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The Average Starting Salary of a Registered Nurse

Updated on September 12, 2012

After graduation, professional nurses are permitted to work in supervised positions until they take and pass the National Counsel Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and obtain a registered nurse license. This grace period ends the moment the nurse passes or fails the NCLEX. Graduate nurses that do not pass the exam are no longer permitted to work and must attempt the NCLEX again.

Nursing is the Fastest Growing Career Field in the Country

According to the Bureau of Labor of Statistics, 1.2 million nursing positions are available across the United States. Approximately 700,000 of these positions will be filled by bachelors or higher degreed levels of education that are required of nursing positions. Due to the aging of the “Boomer Generation” and the U.S. in the midst of a nursing shortage crisis, many opportunities for tuition reimbursement, scholarships, and lucrative bonuses are available to nurse graduates and seasoned nurses as well. Unfortunately, even with these perks and bonuses, young people entering the work force are not attracted to careers in nursing, the nursing shortage continues to plague hospitals and threaten lives.

Starting Salaries for Graduate Nurses in USA

Nursing salaries vary from state to state, but when you consider the cost of living, the hourly amount is equal across the board. The salary for a graduate nurse is approximately $52,000 a year, or about $25 an hour. Some positions will pay more or less than average, depending on the location and state. The salary increases every year as a higher level of experience is obtained.

Average Earnings for Experienced Nurses in Hospital Positions

After several years in a general hospital position, nurses earn an average of $69,203 a year, with an hourly average of $33.56.

Specialties in Hospitals with Higher Pay Rates

Although most graduate nurses do not go into nursing specialties immediately after graduation, it is common for RNs to become specialists after one year of working in medical-surgical settings. Specialties require advanced education, exams, certification and a clinical practicum may be required. Nurses in specialties earn an average of $35.76 per hour, with a yearly salary of $74,385. Specialties available in hospitals and emergency centers may include:

  • Intensive Care or Cardiac Units
  • Labor and Delivery
  • Emergency Room or Trauma Nursing
  • Cardiac Catheterization Units
  • Pediatrics
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • Neurological or Neurology Units

What does a nurse do?

According to the International Council of Nurses:

“Nursing encompasses autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well and in all settings. Nursing includes the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and the care of ill, disabled and dying people. Advocacy, promotion of a safe environment, research, participation in shaping health policy and in patient and health systems management, and education are also key nursing roles."

Nursing Positions Outside the Hospital

Nurses that elect to leave the hospital to work in nursing facilities can expect and average salary of $31-34 an hour with an annual income of $65-72,500.

  • Psychiatric Facilities
  • Out-Patient Clinics
  • Home Healthcare
  • Long-Term Nursing Facilities
  • Physicians’ Offices
  • School Nursing

Specialty Nursing Positions Outside the Hospital

Higher Paying Nursing jobs performed in the Community include:

  • Public Health
  • Occupational Health (Private Companies)
  • Cruise Ships
  • Private Sectors or Personal Care
  • Insurance Companies
  • Legal Facilities

Nursing in these specialties may expect a salary of $40-45 and hour with a yearly salary up to $85,000.

The Darker Colored States Pay Higher Nursing Salaries


The Nursing Shortage Needs Nurses

Nursing is a challenging career that offers great rewards. Being part of the healthcare community is a positive experience with limitless opportunities and education. Consider nursing as a superior career with a lot to offer.


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    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks thooghun! I appreciate your comments.

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I can't believe what you managed to cook up given the title, you have not only informed me, but earned my respect :P

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you Glimmer Twin Fan, I appreciate your comments and your opinion. Thanks your time.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      This is a really good looking hub and interesting and useful information. Good job!

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi Kelley, it's a really hard job though. The hour are long, and with the shortage you end up staying all hours until someone can relieve you. It should be a lot more, in my opinion. thanks for the comments, and thanks for reading my hub!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Wow! When I quit 8 years ago I made $18 per hour, with a doctorate degree! But I live in Oklahoma, where they pay nurses, nothing. Glad to know some nurses make good money. Take care, Kelley