Nursing Salary Facts - You need to know!


The following are government statistics from October 2002 Contemporary Long Term Care. They represent average national salaries.

Nursing salaries overall have remained stagnant in the past 10 years. Nurse's actual earnings have increased steadily from 1983 - 2002. However, "real" earnings have been flat since 1991. (Real earnings = money available after adjusting for inflation).

Secretary Thompson points out that nurses' salaries are actually behind thos of another perceived low income group - elementary school teachers. In addition, nurses' salaries are falling further behind each survey period.

1984 Elementary school teacher average salary = 25,000.

1984 Nurse average salary = 19,000.

Nurses averaged 4,400 less per year.

2002 Elementary teacher average salary = 54,800

2002 Nurse average salary = 41,000

Nurses averaged 13,800 less per year.

Furthermore much of a nurses' wage growth takes place early and tapers off quickly. A nurse with 5 years experience makes about 15% more than a new graduate but only 1 - 3% less than a nurse with 15 - 20 years experience.

1984 -- annual salary for nurse = 25,064

1984 -- "real" salary for nurse = 22,063

1990 -- annual salary for nurse = 29,588

1990 -- "real salary for nurse = 23,861

1995 -- annual salary for a nurse = 35,146

1995 -- "real" salary for a nurse = 23,711

2001 -- annual salary for a nurse = 41,060

2001 -- "real" salary for anurse = 23,409.

A lot of the public I run into believe that nurses are very high paid - they have no concept of the stagnation of salaries that we live with. Teachers have effectively educated the public regarding their low pay but as nurses we have been less effective.

Notice how your "real" salary has been 23,000 since 1990. The stagnation of wages has a lot to do with retention of nurses. I always inform people considering nursing of the salary issues - I continue to be amazed how my friends in non-nursing have greatly surpassed my income - but they are in business, engineering and accounting ...mostly traditional male roles whereas nursing/teaching is still considered a female profession.

Please comment - are you surprised by these numbers?


1,244 Posts

No, i'm not.... and don't forget, teachers get 3 months a year off, plus holidays.....


4,516 Posts

I'm not surprised either..the study proves what most of us have long suspected. :(


6,011 Posts

Specializes in ORTHOPAEDICS-CERTIFIED SINCE 89. Has 30 years experience.

It's unfair to compare teachers and nurses. Instead we ought to link up. Afterall between us we provide care, education and comfort to the entire population in one form or another. The main thing I see is that both fields are predominantly female.

Nurses work24/7 and teachers are in school 7.5 hours....5days a week. However...their day no more ends at 3PM than ours does at clock out time. They do the after school stuff without pay. They get the summer off-yes- but at NO pay unless they sign a pro-rated contract....less each term pay in order to have incomme over the summer.

Let's not go the teacher/nurse again. Let's link up WITH the teachers.

I think we ought to make comaparisons with engineers, architects, research scientists, lawyers.......all heavy on the male spectrum. And we are at least as well deserving as they are of an appropriate wage.

km rn

96 Posts

Actually it wasn't meant to start a teacher/nursing war. Secretary Thompson was pointing out that most people are aware of the inequity of teacher's wages...however, very few people are aware that nurses are struggline also.

I agree with should make comparisons with engineers, and other 4 year male wage professions. We have to make the public aware of the wage stagnation - most people I've run into think nurses are highly paid.

I think it is vital that we become aware of what our wages/benefits are compared to other professions. It was an eye opener for my brothers to learn how my wages have basically plateaued (?sp) where their wages continue to increase as their experience increases. Both my brothers are engineers - civil and geological.

My hope is that we will effectively be able to advocate for our profession.


38 Posts

Can you tell me exactly where you got your info from. I would like to post or make other nurses aware of these facts. We will be working towards a new contract in March. From talking to our union rep, of course wages will be an issue and they feel the Hospital CEO will pushing that with the current employment problems in the general public, that the general public will not support salary increases. Therefore, they feel they will have an edge to force us to accept. So, we need to educate fellow nurses so that they can educate relatives, friends and let the word spread. This is only one of the issues we will be working on but all the info to help our cause ond oppresion is appreciated.:(

km rn

96 Posts

The information was in an article in Contemporary Long Term Care Magazine from 10/02. However, it was Secretary Thompson of HHS who made most of the comments and it might carry more clout if you could get it from the Congressional Record. I believe Secretary Thompson has testified re: nursing shortage and salary issues r/t it. Senator Cliniton has also shared the stagnation of nursing salaries as one problem with retainment of nurses.

I can't remember the name of the article but I know it was Oct 2002 Contemporary Long Term Care - the article had to due with retention of nurses and the nursing shortage.

Good luck with your negociations - I believe that we can more effectively educate the public about the salary stagnation!


593 Posts

Well, in Florida...both teachers AND nurses are making horrible wages. There is not that much difference, and that scares me about the future of all!



33 Posts

I think its opposite here. I know a few teachers that make $12.00hr. At the hospital new grads start out at 17.50 as long as they were previously CNAs.


79 Posts

I suppose when somebody famous dies or has major complications due to lack of nursing staff, and CNN does a major story on it, our wages will rise to what they should be. Until then..................


428 Posts

Our new grads start out at $22.50. If you start out in a specialty area, once you get certified in ACLS and everything and if you work evenings and get the shift differential, it goes up to $28.50. I am a CNA and make $10.50 an hour so any pay increase once I get my license will be welcome. But if it means anything, I think you're all worth a million bucks:>)


586 Posts

Was talking to a recent grad friend of mine today about this subject. She makes 20 an hour, and claims to have $800 taken out a month for taxes. When she told me how much she made for a given paycheck, I said that that was only 200 more than what my husband makes at 11 something an hour. I understand that she is in a higher tax bracket, but in my opinion, that is a bit rediculious. I am still trying to figure out why this is, and will probably thoroughly go over my hubby's stubs. She said that she expected to bring home 25,000 a year after taxes, and thought that was really good money....It's a good thing I didn't go to school just for the money...

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