Registered nurses provide direct care to patients in many different medical settings. Some RNs also serve administrative functions such as keeping patient records. Aspiring RNs need at least an associate degree before they can be licensed to work. To become a supervisor, a registered nurse usually needs to obtain a bachelor's degree.
National Pay Statistics
Across the United States, registered nurses earned an average hourly income of $32.66 as of 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average salary of a registered nurse was $67,930, which was significantly higher than the average salary reported by licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, $42,400 per year. Half of all registered nurses reported salaries ranging from $53,670 to $78,700 per year, and the highest-paid 10 percent earned $94,720 or more.
Pay by Location
Registered nurses in the Northeast and West earned the highest average salaries in 2012, with California leading the pack at $94,120. Hawaii ranked second at $84,750, followed by Massachusetts at $83,370, Alaska at $80,970 and Oregon at $78,530. The lowest-paying state was Iowa, with an average RN salary of $52,540. Other relatively low-paying states for RNs included North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas. Registered nurses in the territory of Puerto Rico reported a national low of $32,930.
Pay by Employment Situation
More than half of all RNs were employed by general hospitals in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They reported an average annual income of $69,490 per year. Those employed by psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals earned a mean annual income of $66,210. Facilities that typically paid below the national average for this occupation included home health care services at $65,530, physician's offices at $62,120 and nursing care facilities at $61,220. On the high side of the pay scale, outpatient care centers offered an average of $71,200 per year, while colleges and universities paid an average of $74,540.
Job opportunities for aspiring RNs are expected to be excellent between 2010 and 2020 as the health care industry continues to expand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects RN positions to grow at a rate of 26 percent, nearly double the expected average rate for all occupations. Those who begin as staff nurses may be able to advance into supervisory positions, and RNs who go back to school for a master's or a doctorate may have the opportunity to become an advanced practice nurse such as a nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife or nurse anesthetist.