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The Best and Worst States for Nursing Professionals

Last Updated: 2/12/2022
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Nurses are the backbone of the U.S. health care system. The demands of the job and long shifts take a toll on a nurse’s well-being. As MoneyGeek’s study reveals, the best states for nurses provide supportive conditions for these health care professionals to pursue their careers and enjoy work-life balance.

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Nursing Professionals in the United States

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects nursing jobs to grow by 45% through 2030, pandemic burnout has added to the shortage of nurses across the country. Amid long working hours and an enormous influx of patients, nurses feel the pressure.

Other factors affecting the field include the number of nurses approaching retirement age and increasing education requirements. With high education costs, it’s challenging for recent graduates to pay down student loans or buy their first home.

Given the situation of nursing and growing quit rates in the health care industry, it's essential to ask:

  • What are the highest paying states for nurses?
  • What’s the job growth rate like in different states?
  • What state regulatory environments best support nurses?
  • Where do nurses have the best working protections?
  • Which states have the most nurses?

The answers to these questions can help determine the best places to work as a nurse today.

Top 15 States for Nursing

To find the best states for nurses, MoneyGeek analyzed key factors, such as wages adjusted for cost of living, working conditions, future job growth, COVID-19 vaccination rates and state regulatory environment.

Ranked as the best place to be a nurse, Washington state features excellent working conditions, impressive job growth and high average salaries. However, it’s worth noting that this state does not participate in the nurse licensure compact (NLC), meaning that a nursing license there can’t be used in other states.

Close behind in MoneyGeek’s top list are Colorado and New Mexico. All three states offer full practice authority for nurse practitioners, allowing them to evaluate, diagnose, order and review diagnostic tests, prescribe medications and treat patients. However, Colorado and New Mexico both don’t have any overtime regulations in place, meaning that nurses can be required to work longer than their scheduled hours.


  • 1. Washington
    Average Nursing Salary:$91,310
    MoneyGeek Score: 100
    WashingtonWashington is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 4.35Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 21%Job Growth Forecast
    • Full Practice, OT RegulatedState Environment

  • 2. Colorado
    Average Nursing Salary:$77,860
    MoneyGeek Score: 86
    ColoradoColorado is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 3.93Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 30%Job Growth Forecast
    • Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 3. New Mexico
    Average Nursing Salary:$75,700
    MoneyGeek Score: 84
    New MexicoNew Mexico is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 3.78Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 11%Job Growth Forecast
    • Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 4. Oregon
    Average Nursing Salary:$96,230
    MoneyGeek Score: 82
    OregonOregon is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 5.19Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 15%Job Growth Forecast
    • Full Practice, OT RegulatedState Environment

  • 5. Texas
    Average Nursing Salary:$76,800
    MoneyGeek Score: 80
    TexasTexas is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 2.74Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 17%Job Growth Forecast
    • Restricted Practice, OT Regulated, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 6. California
    Average Nursing Salary:$120,560
    MoneyGeek Score: 80
    CaliforniaCalifornia is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 4.08Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 17%Job Growth Forecast
    • Restricted Practice, OT RegulatedState Environment

  • 7. Maryland
    Average Nursing Salary:$81,590
    MoneyGeek Score: 79
    MarylandMaryland is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 4.37Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 22%Job Growth Forecast
    • Full Practice, OT Regulated, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 8. Minnesota
    Average Nursing Salary:$80,960
    MoneyGeek Score: 77
    MinnesotaMinnesota is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 4.44Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 12%Job Growth Forecast
    • Full Practice, OT RegulatedState Environment

  • 9. Illinois
    Average Nursing Salary:$74,560
    MoneyGeek Score: 73
    IllinoisIllinois is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 3.46Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 12%Job Growth Forecast
    • Reduced Practice, OT RegulatedState Environment

  • 10. New Jersey
    Average Nursing Salary:$85,720
    MoneyGeek Score: 70
    New JerseyNew Jersey is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 3.10Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 11%Job Growth Forecast
    • Reduced Practice, OT Regulated, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 11. Nevada
    Average Nursing Salary:$89,750
    MoneyGeek Score: 66
    NevadaNevada is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 0.82Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 22%Job Growth Forecast
    • Full Practice, No OT RegsState Environment

  • 12. Arizona
    Average Nursing Salary:$80,380
    MoneyGeek Score: 66
    ArizonaArizona is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 1.21Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 35%Job Growth Forecast
    • Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 13. Georgia
    Average Nursing Salary:$71,510
    MoneyGeek Score: 62
    GeorgiaGeorgia is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 3.22Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 23%Job Growth Forecast
    • Restricted Practice, No OT Regs, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 14. Pennsylvania
    Average Nursing Salary:$74,170
    MoneyGeek Score: 62
    PennsylvaniaPennsylvania is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 4.31Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 13%Job Growth Forecast
    • Reduced Practice, OT Regulated, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 15. Connecticut
    Average Nursing Salary:$84,850
    MoneyGeek Score: 60
    ConnecticutConnecticut is one of the best states for nurses.

    • 4.25Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 7%Job Growth Forecast
    • Full Practice, OT RegulatedState Environment

10 Worst States for Nursing

Working as a nurse means being on call to help others, but this can be challenging under stressful work conditions. This is particularly true in the worst states for nursing, where a lack of overtime regulations, lower-than-average wages and limited growth affect these health care professionals.

MoneyGeek found that Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana all offer the worst overall conditions for nurses.


  • 1. Mississippi
    Average Nursing Salary:$61,250
    MoneyGeek Score: 0
    MississippiMississippi is not one of the best states for nurses.

    • 2.59Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 6%Long-Term Job Growth Forecast
    • Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 2. Alabama
    Average Nursing Salary:$60,230
    MoneyGeek Score: 13
    AlabamaAlabama is not one of the best states for nurses.

    • 2.89Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 10%Long-Term Job Growth Forecast
    • Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 3. Louisiana
    Average Nursing Salary:$68,010
    MoneyGeek Score: 16
    LouisianaLouisiana is not one of the best states for nurses.

    • 2.09Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 9%Long-Term Job Growth Forecast
    • Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 4. Hawaii
    Average Nursing Salary:$104,830
    MoneyGeek Score: 19
    HawaiiHawaii is not one of the best states for nurses.

    • 4.41Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 12%Long-Term Job Growth Forecast
    • Full Practice, No OT RegsState Environment

  • 5. South Dakota
    Average Nursing Salary:$60,960
    MoneyGeek Score: 19
    South DakotaSouth Dakota is not one of the best states for nurses.

    • 3.95Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 13%Long-Term Job Growth Forecast
    • Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 6. South Carolina
    Average Nursing Salary:$67,140
    MoneyGeek Score: 21
    South CarolinaSouth Carolina is not one of the best states for nurses.

    • 3.23Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 9%Long-Term Job Growth Forecast
    • Restricted Practice, No OT Regs, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 7. Tennessee
    Average Nursing Salary:$64,120
    MoneyGeek Score: 27
    TennesseeTennessee is not one of the best states for nurses.

    • 2.62Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 12%Long-Term Job Growth Forecast
    • Restricted Practice, No OT Regs, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 8. North Carolina
    Average Nursing Salary:$68,950
    MoneyGeek Score: 30
    North CarolinaNorth Carolina is not one of the best states for nurses.

    • 4.15Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 11%Long-Term Job Growth Forecast
    • Restricted Practice, No OT Regs, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 9. Kentucky
    Average Nursing Salary:$64,730
    MoneyGeek Score: 30
    KentuckyKentucky is not one of the best states for nurses.

    • 2.64Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 13%Long-Term Job Growth Forecast
    • Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC MemberState Environment

  • 10. Arkansas
    Average Nursing Salary:$63,640
    MoneyGeek Score: 32
    ArkansasArkansas is not one of the best states for nurses.

    • 2.14Nurses to Hospital Beds
    • 14%Long-Term Job Growth Forecast
    • Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC MemberState Environment

Expert Insights

Burnout, high turnover rates and the COVID-19 pandemic are serious challenges facing the nursing workforce. Our panel of experts shares their outlook for the industry and advice for nurses today.

  1. What do you think the future of nursing will look like?
  2. How can local governments and health systems avoid nurse shortages?
  3. What do you think are some of the unique challenges that affect nurses today?
  4. What should nurses look for when finding their ideal location to live and work?
  5. How can nurses find work-life balance and avoid burnout?
  6. Are there any changes you’d like to see in the field to better support nurses?
Vincent Guilamo-Ramos
Vincent Guilamo-Ramos

Dean and Professor of the Duke University School of Nursing and Vice Chancellor for Nursing Affairs

Anna M. McDaniel
Anna M. McDaniel

Dean and Professor of the UF College of Nursing

Sarah L. Szanton
Sarah L. Szanton

Dean of the Johns Hopkin School of Nursing

Methodology

To rank the best states for nursing, MoneyGeek analyzed data from the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Health and Human Services, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, CareerOneStop.org and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

The ranking of the top states for nurses was based on six factors:

  • Wages adjusted for cost of living
  • Working conditions as represented by various ratios of nurses to beds
  • Future job growth
  • Current job market competition
  • State regulatory environment
  • COVID-19 vaccination rates

Each factor in the study was scaled to a score between 0 and 1. The factors were calculated as follows:

Wages Adjusted for Cost of Living (Full Weight): The average salary of registered nurses in the state. These wages were adjusted by each state’s cost of living index for comparison between states.

Working Conditions (Full Weight): An equal combination of the ratio of nurses to hospital beds in the state and the ratio of hospital beds to the state population, representing the capacity of the state’s hospital system relative to the population and staffing of nurses. The higher the ratio, the better the working conditions.

Future Job Growth (Full Weight): The forecasted growth in jobs in the nursing profession through 2028.

Current Job Market Competition (Full Weight):

  • Job Openings (50%): The ratio of current open nurse jobs scaled based on the state’s population.
  • State Job Prevalence/Reliance (50%): The number of jobs in the state that are nursing jobs compared to all jobs.

State Regulatory Environment (Half Weight): Comprised of the following measurements of how friendly the state is towards nursing:

  • NLC compact member (⅓): Yes or no flag.
  • Nurse Practitioner Practice (⅓): Full is given 100%, reduced is given 50%, restricted is given 0%.
  • Presence of Forced Overtime Regulations (⅓): Full 100% value is given if any forced overtime restriction is present.

Full Data Set

The data points presented are defined as follows:

  • Average Annual Nursing Salary: Average yearly nursing salary
  • Nurses to Hospital Beds: Ratio of nurses per hospital bed in the state
  • Long-Term Job Growth Fcst: Forecasted growth in nursing jobs through 2028
  • State Environment: Summary of the state’s regulatory environment
    • Nurse Practitioners: Full, Reduced or Restricted practices indicate the level of authority and autonomy allowed to nurse practitioners in the state
    • OT Regulated: Indicates the presence of laws that regulate or limit the amount of overtime — if any — that nurses are required to work
    • No OT Regs: Indicates a lack of laws that regulate the amount of overtime that nurses can be required to work
    • NLC Member: Indicates that the state is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact
Rank
State
Final Score
Average Annual Nursing Salary
Nurses to Hospital Beds
Job Growth
State Environment

1

Washington

100

$91,310

4.35

21%

Full Practice, OT Regulated

2

Colorado

87

$77,860

3.93

30%

Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

3

Maryland

82

$81,590

4.37

22%

Full Practice, OT Regulated, NLC Member

4

New Mexico

80

$75,700

3.78

11%

Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

5

Texas

79

$76,800

2.74

17%

Restricted Practice, OT Regulated, NLC Member

6

California

79

$120,560

4.08

17%

Restricted Practice, OT Regulated

7

Oregon

78

$96,230

5.19

15%

Full Practice, OT Regulated

8

Minnesota

76

$80,960

4.44

12%

Full Practice, OT Regulated

9

Illinois

73

$74,560

3.46

12%

Reduced Practice, OT Regulated

10

New Jersey

69

$85,720

3.10

11%

Reduced Practice, OT Regulated, NLC Member

11

Arizona

66

$80,380

1.21

35%

Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

12

Massachusetts

66

$96,250

4.85

8%

Full Practice, OT Regulated

13

Utah

65

$70,370

3.98

28%

Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

14

Nevada

64

$89,750

0.82

22%

Full Practice, No OT Regs

15

Georgia

63

$71,510

3.22

23%

Restricted Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

16

Connecticut

63

$84,850

4.25

7%

Full Practice, OT Regulated

17

Pennsylvania

62

$74,170

4.31

13%

Reduced Practice, OT Regulated, NLC Member

18

New Hampshire

62

$75,970

3.88

13%

Full Practice, OT Regulated, NLC Member

19

Virginia

59

$74,380

3.43

12%

Restricted Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

20

Delaware

57

$74,330

3.78

20%

Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

21

Wyoming

57

$72,600

3.20

16%

Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

22

New York

57

$89,760

3.52

25%

Reduced Practice, OT Regulated

23

Nebraska

56

$69,480

4.28

11%

Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

24

Maine

53

$71,040

3.87

7%

Full Practice, OT Regulated, NLC Member

25

Rhode Island

53

$82,790

4.60

4%

Full Practice, OT Regulated

26

Wisconsin

53

$74,760

3.35

8%

Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

27

Iowa

50

$62,570

3.09

15%

Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

28

North Dakota

50

$69,630

2.96

17%

Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

29

District of Columbia

48

$90,050

3.20

9%

Full Practice, No OT Regs

30

West Virginia

46

$65,130

2.85

15%

Reduced Practice, OT Regulated, NLC Member

31

Alaska

46

$95,270

3.41

7%

Full Practice, OT Regulated

32

Missouri

45

$65,900

3.44

16%

Restricted Practice, OT Regulated, NLC Member

33

Idaho

45

$71,640

3.68

20%

Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

34

Kansas

44

$64,200

2.81

8%

Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

35

Vermont

42

$72,140

3.68

8%

Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

36

Ohio

40

$69,750

3.05

10%

Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

37

Indiana

40

$67,490

3.50

12%

Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

38

Florida

39

$69,510

2.88

16%

Restricted Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

39

Oklahoma

37

$66,600

2.57

9%

Restricted Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

40

Montana

36

$70,530

3.33

10%

Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

41

Michigan

36

$73,980

3.58

10%

Restricted Practice, No OT Regs

42

Arkansas

33

$63,640

2.14

14%

Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

43

North Carolina

32

$68,950

4.15

11%

Restricted Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

44

Kentucky

32

$64,730

2.64

13%

Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

45

Tennessee

29

$64,120

2.62

12%

Restricted Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

46

South Dakota

21

$60,960

3.95

13%

Full Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

47

South Carolina

20

$67,140

3.23

9%

Restricted Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

48

Louisiana

17

$68,010

2.09

9%

Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

49

Alabama

15

$60,230

2.89

10%

Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

50

Hawaii

11

$104,830

4.41

12%

Full Practice, No OT Regs

51

Mississippi

0

$61,250

2.59

6%

Reduced Practice, No OT Regs, NLC Member

About the Author


expert-profile

Lucia Caldera is a writer who specializes in personal finance. Her goal is to create approachable content that sparks financial wellness and unlocks growth. Lucia’s work reflects her passion for financial education as the key to reducing the wealth gap for women and minorities.


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