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Healthcare Jobs: Education and Nurses' Salaries

Healthcare Jobs: Education and Nurses' Salaries

Kristina Cowan | Payscale

If you want to be a nurse, you’re in luck; the sweeping demand is expected to intensify. But what about starting salaries for nurses? How much do RNs make compared to nurse practitioners? And what kind of education do nurses need?

You’ve heard it before. These days there aren’t enough nurses to go around, and demand is expected to soar as baby boomers – a population of about 78 million – get older.

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, there will be a shortage of more than 1 million nurses in the United States by 2020.

But what are the starting salaries for a nurse practitioner and how do they compare to those for a registered nurse? What are nurses’ salaries in different cities? Do nurses with advanced degrees earn higher salaries?

A closer look at PayScale nurse salary data and a conversation with career expert Brian Drum shed some light on these questions.

Education, Location, Education!

PayScale salary figures show that nurse practitioners make a median salary of $83,700 a year, while a registered nurse’s salary is $58,500 a year. Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who provide services similar to those of a doctor, focusing on clinical care, health promotion, disease prevention, health education and counseling, according to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

For registered nurses, the median salary varies by city. In New York, for example, the median salary for a nurse is $70,700. Nurses in Phoenix report a median salary of $65,400, while those in Dallas make $60,000.

Drum, president and CEO of New York City-based Drum Associates, Inc., a global executive search firm, said because the cost of living is so high in New York, registered nurses there make more than they do elsewhere.

He also said nursing salaries have increased.

"Nursing salaries have really gone up and they should go up. It’s like teaching, it’s one of those underpaid professions," Drum said.

In terms of education, those in the nursing field with higher degrees often earn higher salaries.

Drum said with more education, there are more opportunities to climb the career ladder. Continuing education for nurses also is important, he said, because healthcare is a constantly changing industry, and some institutions offer in-house training to expand nurses’ knowledge and skill sets.

Of course, experience also boosts income. Starting salaries for a nurse, according to PayScale, tend to be lower than for those who’ve been in the field for a while. A registered nurse’s starting salary—median salary for RN jobs with less than a year of experience—is $45,000; someone with between three and five years of experience earns $52,400, and an RN with 20 years or more earns $68,000.

Given the booming demand for nurses, Drum said more needs to be done to draw people to nursing careers.

"The demand for anyone working in healthcare will be great for the next 25 years, the next generation. We’re just at the beginning," he said.

Next: 5 Best States for Nursing Jobs >>

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