Nurses Tell All! Salaries, Benefits, and Whether They'd Do It Again

Carol Peckham


November 17, 2015

In This Article

How Are Nurses Compensated?

Average Annual Full-Time Salaries

Nurses in all APN groups make considerably more than RNs, whose average annual gross salary is $79,000. The highest paid APNs are nurse anesthetists ($170,000); among all nurses, they are also the most content (73%) with their salaries. (It should be noted, however, that nurse anesthetists comprise only 0.1% of all nurses in the United States.) Clinical nurse specialists—at $95,000—are the lowest paid APNs, and slightly more than half (54%) are satisfied with their compensation. Of interest, however, about the same percentage of RNs (53%) are content with their pay even though they make $16,000 less than clinical nurse specialists. LPNs/LVNs are the lowest paid nurses, with an annual salary of $46,000, and only 43% of them are content with their wages.

Hourly Rates for Part-Time Nurses

RN hourly rates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2012, 20% of RNs worked part-time.[1] Hourly rates reported by part-time RNs were highest in hospital settings: $39.60 for inpatient care, followed by $38.30 for outpatient care, which includes ambulatory clinics. The lowest hourly rates were $28.60 for nurses in public and occupational health and those who work in non–hospital-based healthcare settings.

APN hourly rates. Hourly rates for part-time APNs are significantly higher than for RNs and LPNs/LVNs in all settings, with the exception of faculty positions, where the difference is less: $37.60 for RNs and $40.50 for APNs. The highest hourly rates ($58.80) go to APN contractors, including those working in agencies.

Note: Hourly rates for nurse anesthetists were not included. The number of LPN/LVN respondents was insufficient to reliably report their results on this question.

Additional Sources of Income

Overtime. Overtime is often used as a solution for understaffing and variations in patient load, but it can produce a negative impact on both nurses and patients.[2] A quarter of all nurses who responded to this survey work overtime, although this varies widely by type of work. Fifty-seven percent of contract nurses, including travel and agency workers, routinely work more than 40 hours weekly. About a third (34%) of nurses in hospitals or inpatient care work beyond regularly scheduled hours. The percentages of nurses who work overtime were lowest in public and occupational health (6%), educational settings (10%), and academic faculty (11%).

The American Nurses Association (ANA) recommends limiting work weeks to 40 hours within 7 days and work shifts to 12 hours.[3] Of those who reported working overtime in the Medscape survey, 62% work fewer than 5 extra hours a week. About a quarter (24%) work an extra 6-10 hours per week, and 14% extend their work time beyond 10 hours weekly.

Supplemental income. Forty-three percent of nurses reported some form of supplemental income. Among the ways nurses earn extra money are picking up extra shifts, per-diem work, medical coding, seasonal jobs (for instance, administering flu shots), transcribing medical reports, working in call centers, and teaching first aid. In this Medscape survey, 15% of nurses reported that they took on another job, and another 17% said that they worked extra hours. Nine percent received extra money for "on-call" shifts, and 6% acted as preceptors. When responding with anecdotal comments, one nurse took on a roommate, others took jobs as pharmaceutical reps, and one admitted to supplementing her income on eBay!


Most full-time nurses (92%) get some kind of paid time off (vacation, sick days, personal/professional time), and 87% receive employee-subsidized health insurance. Sixty percent get an education allowance, and 45% get reimbursement for certification fees. Less than a quarter (24%) get bonuses or other incentives.

In looking at specific types of nurses, however, benefits vary greatly. According to this survey, fewer full-time LPNs/LVNs (84%) get time off than RNs (93%) and APNs (91%). Only about three quarters of LPNs/LVNs (74%) get health insurance, in part or in full, compared with 88% of RNs and 85% of APNs. Employers cover 71% of APNs' liability insurance, compared with only 13% of RNs and 11% of LPNs/LVNs (although the cost for this insurance for the two latter groups is usually less than $100 a year).[4] Of note, 9% of LPNs/LVNs who work full-time report having no benefits.


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