Salary Trends for Registered Nurses

Working as a paramedic involves irregular hours with both high and low-stress situations that can change at a moment’s notice. While this field can be very exciting, it is also extremely limiting when it comes to salary. On average, paramedics earn around $35,000 annually. With the abundance of online and traditional bridge programs available, transitioning from having a job as a paramedic to a career as a registered nurse is easier than ever before.

Once you have graduated with your registered nursing degree, you will be more involved with patient care and be able to explore your increased salary potential. Keep in mind that the demand for registered nurses is expected to grow by 19% over the next seven years, which means that the time you invest in pursuing a RN degree will not be a waste.

RN Salary

All of the following salary information provided is courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as of 2014. On average, the national annual income of a registered nurse is $69,790, while the reported top 10 percent of RNs’ yearly salary was over $98,000. Your wage is affected by location, industry, degree level, and specialty, should you choose to pursue an advanced degree.

Salary by Location

Location is one of the main factors when it comes to finding a RN position, especially a high-paying one. While RNs are needed everywhere, some states value their presence more than others. Living in an area where there is a greater demand for RNs is obviously ideal. These states listed below are not necessarily the highest-paying ones for RNs, but they are places where a RN is more likely to be hired and promoted. The states with the highest employment level for a RN are:

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. New York
  4. Florida
  5. Pennsylvania

Now that you know which states give you the best chances to have a career as a RN, see where you can maximize your earning possibilities. Keep in mind that within these states, areas that are more densely populated will have a greater demand for RNs and will likely offer a higher salary. A higher salary in the area can coincide with higher costs of living. The following is a list of states that offer the highest RN wages on average:

  1. California: $98,400
  2. Hawaii: $88,230
  3. Massachusetts: $85,770
  4. Alaska: $85,740
  5. Oregon: $82,940

As you can see, California is the number one state in both employment rates and average salary. However, not everyone is interested or able to pursue their career as a RN in California. Luckily, RNs are needed all over the country, and in a variety of organizations. Check out these industries, in the chart below, with the highest national levels of RN employment:

RN High Employment Industries BLS 2014

Source: U.S. BLS Employment Program

Registered nurses have plenty of options in regards to their work environment. As a RN, you can travel all over the country and know that your skills are needed.

Gaining Experience

Every RN student will need to log a certain amount of clinical and lab hours in order to fulfill the requirements of the degree program. Since those clinical and lab hours are considered to be strictly for educational purposes, they are often unpaid and lack resume bragging rights. Finding an internship, or better yet a residency, can help acclimate you from a learning environment to a professional one.

This additional experience may or may not offer pay, but more importantly it will look good on your resume. An internship or residency can also increase your confidence, which will help your performance in your career as a whole. Employers will be impressed that you went out of your way to obtain this type of not-required experience, and may reward that with greater pay than your peers.

Earning a Higher Salary

The field of nursing is quite vast, allowing for those of any educational background to be able to contribute to the betterment of society through healthcare. As with most careers, education increases your salary potential. A RN can go on to earn their master’s degree and become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). APRN is sometimes used as a blanket category for nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, and nurse practitioners.

Combining your years of experience with a master’s degree in one of the APRN careers will adequately prepare you for greater responsibilities and leadership roles. To give you an idea of how much you could be making, the average wage of a nurse anesthetist is $158,900, as of 2014. This graph below from the BLS is from 2012, and can still help you get an idea of how the pay differs between the APRN careers.

BLS-APRN 2012 median annual salaries

Source: U.S. BLS Employment Program

If you decide that becoming an APRN is not the right move for you, there is still a way for you to increase your salary without a full master’s degree. By taking a few extra classes, and possibly an additional certification exam depending on your state, you can choose a different specialty. The options are endless for a RN. You can go on to specialize in cardiology, neonatal, surgery, and so much more. Any type of acute knowledge and expertise that you can amass in one area will be sure to set you apart from the crowd and garner higher wages.

As mentioned previously, you can earn a higher salary by working in different healthcare industries. Your experience as a paramedic opens up career doors that others may not have access to. It is important to take full advantage of your connections, and compare all of the available positions. If you’re looking for a high-paying position, apply to government organizations, private facilities, and social organizations, since they are some of the high-paying employers for RNs and APRNs.

The primary responsibility of a RN is to help people, and a larger salary also never hurt. Using your certification as a paramedic can help you finish a degree program more quickly than you think. With even just two more years of education and a degree, you will have a wider range of job opportunities as well as the potential to earn a higher salary.

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