Highest Paying States for Travel Nurses

Staff Writer
Mar 24, 2022 | 5 min read

As a nursing graduate, the world is your oyster. Because of a national nursing shortage, the demand for nurses is at an all-time high, giving you the option to move almost anywhere. Are you an adventurer? Want to move closer to family? Interested in the highest paying states for nurses? The good news is that you have a plethora of options to choose from. The hard part is narrowing it down.

What States Pay Nurses the Most?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the estimated employment of registered nurses is forecasted 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.

You may find that certain states pay a higher nursing salary than others, due to higher costs of living. The Cost of Living (COL) index compares the overall price of goods and services between different areas of the United States. The national average is 100, so when looking at a state’s COL index, you can see how much more—or less—you’ll have to pay to live there. For example, if a place has a COL index of 145, it is 45% more expensive to live there than the national average. If a place has a COL index of 80, it is 20% cheaper than the average for the entire country.

Here are the 10 highest paying registered nurse salaries by state, along with their COL index.  

1. California

Hourly mean wage: $57.96

Annual mean wage: $120,560

Number of RNs employed: 307,060

COL index: 149.9

2. Hawaii

Hourly mean wage: $50.40

Annual mean wage: $104,830

Number of RNs employed: 11,260

COL index: 170.0

3. Massachusetts

Hourly mean wage: $46.27

Annual mean wage: $96,250

Number of RNs employed: $84,030

COL index: 127.2

4. Alaska 

Hourly mean wage: $45.81

Annual mean wage: $95,270

Number of RNs employed: 6,240

COL index: 125.8

5. Oregon

Hourly mean wage: $46.27

Annual mean wage: $96,230

Number of RNs employed: 36,840

COL index: 113.1

6. Washington 

Hourly mean wage: $43.90

Annual mean wage: $91,310

Number of RNs employed: 59,300

COL index: 118.7

7. District of Columbia 

Hourly mean wage: $43.29

Annual mean wage: $90,050

Number of RNs employed: 10,320

COL index: 154.3

8. New York

Hourly mean wage: $43.16

Annual mean wage: $89,760

Number of RNs employed: 178,550

COL index: 120.5

9. Nevada 

Hourly mean wage: $43.15

Annual mean wage: $89,750

Number of RNs employed: 23,420

COL index: 110.5

10. New Jersey 

Hourly mean wage: $41.21

Annual mean wage: $85,720

Number of RNs employed: 78,590

COL index: 120.4

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