• What's the Average Salary for a Nurse? RN vs BSN Salary Expectations

    Current and Projected Nursing Salaries

    Did you know that nursing has been voted as the most trusted profession in the United States for almost two decades? It’s not surprising when you think about it. Nurses are responsible for day-to-day direct patient care in a time when healthcare has become the largest industry in the US.

    The nursing industry has long been an attractive career choice for new and existing professionals. A well-established field that will always be in-demand, nursing staff enjoy competitive salaries and excellent opportunities for advancement.

    Whether you are considering becoming a nurse or are already one of our treasured nursing veterans, the nursing profession is rich with opportunity. With so many pathways, it can be daunting to choose the one that is right for you. Once you have identified the area that interests you, the next step is take a look at the educational requirements, employment opportunities, and salary potential.

    How Much Does a First Year Registered Nurse (RN) Make?

    Starting salaries for nurses are much higher than in other industries due to the current shortage of qualified staff, particularly registered nurses (RNs). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national median registered nurse starting salary is projected at $73,300, with overall employment in the field expected to rise 12% within the next decade. Nurse Practitioners have the highest of all employees in the field ($115,800). The current RN starting salary is $25,000 more than that of an LPN.

    The growth rate for nurses will be notably higher in certain sectors of the healthcare industry, with those employed in positions pertaining to chemotherapy, surgery, and rehabilitation expected to see the largest increase in pay.

    What Kind of Nurses Get Paid the Most?

    Salary for nursing roles vary greatly depending on your nursing role, geography, clinical setting, education level, and experience. According to the BLS, your salary can also range based on the industry you work in and your work setting:

    Industry Setting

    Average Salary



    Hospitals (state, local, and private)


    Ambulatory healthcare services


    Nursing and residential care facilities


    Educational services (state, local, and private)


    As you continue your nursing educational journey, the following nursing jobs have average salaries of:

    Job Title

    Average Salary



    Charge Nurse


    Clinical Nurse Specialist


    Nurse Instructor


    Clinical Nurse Leader


    Nurse Midwife


    Nurse Practitioner


    Nurse Executive


    Nurse Anesthetist


    Source: O*Net and Payscale.com

    What is the Starting Salary for a BSN Nurse?

    Median Nurse Salary by Years of Experience

    Years Experience

    Hourly Median Salary

    Entry Level


    Early Career




    Late Career


    Data from Payscale

    The level of education a nurse attains directly corresponds to a higher salary and greater responsibility. Nurses seeking salary increases, more recognition, and more specialized work, often turn to online RN to BSN programs to achieve advanced career goals. By giving nurses a diverse education on various topics relevant to nursing, the RN to BSN program opens the possibility for advancement or specialization, which ultimately leads to increases in RN salaries. The main advantage is that the online nursing program allows for remote studying so nurses do not have to give up their current occupations.

    RNs with a BSN earn salary increases and work in a wide variety of positions including:

    • Clinical Staff Nurse
    • Neonatal Nurse
    • Nurse Manager
    • Pediatric Nurse
    • Unit Manager

    What Factors Affect the Salary Range of a Nurse?

    Is a BSN Higher Than an RN?

    Obtaining an RN to BSN degree is one of the most practical steps toward upward mobility and increases in salary within the nursing field. For most employers, seeing that a nurse can complete a rigorous program such as an RN to BSN not only proves that they are capable of learning valuable industry information and keeping up with new practices, but also indicates that the candidate is able to sustain a substantial workload simultaneously. This reassures many health care providers that a nurse is capable of higher level managerial positions, or other more specialized aspects of the nursing field.

    When evaluating factors that have the greatest impact on nurse salaries, we found the following were most influential:

    • Geography
    • Experience
    • Education
    • Title

    It’s apparent that employers reward nurses with salary increases when they obtain additional training/education because demand for highly-trained and specialized nurses is higher.

    Median Nurse Salary By City


    Average Salary

    New York, NY


    Chicago, IL


    Houston, TX


    Philadelphia, PA


    Seattle, WA


    Data from Payscale

    Highest Paying States for RNs

    It’s no surprise that California tops the list of highest-paying states for registered nurses. However, some of the other states that cracked the top five were somewhat surprising, offering high annual mean wages for RNs:

    • California - $113,240
    • Hawaii - $104,060
    • Massachusetts - $93,160
    • Oregon - $92,960
    • Alaska - $90,500

    Massachusetts is the only East Coast state among the highest paying states for RNs, whereas the other four states that round out the top 5 are located on the West Coast or outside of the continental U.S.

    Which Metropolitan Areas Pay RNs the Most?

    California leads the way in terms of states that pay the highest annual mean wage for its nurses, its largest metropolitan area, Los Angeles, continues that trend of large metropolitan areas that pay their RNs the highest salaries.

    Boston, Massachusetts is also at the top of the list, paying RNs an annual salary of $96,510, the highest on the East Coast.

    In terms of breakout, the highest-paying areas for RNs are scattered throughout the country, offering well-paying nursing jobs on both the East and West coasts, as well as throughout the South and Midwest:

    • Los Angeles - $106,190
    • Boston - $96,510
    • New York - $93,280
    • Minneapolis - $84,400
    • Washington, DC - $83,370
    • Houston - $81,350
    • Philadelphia - $77,640
    • Chicago - $77,430
    • Dallas - $76,740
    • Miami - $69,920

    Which Nursing Areas Have the Highest Level of Competition?

    As many current RNs are nearing retirement, their younger counterparts have ample access to career advancement opportunities. Due to their schedule flexibility and regular, consistent working hours, doctor’s office and outpatient care center positions feature the highest level of competition, while hospital nursing jobs are typically abundant in most cities.

    How Do I Become an RN?

    There is increasing industry pressure for RNs to earn a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Once acquired, this degree can be leveraged to gain employment in multiple subfields of the healthcare industry at large.

    Many RNs start out as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) who have completed a mandatory one-year technical/vocational school training program. They will often receive tuition assistance from employers to earn their BSN. The LPN to RN starting salary increase is substantial, and why every LPN is strongly encouraged to continue their education.

    Drexel is nationally renowned for its top-notch online nursing education programs. Advance your career and take advantage of a higher BSN salary, today.

    Pursue an Online Nursing Degree at Drexel University Online

    The Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions is recognized for its roots that date back over 150 years from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and the Hahnemann Hospital Training School for Nurses from which it was initially formed. This longstanding relationship with the health care industry distinguishes Drexel as a leader in the field of nursing education.

    According to U.S. News & World Report, Drexel University is among the 10 largest online graduate nursing programs offered in the nation and is currently ranked in the top 50 for best online graduate nursing education, with more than 1,500 students enrolled per year.

    The online nursing degree program offered at the Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions was developed with the working professional in mind. By making accommodations for the busy schedule of an RN to BSN student by allowing them to study remotely at their own pace and maintain their current positions in the health care industry.

    High demand for qualified nurses and the job diversity in the industry makes nursing a lucrative choice for students and individuals considering a career change. Take charge of your education and command the RN starting salary you deserve, today. View our nursing degrees page for more information.

    Online Nurse Practitioner Degrees Offered at Drexel

    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners care for acutely ill or injured patients, and those suffering an exacerbation of chronic illnesses in inpatient practices such as intensivist (critical care), hospitalist, and specialty practices that do not treat children. They are generally not found in emergency rooms and on trauma services without additional board certification in caring for acutely ill or injured children.
    • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners can practice in any adult primary setting (ages 12 and above.) This includes specialties like cardiology, pulmonary, GI, Neuro, Rheumatology, Dermatology, Hem/Onc, Occupational Health, and College/University Health Centers. In addition, they can practice in Geriatric practices including long-term care facilities, hospice, and palliative care.
    • Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioners mostly practice in outpatient settings. These include primary care offices and some specialty offices such as GI, cardiology, and internal medicine. In addition, popular settings include minute clinics and the fast track area of the emergency department. FNPs are able to care for patients across the lifespan.
    • Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioners may practice in ER, CCU, PICU, inpatient general surgery, pain management, palliative care, organ transplant, dialysis, heart failure, pulmonary HTN, oncology , bone marrow transplant, and patient hematology.
    • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioners practice in a variety of outpatient pediatric settings including primary care offices/clinics, outpatient specialty care clinics, school-based clinics and home care settings.
    • Pediatric Acute and Primary Care Dual Role Nurse Practitioners may practice in ER, CCU, PICU, inpatient general surgery, pain management, palliative care, organ transplant, dialysis, heart failure, pulmonary HTN, oncology , bone marrow transplant, and patient hematology.
    • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners may practice in inpatient or outpatient programs associated with public clinics (such as a Community Mental Health Center,) or a private clinic. There are opportunities with outpatient care, as well as intensive day treatment or partial day treatment programs. They also work with alcohol and drug programs for detox, psychiatric evaluations, treatment for addiction, and follow-up care for recovery- oriented services. In addition, they work in primary care where psychiatric services are being provided as integrated care. For example, a federally qualified healthcare center that offers psychiatric care along with physical health primary care. Students are prepared to work across the lifespan, and therefore can work with clients of any age.
    • Women’s Health/Gender Related Nurse Practitioners may practice in private and publicly funded OB/GYN offices, family planning centers, STI center/health department, reproductive health care offices, advanced GYN specialty offices (uro-gyn, gyn-onc, sexual dysfunction), prenatal clinics, antenatal testing units, and maternal-fetal medicine offices. Delivering babies is not within the scope of practice.