The nursing profession is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States. As of 2024, there are over 3 million registered nurses (RNs) employed across the country. However, the best states to work in as a registered nurse vary significantly depending on factors like average salary, job availability, cost of living, and more.
Criteria for Ranking the Best States
- Average Annual RN Salary – This is the average yearly wage for RNs in the state. Higher salaries allow for better standards of living.
- Projected Job Growth – States with strong projected growth have greater availability of nursing jobs now and in the coming years.
- Concentration of RNs – This refers to the number of employed RNs proportional to overall state employment. Higher concentrations signal increased demand.
- Cost of Living – States with lower costs of living allow nurses’ salaries to go further. Affordability is key.
- Nurse Licensure Compact – Compact states allow nurses licensed there to practice in other compact states without needing separate licenses. This makes relocating for work easier.
Taking all these factors into account provides a holistic view of which states offer registered nurses the best employment opportunities and quality of life.
California is ranked the best state for RNs thanks to very high salaries and a strong job market. The key advantages of working in California include:
- Highest Average RN Salary – At $133,340 per year, California has the top average wages for nurses in the US. This salary goes far even with the state’s high costs.
- 2nd Highest Job Growth – Projections show demand for RNs in CA will grow 21% from 2020-2030, translating to over 21,000 annual job openings.
- Most RN Jobs – As of 2024, California employs the most registered nurses in the country by far at over 325,000.
- Nurse Licensure Compact – CA participates in the compact, letting nurses licensed there more easily relocate.
Additionally, desirable locations in California like Los Angeles and San Francisco draw many nurses. The state’s top medical facilities also provide cutting edge technology and research opportunities.
After California, Texas is the next top location for nurses seeking plentiful jobs and excellent pay. Benefits of working as a nurse in Texas include:
- 2nd Most RN Jobs – Texas employs the second most registered nurses at over 231,000.
- 3rd Highest Salary – Texas provides registered nurses competitive pay at an average of $78,851 per year.
- 3rd Highest Job Growth – The state expects to add over 16,000 new registered nursing jobs from 2020 to 2030, translating to 16% growth.
- Low Cost of Living – Texas has one of the lowest costs of living in the country, allowing nurse wages to go further.
Additionally, major metro areas like Dallas, Houston, and Austin make Texas a desirable location with large medical systems staffing many nurses.
3. New York
New York state offers registered nurses the highest levels of pay along with an abundance of job opportunities. Key factors making New York a top location include:
- 4th Most RN Jobs – At over 190,000 employed registered nurses, New York has among the highest RN job numbers.
- 2nd Highest Salary – New York provides exceptional nurse pay at an average annual salary of $91,110.
- 5th Highest Growth – The state expects RN job growth of 14% from 2020-2030, equaling over 14,000 new openings.
- High Demand Metros – Major cities like New York City and Buffalo have very high demand for registered nurses.
Additionally, New York offers nurses the chance to work at elite hospital systems like New York-Presbyterian and Mount Sinai Hospital while benefiting from East Coast culture.
Massachusetts emerges as a top destination for nurses thanks to very high salaries along with excellent job availability now and in the coming years. Key advantages include:
- 3rd Highest Salary – Massachusetts provides the 3rd highest average registered nurse salary in the US at $89,434 per year.
- 4th Highest Concentration – At 26.39 employed nurses per 1,000 jobs, Massachusetts has the 4th highest RN job concentration, signaling very strong demand.
- Top Facilities – Massachusetts is home to elite medical facilities like Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
- Nurse Licensure Compact – Massachusetts participates in the nurse licensure compact.
Furthermore, Massachusetts offers nurses the opportunity to live in the historic Boston area while building a career at some of the nation’s most prestigious hospital systems.
Rounding out the top 5 states for registered nurses is Colorado, which offers nurses a balance of high salaries , a low cost of living and an abundance of outdoors activities. Benefits for RNs in Colorado include:
- Top 20 Salary – At an average of $71,881 per year, nurses earn well above national averages.
- Low Cost of Living – Colorado has affordable living costs compared to other states with similar wages.
- Outdoor Recreation – Nurses can enjoy skiing, hiking, mountain sports, and more on days off.
- Major Hospital Systems – Prestigious providers like UCHealth and HealthONE employ nurses across Colorado.
- Nurse Licensure Compact – Colorado participates in the nurse licensure compact.
Furthermore, dynamic cities like Denver and Colorado Springs help attract nurses to the state along with the promise of an active lifestyle.
- California, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, and Colorado currently provide the best overall locations for registered nurses based on salary, job availability, affordability, and other factors.
- The best states have abundant job opportunities at prestigious hospital systems along with very competitive nurse wages allowing for high standards of living.
- Nurses in the top states can also take advantage of nurse licensure compacts and enjoy desirable locations ranging from major metros to scenic destinations.
In the coming years, these states expect continued strong demand for registered nurses along with high levels of pay. Nurses looking to relocate should consider these locations to maximize their career potential while benefiting from an exceptional quality of life.
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