Which States Pay Nurses the Most? Our Top 10 List 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

Are you considering a career as a nurse? Or have you already begun your nursing career but are considering changing roles?

If you’ve thought about making the switch to travel nursing, you’ll definitely want to know the states where nurses make the most money.

Whether you’re looking to change employers or just want to try out a new location with a travel nurse gig, there’s no doubt that income potential plays a significant role in a career decision. So let’s find out where nurses can expect to earn the highest salaries. 

In this article, you will learn:  

  • The states with the highest-paid nurses
  • What contributes to the different nurse pay by state; and
  • How you can easily find high-paying travel nursing contracts


what state pays nurses the most


Table of Contents



In What States Do Nurses Make the Most Money?

Nurse salaries can vary widely by state, but which state pays nurses the most on average? 

Alaska is the leader but is closely followed by: 

  • New York
  • California
  • The District of Columbia
  • Arizona
  • South Dakota
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • Wisconsin; and
  • North Dakota

In the next section, we’ll take a look at each state to learn which nurses are in demand and how much they’re making. 




A Breakdown of the Top 10 States With Highest-Paid Nurses


#1: Alaska

Alaska tops our list of states where travel nurses make the most money. This is due to its remote location and high demand for skilled nurses.

Travel nurses in Alaska earn an average annual salary of $137,092 with an hourly average wage of $58.75.

Certified nurse anesthetists and certified nurse practitioners in Alaska are among the highest-paid specialties in the state. Certified nurse anesthetists earn an annual salary of $251,563 and certified nurse practitioners earn a yearly salary of $156,148.


#2: New York

New York is currently the second most lucrative state for travel nurses.

Its average annual salary is $136,656 per year or $58.57 per hour.

Some high-paying fields for travel nurses in New York include cardiac nurses, who can expect to make an average of $156,451 per year, and ICU nurses, whose average yearly pay is $141,266.


#3: California

Travel nurses in California earn an average annual salary of $133,862 with an average hourly wage of $57.37. 

Aside from California’s significant income-earning potential, another thing that makes nursing appealing in the state is the Nurse-to-Patient Ratio Law

According to this California law, there must be at least one RN for every five patients in general care and one RN per two patients in intensive care units or critical care facilities.

Nurse anesthetists make some of the highest nursing salaries in California, with an average of $253,559 per year. 


top five paying states for nurses


#4: District of Columbia

In the District of Columbia, a travel nurse earns an average annual salary of $128,421 and an average hourly wage of $55.04.

Washington, D.C. is a relatively small area with some of the top hospitals and medical universities in the nation, so travel nurses who can handle fast-paced, busy environments are highly in demand.

Some nursing areas in D.C. with high salaries include NICU nurses, who earn an average of $164,470 per year, and nurse anesthetists, who average $227,702 annually. 


#5: Arizona

Travel nurses in Arizona make an average annual salary of $128,329 per year or $55 per hour.

Since adults over the age of 65 are the fastest-growing demographic in the state, travel nurses who work in the field of gerontology are in high demand.

Other nursing fields that earn higher-than-average pay in Arizona include certified registered nurse anesthetists, who make about $225,586 per year, and oncology nurses, who take in $146,325 annually.


#6: South Dakota

In South Dakota, the average travel nurse makes $127,210 per year or $54.52 per hour.

High turnover in the South Dakota nursing field, especially in rural areas, means that there is a higher-than-ever demand to fill nursing jobs in the state. This means travel nurses should easily be able to find jobs in the Mount Rushmore State.

Labor and delivery nurses are always needed in South Dakota and can expect to make an average salary of $137,392 per year. Another lucrative specialty is psychiatric nurse practitioner, which can earn around $144,489 per year.


#7: New Jersey

Travel nurses in New Jersey earn an average annual salary of $125, 697 per year or $53.87 per hour.

New Jersey ranks in the top ten for most unfilled nursing positions, so its demand for travel nurses is high.

Some of the nursing specialties where you can expect to make a higher salary in New Jersey include emergency room nursing, where you can earn an average of $131,109 per year, and oncology nursing with an average annual salary of $157,729.


#8: Nevada

In the state of Nevada, the average travel nurse earns $125,305 per year or $53.70 per hour.

Rapid population growth and an aging population both mean that the demand for nurses in Nevada is higher than ever. Travel nurses are needed to help with what has been called a critical point in their nursing shortage.

Family nurse practitioners in Nevada can expect to earn an average annual salary of $166,721, and as with most states, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) can expect to make top money at around $252,806 annually.


#9: Wisconsin

Travel nurses in Wisconsin earn an average annual salary of $124,222 or $52.34 per hour.

Wisconsin already had a nursing shortage before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the numbers have only gotten worse over the years. This means that travel nurses are crucial in helping fill critical healthcare roles around the state.

Some of the top-paying nursing specialties in Wisconsin include NICU nurses, who can earn around $138,126 per year, and ER nurses, who can expect to earn an average yearly salary of $129,062.


#10: North Dakota

Rounding out the list of our top ten states where nurses make the most is North Dakota. North Dakota travel nurses earn an average yearly salary of $123,340 or $52.86 per hour.

North Dakota has both rural areas and big cities that need nurses to cover their healthcare needs.

Neonatal nurses in North Dakota make an average of almost $140,000 per year, and cardiac nurses can expect to earn an average annual salary of $154,465.


What Contributes to the Difference in Salaries Among the Top Paying States for Nurses?

There are different salary ranges for nurses in each state due to:

  • Cost of living
  • Job demand; and 
  • Educational requirements 

Let’s dive deeper into factors contributing to salary differences by state.




Cost of Living

The cost of living index measures how much a dollar is worth in a particular state for groceries, housing, and transportation.

The cost of living index is higher in areas where these goods are more expensive than the national average. The cost of living index is lower in areas where these goods are cheaper.

For example, at 179, Hawaii sits at the top of the list for cost of living, while Mississippi is at the bottom with 83.3. This is what makes Hawaii a higher-paying state for nurses.

When considering where to take travel nursing jobs, you want to be sure to factor in your possible earnings vs. the cost of living. If you’ll be making a lot of money but will have to spend most of it to live in the area, that might not be a great deal for you.

The key is to find the right balance of highest paying nursing jobs by state and a cost of living that will help you put more away.

Of course, you should keep in mind that part of the appeal of travel nursing is the experiences you’ll have and the places you’ll be able to visit. So you must work out what’s most important to you when accepting contracts.


Job Demand

The term “job demand” is a statement that conveys the projected rate of growth or decline in an occupation over the next several years. 

The United States has an aging population, making health professionals increasingly needed. Over the next several years, healthcare professionals, particularly nurses, will account for a large percentage of job growth in the United States.

Over the next decade, there are expected to be over 193,000 nursing job openings each year. It is expected that many of these openings will result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or leave the labor force, such as retirees.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the number of jobs for all healthcare occupations will grow by 18% by 2026, the highest among all occupational groups in the country to provide proper care for the aging and sick.


Education Requirements:

A nurse’s education level determines their roles, responsibilities, and pay.

Nurses can enter the profession in a variety of ways. A registered nurse, for example, usually needs a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Still, there are other ways to enter the field, such as an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma from an approved nursing program. 

Nurses with a BSN have completed more schooling than those with an ADN or diploma and are more likely to earn more. 

In addition, a registered nurse who is an anesthetist, a nurse-midwife, or a nurse practitioner is called an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). These nurses require the most education (a master’s degree) and earn the highest wages of all nursing occupations.


what state are nurses paid the highest


How Can You Get a Nursing Job in a Higher Paying State?

Want to work as a nurse in a state that pays better? Here are some popular methods for finding your dream job.


Online Job Postings

Online resources are becoming increasingly popular among job seekers. You can even find job listings specific to your needs using the filter option.


Career Fairs

Hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare employers hire hundreds of nurses at career fairs every year.

Attending a career fair has the following benefits: 

  • Seminars and workshops that are free of charge
  • Learning industry information
  • Having your resume reviewed
  • Learning to present your professional side; and
  • Immediate access to employment opportunities

The purpose of attending a career fair is to network, not to interview — getting hired on the spot should not be your goal. 

When attending a career fair, your goal should be to: 

  • Introduce yourself to different people
  • Tell them about your background; and
  • Get their contact information  


Travel Nursing Agency

Are you interested in traveling as a nurse? The per diem nursing option appeals to some people because of its flexibility. 

With a travel nursing career, you’ll always be in demand, with assignments available at all times. However, if a travel nurse agency does not employ you, it may be more difficult to land these assignments. 

With Trusted Nurse Staffing, you can find temporary jobs that give you flexibility and the opportunity to travel.

When short-term staffing needs arise at healthcare facilities, hospitals, and long-term care facilities, travel nurses and health professionals fill in. 

Why should you choose us? We provide reliable, experienced assistance with finding work and supporting you in your role. 

And with our Pronto job search, it’s easier than ever to find travel nursing jobs that pay the most and interest you. Pronto lets you upload your credentials, set your preferred job filters — such as location, pay range, and specialty — and start applying to jobs right away!

Trusted Nurse Staffing will match you with your own dedicated support team that includes clinical support, payroll experts, and compliance experts. And that’s not just for the beginning of your time with us. We provide ongoing assignment advocacy throughout the length of your contracts.


Trusted Nurse Staffing: Contact Us to Find High-Paying Travel Nursing Jobs Available All Over the United States

Trusted Nurse Staffing knows all there is to know about the travel nursing world. 

Our goal is to provide our travel nurses with great jobs that include excellent benefits and pay. We care about our nurses and are here to help you through every step, day or night. 

Our nurses know that we are on their side. Trusted Nurse Staffing provides nurses with: 

  • Welcome packages
  • 24/7 access to their Trusted Partner
  • Housing and travel stipends
  • Fantastic insurance packages
  • Referral bonus programs; and
  • Much more 

Now is the time to begin the journey to your dream job with Trusted Nurse Staffing.