less than dialysis nurse salaries.
ICU nurses tend to have higher salaries than nurses who routinely work with patients who have not been hospitalized with life-threatening illnesses or injuries. They make 13 percent more than pediatric nurses, 15 percent more than public health nurses, and 22 percent more than forensic nurses.
|5||Occupational Health Nurse||$73,961||-$3,544||-5.03%|
|9 ||ICU Nurse||$70,417||$0||0.00%|
|12||Labor and Delivery Nurse||$67,170||+$3,247||+4.61%|
|18||Public Health Nurse||$59,882||+$10,535||+14.96%|
ICU Nurse Salary VS. Other Healthcare Jobs
Although ICU nurses must be highly skilled, nothing in their education—either in an academic program or on the job—prepares them to function independently, so they make significantly less than advanced practice RNs who have been trained to practice without physician oversight. ICU nurses make nearly 130 percent less than certified registered nurse anesthetists, 41 percent less than nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants, and 39 percent less than nurse-midwives.
However, ICU nurses earn more than members of ancillary healthcare professions whose primary role is rehabilitation rather than treatment. ICU nurses earn 18 percent more than respiratory therapists, 26 percent more than dieticians, and 42 percent more than emergency medical technicians.
|7 ||ICU Nurse||$70,417||$0||0.00%|
|14||Dietitian and Nutritionist||$52,148||+$18,269||+25.94%|
|15||Physical Therapist Assistant||$51,108||+$19,309||+27.42%|
Technician and Paramedic
|20||Certified Nursing Assistant||$29,743||+$40,674||+57.76%|
AVERAGE ICU NURSE SALARY IN YOUR STATE
ICU nurses in the Yellowhammer State earn the lowest salaries in the U.S. The average salary for ICU nurses in Alabama is $53,010 annually, which breaks down to $4,429 a month or $25.49 an hour. Alabama has 1,870 ICU beds
, which works out to 3.9 ICU beds per 10,000 residents. The COVID-19 hit the Yellowhammer State’s ICU capacity hard, and throughout much of August and September 2021, Alabama ran out of ICU beds for newly diagnosed patients
2. Alaska: There are only 130 ICU beds in the entire state of Alaska
; this works out to 1.8 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents. The COVID-19 pandemic came close to maxing out the Last Frontier State’s ICU capacity. In Alaska, ICU nurses average $40.31 an hour, $6,990 a month, or $83,850 a year.
3. Arizona: Arizona has 1,742 ICU beds
, which works out to 2.5 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents. During the coronavirus pandemic, the governor signed Executive Order 2020-10, making an additional 600 “surge” ICU beds available to hospitals
. The average salary of an ICU nurse in Arizona is $34.01 an hour, $5,900 monthly or $70,740 a year, but ICU nurses in Phoenix make 1 percent more than that while ICU nurses in Tucson make 5 percent less.
In Arkansas, ICU RNs can anticipate making $26.93 an hour, $4,670 a month, or $56,010 annually. There are 856 ICU beds in the Natural State
(2.9 per 10,000 residents), and nearly half of them were occupied by COVID-19 patients at the height of the Delta variant surge during the summer of 2021
. ICUs in rural areas of Arkansas were particularly hard hit as nurses left to take much higher-paying traveling jobs in other parts of the nation.
The highest-paid ICU nurses in the nation are employed in the Golden State where there are 8,131 ICU beds
(2.1 per resident). The average ICU nurse salary in California is $106,110 a year, which comes out to $8,840 a month or $51.01 an hour. Cities throughout the Golden State show great range in ICU RN salaries with the highest-paid ICU nurses working in the San Francisco Bay Area and the lowest-paid employed in the southernmost reaches of the Central Valley (Bakersfield).
The average salary of an ICU nurse in Colorado is $32.94 an hour, which multiplies out to $5,710 a month or $68,520 annually. The Centennial State has 1,770 ICU beds
or 3.2 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents. Colorado’s ICU bed capacity was severely strained during the autumn of 2021 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing the state to activate its emergency Crisis Standards of Care
7. Connecticut: Connecticut has 731 intensive care unit beds
; this works out as 2.1 beds for every 10,000 state residents. Though ICU hospitalizations were common during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nutmeg State’s ICUs never came close to full occupancy. The annual ICU nurse salary in Connecticut averages $74,680 a year, which works out to $6,220 a month or $35.90 an hour.
Delaware is a small state both in terms of population and landmass, so its 249 ICU beds
actually work out to be 2.7 ICU beds per every 10,000 residents—a comparatively high rate. ICU RNs in Delaware can expect to earn $65,420 a year on average; this works out to $31.45 an hour or $5,450 a month. Though ICU hospitalizations were affected during the pandemic, the Nutmeg State didn’t come close to running out of ICU bed capacity.
Florida has 3 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents or 6,226 ICU beds in total
. The average ICU nurse salary in Florida is $29.41 an hour, $5,100 a month or $61.180 a year, but this pay rate varies from city to city. In Orlando and Jacksonville ICU nurse salary is 5 percent lower than the state average while in Miami and Tampa, it is 1 percent higher. Florida’s ICU utilization rose to 93 percent at the height of its COVID-19 crisis
The average ICU nurse salary in Georgia is $30.26 an hour, $5,250 a month or $62,940 a year, but in Atlanta, ICU RNs earn 6 percent over the state average. The Peach State boasts some 2,703 ICU beds
, which works out to 2.6 beds per every 10,000 residents. During the autumn of 2021, more than 96 percent of Georgia’s ICU beds were filled
as the Peach State struggled with the Delta variant.
The second-highest-paid ICU nurses in the U.S. are employed in Hawaii where ICU RNs average $44.36 an hour, $7,690 a month, or $92,260 a year. The Aloha State has just 219 ICU beds
; this works out to 1.6 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents. Over the Labor Day 2021 weekend, Hawaii’s ICUs became filled to capacity
thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had to provide the state with emergency relief workers that included ICU nurses.
ICU nurses in Idaho make an average salary of $63,050 a year, which breaks down to $30.31 an hour or $5,250 a year. Idaho has 333 ICU beds, which works out to 1.9 ICU beds per 10,000 state residents. The crush of COVID-19 patients put an enormous strain on the Gem State’s system of intensive care though exact figures are difficult to come by because Idaho doesn’t participate in the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project
While the average ICU nurse salary in Illinois is $31.55 an hour, $5,470 a month or $65,620 a year, the salaries of ICU RNs in Chicago are 5 percent higher. The southernmost parts of Illinois ran out of ICU capacity in the fall of 2021
, which meant that some ICU patients had to be transported hundreds of miles from their homes to receive proper care. Illinois has 3,426 ICU beds
, which works out to 2.8 beds for every 10,000 residents.
The average salary of an ICU nurse in Indiana is 28.56 an hour, $4,850 a month, or $59,400 a year. Like most states in the U.S., Indiana’s 2,358 intensive care units
(3.6 per 10,000 residents) bore the brunt of a surge in utilization spurred by the highly contagious Delta COVID variant. Many hospitals, particularly in more rural parts of the state, had to divert ICU patients to hospitals long distances away from these patients’ homes.
There are 622 ICU beds in Iowa
, which works out to two beds for every 10,000 residents. ICU nurses in the Hawkeye State average $55,070 annually, which comes to $26.48 an hour or $4,500 a month. ICU hospitalization was high in Iowa throughout the summer and fall of 2021, but physicians noted that the majority of ICU admissions during this time were not directly related to COVID
16. Kansas: The Sunflower State has 878 ICU beds
—3.1 ICU beds per 10,000 residents. The shortage of qualified ICU nurses became so acute
during the late summer and early fall of 2021 that many hospitals in the more urban parts of the state began relying upon traveling nurses to staff their intensive care units. ICU nurses in Kansas earn $27.16 an hour, which multiplies out to $4,710 a month or $56,500 annually.
The salary for ICU nurses in Kentucky is $27.30 an hour, $4,750 a month, or $56,970 a year on average. However, ICU nurses working in Louisville, the state’s largest city, make 3 percent more than the state average. There are 1,447 ICU beds in the Bluegrass State
, which works out to 3.3 beds for every 10,000 residents. Though the Delta variant strained Kentucky’s healthcare resources, the state never came close to running out of ICU beds.
The salary for ICU nurses in Louisiana averages $28.78 an hour, $4,990 a month or $59,860 a year, but in New Orleans, the Bayou State’s best-known city, ICU RN wages average 4 percent higher. The Bayou State has 1,518 ICU beds
—3.4 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents. During the Delta COVID surge in the summer and fall of 2021, Louisiana’s ICU utilization was more than 85 percent
. The Bayou State was particularly hard-hit by an uptick of COVID cases among children younger than 18.
Hospitals and medical centers in Maine pay ICU nurses $30.06 an hour on average, which comes out to $5,210 a month or $62,520 a year. Maine is relatively sparsely populated, and there are only 288 ICU beds
in the entire state but that comes out to 2.2 ICU beds per every 10,000 residents. At the height of the Delta surge in the summer of 2021, Maine had fewer than 40 ICU beds available for patients who needed them
Though Maryland continued to see a steady increase of ICU utilization rates during the spring, summer and fall of 2021, the state’s intensive care units never came close to over-capacity. Maryland has 1,227 ICU beds
, which means there are 2.1 intensive care unit beds for every 10,000 state residents. The average salary for ICU nurses in Maryland is $34.52 an hour, $5,980 a month, or $71,810 annually. In Baltimore, ICU nurses earn 1 percent more than the state average.
21. Massachusetts: Massachusetts’ ICU bed capacity has kept ahead of the coronavirus surge
, possibly because the Bay State’s residents have been unusually proactive when it comes to COVID prevention strategies. Massachusetts has 1,555 ICU beds
or 2.3 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents. The average ICU nurse salary in Massachusetts is $40.73 an hour, $7,060 a month or $84,710, but in Boston, ICU nurse salaries are 3 percent higher while in the central Massachusetts city of Worcester, they are 8 percent less. The Bay State’s ICU nurses are the third highest-paid ICU nurses in the nation.
22. Michigan: Michigan has 2,749 ICU beds
or 2.8 ICU beds for every 10,000 state residents. But as Michigan struggled to manage a growing number of patients with COVID-19, the critical factor wasn’t ICU beds but a shortage of ICU nurses
to care for the patients in those beds. The average ICU nurse salary in Michigan is $31.30 an hour, $5,430 a month or $65,110 annually, but intensive care unit RNs in Detroit earn salaries that are 3 percent higher.
The average ICU nurse salary in Minnesota is $34.25 an hour, $5,940 a month or $71,250 a year, but in the Greater Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area, ICU RNs earn 6 percent more. The Land of Lakes has 1,277 ICU beds
or 2.3 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents. Minnesota never used more than 20 percent of its ICU capacity
, even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent Delta surge.
Mississippi has 931 ICU beds (3.2 ICU beds per 10,000 residents), but at the height of the COVID-19 Delta surge, 235 of those ICU beds remained unstaffed
. Mississippi was one of the states worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help relieve the nurse deficit in ICUs and other units in Mississippi’s hospitals, the state paid the salaries of some 900 traveling RNs
. Mississippi ICU nurses earn $25.92 an hour, $4,490 a month, or $53,910 a year.
25. Missouri: ICUs in the smaller, more rural communities throughout Missouri were hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic
, making it necessary to move some patients many miles from their homes in order to receive the care they needed. The Show Me State has 2,092 ICU beds
(3.2 ICU beds per 10,000 residents). The average ICU nurse salary in Missouri is $53,910 annually, which comes to $25.92 an hour or $4,490 a month.
There are only 248 ICU beds in the entire state of Montana
, but that works out to 2.4 beds per every 10,000 residents because Montana is so sparsely populated. Some ICUs in Montana’s more populated cities were running as high as 50 percent over capacity at the height of the Delta surge in the summer and fall of 2021. In Montana, RNs who work in intensive care units can expect to earn $29.84 an hour, $5,170 a month, or $62,070 a year.
In Nebraska, ICU nurses average $29.40 an hour, which multiplies out to $6,580 a month or $78,990 a year, though in Omaha, the state’s largest city, ICU nurses earn marginally more. During the summer of 2021, Nebraska’s ICUs were so filled with patients that one COVID patient had to be transported out of state
in order to receive care. Nebraska has just 548 ICU beds
, which works out to 2.9 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents.
28. Nevada: Nevada’s intensive care unit beds number 1,118
. This works out to 3.7 beds per every 10,000 residents, which is a comparatively high ratio. As a result, Nevada’s ICU system was never in danger of being overwhelmed
throughout the COVID-19 pandemic even if individual ICUs sometimes approached capacity. When one ICU was near capacity, patients were redirected to another ICU with lower capacity nearby. Nevada’s ICU nurses earn $39.98 an hour, which works out to $6,580 a month, or $78,990 a year.
29. New Hampshire: New Hampshire only has 252 ICU beds
, and the ratio of ICU beds per 10,000 residents works out to 1.9. At the height of the Delta variant surge in the autumn of 2021, more than 80 percent of New Hampshire’s intensive care unit beds were filled
. Intensive care unit RNs employed throughout New Hampshire average $32.14 an hour, $5,570 a month, or $66,860 a year.
30. New Jersey:
The average ICU nurse salary in New Jersey is $36.27 an hour, $6,290 a month or $75,440 a year, but ICU nurses working in cities like Newark, which are counted as part of the Greater New York City Metropolitan Area, make 10 percent more than that while ICU nurses working in Camden, which is counted as part of the Greater Philadelphia Metropolitan Area, make 7 percent less. The Garden State has 1,882 ICU beds
(2.2 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents.)
31. New Mexico: New Mexico’s system of intensive care units faced severe nursing shortages
throughout the coronavirus pandemic. ICUs throughout Albuquerque, the state’s largest city, were particularly hard hit. The Land of Enchantment has 460 ICU beds
, a ratio of about 2.2 beds for every 10,000 residents. New Mexico’s ICU nurses earn $32.03 an hour on average, which works out to $5,550 a month or $66,620 a year. In Albuquerque, ICU nurses earn 1 percent more than the state average.
32. New York:
The average ICU nurse salary in New York is $37.98 an hour, $6,580 a month, or $79,000 a year. In New York City, ICU nurses earn 6 percent more than the state average, but in the upstate cities of Buffalo and Rochester, they earn, respectively, 14 and 24 percent less. New York State has 4,420 ICU beds
, which works out to 2.3 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents. In the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic, New York City came perilously close to running out of ICU beds.
33. North Carolina:
In August 2021, North Carolina’s public health department warned
that the high number of COVID-related admissions threatened to overwhelm its hospital ICU system. North Carolina has 3,168 ICU beds, which works out to a comparatively high ratio of 3.2 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents. The average ICU nurse salary in North Carolina is $29.17 an hour, $5,060 a month or $60,680 a year, though it’s 2 percent higher in urban centers like Charlotte and Raleigh.
34. North Dakota:
In North Dakota, ICU nurses can expect to average $29.46 an hour, $5,110 a month, or $61,280 a year. North Dakota only has 278 ICU beds
, but since the state’s population is low, this works out 3.8 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents. Like most other states, the Peace Garden State experienced an ICU bed shortage in the autumn of 2021, but public health officials say this was only partly related to the Delta variant surge. Public health officials attributed much of this ICU utilization to care that had been delayed in the earlier phases of the COVID pandemic
, leaving patients with the potential to become far more ill.
35. Ohio: Ohio has 3,622 ICU beds
, which comes to 3.2 beds for every 10,000 residents. In August 2021, ICUs throughout Ohio averaged 75 percent capacity
thanks to the Delta surge, but the Buckeye State’s intensive care units were never in jeopardy of being overwhelmed. The average ICU nurse salary in Ohio is $29.51 an hour, $5,120 a month or $61,390 annually, but in Columbus, they are fractionally less, while in Cincinnati and Cleveland, they are 3 percent and 5 percent more respectively.
36. Oklahoma: Oklahoma has 1,164 ICU beds
, which works out to a ratio of 3.1 beds for every 10,000 residents. During the Delta surge throughout the summer and fall of 2021, the Sooner State’s public health officials chose to keep mum on the topic of ICU utilization
, though several of the state’s major healthcare providers announced they had zero ICU beds available. Intensive care unit RNs in Oklahoma make $28.18 an hour, which multiplies out to $4,880 a month or $58,610 annually.
37. Oregon: By the end of the summer of 2021, Oregon’s ICU system was at 93 percent capacity
. Oregon has 837 ICU beds
(two beds for every 10,000 residents.) While the Beaver State’s intensive care unit RNs earn $40.72 an hour, which comes to $7,060 a month or $84,690 annually, ICU nurses in the Greater Portland Metropolitan Region earn 3 percent more.
38. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania has 3,643 ICU beds
, which comes to 2.9 beds for every 10,000 residents. During the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Pennsylvania was one of the states that seemed most in danger of running out of ICU beds, but the state weathered the subsequent Delta surge relatively well. The average ICU nurse salary in Pennsylvania is $31.38 an hour, $5,440 a month or $65,280 a year, but in Pittsburgh, ICU nurse wages are 5 percent less whereas in Philadelphia, they are 8 percent more.
39. Rhode Island: There are only 279 ICU beds in Rhode Island
, but since the state is tiny, that works out to 2.8 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents. During the autumn of 2021, ICU beds throughout the Ocean State were filled to more than 80 percent capacity
, but the state was never in danger of having to turn patients who needed ICU services away. Intensive care unit nurses in Rhode Island earn $35.03 an hour, $6,070 a month, or $72,860 a year.
40. South Carolina:
South Carolina was one of 15 states whose ICU occupancy rates soared to more than 80 percent
during the Delta variant surge in the summer and fall of 2021. South Carolina has 1,459 ICU beds
for a ratio of 3 beds for every 10,000 state residents. The average salary for ICU nurses in South Carolina is $28.41 an hour, $4,920 a month, or $59,090 annually.
41. South Dakota: South Dakota has 150 ICU beds
, which works out to 1.5 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents. This is one of the lowest numbers and lowest bed ratios in the U.S. Nonetheless, the state never experienced an alarming shortage of ICU capacity, either in the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic or in the subsequent Delta variant surge. In South Dakota, RNs who work in intensive care units can expect to earn $25.79 an hour, $4,470 a month, or $53,650 a year.
The average salary of an ICU nurse in Tennessee is $56,430 a year, which breaks down to $4,700 a month or $27.13 an hour. In Nashville, ICU nurses earn 6 percent more than that while in Memphis, they earn 7 percent more than that. ICU beds throughout the Volunteer State were filled to capacity during the Delta variant surge
in the summer of 2021 even though Tennessee has 2,309 ICU beds
and a 3.5 ratio of ICU beds to 10,000 residents.
43. Texas: Texas’s ICU utilization peaked at 93 percent
during the summer of 2021. The Lone Star State has 7,149 ICU beds
(2.6 ICU beds per 10,000 residents). The average ICU nurse salary in Texas is $32.50 an hour, $5,630 a month or $67,590 a year, but there’s a great deal of salary variation from area to area throughout the state from a high of 11 percent above average in the Greater Houston Metropolitan Region to a low of 13 percent below average in the area around Corpus Christi.
RNs employed in intensive care units throughout the Bee Hive State average $29.77 an hour, $5,160 a month, or $61,930 annually. Utah has 687 ICU beds
(2.2 ICU beds per 10,000 population). The state’s ICU occupancy rate reached 97 percent
during the height of the Delta variant surge in the autumn of 2021. Attrition rates among the Bee Hive’s ICU nurses were also unusually high.
In Vermont, RNs employed in intensive care units can anticipate earning $63,490 annually, which comes to $30.52 an hour or $5,290 a year. Vermont’s ICU capacity was strained during the autumn of 2021, but COVID-19 mostly played a collateral role here
: The strain primarily arose because patients who’d put off treatment for a year and a half were finally seeking healthcare again. Vermont has 94 ICU beds
(1.6 ICU beds per 10,000 population), which is both a low number and a low ratio.
The average salary of an ICU nurse in Virginia is $31.47 an hour, $5,460 a month, or $65,460 a year. ICU nurses who work in hospitals that are technically part of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Area likely make 12 percent more than this; ICU nurses who work in hospitals in the Virginia Beach area make 1 percent less. Virginia has 2,007 ICU beds
(2.5 ICU beds per 10,000 population).
47. Washington: Washington State has 1,493 ICU beds
, which works out to a ratio of 2 ICU beds for every 10,000 state residents. Nevertheless, Seattle, the state’s largest city, almost ran out of ICU beds in the earliest phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the delta variant surge, Washington hit peak ICU occupancy rates again
, exacerbated by severe ICU nurse shortages. The average salary of an ICU nurse in Washington State is $38.63 an hour, $6,700 a month or $80,360 a year, but in Seattle, ICU nurses typically earn 4 percent more than that.
48. West Virginia: There are 643 ICU beds in West Virginia
, giving the state a comparatively high ratio of 3.7 ICU beds for every 10,000 residents. In late October 2021, more than 75 percent of the state’s ICU beds were in use
although the majority of those patients were not COVID-19 patients. ICU nurses in West Virginia earn $27.56 an hour, which multiplies out to $4,780 a month or $57,320 annually.
The average salary of an ICU nurse in Wisconsin is $31.63 an hour, $5,480 a month, or $65,800 a year. ICU nurses in Milwaukee, the state’s most densely populated city, earn 3 percent more than this while ICU nurses in Madison, the state capital, earn 10 percent more than this. Wisconsin has 1,506 ICU beds
(2.7 ICU beds per 10,000 residents). More than 90 percent of Wisconsin’s ICU beds were in use during the summer of 2021
50. Wyoming: Wyoming has 108 ICU beds
, which works out to only 1.8 beds to every 10,000 residents. Though the Delta variant surge increased utilization rates of the state’s intensive care units, Wyoming never came anywhere near to running out of ICU capacity. Wyoming ICU nurses average $30.72 an hour, $5,330 a month or $63,900 annually.
AVERAGE ICU NURSE SALARY IN YOUR CITY
As noted above, average ICU nurse salary in 2021 can vary greatly from city to city even in the same state. Most ICUs are in metropolitan areas with a high population density, where competition for the services of skilled ICU nurses can be expected to be intense. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that in Houston—the most densely populated city in Texas—ICU nurse salaries are 16 percent higher than they are in Austin, 13 percent higher than they are in San Antonio, and 9 percent higher than they are in Dallas/Fort Worth.
But cost of living also factors in here. Though Los Angeles is a bigger city than San Francisco, ICU nurse salaries in San Francisco are 32 percent higher than ICU nurse salaries in Los Angeles. At least part of the reason for this is because the cost of living in San Francisco
is nearly 100 percent higher than the cost of living in Los Angeles
|Baton Rouge, LA||$27.57||$4,780||$57,350|
|Colorado Springs, CO||$32.43||$5,620||$67,450|
|Corpus Christi, TX||$28.15||$4,880||$58,550|
|Des Moines, IA||$27.14||$4,700||$56,450|
|El Paso, TX||$30.93||$5,360||$64,340|
|Fort Wayne, IN||$26.47||$4,590||$55,050|
|Fort Worth, TX||$33.00||$5,720||$68,640|
|Jersey City, NJ||$40.16||$6,960||$83,540|
|Kansas City, MO||$29.72||$5,150||$61,820|
|Las Vegas, NV||$39.23||$6,800||$81,600|
|Little Rock, AR||$29.22||$5,070||$60,780|
|Long Beach, CA||$47.87||$8,300||$99,560|
|Los Angeles, CA||$47.87||$8,300||$99,560|
|New Orleans, LA||$30.01||$5,200||$62,430|
|New York City, NY||$40.16||$6,960||$83,540|
|North Las Vegas, NV||$39.23||$6,800||$81,600|
|Oklahoma City, OK||$28.99||$5,030||$60,300|
|Port St. Lucie, FL||$29.33||$5,080||$61,010|
|Saint Paul, MN||$36.44||$6,320||$75,800|
|San Antonio, TX||$31.78||$5,510||$66,100|
|San Bernardino, CA||$46.47||$8,060||$96,660|
|San Diego, CA||$47.23||$8,190||$98,240|
|San Francisco, CA||$63.13||$10,940||$131,310|
|San Jose, CA||$62.14||$10,770||$129,260|
|St. Louis, MO||$28.87||$5,000||$60,050|
|St. Petersburg, FL||$30.17||$5,230||$62,750|
|Virginia Beach, VA||$31.04||$5,380||$64,560|
HIGHEST AND LOWEST ICU NURSE SALARIES
What Are The Highest And Lowest Paying Workplaces For ICU Nurses?
ICU nurses earn their highest salaries in Level 3 intensive care units and their lowest salaries working for insurance companies or the federal government doing utilization review.
What Are The Highest And Lowest Paying States For ICU Nurses?
The highest-paid ICU nurses are employed in the state of California where they earn annual average salaries of $106,110. Other high-paying states for ICU nurses include Hawaii ($92,260 annually), Massachusetts ($84,710 annually), Oregon ($84,690 annually), and Alaska ($83,850 annually).
The lowest-paid ICU nurses are employed in the state of Alabama where they earn $53,010 a year. Other low-paying states for ICU nurses include South Dakota ($53,650), Mississippi ($53,910 annually), Iowa ($55,070 annually), and Arkansas ($56,010 annually).
|Rank||Highest Paying||Lowest Paying|
|State||Annual Salary||State||Annual Salary|
|9||New Jersey||$75,440||West Virginia||$57,320|
What Are The Highest And Lowest Paying Cities For ICU Nurses?
The highest-paying cities for ICU nurse salaries are all in California and include Oakland ($131,310), San Francisco ($131,310), San Jose ($129,260), Sacramento ($118,240), and Modesto ($106,570).
The lowest-paying cities for ICU nurses are spread throughout the south and Midwest, and include Huntsville, AL, ($51,570 annually), Wichita, KS, ($52,350 annually), Fort Wayne, IN ($55,050), Des Moines, IA, ($56,450) and Lexington, KY ($56,600).
|Rank||Highest Paying||Lowest Paying|
|1||Oakland, CA||$131,310||Huntsville, AL||$51,570|
|2||San Francisco, CA||$131,310||Wichita, KS||$52,350|
|3||San Jose, CA||$129,260||Fort Wayne, IN||$55,050|
|4||Sacramento, CA||$118,240||Des Moines, IA||$56,450|
|5||Modesto, CA||$106,570||Lexington, KY||$56,600|
|6||Stockton, CA||$101,970||Columbus, GA||$56,700|
|7||Anaheim, CA||$99,560||Baton Rouge, LA||$57,350|
|8||Long Beach, CA||$99,560||Louisville, KY||$58,470|
|9||Los Angeles, CA||$99,560||Corpus Christi, TX||$58,550|
|10||San Diego, CA||$98,240||Orlando, FL||$59,260|
What States In The Northeast Pay The Highest And Lowest Salaries For ICU Nurses?
The two states in the northeast that pay the highest salaries to ICU nurses are Massachusetts ($84,710) and New York ($79,000). The two states in the northeast that pay the lowest salaries to ICU nurses are Maine ($62,520) and Vermont ($63,490).
|Highest Paying||Lowest Paying|
|State||Annual Salary||State||Annual Salary|
What States In The Midwest Pay The Highest And Lowest Salaries For ICU Nurses?
The two states in the Midwest that pay the highest salaries to ICU nurses are Minnesota ($71,250) and Wisconsin ($65,800). The two states in the Midwest that pay the lowest salaries to ICU nurses are South Dakota ($53,650) and Vermont ($55,070).
|Highest Paying||Lowest Paying|
|State||Annual Salary||State||Annual Salary|
What States In The Southeast Pay The Highest And Lowest Salaries For ICU Nurses?
The two states in the southeast that pay the highest salaries to ICU nurses are Virginia ($65,460) and Georgia ($62,940). The two states in the southeast that pay the lowest salaries to ICU nurses are Alabama ($53,010) and Mississippi ($53,910).
|Highest Paying||Lowest Paying|
|State||Annual Salary||State||Annual Salary|
What States In The Southwest Pay The Highest And Lowest Salaries For ICU Nurses?
The two states in the southwest that pay the highest salaries to ICU nurses are Arizona ($70,740) and Texas ($67,590). The two states in the southwest that pay the lowest salaries to ICU nurses are Oklahoma ($58,610) and New Mexico ($66,620).
|Highest Paying||Lowest Paying|
|State||Annual Salary||State||Annual Salary|
What States In The Western Region Pay The Highest And Lowest Salaries For ICU Nurses?
The two states in the western region that pay the highest salaries to ICU nurses are California ($106,110) and Hawaii ($92,260). The two states in the western region that pay the lowest salaries to ICU nurses are Utah ($61,930) and Montana ($62,070).
|Highest Paying||Lowest Paying|
|State||Annual Salary||State||Annual Salary|
My Final Thoughts
In most hospitals and medical centers, the average ICU nurse salary in 2021 is somewhat higher than the average RN salary. But should you choose a career path solely on the basis of the answer to the question, “How much does an ICU nurse make?” For most registered nurses, the answer to that question may well be, “No”.
Intensive care units are stressful environments, and even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, burnout was common among ICU nurses and the rate of turnover was high. While an ICU may be a great environment for nurses with great organizational and time management skills, it may not be a good fit for nurses who find it challenging to keep emotional distance between themselves and their jobs. Make sure you know what you will be up against before you take a job in an ICU. The differential between an ICU nurse salary and the salary paid to an RN working outside critical care is not enough to compensate for the additional stress.
We have used the following sources to compile the salary data on this page.
2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
3. NP Editorial Assessment