Nursing MSN & DNP

| 10 January 2024

The data in this blog is for general informational purposes only and information presented was accurate as of the publication date.

The Best States for Nurses [2024]

A USAHS nursing student speaks with a patient.

The most recent data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows there are approximately three million nurses in the U.S.1 Nursing can be a rewarding career with many options, whether you’re just starting nursing school or pursuing a nursing graduate degree. Once you become a nurse, you may wonder which states are the best for nurses.

Today, you’ll learn about the best states for nurses based on salary information and other statistics. Some states are better for different types of nurses, some have more employment opportunities, and some do better than others regarding diverse hiring practices. This information will help you know how well your state takes care of nurses and if it may be worth relocating to another state.

Table of Contents:

Top 10 Best States for Registered Nurses

Below, we list the top 10 states for nurses based on average salary, projected employment growth and cost of living index score. Salary is a key factor for many working adults, but it’s also helpful to consider the cost of living. Based on the cost of living index, a higher number means it costs more to live in that state.2

Facts about the best states for nurses

Depending on the person, some pros and cons for each state may have different weights. For example, although a state may have a high average salary, it may be more important for someone to live close to their family.

View our methodology section to learn more about how we created our ranking.

1. Arizona

Arizona is the top state primarily for the projected employment growth and also for its higher than average annual salary. Arizona has the highest projected growth of all of the states.

  • Average annual salary for RNs: $86,7401
  • Projected employment growth for RNs by 2030: 39%3
  • Cost of living index: 107.22

2. Colorado

Colorado has the second-highest projection for employment growth, just behind Arizona. This state is also 18th when it comes to the highest average salary for RNs.

  • Average annual salary for RNs: $86,5901
  • Projected employment growth for RNs by 2030: 29%3
  • Cost of living index: 105.52

3. Nevada

The third state on the list is another desert area, Nevada. With a high projection for growth and a low cost of living, Nevada is a great state for nurses.

  • Average annual salary for RNs: $96,3101
  • Projected employment growth for RNs by 2030: 23%3
  • Cost of living index: 101.32

4. Georgia

If you live in the south or are thinking about moving there, Georgia is number four on the list of top states for nurses. Georgia is also the 13th state with the lowest cost of living index score.

  • Average annual salary for RNs: $85,1801
  • Projected employment growth for RNs by 2030: 18%3
  • Cost of living index: 912

5. Idaho

For those looking to live in a quieter state, Idaho is ranked number five on the list for its nursing wages as well as projected growth. Idaho’s average salary is comparable to some of the other states on the list, with a projected employment growth of 20%.

  • Average annual salary for RNs: $78,6101
  • Projected employment growth for RNs by 2030: 20%3
  • Cost of living index: 106.12

6. Texas

The Lone Star State landed a top 10 spot due to its projected employment growth as well as its low cost of living index score. The average salary is $1,000 lower than in Colorado, but the cost of living is much lower.

  • Average annual salary for RNs: $84,3201
  • Projected employment growth for RNs by 2030: 17%3
  • Cost of living index: 93.2

7. Tennessee

Although it may seem as if the average annual salary for RNs in Tennessee is low, this state is ranked number 10 out of all of the states for lowest cost of living. It also has projected nursing employment growth of 17%.

  • Average annual salary for RNs: $72,4801
  • Projected employment growth for RNs by 2030: 17%3
  • Cost of living index: 90.42

8. Utah

Utah has a projected 20% increase in employment by 2030, which may make it ideal for nurses who are looking for work. The average wage is a little over $76,000 per year in Utah as well.

  • Average annual salary for RNs: $76,4001
  • Projected employment growth for RNs by 2030: 20%3
  • Cost of living index: 101.52

9. Oklahoma

Oklahoma makes the top 10 for best states for nursing because the average salary for RNs is fairly competitive, and they also have one of the lowest cost of living index scores.

  • Average annual salary for RNs: $76,9201
  • Projected employment growth for RNs by 2030: 12%3
  • Cost of living index: 86.2

10. Florida

If you don’t mind the humidity, Florida is ranked number seven on the list.4 Like Delaware, the projected growth is 15%, and you may even be able to find a beachfront city to reside in.

  • Average annual salary for RNs: $79,9101
  • Projected employment growth for RNs by 2030: 15%3
  • Cost of living index: 102.32

List of the 10 best states for nurses.

Best Paying States for Nurses

The state with the highest annual wage is California, which has an average wage of $133,340 per year. Following behind California are Hawaii, with an average salary wage of $113,220, and Oregon at $106,610.1

The states with the lowest average wage are Alabama, Arkansas and South Dakota. These states have average wages of $66,910, $66,530 and $64,500, respectively.1

It’s also important to consider the cost of living index score. For example, although California has the highest average wage, it also has the fourth-highest cost of living index score.

State Average annual Wage for RNs1 Cost of Living Index Score2
California $133,340 134.5
Hawaii $113,220 179
Oregon $106,610 115.1
Massachusetts $104,150 148.4
Alaska $103,310 124.4
Washington $101,670 115.1
New York $100,130 125.1
Washington D.C. $98,230 148
New Jersey $96,670 114.1
Nevada $96,310 101.3
Connecticut $94,260 113.1
Minnesota $88,860 94.1
Rhode Island $88,250 110.5
Maryland $87,990 119.5
Arizona $86,740 107.2
Colorado $86,590 105.5
New Mexico $85,580 94.2
Georgia $85,180 91
Delaware $85,020 102.6
Texas $84,320 93
New Hampshire $83,420 115
Illinois $82,220 90.8
Virginia $81,860 103.1
Wyoming $81,010 92.8
Wisconsin $81,000 95
Michigan $80,660 92.7
Pennsylvania $80,630 99
Vermont $79,990 114.9
Florida $79,910 102.3
Idaho $78,610 106.1
Ohio $78,450 94
Montana $78,350 103.7
Kentucky $77,620 93.8
North Carolina $77,420 96.1
Maine $77,410 111.5
Oklahoma $76,920 86
Utah $76,400 101.5
Louisiana $75,920 92
Indiana $75,580 91.5
North Dakota $75,000 94.6
South Carolina $74,330 96.5
Nebraska $73,510 90.1
Tennessee $72,480 90.4
West Virginia $72,230 90.3
Kansas $71,990 87.7
Missouri $71,860 88.4
Iowa $69,370 89.7
Mississippi $67,930 85.3
Alabama $66,910 88.8
Arkansas $66,530 90.3
South Dakota $64,500 93.8

Source: BLS and World Population Review

The states that pay nurses the most are California, Hawaii, and Oregon, with California paying the most with an average of $133,340 wage per year. When looking at this list, it’s also helpful to know that all three are in the top 10 for the highest cost of living as well.

The three best paying states for nurses.

Top States for Nurse Practitioners

If you’re a nurse practitioner, there are many post-graduate degrees that you can pursue. By receiving your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), you can choose from different career paths.

The following is a complete list ranking each state for NPs, which includes the average annual wage, projected employment growth and cost of living index score.2

Rank State
1 Arizona
2 Colorado
3 Nevada
4 Georgia
5 Idaho
6 Texas
7 Tennessee
8 Utah
9 Oklahoma
10 Florida
11 Wyoming
12 Delaware
13 New Mexico
14 Minnesota
15 New York
16 Washington
17 Alaska
18 California
19 Illinois
20 Iowa
21 Maryland
22 Massachusetts
23 Michigan
24 Mississippi
25 New Jersey
26 North Carolina
27 North Dakota
28 Ohio
29 Oregon
30 Pennsylvania
31 Vermont
32 West Virginia
33 Alabama
34 Arkansas
35 Connecticut
36 Hawaii
37 Indiana
38 Kansas
39 Kentucky
40 Missouri
41 Montana
42 Nebraska
43 Rhode Island
44 South Carolina
45 South Dakota
46 Virginia
47 Wisconsin
48 Louisiana
49 Maine
50 New Hampshire
51 Washington D.C.

Source: USAHS

Top States for Nurse Anesthetists by Salary

Nurse anesthetists are some of the highest-paid positions you can get as a nurse with the median wage at just over $203,000.5 California has the highest mean annual salary at $246,510, but each of the top five states is over $230,000 per year.

State Annual Mean Wage5
California $246,510
Connecticut $240,580
New York $238,710
Illinois $238,440

Source: BLS

Top States for Nurse Midwives by Salary

Nurse midwives help with the birthing process, and they can work independently or as part of a healthcare team. The national median wage for nurse midwives is $120,880, and California pays the most with an annual mean wage of $169,530.6

State Annual Mean Wage6
California $169,530
West Virginia $165,780
Hawaii $156,020
Massachusetts $143,870
Oregon $136,150

Source: BLS

Top States With Projected Nursing Job Growth

Whether you’re a nurse in the field of occupational therapy, health administration or any other realm, it’s helpful to know the employment opportunities throughout the country. Projections are created using data and formulas to give us a rough idea of what the future might look like.7 The following are the states ranked by projected employment growth through 2030.3

State Projected Employment Growth3
Arizona 39%
Colorado 29%
Nevada 23%
Idaho 20%
Utah 18%
Georgia 18%
Maryland 17%
New York 17%
Tennessee 17%
Texas 17%
Washington 16%
Delaware 15%
Florida 15%
Alaska 11%
Mississippi 14%
New Mexico 14%
North Dakota 14%
Iowa 12%
Massachusetts 12%
North Carolina 12%
Oklahoma 12%
Oregon 12%
South Dakota 12%
West Virginia 12%
California 11%
South Carolina 11%
Wyoming 11%
Vermont 10%
Arkansas 9%
Hawaii 9%
Kentucky 9%
New Hampshire 9%
New Jersey 9%
Pennsylvania 9%
Alabama 8%
Indiana 8%
Michigan 8%
Nebraska 8%
Virginia 8%
Kansas 7%
Minnesota 7%
Missouri 7%
Ohio 7%
Montana 6%
Illinois 5%
Rhode Island 5%
Washington D.C. 5%
Connecticut 4%
Wisconsin 4%
Maine 3%
Louisiana 2%

Source: O*NET OnLine

Number of Active Registered Nursing Licenses by State

As of 2022, the United States has a total of 5,239,499 active registered nursing licenses, according to the Journal of Nursing Regulation.8 The BLS report shows that there are roughly three million registered nurses, so the difference in the data may be due to people having active nursing licenses but not currently working.

For the survey, the majority of states received a mail-out survey, and others were sent surveys by email or filled the survey out through e-Notify. California currently has the most active registered nursing licenses at 466,414 with Texas not too far behind at 363,865.8

State Number of Active RN Licenses
(- = no data available)8
Alaska 18,102
Arizona 102,364
Arkansas 45,016
California 466,414
Colorado 80,946
Connecticut 81,242
Delaware 19,211
Florida 347,136
Georgia 139,314
Hawaii 26,785
Idaho 25,815
Illinois 219,409
Indiana 118,822
Iowa 58,571
Kansas 53,662
Kentucky 72,058
Louisiana 65,167
Maine 27,942
Maryland 86,804
Massachusetts 153,862
Michigan 167,780
Minnesota 119,829
Mississippi 50,436
Montana 20,261
Nebraska 31,238
Nevada 51,606
New Hampshire
New Jersey 139,719
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota 16,777
Ohio 220,800
Oklahoma 52,039
Oregon 73,418
Pennsylvania 232,528
Rhode Island
South Carolina 77,288
South Dakota 19,237
Tennessee 110,427
Texas 363,865
Utah 40,201
Vermont 20,320
Virginia 112,482
Washington D.C. 30,222
West Virginia 33,047
Wisconsin 111,192

Source: Journal of Nursing Regulation

Elevate Your Nursing Career With a Nursing Graduate Program

As a nurse, you have the opportunity to help people in a multitude of ways. Nursing can occur in hospitals and healthcare facilities where you work directly with patients, or you can take on a leadership role or work in administration. Once you complete your undergraduate nursing degree, you can open up more opportunities through graduate and post-graduate programs for nurses here at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences.

Our campuses and faculty are ready to help you pursue your nursing goals. To get started, apply today.


Our ranking system for the best states for nurses to work was based on three primary criteria:

  • Average annual salary for RNs
  • Projected employment growth for RNs by 2030
  • Cost of living index

Each of the criteria was graded on a five-point scale and given a higher score when the data was most beneficial for nurses in that state. States with the highest salaries, largest projected employment growth and lowest cost of living index scores were given the highest ratings. In the event of ties in the top 10, the highest average salaries were used as the primary determining factor.


  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified May 2022,
  2. World Population Review, “Cost of Living Index by State 2023,” World Population Review, last modified 2023,
  3. O*NET OnLine, “29-1141.00 – Registered Nurses,” O*NET OnLine,
  4. Wisevoter, “Most Humid States,” Wisevoter,,-The%20ten%20most&text=Alabama%20is%20the%20third%20most,humid%20state%20with%2084.83%25%20humidity.
  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “29-1151 Nurse Anesthetists,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified May 2022,
  6. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “29-1161 Nurse Midwives,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified May 2022,
  7. Metric Insights, “Understanding Projections,” Metric Insights,
  8. Richard A. Smiley, MS, MA, Richard L. Allgeyer, PhD, Yetty Shobo, PhD, Karen C. Lyons, PhD, APRN, NEA, Rayna Letourneau, PhD, RN, Elizabeth Zhong, PhD, Nicole Kaminski-Ozturk, PhD, Maryann Alexander, PhD, RN, FAAN, “The 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey,” Journal of Nursing Regulation, last modified April 2023,


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