The latest analysis of Current Population Survey (CPS) data reveals that real wages (in 2013 dollars) for registered nurses (RNs) employed in both hospital and non-hospital settings continue to remain relatively flat, with RNs in the hospital setting continuing to earn approximately 10% more than their counterparts in other settings.

 We observed strong wage increases in the 1980s during periods of acute shortages, but wages remained flat throughout the 2000s and have even declined slightly in the 2010s. It is our speculation flat wages linger due to a continued soft economy and downward pressure on health care spending, and note that wages might have been expected to fall even further in recent years due to the large influx of new RNs into the workforce.

Furthermore, despite real hourly wages for RNs being flat for the past decade, they have remained on par with those of Americans with a college education, and are roughly 15% higher than wages for college-educated women (roughly 90% of registered nurses are women) – a factor that may be contributing to the continued expansion of enrollees in nursing programs.

Wages have been adjusted for inflation using data from the BLS.


Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies, Research Brief No. 3
June 2014
Peter Buerhaus, David Auerbach, Douglas Staiger, and Christine Friedman