You’ll find the highest paychecks for nurses — with annual salaries averaging $75,000 to more than $100,000 – in five of the country’s largest cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New York and Chicago. Other metro areas, particularly in the Southeast and Southwest where the baby boom generation is retiring, also provide plentiful opportunities with financial rewards. When looking for a high-paying nursing job, consider the cost-of-living in that city and the potential for career advancement. Also evaluate whether a region offers activities that fit your lifestyle.
Nationally recognized city hospitals offer the highest salaries
San Francisco/Los Angeles: According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, California is a mecca for high-paying nursing jobs. Nurses in San Francisco can earn $99,000 annually. In nearby San Jose nurses can earn $110,000; farther south in Visalia, Calif., top nurses can fetch $111,000 annually. This area is home to two of the country’s top-ranking hospitals, the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and Children’s Hospital, and state mandates to improve nurse-to-patient ratios are creating more local jobs for nurses. Labor statistics suggest nurses in Los Angeles can earn about $80,000.
Boston: One of the country’s oldest cities is home to Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, both affiliated with Harvard Medical School. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Catholic Medical Center are nearby in southern New Hampshire. Nursing salaries in this region average $85,000.
New York: Nurses here can earn about $80,000 and, like California, a New York State task force has studied how to recruit more nurses. Top centers include Mount Sinai Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Chicago: Nurses can earn up to $75,000 at teaching hospitals, including the University of Chicago Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Consider cost of living
A top salary at a well-known hospital is attractive, but before accepting any job offer consider housing and living expenses in the city. Using Kiplinger’s Personal Finance metric of 100 as the national cost-of-living average, here’s how these top five cities for nursing pay compare:
New York: 400
Los Angeles: 142
San Francisco: 137
Another way to look at this is by using a cost-of-living calculator like the one found at Bankrate.com. It tells you how much you have to make in the new city to match what you earn in your current town.
Let’s say you want to move from Chicago, where you’re making $70,000, to San Francisco. To maintain the same standard of living, you’ll need to earn $98,210 in San Francisco. Want to move from San Francisco to New York? You’d need to earn $130,000 in New York to maintain your standard of living.
Heed the boomers
As you consider relocation for a better salary, also look at those regions where the jobs will be plentiful in the years ahead. The aging baby boom generation will require more medical services, and “if you follow them, you’ll find the jobs,” says Jill Jarufe, a nursing recruiter with Kaye/Bassman International in Dallas.
Where are they going? To the Southwest and Southeast, where they’ll find sun, sand and lower living costs, Jarufe says. Jarufe’s top metro picks for jobs includes:
Texas: Austin, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth
Florida: Tampa, St. Petersburg
Arizona: Phoenix, Tucson
Nurses in these cities won’t earn as much as their counterparts in the big northern and West Coast cities. Salaries range from a low of $62,560 in Austin, Texas, to a high of $68,200 in Phoenix, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But the cost of living in the Sun Belt is lower. According to Kiplinger’s median of 100, the southern metro areas range from a low of 92 in Dallas/Fort Worth to 100 in Phoenix.
Tired of the Big Apple and want to move to balmy Tampa, Fla.? You could maintain your standard of living on $36,300 in Florida — even with a 57.3 percent cut in pay from your $85,000 salary in New York, according to Bankrate.
© HealthCallings.com, Dice Holdings Inc., 2011