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How and why nurse practitioner salaries differ across the US

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who deliver medical assistance to a vast range of patients. They perform medical examinations, make diagnoses, and prescribe medication as part of their daily role. Along with a variety of specialized positions to move into and the chance to work across a range of healthcare settings, this role is popular for the attractive salary it offers.

Salary levels for qualified nurse practitioners can vary notably between US states and determine where professionals in this field chose to work. But just how does this look in practice and why are rates of pay for NPs different in various US states or regions?

Nurse practitioner salaries across the US

Before examining where those in the nurse practitioner field are highest paid by state, it is important to understand how nurses can gain the knowledge needed to work in this healthcare niche. Education enables nurses to achieve the most competitive NP salaries and arms them with the right credentials to operate as an NP.

Education is the key ingredient and anyone looking to become an NP must commit to advanced academic study. The online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP) course at Rockhurst University is an amazing example of a program which helps aspiring NPs fulfill their professional dreams.

But how do various states compare in terms of salaries once qualified to work as an NP? Among the top paying states, California leads the way with an average salary of around $150,000 per year.

New Jersey is a close second with an average salary of around $137,000 per year and neighbor New York also rates well (the average annual pay for NPs there is around $134,000). Washington is next in line and scores well with an average NP salary of around $131,000 per year. Massachusetts makes up the top five best paying states for this nursing role currently, with an average salary of around $129,000.

NP salary regional trends

Generally, states in the West and Northeast offer more attractive rates of pay, as California, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts are some of the best paying states for NPs currently. Connecticut, Oregon and Nevada all rate well for competitive NP salaries too.

In terms of current regional pay trends in this nursing role, it is the south of the country which loses out most. Although NP jobs are still well-paid in southern states, they do tend to lag behind. This sees an average salary for NPs in Alabama of around $75,000 and Tennessee offering an average wage of around $77,000 to trained NPs.

Factors that affect the NP salaries in US states and regions

It may be a little unclear why variations in annual NP pay exist across the US. There are a number of key factors behind this.

The demand for qualified NPs in a state or region is a primary factor. A state which is crying out for trained professionals in this field will offer excellent rates of pay to attract them. For states which focus on high nurse to patient ratios (such as California), the need to employ more NPs will also drive up salary levels.

Another important factor is how expensive it is to live in a particular state or part of the country. NPs in New York, for example, may face higher rents, higher food costs, and higher energy bills in daily life. As a result, they must earn a lot more each year than someone in a state like Alabama, where the cost of living is cheaper.

The presence of nursing unions can also impact salaries and see states with active organizations helping nurses to achieve higher rates of pay. Unions can lobby on behalf of members for better pay and drive real change in a certain area.

Salary variations by state or region for NPs can also be determined by how much autonomy professionals in this field enjoy. Some states including Missouri and South Carolina only allow reduced practice authority to NPs. This means NPs in these states have less responsibility overall. This is different from a state like Oregon, which does grant full practice authority to NPs and pays them more as a result.

Which NP positions pay highest across the US?

While it is true that salary variations exist across the US states and regions, there remains some specific NP roles which pay well in general nationally. For those looking to move into this advanced nursing field, targeting these positions can be a great way to achieve the most competitive rates of pay.

Neonatal NP stands out as paying around $134,000 per year. This is the ideal NP job for those who like caring for newborn babies or prematurely born infants who are ill.

Emergency NP is another well-paid role that involves working in emergency departments to deliver fast-paced care. With an average salary of around $130,000, it is also an NP position with competitive pay. FNPs earn around $121,000 on average across the country, making it another role in the NP field that pays well. Those who like working with families in the local community to deliver quality healthcare, should explore the role in more depth.

NP salaries vary across the US

Once trained to become an NP, individuals will no doubt be keen to dive right into what this advanced nursing role entails. However, along with choosing accredited education, it is key for nursing students to first think through which state they might practice in, due to the location-based salary variations which exist in the sector.

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