These Are the Best States for Nurses in 2018

Make your next move based on the states that offer RNs the best salaries, job opportunities, and overall quality of life.

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The United States is currently in the throes of a nursing shortage, which naturally presents nurses with unprecedented opportunities for career growth and mobility. That said, these opportunities will differ from state to state, so the real question is: Which states will give nurses the BEST chances for professional—and personal—satisfaction?

There have been a number of studies done to address this topic, so we decided to make things easier by collecting all of their key insights into one place. Specifically, we focused on studies that ranked states on three key factors: RN job availability, RN salaries, and overall quality of life.

Below, we’ve provided ranked lists of the top 10 states for each category, as well as the relevant data points that contributed to each state’s rank.

The 10 States With the Greatest Need for RNs

First, we wanted to know which states have the greatest need for RNs–or, in other words, which states will have the most RN jobs available.

The following list is from a 2017 report on the states with the highest demand for RNs. For their report, they looked at the U.S. Health and Human Resources Administration’s (HRSA)’s projections for RN supply and demand in 2030 and then ranked the states in order of shortage to surplus. You’ll notice that the last three states are projected to have a small surplus, so the job markets should be more competitive than those of the other seven states.

1. California

2030 RN Supply (Total # of Working RNs): 343,400 2030 RN Demand (Total # of RNs Needed): 387,900 Shortage: -44,500 RNs

2. Texas

2030 RN Supply: 253,400 2030 RN Demand: 269,300 Shortage: -15,900 RNs

3. New Jersey

2030 RN Supply: 90,800 2030 RN Demand: 102,200 Shortage: -11,400 RNs

4. South Carolina

2030 RN Supply: 52,100 2030 RN Demand: 62,500 Shortage: -10,400 RNs

5. Alaska

2030 RN Supply: 18,400 2030 RN Demand: 23,800 Shortage: -5,400 RNs

6. Georgia

2030 RN Supply: 98,800 2030 RN Demand: 101,000 Shortage: -2,200 RNs

7. South Dakota

2030 RN Supply: 11,700 2030 RN Demand: 13,600 Shortage: -1,900 RNs

8. Montana

2030 RN Supply: 12,300 2030 RN Demand: 12,100 Surplus: +200 RNs

9. North Dakota

2030 RN Supply: 9,900 2030 RN Demand: 9,200 Surplus: +700 RNs

10. New Hampshire

2030 RN Supply: 21,300 2030 RN Demand: 20,200 Surplus: +1,100 RNs

The 10 Highest-Paying States for Registered Nurses

Once we knew which states had the most job availability, we then wanted to focus on where RNs could earn the highest salaries.

Nightingale College published a handy guide on RN salaries by state, which included figures for average salaries adjusted for each state’s cost of living. The data was based on 2017 salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and cost of living data from Numbeo.

Below, you’ll find a list of the top 10 highest-paying states for RNs, in order of highest salary to lowest and adjusted for each state’s cost of living.

1. Nevada

Average RN Salary (Adjusted): $80,986

2. Arizona

Average RN Salary (Adjusted): $78,415

3. Texas

Average RN Salary (Adjusted): $78,412

4. Minnesota

Average RN Salary (Adjusted): $77,773

5. Michigan

Average RN Salary (Adjusted): $76,239

6. Washington

Average RN Salary (Adjusted): $74,143

7. Illinois

Average RN Salary (Adjusted): $74,109

8. New Mexico

Average RN Salary (Adjusted): $73,402

9. Georgia

Average RN Salary (Adjusted): $72,891

10. Wisconsin

Average RN Salary (Adjusted): $71,830

The 10 Best States for RNs’ Quality of Life

After we identified the best states for RN career stability and salary potential, we turned our attention to the states that could provide RNs with the highest quality of life.

U.S. News & World Report published their “Best States for Quality of Life in 2018” ranking, which was based on each state’s scores for two categories: A “Natural Environment” score (e.g., drinking water quality, air quality) and a “Social Environment” score (e.g., community engagement, social support). States that made the top of the list do the best job of promoting their residents’ well-being. Below, we’ve provided the 10 states that made the top of U.S. News & World Report’s list.

Want to go to nursing school in one of these states? We also added the top three undergraduate and graduate nursing programs to the list, based on’s and U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the country’s top undergraduate and master’s in nursing programs, respectively. (

1. North Dakota

Top 3 Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Programs: North Dakota State University; University of Jamestown; University of North Dakota Top 3 Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs: North Dakota State University; University of Mary; University of North Dakota

2. Minnesota

Top 3 BSN Programs: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities; St. Olaf College; Gustavus Adolphus College Top 3 MSN Programs: St. Catherine University; Minnesota State University – Moorhead; Augsburg College

3. Wisconsin

Top 3 BSN Programs: University of Wisconsin; Milwaukee School of Engineering; Marquette University Top 3 MSN Programs: Marquette University; University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee; University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire

4. New Hampshire

Top 3 BSN Programs: Saint Anselm College; University of New Hampshire; Rivier University Top 3 MSN Programs: Franklin Pierce University; Rivier University; Southern New Hampshire University

5. South Dakota

Top 3 BSN Programs: Augustana University; University of South Dakota; South Dakota State University Top 2 MSN Programs: South Dakota State University - Brookings; Mount Marty College

6. Mississippi

Top 3 BSN Programs: University of Mississippi; Mississippi College; William Carey University Top 3 [MSN Programs:]( Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Mississippi University for Women

7. Arkansas

Top 3 BSN Programs: University of Arkansas; Harding University; Arkansas Tech University Top 3 MSN Programs: University of Arkansas; University of Central Arkansas; Harding University

8. New Mexico

Top 3 BSN Programs: University of New Mexico; New Mexico State University; Brookline College - Albuquerque Top 3 MSN Programs: New Mexico State University; Eastern New Mexico University; University of New Mexico

9. Iowa

Top 3 BSN Programs: University of Iowa; Luther College; Dordt College Top 3 MSN Programs: University of Iowa; Briar Cliff University; Allen College

10. Colorado

Top 3 BSN Programs: Regis University; University of Colorado – Denver; University of Colorado – Colorado Springs Top 3 MSN Programs: University of Colorado – Anschutz Medical Campus; University of Colorado – Colorado Springs; University of Northern Colorado

Any Triple-Hitters?

Unfortunately, no one state has it all. While Minnesota, New Mexico, and Wisconsin all landed within the top 10 for highest RN salaries and best quality of life, each missed the mark when it came to greatest need for RNs. And although Georgia and Texas both ranked high on the list in terms of RN demand and salary potential, they fell to the middle and bottom of the pack for quality of life scores. Then there’s New Hampshire and both North and South Dakota: These states offer RNs great job opportunities and quality of life, but they don’t do nearly as well when it comes to salary.

Not one state has it all (yet), but be sure to check out this table of all 50 states (and, where possible, Washington D.C.) to see where they land within each category. As for your job search, it may make compromising in one category a tad easier if the state only narrowly missed making the top 10. Just keep in mind that they’re ranked 1-51, with #1 signifying the “best” state and #51 signifying the “worst” state.

State “Most Demand for RNs” Rank “Highest RN Salaries” Rank “Quality of Life” Rank
Alabama 28 34 35
Alaska 5 40 19
Arizona 11 2 39
Arkansas 39 26 7
California 1 39 50
Colorado 37 12 10
Connecticut 21 42 38
Delaware 12 11 24
District of Columbia N/A 50 N/A
Florida 50 31 33
Georgia 6 9 32
Hawaii 20 51 36
Idaho 24 15 20
Illinois 23 7 47
Indiana 44 18 48
Iowa 40 36 9
Kansas 43 28 16
Kentucky 41 30 27
Louisiana 14 20 42
Maine 27 46 12
Maryland 42 49 31
Massachusetts 13 41 25
Michigan 30 5 29
Minnesota 19 4 2
Mississippi 33 23 6
Missouri 46 14 15
Montana 8 25 13
Nebraska 22 21 14
Nevada 34 1 43
New Hampshire 10 43 4
New Jersey 3 32 49
New Mexico 38 8 8
New York 47 47 37
North Carolina 45 27 34
North Dakota 9 35 1
Ohio 49 13 40
Oklahoma 29 17 17
Oregon 15 38 18
Pennsylvania 35 16 44
Rhode Island 16 44 23
South Carolina 4 33 30
South Dakota 7 45 5
Tennessee 36 24 28
Texas 2 3 46
Utah 25 29 22
Vermont 17 48 26
Virginia 48 22 41
Washington 31 6 21
West Virginia 26 37 45
Wisconsin 32 10 3
Wyoming 18 19 11

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Cinch™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice. For our full disclaimer, click [here](

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