Nursing has been ranked as one of the most rewarding jobs available, providing practitioners with remarkable career opportunities and financial stability as well as the ability to make a real difference in the lives of their patients and their patient’s families. But if you’re considering this career, you may be wondering, “How much is a nurse’s starting salary?”
This article will serve as a guide to the average salary registered nurses can expect when they’re starting out, as well as other helpful and relevant information.
According to Salary.com, the average nurse starting salary in the United States is $65,775, or $31.62 per hour. The salary range typically falls between $59,002 and $75,196.
ZipRecruiter.com’s data indicates that annual nurse starting salaries range from a low of $24,000 per year to as much as $104,999.
The elements that have the biggest impact on pay include education, geographic area, any certifications or special skills that the nurse may possess, and years of work experience.
Though there is a remarkable swing between the highest starting salary and the lowest, the starting salaries paid to the majority of nurses in the United States fall between $52,000 and $64,500 per year.
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Work setting is one of the most important variables that determine nursing salaries, and this is just as true for starting nurses as for those with years of experience. The setting describes both the type of work being done and the geographical setting.
Generally speaking, compensation will track with the cost of living for the locale where the nurse is working, and entry-level nurses who work in major metropolitan areas will be paid significantly more than those who work in rural areas.
Similarly, nurses who work in either California or the Northeastern states will be paid more than those who work in the South, the Midwest, or the West.
As for the work being done, starting nurses who work in hospitals tend to be paid more than those who work in outpatient facilities, long-term care facilities, or home health agencies.
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Even recent graduates of nursing programs have the ability to increase their salaries beyond the base amount being offered by the hiring facility.
One of the best ways to do so is by demonstrating your commitment to the profession and to patient health by continuing your education and earning certifications. Certifications would be dependent on the unit and specialty that you work in.
Other ways to increase your nurse salary include,
- Working nights or weekends, where you are paid a higher per-hour wage
- Climb the clinical ladder within the unit
- Offer to be a part of a unit or hospital-based committee
- Pick up over time on your unit or throughout the hospital, if needed
- Work per diem
- Some of the ways mentioned might not be possible right away and may require you to have a year or two of bedside experience.
- The quickest and easiest way for a new nurse to increase their salary is to work nights and/or weekends.
Continuing Your Nursing Education
Graduating as a registered nurse opens the door to numerous professional opportunities, but is just a starting point. Hospitals and other healthcare employers are extremely interested in hiring nurses who plan on expanding their nursing knowledge, and may be willing to pay more (either through higher salaries or through reimbursement of educational expenses) to nurses who are continuing to take nursing courses.
There are countless nursing certifications available to new nursing graduates that indicate your passion for high-quality patient care and which can significantly add to your value as a member of the nursing staff. A few of these include:
- Acute/Critical Care Nursing (Adult, Pediatric & Neonatal)
- Certified Emergency Nurse
- Certified Ambulatory Surgery Nurse
- Certified Ostomy Care Nurse
While each certification does require a minimal amount of experience, often one to two years of experience and require a minimal number of hours – newer nurses can still earn these certifications.
Though some new graduates have sparse work experience beyond the practice hours included in their education, others come to the profession with years of experience in other occupations that can translate into higher pay. If you have served in leadership roles or have significant experience working with patients prior to earning your degree, you may be able to leverage them towards a higher salary.
Hours and Type of Work
You can also increase your earning potential by,
- Signing on for nursing assignments with travel nurse agencies
- Taking on overtime hours or shift differentials for which you will be paid at a higher rate
- Working in less desirable settings or understaffed areas for which facilities are willing to pay more
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The pandemic impacted almost every industry across the United States and the globe, but nurses played a particularly critical role. The high numbers of patients drove staffing needs up in a profession that had already been chronically short-handed, and this happened at the same time that nurses suffered extreme stress, exhaustion, and burnout.
The end result has been that average annual salaries for nurses have increased approximately 4% this past year on top of the 3.3% increase seen in 2020. Hospitals are boosting salaries and benefits in response to pay raises being offered by competitors.
For new nurses, the shortage of available professionals has not only meant that starting salaries are higher than ever before, but also that jobs are easier to find, with more flexible schedules and time off available.
They are also being offered more career development opportunities, with on-the-job training and the ability to shift into work in specialized areas faster than would otherwise have happened.