Nurse Salary — So how much can you
REALLY make as a Nurse?

A nurse salary is a pretty important factor to consider when choosing either a primary degree or even a career change. I will be honest and tell you that the pay scale for nurses varies A LOT! Your ability to be flexible, your level of education and a job's location (city and state) will make a huge impact on your income. I say this so that you will know to take some of those salary calculators with a grain of salt and do more research into both your geographical location and area of nursing interest. 


Nurse Salary

Let’s start with just base pay. This is assuming you will be looking for a job in a hospital or some other entity that pays by the hour. It is important to know what base rate you would like to aim for when you are applying for jobs. Base Rate refers to the amount you are paid per hour excluding differentials such as night shift pay, holiday pay, overtime, etc.

Figuring out what your yearly income is easy from there. For example: When I started nursing back in 2003 I knew I was going to work 36 hours per week, every week of the year and make $18 per hour. To figure out what my yearly income would be I did the following:

$18 (hourly pay) x 36 (hrs per wk) x 52 (wks per year) = $33,696 total yearly gross income.

Please remember this is not your take home pay. This is what you are taxed on. As a single girl I planned on a 30% tax rate to be safe here in the U.S.

Therefore my take home pay was really my yearly tax rate:

$33,696 (gross income) x 0.30 (or your tax percentage)
=$10,108 to taxes

subtracted from my gross income (that we already calculated above):

$33,696 (gross income) - $10,108 (money to taxes)
=$23,585 take home nurse salary or $1965 per month.

That sounds about right if I remember correctly! Remember this was back in 2003.


According to PayScale.com, the average nurse salary today is somewhere between $38,000 and $78,000 per year ($20- $37 per hour with $26 being the average). There can be huge differences in pay from place to place. There are several things that will affect this base rate of pay in your nurse salary.

Some of these are:

  • Years of experience
  • Education Level achieved in school (this may depend on the area you live, but BSN are slowly starting to earn higher starting pay)
  • Location—which correlates to cost of living
  • Your ability to be flexible (traveling positions, float pool, etc.)
  • Loyalty to an institution (you will find nurses don’t fare very well in this category until they have been at an institution for YEARS)
  • Day shift vs. Night shift
  • Weekday shift vs. Weekend shift
  • Professional Certifications (often tied into your annual evaluation)

and there are probably many more factors I have missed that are not on this list.

Remember, your nurse salary can vary GREATLY. Be smart about your nursing career. What do you want to get out of your career? Do you want stability and a familiarity of colleagues, or do you want to make more money?

I know nurses that are the breadwinners of their family but tend to work overtime a lot. I also know nurses who complain about how little money they make, but love the people they work with everyday so they stay put in their current role. These can be two nurses working in the same hospital doing the same job but making vastly different salaries.

Either one of these decisions may be right for you. It all depends on your individual situation. Just know there are options out there when you start looking into what your nurse salary will be! 

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