Nursing shortage makes way for better RN salaries throughout the profession.
Making a difference in the lives of patients and their families is an excellent reason to pursue a career in nursing. But keep in mind the importance of compensation when landing your dream role.
In an era when nursing shortages are expected to persist into 2025, according to Modern Healthcare, nurses may have the upper hand when it comes to commanding top salaries. RN salaries increased on average about 1.3% per year from 2008 to the middle of 2014. Since then, the rate has gone up 2.6% per year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As baby boomers are aging and more people have access to healthcare because of federal insurance reform, the need for healthcare services will continue to increase through 2024, according to the BLS, which is projecting the nursing employment rate will grow 16% from 2014 to 2024 — much faster than the average for all other occupations.
“There are more opportunities than ever for nurses right now,” said Mary Jane Randazzo, MSN, RN, a nurse recruiter at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia. “Hospitals are creating roles for nurses in areas such as transplant coordination, urgent care, ambulatory care, clinical documentation and care coordination.”
Though salary ranks high for nurses when it comes to job satisfaction, according to Nurse.com’s Salary Survey, a significant number — 31% — never negotiate salaries when starting a new position. For experienced nurses, negotiating salary is highly recommended, though new grads might have a tougher time in those negotiations. Still, for RNs fresh out of nursing school, the current climate is allowing for higher pay. According to Glassdoor.com, the average annual salary for new RN grads is about $65,510 a year.
Factors affecting RN salaries
Even in the midst of a potential employees’ market for nurses, a variety of elements can impact RN salaries and pay raises, including:
- Unions: In that environment, the union determines employment parameters, including salary. But even in the absence of a union, employers such as hospitals have to abide by Affirmative Action and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines, which promote equity in hiring practices, according to Jessica Quezada Jackson, CHCR, a talent acquisition recruiter at a health system and a National Association of Health Care Recruitment board member.
- Geography: BLS has found RN salaries can vary widely by regions and states. “I think it’s more of a regional difference than by size,” said John Lavery, formerly a nurse recruiter with Temple Health in Philadelphia. “The Midwest and more remote locations will be different [in compensation] compared to the region from Boston to Washington, D.C.”
- Certification: Certified nurses earn more money, according to the Nurse.com Salary Survey. Base salaries for certified nurses are higher than for non-certified nurses. Many organizations also pay for certification prep exams and test fees, and they reward nurses with hourly certification differential pay.
Time is money — beyond the bigger paycheck
For many nurses, a positive work environment, work-life balance and perks such as tuition reimbursement are as important as what’s in their bank accounts. Lake Forest, Calif.-based Genesis HealthCare assessed U.S. Department of Labor data from 2016 to determine the states with the best work environments for nurses.
States were evaluated based on criteria that include professional opportunities, child care options and work-life balance, with Connecticut, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Illinois rated as the best for those aspects of a work environment. Although salary and cost of living are important considerations when applying for a new job, non-financial factors are equally — if not more — important to nurses, said Deborah Rowe, MS, RN, PHR, CHCR, vice president of staffing at Genesis.
“I expected to see some variance in what nurses were looking for in jobs,” Rowe said. “But by and large, the facilities that provide a healthy work environment, good benefits and educational opportunities are the most appealing to nurses, no matter where they live in the country.”
As more states and facilities demand a bachelor’s degree-educated nursing workforce, tuition reimbursement is another incentive to look for in a new job.
The Nurse.com salary research report of more than 4,500 U.S. nurses showed pursuit of either a certification or more education was the goal of 50% of respondents. Out of the nurses who responded to the survey,1,276 (39%) said they received an average of $2,619 in continuing education reimbursement at the time of the survey.