Why Do Nurses Get Paid So Much? – College Reality Check (2024)

Nurses, like many healthcare professionals, make a lot of money. And this is why you are probably planning to apply to a college with a good nursing program to make anywhere from $53,410 to $116,230 annually after graduation.

Because of their many duties, which range from assessing patients’ conditions, administering drugs to educating families and the community, it’s no wonder why nurses get paid so much. Graduating from nursing school also takes a lot of hard work, which is why nurses are deserving of more compensation.

Before we go further, let’s get one thing straight: there are different types of nurses. For instance, there are certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs).

And then there are the most common types of nurse: registered nurses (RNs).

This article focuses on registered nurses, which also come in many different forms — emergency room nurses, intensive care nurses, surgical nurses, cardiovascular nurses, psychiatric nurses, etc.

All of them have the word “registered” on their titles as they have all passed the NCLEX — the National Council Licensure Examination.

What Do Nurses Do?

Nurses are tasked with many roles. Some of them include providing and coordinating patient care, consulting and collaborating with physicians and various healthcare professionals, and providing emotional support as well as teaching patients and their families what to do at home after treatment.

Refrain from assuming that nurses are mere assistants of physicians.

Why Do Nurses Get Paid So Much? – College Reality Check (1)

As a matter of fact, the majority of them work as a part of a team with physicians and many other healthcare specialists. Some of them even oversee other types of nurses, such as CNAs and LPNs.

Here are some of the things that nurses typically do:

  • Evaluate the condition of patients
  • Record medical history and signs and symptoms
  • Administer drugs and treatments
  • Design a care plan or contribute to an existing one
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment
  • Assist in performing diagnostic tests and analysis of results
  • Inform and teach patients about their condition
  • Explain to patients and their families what to do at home

Besides the duties and responsibilities mentioned earlier, nurses can do many other things, too, depending on additional training or further education pursued. For instance, infusion or IV therapy nurses have become one by completing a program that enables them to earn a certificate in IV therapy.

Related Article: Why Do Anesthesiologists Make So Much?

Where Do Nurses Usually Work?

The majority of employed nurses in the US can be found in general medical hospitals and surgical facilities. As a matter of fact, more than 1.7 million registered nurses work in those. Others can be found employed in physician offices and care facilities. Some are in home healthcare services.

Refrain from assuming that it’s only at a medical facility where you will be able to work as a nurse. If truth be told, it’s possible for you to end up employed in many different industries.

In the US, however, the following are the industries with the highest levels of employment for registered nurses:

Medical hospitals1,729,200
Physician offices192,300
Home healthcare services169,630
Outpatient facilities150,380
Nursing care facilities143,250

How Much Do Nurses Make an Hour?

According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the hourly mean wage for registered nurses in the country amounts to $36.22. How much money registered nurses employed in the US make can vary based on different factors. Some of them include work experience, industry and the employer.

The same data indicates that the annual mean wage for registered nurses amounts to $75,330.

Keep in mind that, as mentioned earlier, there are different kinds of nurses. It’s exactly because of this why how much money various nurse types make per hour or year can vary tremendously. For instance, the hourly mean wage for nurse anesthetists is $88.26. Meanwhile, it amounts to $53.43 for nurse midwives.

In Which States are Nurses in Demand?

California is the state with the highest employment rate for nurses. As per May 2020 data from BLS, there are a total of 307,060 registered nurses working in The Golden State. Meanwhile, states where nurses are least in demand include Hawaii, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Utah.

Willing to pack your bags after graduating and passing the NCLEX?

Then make sure that you move to one of the states where nurses are highly in demand or plenty of nurses are employed. Various reasons exist why some areas in the country employ more nurses than the rest. They include the availability of more facilities requiring nurses and the presence of more people seeking professional care.

If ending up unemployed after completing your nursing program and earning your license is not an option, check out this table that shows the states with the highest registered nurse employment levels:

New York178,550

How Do You Become a Nurse?

The journey to becoming a nurse begins with enrolling at an accredited nursing school and completing the program by doing the coursework and clinicals. Meeting licensure requirements and passing the NCLEX follow suit. Once a license is obtained, the individual can start working as a registered nurse.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) takes four years to complete.

While in nursing school, students will have to complete not only coursework associated with the program but clinicals, too. Clinical rotations involve being in a medical facility for five to eight hours a day, usually once a week.

But because you are about to be a part of the healthcare industry, you will have to get your hands on a license, too. This is when the importance of passing the NCLEX comes in.

Preparing for the NCLEX can take anywhere from four weeks to 12 weeks — sometimes more. The NCLEX itself takes six hours from start to finish.

Related Article: Why are Dental Hygienists Paid So Much?

What Jobs Can You Get With a Nursing Degree?

Contrary to popular belief, nurses can have many other jobs other than just working with various members of the healthcare team and taking care of patients. Nurses can become educators and leaders. They can also work for pharmaceutical or insurance companies. Being in the IT world is a possibility, too.

Having a nursing degree and a license allows you to become an assortment of registered nurse types. In some instances, you will have to get additional training, while other times it’s possible to start working as one.

But it’s not just at a medical facility where you could work once you are already a registered nurse.

Working at an academic institution, either to teach or serve as a school nurse, is one example of what you could be as a nurse. You could also become a nurse informatics specialist, especially in this day and age when technology has a considerable impact on the provision of healthcare.

Just Before You Decide to Become a Nurse

There is no denying that nurses are some of the highest-paid professionals in the world of healthcare. However, it’s only because the nature of their work can be stressful and demanding, involving all sorts of duties and responsibilities. In addition, becoming a nurse, in particular one that’s registered, isn’t easy.

If you plan on adding a school with a good nursing program to your college list, check that you want to become a nurse not only because you want to get paid a lot but also because you genuinely want to help and care for people.

Related Questions

How many times can you take the NCLEX?

There is no limit as to how many times you can take the NCLEX. However, per year, you can only take the licensure exam up to eight times. That’s because retaking the NCLEX requires allowing 45 days to pass after your last attempt to pass it. However, each state Board of Nursing may have different rules.

Are nurses happy?

According to a survey conducted by Career Explorer, nurses are one of the least happy professionals in the US. Out of five stars, nurses rate their career happiness two and a half stars only. On the other hand, a Medscape survey reveals that 15% to 21% of participating nurses said they would have picked another profession.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

Why Do Nurses Get Paid So Much? – College Reality Check (2024)


Why are nurses being paid so much? ›

Nurses are in high demand

This also means that nurses have a great number of choices in terms of where they want to live. The medical field in general has many roles that are in very high demand, and as a result, the pay for these roles is often good.

Are nurses getting paid enough? ›

Nurses are coming off a strong year for salaries in 2021

The median annual wage for registered nurses was $77,600 in May 2021, according to the most-recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nurses in the 90% percentile of earners were bringing in more than $120,000 per year.

Can a nurse afford a 300k house? ›

How expensive of a house can a nurse afford? Given the average salary (about $75,000), a nurse can afford a home of around $250,000. There are a lot of other factors that can affect this, such as how much debt the nurse has, the current interest rate, and how well a nurse can manage their personal finance.

Can you make 200k as a nurse? ›

In the last 2 years, I have made an extraordinary amount of money – for a nurse. In fact, my income level of more than $200,000 puts me in the top 0.01% of nurses in this country AND the top 2% of wage earners in the entire state of Pennsylvania. I made every cent of this income by working as a NursePreneur.

Who pays nurses the most? ›

Highest Paying Industries for Registered Nurses
IndustryAverage Hourly PayAverage Salary
Pharmaceutical Industry$50.61$105,270
Outpatient Care Centers$44.74$93,070
General Hospitals$40.88$85,020
Specialty Hospitals$40.77$84,800
2 more rows
Dec 5, 2022

Why don't nurses get paid as much as doctors? ›

It's all about the salary

Doctors have a higher salary than the nurses, mainly because of their education, title, and license. While this may be indulging disparity, that is how the world have went on in the past, and will always be in the future.

Why do nurses get paid little? ›

You may be lacking some skills or do not have adequate training or years of experience. Another important aspect is that nurses often do not have the right skills required to negotiate with their employers resulting in lesser wage.

Are nurses underpaid in the US? ›

Although the public tends to believe doctors are paid the right amount, most Americans say that nurses and health care aides are underpaid. Majorities report that physical therapists and pharmacists are paid the right amount, and about 7 in 10 say insurance and hospital executives are overpaid.

Do all nurses make a lot of money? ›

Nurses Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Registered Nurses earn an average salary of about $77,000 per year, and an average hourly wage of about $37.00 per hour. These rates can greatly vary depending on your employer, experience, and specialization.

How much house can I afford if I make $70,000 a year? ›

Let's say you earn $70,000 each year. By using the 28 percent rule, your mortgage payments should add up to no more than $19,600 for the year, which equals a monthly payment of $1,633. With that magic number in mind, you can afford a $305,000 home at a 5.35 percent interest rate over 30 years.

Can I afford a $300 K house on a $70 K salary? ›

If you're an aspiring homeowner, you may be asking yourself, “I make $70,000 a year: how much house can I afford?” If you make $70K a year, you can likely afford a home between $290,000 and $360,000*. That's a monthly house payment between $2,000 and $2,500 a month, depending on your personal finances.

What can you afford with 70K salary? ›

On a $70,000 income, you'll likely be able to afford a home that costs $280,000–380,000. The exact amount will depend on how much debt you have and where you live — as well as the type of home loan you get.

Do most nurses make 6 figures? ›

Can Nurses Make Six Figures? Yes, you can 100% make six figures as a nurse. The disclaimer is that working in some states may make this easier than working in other states. Geographic location is a huge indicator of starting salary and can be a reason why some of you are not as close to others when looking at raw data.

What is the highest a RN can get paid? ›

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist: $202,470

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) earn a nationwide average of $202,470 per year according to the BLS; this makes CRNAs the highest-paying type nursing job by a significant margin.

Can a RN become a millionaire? ›

Becoming a millionaire will take a lot of hard work and patience, but it is possible for nurses who still have time to build their net worth. The first step to building your net worth is to become debt free and stay that way.

When did nurses start getting paid more? ›

By 1988, RN wages had increased to $28,383 annually, according to “Nursing Economics,” and they continued to rise until by 1992, when the average RN wage was $37,738. Salaries for nurses have continued to rise. Nurses earned a median annual wage of $64,690 in May 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why is the turnover rate so high for nurses? ›

Nurses work in a fast-paced environment, providing patient care, reassuring family members, and keeping up with evidence-based practices and procedures. That level of stress can leave many healthcare organizations with a high nurse turnover rate.

Why is the demand in nursing so high? ›

Myriad factors have contributed to this growing demand, including a wave of coming nurse retirements and a population that is living longer, often with one or more chronic conditions.

Are nurses happy with their salary? ›

Are nurses happy with their salary? Nurses rated their satisfaction with their salaries 3.0/5. Few are explicitly unhappy with their salaries, with most nurses having generally positive views of their salary.


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