The 10 Most In-Demand Cities for Nurses

Staff Writer
Apr 26, 2022

Nursing schools continue to graduate large classes of RNs, but they can’t keep up with the increased number of patients from a retiring generation of baby boomers. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force. While not ideal for patients, this supply and demand imbalance allows nurses to be more selective about which jobs they take and where they choose to live and work.

Highest Paying Cities for Nurses

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) estimates employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, averaging 194,500 openings per year. In May 2020, the median annual wage for registered nurses was $75,330. With the rapid growth in this employment sector, it’s an opportune time to seek a career as a nurse.

The BLS Location Quotient (LQ) helps identify if a city is a good place for nurses to live. The LQ shows the number of positions available for a particular job in a specific location in relation to the rest of the country. A LQ greater than one indicates the occupation has a higher share of employment than average. With a LQ less than one, this indicates the occupation is less prevalent in the area than average. The higher the number, the more professionals are employed in that industry.

Using this information, here are 10 cities that offer high wages and large employment opportunities for nurses.

1. San Francisco, CA

Hourly mean wage: $71.73
Annual mean wage: $149,200
LQ: 0.77

As the highest paying city for nurses, San Francisco offers plenty of job opportunities and generous salaries to help offset the high cost of living. Healthcare needs are diverse in the city of nearly one million people.

2. Modesto, CA

Hourly mean wage: $58.21
Annual mean wage: $121,090
LQ: 1.29

Modesto is home to both a bustling city center and a productive agricultural community, offering more affordable housing opportunities and cost of living benefits than other California cities.  Their high LQ means they employ a higher-than-average number of nurses.

3. San Jose, CA

Hourly mean wage: $70.61
Annual mean wage: $146,870
LQ: 0.72

Listed by the BLS as part of the highest-earning metropolitan area for nurses, San Jose and the surrounding areas of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara employ over 16,000 nurses. Home to large healthcare organizations, like the Regional Medical Center of San Jose and El Camino Hospital, San Jose is an attractive destination for nurses.

4. Honolulu, HI

Hourly mean wage: $51.33
Annual mean wage: $106,770
LQ: 0.88

With its tropical climate, sandy beaches, and metropolitan bustle, Hawaii is an enticing place for a nurse to work. Nurses are in demand in Hawaii’s capital city due to expected shortages, much like the rest of the country.

5. Boston, MA

Hourly mean wage: $47.79
Annual mean wage: $99,410
LQ: 1.03

With national top-ranking hospitals and medical centers to work in, Boston is a nurse’s dream city. This is a prime spot for research and healthcare education, with over 60 colleges and universities located in the Boston area.

6. Washington D.C.

Hourly mean wage: $40.14
Annual mean wage: $83,490
LQ: 0.67

The nation’s capital is a global hub of government officials, tourists, dignitaries and nurses. While the D.C. metropolitan area employs 42,820 RNs, nursing jobs are forecasted to grow by more than 9% between 2020 and 2030.

7. Boise, ID

Hourly mean wage: $35.63
Annual mean wage: $74,120
LQ: 1.11

The largest and most populous city in Idaho offers nurses both a low cost of living and high wages. Boise is an attractive place to settle that is both metropolitan and rural.

8. New York, NY

Hourly mean wage: $45.63
Annual mean wage: $94,920
LQ: 0.89

The most densely populated city in the United States brings sizable healthcare needs to the community. The New York metropolitan areas employ 173,570 nurses—the largest number of RNs in the country.

9. Durham, NC

Hourly mean wage: $34.04
Annual mean wage: $70,790
LQ: 1.95

Durham is a great location for RNs to find high-paying opportunities in a more suburban atmosphere. With Duke University Hospital and University of North Carolina Hospital both nearby, great opportunities await.

10. Phoenix, AZ

Hourly mean wage: $39.13
Annual mean wage: $81,390
LQ: 0.96

When the population of Arizona’s largest city increases, so does the demand for nurses. Health care facilities, including a branch of the Mayo Clinic, continue to grow within this desert city.

Bureau of Labor Statistics


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