How to Earn More Money as a Nurse


How to Earn More Money as a Nurse

By Sarah Stasik, contributor

Registered nurses make, on average, very competitive salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay rate for nurses in the United States is $71,730 a year. Compare that with some of the average salaries for similar careers below.

  • EMTs: $34,320
  • Respiratory Therapists: $60,280
  • Social Workers: $49,470

You can see that nurses enjoy a higher average salary. But it's also true that not everyone earns the average or above average, so plenty of professionals may be wondering how to earn more money as a nurse. Check out the tips below to grow your career and earn more money helping patients or educating others about healthcare.

Work your way into a higher-paying specialty

Nurses, like people in other fields, can benefit from specializing. Perfecting skills that not every RN knows makes you more valuable to employers, many of which are willing to pay for that value. In fact, if you can demonstrate your specialty skills in the form of a certification, you can earn as much as $9,000 per year over the average RN.

Earn an advanced degree

Some of the highest paid nurses are those with advanced degrees. Just moving from an associates to a BSN can net you some increase in wages, but the highest paid nurse's tend to have master's degrees or higher. Check out the average annual salary for nurses in positions that require advanced degrees below.

Work some overtime

At $34, the national average nurse hourly wage bumps to $51 when you're getting time and a half. Those extra hours can add up fast. Just five of them a week nets you $255 extra before taxes. Do that every week, and it's a pay bump of around $13,000 a year.

Many organizations offer nurse overtime (if not mandate it) due to a shortage of clinical professionals. That means this particular answer for how to earn more money as a nurse may be easy to make happen.

But remember that too much overtime can be bad. Overworked nurses are more prone to a variety of health issues as well as depression. And they're also more likely to make mistakes that could lead to issues for patients. Make sure you balance your budget needs with a realistic outlook on your ability to work long shifts.

Move to a region of the country with higher pay

Some areas of the country boast higher average nurse salaries than others. According to the BLS, the states with the highest nurse wages include California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Oregon. Though you do have to keep factors such as cost of living in mind, as an exorbitantly high housing or general expense cost could wipe out your extra earnings.

For example, the average nursing salary in California is $106,950. That's 49% higher than the national average. But the cost of living index in California is 168.60, which is 68.6% higher than the national average. Moving to California full time for a nursing job might not work out to having more money.

However, the average nursing salary in Oregon is $91,080. That's 26% higher than the national average. And the cost of living in the state is, on average, only 24% higher than in the rest of the country. You have a better chance of making enough money as a nurse in this state to have more left for fun or savings.

Become a travel nurse

The worry about cost of living is reduced some if you're a travel nurse. Then, you can take advantage of higher pay without worrying so much about how much it costs to be a permanent resident of a certain area.

For example, California's cost of living is so high due mostly to the housing index, which is 193% above the national average. Costs for goods such as groceries and services such as healthcare and utilities are much nearer, and sometimes below, the national average. So, if you take a travel nursing job in such a location — and it comes with housing or a house stipend — you can take advantage of the higher pay rates that tend to come with these temporary assignments. 


If you're ready to take a step to increase your pay as a nurse, browse the job options at Travel Nursing today. It's just one way to get paid more, but it comes with other stellar benefits, including getting to see parts of the country you've never been to before.



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