Best and Worst Cities for Nurses

May 15, 2018 by Mike Sauter

Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images
One-third of all new jobs projected to be added through 2026 will be in the health care sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The largest share of those added jobs will be registered and licensed nurses, which together represent about 42% of the entire health care sector.

These latest employment projections are good news for the country’s aspiring and active nurses, but are hardly a surprise given the rampant growth that has already taken place as life expectancy increases and the baby boomer generation ages. The number of jobs in the health care profession rose by roughly 20% over the last decade.

As the frontline workers in an in-demand industry, today’s nurses often have the luxury of choosing the city in which they would like to work, and can expect to have little trouble finding employment. This is something those in few other major occupations can say.

Of course, not all metropolitan areas have as much demand for nurses, and not all pay as much as others. To identify the best and worst cities for nurses, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Bureau of Labor statistics, including salaries for registered and vocational nurses, health care sector growth, and the number of nursing positions.

Click here to see the best cities for nurses.
Click here to see the worst cities for nurses.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Best Cities for Nurses

Source: Smallbones / Wikimedia Commons

20. Vineland-Bridgeton, NJ
> Median salary, registered nurses: $77,700
> Median salary, all occupations: $37,570
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +18.5% (8,026 to 9,512)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,900

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Source: Thinkstock

19. Bend-Redmond, OR
> Median salary, registered nurses: $91,600
> Median salary, all occupations: $35,910
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +33.8% (8,665 to 11,593)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,820

Source: Thinkstock

18. Napa, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $115,380
> Median salary, all occupations: $39,920
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +32.3% (6,314 to 8,355)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,640

Source: Thinkstock

17. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $139,010
> Median salary, all occupations: $57,540
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +49.0% (77,225 to 115,043)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 18,910

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Source: Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons

16. Laredo, TX
> Median salary, registered nurses: $67,300
> Median salary, all occupations: $26,760
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +14.7% (13,187 to 15,122)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,640

Source: Thinkstock

15. Santa Rosa, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $112,730
> Median salary, all occupations: $40,630
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +41.5% (21,548 to 30,500)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 3,880

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14. Fresno, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $90,770
> Median salary, all occupations: $32,860
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +65.6% (35,363 to 58,570)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 8,930

Source: jdwfoto / Shutterstock.com

13. Pittsfield, MA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $82,660
> Median salary, all occupations: $37,430
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +10.3% (11,525 to 12,715)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,530

Source: Thinkstock

12. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $133,670
> Median salary, all occupations: $38,610
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +34.5% (10,882 to 14,639)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,910

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Source: Thinkstock

11. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV
> Median salary, registered nurses: $87,410
> Median salary, all occupations: $34,400
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +29.2% (63,010 to 81,382)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 17,590

Source: Thinkstock

10. Redding, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $97,970
> Median salary, all occupations: $35,500
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +31.7% (10,231 to 13,475)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 2,100

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9. Carson City, NV
> Median salary, registered nurses: $81,470
> Median salary, all occupations: $40,190
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +63.5% (2,497 to 4,083)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 890

Source: Thinkstock

8. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $121,930
> Median salary, all occupations: $40,290
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +33.0% (17,246 to 22,940)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 3,990

Source: Robert Hale / Flickr

7. Bakersfield, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $90,870
> Median salary, all occupations: $33,940
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +33.3% (24,049 to 32,046)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 6,470

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6. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $78,460
> Median salary, all occupations: $35,560
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +37.4% (4,263 to 5,859)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,250

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

5. Modesto, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $104,600
> Median salary, all occupations: $35,560
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +33.2% (21,405 to 28,506)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 5,140

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Source: Thinkstock

4. Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $120,510
> Median salary, all occupations: $41,910
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +49.2% (87,206 to 130,121)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 21,430

Source: Thinkstock

3. Stockton-Lodi, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $111,300
> Median salary, all occupations: $35,880
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +30.9% (23,696 to 31,024)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 5,510

Source: Cbl62 / Wikimedia Commons

2. El Centro, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $88,660
> Median salary, all occupations: $30,710
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +149.7% (3,508 to 8,761)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,100

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1. Salinas, CA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $134,300
> Median salary, all occupations: $34,900
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +43.2% (11,339 to 16,242)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 3,120

Worst Cities for Nurses

Source: Thinkstock

20. Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL
> Median salary, registered nurses: $52,990
> Median salary, all occupations: $35,600
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +8.1% (21,911 to 23,689)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 4,340

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Source: Thinkstock

19. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
> Median salary, registered nurses: $62,480
> Median salary, all occupations: $37,220
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +18.5% (76,886 to 91,131)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 18,020

Source: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

18. Ames, IA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $56,350
> Median salary, all occupations: $39,830
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +20.5% (3,447 to 4,155)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 830

Source: Thinkstock

17. Erie, PA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $57,770
> Median salary, all occupations: $31,600
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +2.0% (23,056 to 23,525)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 3,870

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Source: Thomson200 / Wikimedia Commons

16. Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, AL
> Median salary, registered nurses: $57,160
> Median salary, all occupations: $30,760
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): -2.3% (4,604 to 4,496)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,390

Source: Nicholas Krotki / Shutterstock.com

15. Elmira, NY
> Median salary, registered nurses: $64,810
> Median salary, all occupations: $36,580
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): -2.8% (6,237 to 6,064)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,360

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Source: Thinkstock

14. Knoxville, TN
> Median salary, registered nurses: $56,170
> Median salary, all occupations: $33,460
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +17.7% (41,483 to 48,809)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 10,370

Source: Publichall / Wikimedia Commons

13. Elkhart-Goshen, IN
> Median salary, registered nurses: $56,690
> Median salary, all occupations: $34,730
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +12.6% (9,414 to 10,600)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 2,140

Source: Thinkstock

12. Mobile, AL
> Median salary, registered nurses: $55,530
> Median salary, all occupations: $34,680
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +14.3% (20,120 to 22,993)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 6,300

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Source: Thinkstock

11. Auburn-Opelika, AL
> Median salary, registered nurses: $56,910
> Median salary, all occupations: $29,400
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +21.2% (2,955 to 3,581)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,030

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

10. Springfield, OH
> Median salary, registered nurses: $50,880
> Median salary, all occupations: $34,000
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): -3.3% (8,007 to 7,740)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,530

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Source: AbeEzekowitz / Wikimedia Commons

9. Joplin, MO
> Median salary, registered nurses: $54,190
> Median salary, all occupations: $31,190
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +5.9% (11,514 to 12,190)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 2,700

Source: Thinkstock

8. Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $56,340
> Median salary, all occupations: $33,520
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +17.7% (5,885 to 6,925)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,430

Source: Thinkstock

7. Baton Rouge, LA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $58,160
> Median salary, all occupations: $35,550
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +9.1% (41,748 to 45,532)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 10,860

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Source: Thinkstock

6. Lake Charles, LA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $57,480
> Median salary, all occupations: $35,140
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +14.8% (10,989 to 12,616)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 2,720

Source: Thinkstock

5. Florence-Muscle Shoals, AL
> Median salary, registered nurses: $46,770
> Median salary, all occupations: $29,870
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +10.0% (5,668 to 6,236)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,790

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Source: Nhlarry / Wikimedia Commons

4. Huntsville, AL
> Median salary, registered nurses: $55,720
> Median salary, all occupations: $38,720
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +18.6% (14,490 to 17,184)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 5,840

Source: Thinkstock

3. Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $50,650
> Median salary, all occupations: $32,600
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): -1.7% (17,240 to 16,951)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 3,600

Source: Thinkstock

2. Parkersburg-Vienna, WV
> Median salary, registered nurses: $52,380
> Median salary, all occupations: $29,750
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): -43.0% (11,173 to 6,367)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,080

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Source: Thinkstock

1. State College, PA
> Median salary, registered nurses: $58,900
> Median salary, all occupations: $36,880
> Health care employment chg. (2010-2016): +25.4% (7,111 to 8,914)
> No. of registered and licensed nurses: 1,830

Detailed Findings

The best cities for nurses are mostly located in California, where wages of nurses tend to be substantially higher, even when adjusted for the state’s relatively high cost of living. In seven metropolitan areas in California, registered nurses earn the cost of living-adjusted equivalent of over $100,000. The median annual salary for registered nurses working across the United States is $70,000.

At the other end of the spectrum, nurses in some metropolitan areas are paid relatively poorly. In Florence-Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the typical registered nurse earns $54,347 a year after adjusting for cost of living, or about $15,600 less than the the occupation’s national median annual salary.

The health care sector in California is thriving. While past increases do not guarantee future growth, they are still a sign of healthy demand for nursing jobs in these areas. Six of the 10 metropolitan areas in which employment in health care and social assistance increased the most between 2010 and 2016 are in the state.

For many of the metropolitan areas we identified as being the worst for nurses, health care employment has barely increased, and in some cases is on the decline. In the Parkersburg, West Virginia, metropolitan area, employment in the sector has declined by 43% between 2010 and 2016.

Methodology

To determine the best and worst cities for nurses, 24/7 Wall St considered employment and salary figures for both registered nurses, as well as licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics program for 2017. In our index, we considered the following factors: 1. The wages of nurses in a city compared to wages of nurses across the country. 2. The wages of nurses in a metropolitan area adjusted for cost of living. 3. The share of nurses out of overall area employment compared to their share nationwide 4. Health care employment growth compared to other metropolitan areas. Cost of living data came from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and is for 2015.