Registered Nurse Salary Overview

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Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow by 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, employment of RNs will not grow at the same rate in every industry. Offices of physicians will see the largest percentage of growth (48%) while hospitals will see the smallest growth (17%).

Training: A bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate degree in nursing (ADN), and a diploma are the three typical educational paths one can take to registered nursing. Typically, the time involved in obtaining the education will be between 3-5 years. According to data from the BLS, "There are education programs available for people interested in switching to a career in nursing as well. Individuals who already hold a bachelor's degree in another field may enroll in an accelerated BSN program. Accelerated BSN programs last 12 to 18 months and provide the fastest route to a BSN for individuals who already hold a degree."

Starting salary range: The average starting salary for an RN is $39,000, though this figure can vary from a low of $16.35 (South Dakota) to a high of $25.45 (California).

Average Earnings: The median annual wage of registered nurses is $63,750. The lowest 10% earn less than $43,970, and the highest 10% earn more than $93,700. Advancement: Nurses can advance in management, from assistant unit manager or head nurse to more senior-level administrative roles of Assistant Director, Director, Vice President, or Chief of nursing. These management-level nursing positions require a graduate or an advanced degree in nursing or health services administration. While many RNs veer towards the advanced practice nurse route or work either independently or in collaboration with physicians, others move into the business side of health care.

Benefits: Health care, paid time off, pension, sick days, tuition reimbursement, insurance, bonus, and taxes increase the total compensation package by an average 30%, bringing the median total nurse compensation to $90,416.

Salary negotiation tips: Large institutions (hospitals, government health agencies, or private companies), typically set up a salary range, so the organization will have a little room to move on salaries (about 5-10%). Smaller organizations are less likely to have as much leeway on salary. In order to negotiate a pay raise, come prepared. Salary information can be found at AOL Jobs Salary Center or from other industry recruiting firms.

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