Nurses can make good money, though they certainly don’t have an easy job. However, there’s a wide range of potential salaries that nurses with different licenses and levels of education and experience can expect. Generally, nurses at all levels of practice can expect a median salary above the $37,690 median wage of all occupations, but some nurses earn lucrative six-figure salaries. How much money you could earn as a nurse depends on which nursing degree you earn and what exactly your job is.
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) are the types of nurses that require the least amount of education. These nurses, who provide basic nursing care but work under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs), don’t need a nursing degree. Instead, a certificate or diploma from a practical nursing program offered by a technical school, community college, high school or hospital is sufficient.
Because the education requirements are less rigorous and the responsibilities are less intense, LPNs and LVNs are the lowest paid types of nurses. The median salary for LPNs and LVNs is $45,030, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Only the 10 percent of LPNs and LVNs with the lowest salaries earn less than $32,970, while only the 10 percent with the highest wages make salaries above $61,030. The highest paid LPNs and LVNs worked for the government and nursing facilities, while the lowest salaries are offered by physicians’ offices.
About 20 percent of LPNs and LVNs work part-time.
Registered nurses are type of nurses most commonly found in the health care industry. By 2026, the BLS expects there to be 3,393,200 registered nurse jobs across the United States. RNs can enter the field with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or two- to three-year diploma or with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Registered nurses find employment in hospitals, ambulatory healthcare services, nursing homes, and government and educational services. RNs provide direct patient care and may work in a variety of specialties, including addiction, critical care and neonatology. RNs who earn their BSN degree may be qualified for supervisory roles.
As with LVNs and LPNs, the salary of a registered nurse depends on a number of factors. The median salary for RNs is $68,450 per year, according to the BLS. Only 10 percent of RNs earn salaries below $47,120, and another 10 percent earn wages above $102,990. Registered nurses who work for the government earn the most money, followed by those who work in hospitals. The lowest paid RNs work in educational services and nursing care facilities.
Leaderships roles such as registered nurse supervisor and nursing director are among the most lucrative positions RNs can hold.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses
Unsurprisingly, it’s the type of nurse that requires the most extensive education and has the most demanding job responsibilities that earns the highest salary. After all, research has shown a link between nurses’ level of education and better patient outcomes. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) must earn a graduate or doctoral degree, such as the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, a Ph.D. in nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). They must earn a second license to practice as an APRN. Only then can they move into advanced roles, where they provide direct patient care, often including many of the same services that are usually limited to physicians.
Salaries for APRNs depend on which advanced nursing position you hold. The highest paid APRNs are nurse anesthetists, who administer the anesthesia used for surgeries and pain relief, earn a median wage of $160,270, according to the BLS. Nurse practitioners, who provide many kinds of patient care in various specialties, make a median salary of $100,910. Nurse midwives deliver babies and provide other obstetrical and gynecological services, earning a median wage of $99,770.
Opportunities for APRNs are growing rapidly, with the BLS predicting a 31 percent increase in jobs over a decade.
Work Settings and Salaries
Education and job duties play an important part in determining salary potential, but they aren’t the only factors. Where you work also matters, and not just in terms of geographical location, but also in terms of work environment. For example, though LPNs, LVNs and RNs who work for the government make the most money, only a small percentage of these nurses find employment with government entities. Jobs with the government aren’t as widespread as, LPN and LVN jobs in nursing homes or RN roles in hospitals.
Additionally, your work setting can affect your work schedule. Nurses in settings like hospitals and nursing homes may work longer hours and overnight or weekend shifts, because these facilities are always open and provide patient care 24 hours a day. Working in environments like physicians’ offices may pay less, but the tradeoff is a schedule that more closely aligns to regular business hours.
More than 60 percent of registered nurses work in hospitals.
Nursing can be a lucrative career path, but it’s also a challenging and often stressful one. Salary potential is an important factor to consider when deciding whether to become a nurse and what kind of education you will need to achieve your goals. However, successful nurses don’t enter the field just for the money, but rather because they feel a calling to provide exceptional care for patients.