Why Do Nurses Get Paid So Much?

Nurses, like many healthcare professionals, make a lot of money. And this is why you are probably planning to apply to a college with a good nursing program to make anywhere from $53,410 to $116,230 annually after graduation.

Because of their many duties, which range from assessing patients’ conditions, administering drugs to educating families and the community, it’s no wonder why nurses get paid so much. Graduating from nursing school also takes a lot of hard work, which is why nurses are deserving of more compensation.

Before we go further, let’s get one thing straight: there are different types of nurses. For instance, there are certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs).

And then there are the most common types of nurse: registered nurses (RNs).

This article focuses on registered nurses, which also come in many different forms — emergency room nurses, intensive care nurses, surgical nurses, cardiovascular nurses, psychiatric nurses, etc.

All of them have the word “registered” on their titles as they have all passed the NCLEX — the National Council Licensure Examination.

What Do Nurses Do?

Nurses are tasked with many roles. Some of them include providing and coordinating patient care, consulting and collaborating with physicians and various healthcare professionals, and providing emotional support as well as teaching patients and their families what to do at home after treatment.

Refrain from assuming that nurses are mere assistants of physicians.


As a matter of fact, the majority of them work as a part of a team with physicians and many other healthcare specialists. Some of them even oversee other types of nurses, such as CNAs and LPNs.

Here are some of the things that nurses typically do:

  • Evaluate the condition of patients
  • Record medical history and signs and symptoms
  • Administer drugs and treatments
  • Design a care plan or contribute to an existing one
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment
  • Assist in performing diagnostic tests and analysis of results
  • Inform and teach patients about their condition
  • Explain to patients and their families what to do at home

Besides the duties and responsibilities mentioned earlier, nurses can do many other things, too, depending on additional training or further education pursued. For instance, infusion or IV therapy nurses have become one by completing a program that enables them to earn a certificate in IV therapy.

Related Article: Why Do Anesthesiologists Make So Much?

Where Do Nurses Usually Work?

The majority of employed nurses in the US can be found in general medical hospitals and surgical facilities. As a matter of fact, more than 1.7 million registered nurses work in those. Others can be found employed in physician offices and care facilities. Some are in home healthcare services.

Refrain from assuming that it’s only at a medical facility where you will be able to work as a nurse. If truth be told, it’s possible for you to end up employed in many different industries.

In the US, however, the following are the industries with the highest levels of employment for registered nurses:

Medical hospitals1,729,200
Physician offices192,300
Home healthcare services169,630
Outpatient facilities150,380
Nursing care facilities143,250

How Much Do Nurses Make an Hour?

According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the hourly mean wage for registered nurses in the country amounts to $36.22. How much money registered nurses employed in the US make can vary based on different factors. Some of them include work experience, industry and the employer.

The same data indicates that the annual mean wage for registered nurses amounts to $75,330.

Keep in mind that, as mentioned earlier, there are different kinds of nurses. It’s exactly because of this why how much money various nurse types make per hour or year can vary tremendously. For instance, the hourly mean wage for nurse anesthetists is $88.26. Meanwhile, it amounts to $53.43 for nurse midwives.

In Which States are Nurses in Demand?

California is the state with the highest employment rate for nurses. As per May 2020 data from BLS, there are a total of 307,060 registered nurses working in The Golden State. Meanwhile, states where nurses are least in demand include Hawaii, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Utah.

Willing to pack your bags after graduating and passing the NCLEX?

Then make sure that you move to one of the states where nurses are highly in demand or plenty of nurses are employed. Various reasons exist why some areas in the country employ more nurses than the rest. They include the availability of more facilities requiring nurses and the presence of more people seeking professional care.

If ending up unemployed after completing your nursing program and earning your license is not an option, check out this table that shows the states with the highest registered nurse employment levels:

New York178,550

How Do You Become a Nurse?

The journey to becoming a nurse begins with enrolling at an accredited nursing school and completing the program by doing the coursework and clinicals. Meeting licensure requirements and passing the NCLEX follow suit. Once a license is obtained, the individual can start working as a registered nurse.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) takes four years to complete.

While in nursing school, students will have to complete not only coursework associated with the program but clinicals, too. Clinical rotations involve being in a medical facility for five to eight hours a day, usually once a week.

But because you are about to be a part of the healthcare industry, you will have to get your hands on a license, too. This is when the importance of passing the NCLEX comes in.

Preparing for the NCLEX can take anywhere from four weeks to 12 weeks — sometimes more. The NCLEX itself takes six hours from start to finish.

Related Article: Why are Dental Hygienists Paid So Much?

What Jobs Can You Get With a Nursing Degree?

Contrary to popular belief, nurses can have many other jobs other than just working with various members of the healthcare team and taking care of patients. Nurses can become educators and leaders. They can also work for pharmaceutical or insurance companies. Being in the IT world is a possibility, too.

Having a nursing degree and a license allows you to become an assortment of registered nurse types. In some instances, you will have to get additional training, while other times it’s possible to start working as one.

But it’s not just at a medical facility where you could work once you are already a registered nurse.

Working at an academic institution, either to teach or serve as a school nurse, is one example of what you could be as a nurse. You could also become a nurse informatics specialist, especially in this day and age when technology has a considerable impact on the provision of healthcare.

Just Before You Decide to Become a Nurse

There is no denying that nurses are some of the highest-paid professionals in the world of healthcare. However, it’s only because the nature of their work can be stressful and demanding, involving all sorts of duties and responsibilities. In addition, becoming a nurse, in particular one that’s registered, isn’t easy.

If you plan on adding a school with a good nursing program to your college list, check that you want to become a nurse not only because you want to get paid a lot but also because you genuinely want to help and care for people.

Related Questions

How many times can you take the NCLEX?

There is no limit as to how many times you can take the NCLEX. However, per year, you can only take the licensure exam up to eight times. That’s because retaking the NCLEX requires allowing 45 days to pass after your last attempt to pass it. However, each state Board of Nursing may have different rules.

Are nurses happy?

According to a survey conducted by Career Explorer, nurses are one of the least happy professionals in the US. Out of five stars, nurses rate their career happiness two and a half stars only. On the other hand, a Medscape survey reveals that 15% to 21% of participating nurses said they would have picked another profession.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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