Nurses are often the unsung heroes of the healthcare industry, assisting doctors and patients and keeping hospitals running smoothly. Yet nurses’ wages vary greatly across the country, ranging from a healthy six-figure salary to just over $45,000 a year depending on the city.
Of the 25 cities in which registered nurses are paid the highest salaries, 19 are located in California. One reason for this is the strength of California’s nurses union, the California Nurses Association. According to the group, nurses “represented by CNA/NNOC have many of the best collective bargaining contracts in the nation.” Many cities in California also have high costs of living, which often result in higher salaries. For example, nurses in the famously expensive San Jose and Santa Cruz metro areas earn over $130,000 per year.
Conversely, many of the areas where nurses are paid less have lower costs of living, including small rural areas in Alabama and Tennessee. For instance, in the relatively small area of Florence-Muscle Shoals, Alabama, registered nurses earn $46,190 – about $22,000 less than the national median salary. However, registered nurses earn more than the median salary for all jobs in each area, including in the 25 areas where nurses earn the least.
In order to identify the metropolitan areas that pay registered nurses the highest and lowest salaries, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics program for May 2016. The largest hospital for each area is based on the number of employees.