ICU Nurse Salaries, Plus PICU, NICU & Trauma

ICU Nursing Pay

By Kimberly Rae Dixon, contributor

As a travel nurse, choosing a specialty is an important part of your career. There are many things to consider, including job satisfaction, skill and, of course, salary. If you've chosen to specialize in critical care, many factors can affect your compensation. Do you need additional training? Will you work in a standard ICU or in neonatal or pediatric intensive care? 

See what you can expect to earn as a travel nurse working in critical care and how different subspecialties, training and certifications can affect what you make.

What is a Standard ICU Nurse Salary?

As an ICU nurse, you're expected to be at your best in every moment. The patients you care for are in critical condition, and the pace is fast and incredibly stressful. As such, an ICU nurse salary is often a little higher and can fluctuate per the facility needs. But one positive is that the average ICU nurse in the United States earns $30.60 per hour plus benefits and bonuses, with a range up to $44.97 per hour. As a travel nurse, you can expect to earn a higher salary than the average ICU nurse and get additional benefits such as living expenses.

Critical Care Subspecialties

ICU nurse salaries may increase or decrease with certain subspecialties, depending on the additional skills or stresses associated with working in the unit. 

Neonatal ICU nurses earn an average of $31.78 per hour, but the maximum reported income for this subspecialty is a bit higher at $46.38 per hour.

On the other hand, the average pediatric ICU nurse salary is considerably less at just $28.68 per hour, and the same can be said for nurses working in a trauma ICU who earn an average hourly wage of $29.81. Again, it's important to remember that these salary averages apply to staff nurses, and travel nurses usually have higher salaries and earn additional bonuses.

Specialized Training for Critical Care Nurses

Travel nurses who wish to maximize their salaries as a critical care or an ICU nurse may want to consider specialized training. Many institutions across the country offer continuing education courses that cover topics such as patient advocacy, pneumonia management, pain management and pediatric or neonatal care. Enrolling in and successfully completing these courses may open you up to opportunities at larger hospitals and healthcare facilities. Of course, it's important to ensure you're enrolling in continuing education programs at accredited institutions if you want to reap the full benefits of obtaining additional training and certifications. If you're uncertain of a school's status, you can check the U.S. Department of Education's Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs online.

Other Variants That May Affect ICU Nurse Salary

In addition to subspecialty and education, factors such as the size of the unit and hospital you're assigned to and the level of your nursing degree can drastically affect your salary. A licensed practical nurse can expect to earn a lower salary than a registered nurse, with the average LPN in the United States earning just $22.23 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the average RN earning a much higher average wage of $34.48 per hour.

Location and Cost of Living

When considering your ICU nurse salary and compensation package, it's crucial to consider the cost of living in your assigned location. This is particularly true for nurses who opt for a housing stipend over provided lodging, as they'll want to stretch their dollars as far as possible without sacrificing basic needs. The cost of housing and other living expenses can vary exceptionally between cities. A good example of this can be made when comparing the cost of living in Flint, Michigan, with the cost of living in New York, New York. Housing in Flint is nearly 98% less than in New York. Utility costs are about 32% less, and groceries and transportation each cost 25% less.

An ICU nurse salary can vary for plenty of reasons. It's important to consider all factors before accepting an assignment in any ICU, NICU, PICU or trauma unit to ensure you're receiving adequate compensation for your skills and education. Search job openings on and find some of the best ICU travel nurse opportunities in the country to start maximizing your income.


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