Nursing Salary by Degree and Level

Nursing Salary by Degree and Level

For the 19th consecutive year, nursing has ranked highest in honesty and ethics among 15 different occupations assessed by the Gallup Poll. As a result, many people seek a nursing role as part of their career search. For those who are interested in nursing, there are several entry-level positions to choose from. Let’s look at a few:

Orderlies, Nursing Assistants, Home Health Aides 

Orderlies, nursing assistants, and home health aides provide basic care and help patients who cannot perform the basic activities of daily living. Most work in hospitals, nursing homes, residential care facilities, or individuals’ homes. Depending on state requirements, these professionals may need to complete an education program and pass a competency exam to become licensed or certified.

As the population ages and more people want to do so in the comfort of their homes, orderlies, nursing assistants, and home health aides are among the fastest-growing segments in the healthcare industry. Many use this area of nursing as a stepping stone to advanced career opportunities, but others turn it into a career because they enjoy taking care of people—especially the elderly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the current salary for nursing assistants is $30,000 annually.

Licensed Vocational Nurses/Licensed Practical Nurses (LVN/LPN) 

LVP/LPN is the next level that those who want to pursue nursing may choose. Either term is appropriate when considering this area of practice. These roles require the completion of a one-year nursing program and passing a national licensing exam. The activities that LVN/LPNs perform vary by state, so knowing the scope of practice in your area is essential. 

Many people are curious about what an LVN/LPN earns, in comparison to the salary of a registered nurse. According to BLS, LVN/LPNs can earn $47,480 per year or $22.83 per hour whereas RNs earn $73,300 per year or $35.24 per hour.

Registered Nursing (RNs)

RNs manage patient care and provide education on various conditions in areas throughout the comprehensive healthcare system and specialties such as operating room nursing, case management, and information technology. This range of practice areas allows RNs to select the area they are interested in and make changes as needed.

Registered nurses typically take one of three education paths: a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an associate degree in nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Each level prepares nurses to care for people safely and effectively through evidence-based practices. 

Registered nurses must graduate from an accredited nursing school and be licensed in the state they practice. Understanding your state’s scope of practice is critical to providing safe care.

Salaries vary based on location, years of practice, and specialty area. According to BLS, the median annual wage for registered nurses was $75,330 in 2020. There are a wide range of practice areas to choose from, so it’s essential to map out a career path that can be followed as you gain experience. 

Nursing is an excellent career for those who want to make a difference and help improve care delivery. Studies have found there is a need for nurses at each level to meet the diverse set of needs of the population. Those leaving toward a nursing career are encouraged to research the field and choose the level of nursing that meets your individual goals. Opportunities abound in this growing field for those entering the emerging practice of nursing. 

Here are some additional resources you can use in your research of the nursing profession.

Nurses Continue to Rate Highest in Honesty, Ethics:

Nursing Degrees and Levels: Which One is Right for You?

Navigating Your Nursing Education: How to Choose Your School.

Anne Llewellyn, MS, BHSA, R.N., CCM, CRRN, CM Fellow

Anne Llewellyn, MS, BHSA, R.N., CCM, CRRN, CM Fellow is a registered nurse with over 43 years of experience in critical care, risk management, case management, patient advocacy, healthcare education, training, and development. She resides in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and works as an independent nurse advocate. You can reach Anne via email at


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