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Top 10 States for Jobs in Nursing

Nursing is a rewarding, life-long career with almost guaranteed employment opportunities all over the country. There has been a well-publicized nursing shortage for several years. In 2011, 296,900 jobs were added to the healthcare sector, yet this still does not meet the demand for qualified nurses. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics continues to list nursing careers as a growing field at least through 2020. As today’s nurses age and retire, more nurses will need to be trained to take their place. Since the current average age of a nurse is fifty years old, the job prospects for future nurses will remain solid for years to come.

Some nursing specialties are in high demand. As the Baby Boomers age, geriatric nursing will continue to be an important niche to fill. Nurses trained in geriatrics will be in high demand in hospitals, retirement homes and as home health care workers.

A nursing career can begin at any age. The slow economy has prompted many older students to return to school in order to pursue nursing careers. A prospective nursing student must complete at least two years of a nursing program to obtain their RN, or Registered Nurse, license. At this point, some RN’s choose to continue their education and earn four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing or six-year program to obtain a master’s degree. All nurse certification is done by the individual state. At this time, there is no national nurse certification.

Although many nurses work in hospitals, other locations such as home health care, retirement homes, doctor’s offices, schools and prisons also need qualified nurses. Some rural areas struggle to attract doctors, and trained nurses are being used to fill that gap.

The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, a philanthropy organization devoted to health care, notes that future nurses will need not only an RN license, but also a Bachelor in Nursing. In fact, nurses with bachelor’s degrees are already in higher demand than those with only basic training. The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation also predicts there will be a demand for doctorate level nurses. Nurses trained at the doctorate level will be the leaders and administrators of the future. Current nurses must complete yearly continuing education courses so that they are current with the latest techniques and information.

When considering which states are best for nursing careers, it is important to consider other things than simply the pay rate. California and Hawaii, for example, have a high cost of living. Other states may have a lower cost of living, but fewer options for advancement or entertainment outside of work.

1. Florida
This state already has a large population over the age of 65, and it continues to be one of the most popular choices for retirement. For this reason, Florida is considered a good state for nurses seeking employment. In addition to good job prospects, Florida offers lots of entertainment, nightlife and exciting things to do for off-duty nurses.

2. California
Nurses here make an average of $42.06 per hour. In 2005, the state initiated a Nurse Education Initiative. This added 35 nursing programs within the state and resulted in a 78.7 percent increase of enrollment within those programs. The state’s current nursing shortage will reach a staggering 800,000 by 2015.

3. Hawaii
Nurses in Hawaii care for retirees, vacationers and long-term residents of the state. The warm weather and island living is appealing to many. The average pay for a nurse hovers around $24 per hour, but can be much higher, depending on a nurse’s specialty.

4. Texas
Texas offers a great balance between cost of living and nurse pay rates. Housing prices in Texas are lower than many other states, and there are many employment options for nurses. Although the larger cities, including Dallas and Houston, offer higher pay rates, smaller cities, such as Austin and San Antonio, may also be appealing. Since Texas is so large, rural nurses are in high demand here as well.

5. Oregon
Oregon’s natural beauty is a big draw for many new residents. Portland, the largest city, supports many hospitals and numerous clinics. Although other cities in the state are not as large, they also support hospitals, clinics, retirement homes and several colleges. Oregon is a popular choice because it has several options for skiing, hiking, snowboarding, and windsurfing.

6. Utah
Utah was recently rated as one of the best places to live in the United States by a new Gallup poll. Although it ranks only thirty-fourth in nurse pay rates, the livability of the state will make it appealing to some nurses.

7. Alaska
It is hard to understand the sheer size of Alaska. Alaska is more than twice as large as Texas and thirty-four times the size of Rhode Island. It is also the least densely populated state in the country. For the right person, Alaska is a dream come true. The largest cities, Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks fill only a small part of the state’s nursing needs. The average pay rate for RN’s in Alaska is around $22 per hour.

8. Ohio
Ohio’s rural charms, combined with its moderate-sized cities make it a good choice for RN’s raising a family. Nursing schools in Ohio, and many other states, are struggling to keep up with the demand for new nurses. Nursing programs are beginning to be streamlined in order to facilitate the need for trained nurses.

9. New York
That state of New York offers not only a rural experience, but also the chance to work in one of the most bustling cities in the world. Nurses looking for a challenging, fast-paced environment would be a great match for New York City hospitals.

10. Minnesota
Snow lovers who do not wish to trek to Alaska will be quite happy in Minnesota. This state has a need for rural nurses to help ease the overall shortage of doctors in Minnesota. Community colleges and four-year colleges in Minnesota are now following Oregon’s lead in allowing nursing students to begin their education at a community college before moving seamlessly to a bachelor’s program at a four-year college.


Find Your Degree is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.