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How much money can you make as a travel nurse? 2017 update

After surveying more than 10,000 nurses, Medscape has released its 2017 report on nursing compensation. Here are the highlights: nurses are making more money, they earn more money if they have more qualifications like education and certifications, and they make more money in the West in larger cities. How much money can you make as a travel nurse? Here’s an explanation of all and that and more.

How much did nurses make on average in 2017?

According to the survey, full-time registered nurses made an average of $80,000 in 2016, while licensed practical nurses made an average of $46,000. This is much higher than in 2015, during which registered nurses made an average of $78,000 and licensed practical nurses made $43,000.

So why are salaries for nurses increasing? Because the demand for nurses is increasing. Baby boomers are aging, and so they need more medical services. Nursing demand and employment is projected to grow 16% from 2014-2024, which is much faster than average employment growth.

What factors led nurses to make more money?

One of the biggest factors that lead to nurses making more money is their level of education. In 2016, nurses with bachelor’s degrees in nursing made an average of $6,000 a year more than nurses with associate’s degrees in nursing. Interestingly, this gap was larger in 2015. Medscape explained the gap resulted from wages for nurses with associate’s degrees increasing faster than wages for nurses with bachelor’s degrees. Overall, at each level of nursing (associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s) nurses will see, on average, an eight percent higher salary than the lower level.

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Source: Medscape APRN Compensation Report 2017

Not surprisingly, the survey also confirms that certifications boost income. According to the survey, certified RNs make about $7,000 more than non-certified nurses. The survey explained that getting certification isn’t necessarily a guarantee of an increase rate, because nurses who are certified typically have more responsibilities, like teaching a class or working additional hours, which result in higher compensation.

The survey validates the common sense idea that nurses earn more as they gain more experience, both annually and hourly. For example, the median salary for nurses at the entry level is nearly $64,000. So, as nurses get more experience, they can expect their salary to rise, and it typically rises about every five years. Keep in mind that the experience premium isn’t necessarily tied to being at one specific job for a period of time – it’s linked more closely to the skills and knowledge that nurses gain on the job.

Which specialties earn the most money for nurses?

As has been the case in the past, hospital inpatient nurses make more than average, and their salary increased by about $2,000 from 2015 to 2016. Nurses who are in medical offices, public health and school nursing are earning the least amount. Occupational nurses also earn higher than average salaries, at about $84,000. In the Medscape report, Kathleen Buckheit, the AAOHN Director of Education, explained that these salaries are particularly high because a large percentage of occupational health nurses stay with the same employer for more than 20 years, meaning they continue to earn more as they gain more experience.

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Source: Medscape APRN Compensation Report 2017

How does location affect nursing salary?

There’s a huge variation in salaries depending on location. The highest-paid nurses are in the West, while the lowest-paid nurses are in the North Central regions, and the difference among their salaries is $32,000. Factors to consider, however, are cost of living. Some of the top-paying states are California and Hawaii, yet these are also some of the states with the high costs of living. Specifically, nurses living in high population urban areas will earn more, but that’s where cost of living is higher. On average, nurses in urban areas earn $12,000 more than nurses in rural areas.

A good way to take advantage of the areas with higher-paying jobs is with travel nursing. Travel nurses can benefit from the high-paying regions, and they can gain the skills that come from working in a large city, but cost of living might feel like less of a commitment and will have less of a long-term impact. Plus, travel nurses can also slow down the pace and work in rural areas for lower pay, but lower cost of living.

For a nursing job that provides new experience, different locations and flexibility, check out open travel nursing jobs with RNnetwork.



About the author


Kathleen Stone

Kathleen Stone is a writer for RNnetwork from Salt Lake City, Utah. In her spare time, she loves going to the desert, trying new foods and being with family.

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