RNnetwork Blog

Everything you need to know about travel nursing.


The 7 highest-paying states for nurses in 2021

California - one of the highest-paying states for nurses

If you’re looking to increase your income, you may want to consider taking a job in one of the states or metro areas that pay nurses the most. Whether you’re looking to change employers or just want to try out a new location with a travel nurse gig, here’s the breakdown of the seven highest-paying states for nurses. Based on data from nurse.org, these states are ranked for RN pay based on average hourly rates. Depending on the job, travel nurses may be able to earn even more in these states.

1. California

California pier

Hourly: $48.30, salary $113,240. Why California? As Wolters Kluwer points out, “California is the only state that has legally defined required minimum nurse-to-patient ratios.” The critical care ratio must be 1:2 or fewer, and the emergency department must be 1:4 or fewer.

As for why to live there short- or long-term, the Golden State offers amazing food and entertainment, beautiful weather, beaches, Redwood forests, award-winning wineries, and more. Simply put: There’s lots to do. Oh, and as far as competitive wages, Los Angeles has the honors of ranking as a top best-paying cities for RNs, with an average hourly wage of $54.38, according to Becker Hospital Review.

2. Massachusetts

Massachusetts bridge

Hourly: $40.58, salary $93,160. The nursing shortage in Massachusetts is a big reason that the state is second on the list of highest-paying states for nurses. But there are other reasons you may want to check out the The Bay State. ValuePenguin named two cities in the state in the top 5 nationwide for nurses — Lawrence and Worcester — based on three factors: median salary, cost of living, and demand for the occupation (called location quotient).

Additional reasons to live here: housing costs, income growth, education rate, and quality of hospitals, according to WalletHub. Plus, good food, history, museums, whale watching and culture. The state also has a best-paying city: Boston pays RNs an average hourly wage of $47.79.

3. Oregon

Oregon mountains

Hourly: $42.32, salary $92,960. Like many states, Oregon faces a big nursing shortage, one reason for the higher salary. In addition to jobs in the famous city of Portland, with all the restaurants, local arts, entertainment venues, and more, Oregon has many underserved rural areas.

Oregon ranks high for being favorable for nurses, coming in No. 2 in the nation for work environment, which factors in mandatory overtime restrictions, ratio of nurses to hospital beds, quality of public hospitals, etc. In addition to the metro delights, Oregon also features tons of outdoor activities.

4. Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Hourly: $40.36, salary $88,380. While the state pays nurses competitively and faces a shortage, making for a plethora of opportunities, Nevada rates low in several healthcare categories in a 2019 Commonwealth Fund report, such as patient experience ratings (49th in the nation) and adults with mental illness who did not receive treatment.

The pros of living in the state are a reasonable cost of living, no state income tax, and a diverse economy. And, there’s Las Vegas! In addition, Nevada offers various outdoor attractions and scenic drives.

5. Alaska

Alaska northern lights

Hourly: $40.01, salary $90,500. Nurses rated Alaska for overall quality of life as No. 19 in the U.S. and overall ranked their hospitals highly.

Why Alaska? Plane-hopping to gorgeous mountain islands, wildlife watching from a distance, the Northern Lights, wide-open wilderness, summer nights that never get dark, and more. One thing’s for sure, adventuring in Alaska will be like nothing else on the planet.

6. District of Columbia

Washington DC monument

Hourly of $38.47, salary $94,820. DC ranks well for healthcare, coming in 16th overall in the nation.

Washington, D.C., is one of the most visited cities in the U.S. Its unique sights include world-famous museums (such as the Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History to the Natural History Museum and the American Indian Museum), famous government buildings like the White House, the National Zoo, and more. The challenge for a travel nurse or local will be pacing through all the attractions.

7. New Jersey

New Jersey pier

Hourly: $38.36, salary $84,280. The cost of living in New Jersey is high compared to the nurse salary, and there are not as many nursing job openings per capita as in some other states. However, the Garden State ranks well for quality of work environment.

Why live in Jersey? WalletHub named it among the top 10 for safety, quality of life, and education — and awarded it “best state to live” for 2021. Check out its 130 miles of shorelines, numerous entertainment and culinary offerings, and the parks and outdoor wonders.

Not sure where to go next to further your career, bolster your finances, and improve your quality of life? Be sure to look into jobs in these seven highest-paying states for nurses, and know that you are in high demand there and will continue to be for many years.

Interested in learning about travel nursing opportunities? Give us a call at 800.866.0407 or view all travel nursing jobs.

About the author

Kari Redfield

Kari Redfield is a professional content marketing writer. She also is a novelist and writes for newsstand magazines and has had work appear in publications such as Arizona Highways, Sedona Magazine, and American Fitness. And like the travel nurses profiled in these stories, she loves the flexibility and new experiences that her unique job provides, and loves to travel. She has been known to spend weeks in the U.S. West in her Aliner, checking out classic trad rock climbs, epic mountain bike rides, and other adventures while writing from the road.


Ready to get started?

Let us know where to reach you, and a recruiter will be in touch shortly.

Questions? 800.866.0407

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

By submitting your information via this form, you agree that you may be contacted by a member of our team via SMS, MMS, email or phone as outlined in our privacy policy