15 Great Cities For Nurses with the Highest Paying Jobs

In The Doors’ haunting, sermonic song, “The End,” Jim Morrison sings “ride the highway west, baby.”

That’s pretty good advice, these days, if you’re a nurse looking to make the most out of your paycheck. Recently, Indeed.com – a massive job search platform that greets over 200 million monthly visitors – took a look at which cities in the U.S. pay nurses the most while giving them the biggest bang for their bucks. The west of the U.S. – California especially – was overwhelmingly dominant. [all nursing jobs in California]

In compiling this list, a calculation is done of the average hourly salary for registered nurses in the US from 2015 thru 2016 by metropolitan area and adjusted the annual salaries based on cost of living. The numbers used were those published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The city that offers the best wages and standard of living costs, according to the data, was Fresno, California. In that city of roughly half a million, a nurse can expect $81,344 in annual pay, adjusted for cost of living.

In second place we find Bakersfield, California, where nurses make $80,731 in salary, on average. In third place, Modesto, also in California, they make $80,368.

All in all, California cities accounted for nine of the fifteen spots on the list. Others on the charts are Sacramento (fourth place), Riverside (sixth), Oxnard (11th), San Jose (12th), Los Angeles (13th), and San Diego (14th).

The one city not in the western half of the U.S. that made the list was Atlanta, Georgia, which ranked 15th. In Atlanta, nurses make an average $63,862.

There is a shortage of nurses in the United States, with many more postings looking for talent than there is interest (see graphic below). Interest in new positions, the job platform says, meets only about one third of demand.

City Average Salary
1. Fresno, CA $81,344
2. Bakersfield, CA $80,731
3. Modest, CA $80,638
4. Sacramento, CA $76,870
5. Portland, OR $73,958
6. Riverside, CA $73,742
7. Phoenix, AZ $72,548
8. Anchorage, AK $68,158
9. Houston, TX $67,101
10. Seattle, WA $65,856
11. Oxnard, CA $65,402
12. Santa Rosa, CA $65,113
13. Los Angeles, CA $65,092
14. San Diego, CA $65,092
15. Atlanta, GA $63,862

The cities on this list were ranked by calculating the average hourly salary for registered nurses in the US from 2015 thru 2016 by metro area and adjusted the salaries based on cost of living (as provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis).

Why are nurses needed so badly now? 
A) people are living longer, thanks to advancements in healthcare and require more medical services
B) More people have become insured over the past several years due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which many have taken to calling ‘ObamaCare.’ Better access to medical insurance has led to more people seeking medical attention for their ills and taking preventative measures like getting checkups.

The position of registered nurse is expected to add more than 439,000 new jobs by 2024, according to the BLS, which the Bureau says is a faster leap than is average.

nurse talent gap chart

Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary

Nurse Practitioners in the United States pull down an average of $91K annually. Incomes of Nurse Practitioners vary widely depending on performance components; bonuses and profit sharing that can occasionally exceed $14K cause paychecks to spread between $74K on the low end and $121K on the high end. Compensation for this group is mainly affected by the particular firm, but geography and years of experience are influential factors as well. Roughly one in five of professionals in this line of work do not receive benefits; however, a strong majority report medical coverage and a majority claim dental coverage as well. The majority of Nurse Practitioners claim high levels of job satisfaction. Female Nurse Practitioners far outnumber their male contemporaries among survey respondents. Figures cited in this summary are based on replies to PayScale’s salary questionnaire.