As I was going through school, allnurses.com was a very valuable tool for me in research and general conversation of topics I was interested in, but didn't have the personal connections to ask those questions. I recently found my account again and wanted to share my experience as I know other people have similar questions like I did. I've found many of threads on here to be an incredible guide with very experienced people reporting. Hopefully this post can help some of you.
There's a lot of interested people looking to make higher incomes as an RN, etc. Doesn't matter the reason, we all have our individual reasons (loans, mortgage, providing family support, wanna start a business, etc).
I had significant loans to pay off after graduation (60k). I went the route of: (1) staff nursing to get get experience and comfortable in practice, (2) then travel nursing to higher pay area's, (3) which later secured me a high paying staff job (in a high cost location) at a facility i was a traveler in. (4) work
A Brief Review of State to State Inpatient RN Pay (It varies widely):
- Step 1: Have a goal (mine was to pay off my student loans quickly)
- Step 2: Work at said goal
- Step 3: Reevaluate once goal is completed (now debt is gone, time for new goal)
- Step 4: See step 1.
SF Bay area pays the most HOURLY vs. anywhere else in the country. An Inpatient hospital RN with a couple years experience I was at $60/hr on days without differentials, nights was around $70 in the bigger cities (SF and OAK). I've seen posts from FLA and other southern states with hourly rates in the low $20's. Before you look at the two different staff hourly rates and scream, there are things to take into consideration:
Higher paying area's for staff RN's: SF bay area, Boston, NYC. think big cities. Do some searching on the state forums to get an idea of current staff hourly rates. Downside to Higher Staff Compensation
(not talking about travel nursing yet) Fed Taxes
: Higher employee income generally puts you in higher tax brackets. State Income Taxes
: California has around 10% state income tax. FLA, TX and other states have ZERO state income taxes! Other State Taxes
: California has additional disability tax thrown in (additional 1%) capped at around 1k if you make over 95k. Real Estate Taxes
: Generally states with no income tax have higher property rates than states with an income tax. (not all cases, but most)
Giving with the above tax rates, it's not unusual for your total tax rates to be at 40% plus for a normal FT staff RN in CA making 6 figures (before your other tax deductions you may have) Cost of Living
: as a general rule, higher compensation places have higher cost of livings. Rent
: A nothing special one bedroom apartment (without parking) in SF is over 2k/month. Add a couple hundred if you need parking or want a washer/dryer. I got twice as big an apartment (also twice as nice) in the Midwest for under half of what I pay now. BOS/NYC are just as high. Real Estate Prices
: Say you want to buy? In the bay area a decent house is 700k plus (more $$ in SF and less as you move out towards Oakland, Dublin, etc).
After taxes and expenses, the take-home differences are not as great as you might think, depending on your situation and flexibility. I remember reading states like Texas were the best all around for a nurse in terms of all things considered (wage, tax, prices etc) Upside to Higher Compensation Locations Cutting Cost of Living
: IF IF IF, and it's situation dependent, you can lower your expenses and live cheap, you can do very well. Living with roommates, relatives, not having a car, etc are all ways to lower expenses. Do this when your making 100k and you will feel the difference quickly. Then, work a bunch (see hourly rates below) and it really makes a huge difference! Easier to Make Bigger Retirement Contributions
: When I was a staff RN in the midwest on a 50k salary, I could have never maxed out my IRA contributions ($16,500 limit/year) like I did on a 100k salary. Contributing also lowered my taxable income. I opted for the a plan that matched a high % of my salary (that's free $$ if you contribute). bigger match on a bigger salary=$$$ Hourly Rates and Overtime=$$
: Higher hourly rates lead to higher OT rates. If you work a bunch of OT and a high rate, you'll knock down big numbers alot sooner than you did if you worked a bunch of hours at a lower rate. California has mandatory overtime after 8 hours/day and Double time after 12/hrs day. I signed an agreement that pays overtime after 40/week and DT after 12 so that I could work 3 (12 hour shifts) a week rather than 5 (8 hour shifts) If you are thinking about relocating, UNDERSTAND YOUR TOTAL COMPENSATION PACKAGE
Put that in perspective of your area vs the other locations. Calculate your benefits of your current position when comparing different employer offers (then compare with cost of living and taxes as above). Following area's all add to your bottom line as an RN. Again, certain jobs with lower pay have amazing benefits, certain jobs have higher pay with no bennies (look at a staff pay with benefits vs high agency/PRN pay with no benefits) PTO
and rate of accrual: (one job has 3 weeks PTO a year vs 6 weeks PTO/year=120 hours difference, makes a difference. calculate your hourly rate x the difference) Other PTO
: like educational PTO leaves, jury duty PTO, sick time PTO. some employers have these, some don't. Health insurance
: Is this employer covered or do you pay? if so, how much? What's the difference between the two? Matching Retirement contributions?
Say you make 50k and your employer matches up to 2% of your annual salary (that's a free $1,000 if you contribute). Maybe your other offer doesn't match or offers a pension (with years of service requirement). Other deductions
: Do you have to pay for parking? Any other free benefits like meals, etc?? These are all things that affect your bottom line. Other Thoughts
If your a new grad who can't get a hospital job/experience now in your area (this is common here in SF, some new grad RN's are working as CNA's to get the foot in the door for a staff job, which is another subject altogether) My painful advice is if it's an option for you to move, move somewhere where they have jobs/training and get experience. There are jobs out there, you just might have to go to them! Come back in 2 years when you have your experience. Obviously, this will depend on situation and circumstance if its an option.
If your in school, look for as many ways to get experience as humanely possible. I realize it can be a difficult job market after you graduate in certain locations. Do Paid/unpaid summer internships, healthcare jobs, shadowing with reference letters, research projects for a unit, etc. You need to make PERSONAL CONNECTIONS and follow through with those. My mantra is life is it's not what you know, it's who you know. Start building connections. Yes, nurses need to know how to network! On Travel Nursing:
allnurses.com has a forum for this if interested. I'll probably make a separate post there at a later time. Basically, as long as you have a tax home, you take home some decent $$. My advice is to do traveling like I did: Get into an area with high pay and then work your way into a staff jobs with a contract or two. Use your travel contract as an extended job interview! Plus you get to see the area first! You may not have the best paid travel contract to start with, but it gets better later!
Feel free to post here if you have questions, thoughts, etc!