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DiversityNursing Blog

Salary: Top pay for new nurses – West Coast

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 @ 02:43 PM


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Where in the U.S. are new nurses receiving the highest pay? Here’s a look at the numbers from some of the major West Coast cities. Keep in mind that the facts and figures are mostly related to new nurses, and numbers might be higher for nurses with more experience or for those in specific specialties.

Average pay (per hour) for top cities:

Los Angeles, CA: $36
San Francisco, CA: $34
San Diego, CA: $33
Portland, OR: $31.50
Las Vegas, NV: $30
Seattle, WA: $29
Phoenix, AZ: $29
Boise, ID: $25
Salt Lake City, UT: $24

Source: Nurse Zone

What nurses are saying about working in top cities:

Portland, OR:

“Portland is saturated with new grads. It takes most people several months to find something, and many of my classmates are moving out of town to find work. I think if you can move to a more rural area, your chances would be better to get a job faster. Quite a few of the recent grads from our school have gone the SNF route, hoping to break into hospital nursing eventually. However, if you don’t have your BSN, as a new grad, chances are slim at getting hired in a hospital here.” - pdxmomazon

“Kaiser West is supposed to open in August 2013. Hopefully more positions will open up then.” - tritons09

Los Angeles, CA:

“If you can, get 2 years experience before moving here. Or at the very least, do not move here unless you have an official job offer in hand. The job market is also tight for experienced nurses as well, and for some places a year may not cut it. Best of luck.” - meriwhen

“Job outlook in LA is bleak. Better than NoCal, but still bleak. CHLA new grad residents start in high $20s. UCLA is $30-ish for their new grad residents. So, assuming you come to LA with a year experience under your belt, you could expect more than $30ish.” –  perioddrama

San Diego, CA:

“San Diego is a great market! I’m a case manager at Scripps here and hire approx 4-5 new grads a week. Nobody should become a nurse to get rich. We work in a field where battling against the odds is no stranger to us. California does have a little tougher time with hiring nurses faster than EVERY other state but this is due to the very large budget deficit that prevents millions in grants to hospitals. I would encourage you to pursue.” - Murseman83

“It is an absolutely terrible job market for new grads in all of SoCal. I’ve heard San Diego and San Francisco are the hardest to find jobs. The job market has been bad for at least 5 years so there is no way to guess when it may get better. If you want a new grad nursing job you will have to search high and low and make it your full time job. I applied for about 150 jobs in 6 months before I got hired, 7 months after I got my license and my commute totally sucks and the pay is just okay.” - SoCalGalRN

San Francisco, CA:

“According to students who graduated from my school last year, you can make anywhere from $38-$44/hr. My friend who has been working for Kaiser for 3 years made $97K last year. That’s partly why it’s so hard to get a job as a new grad here! I graduate this year and it is SO frustrating to think that those of us who have our lives here and went to school here may not get jobs. New grad programs are smaller or non-existent. It used to be that the place you precepted would hire you but so many hospitals/units are on hiring freezes that they aren’t even looking at new grads. I know people who graduated last summer who still haven’t found work; some moved to southern California.” - lovethepeople

“I’m a new grad who was fortunate enough to find an RN position at a hospital here in the Bay Area. I’m per diem, hourly wage is $62/hr, no benefits (I buy my own private health insurance). I’m only scheduled 4 days/week and get cancelled A LOT because I have the least seniority. Just to give you an idea, during orientation, when I actually did work 36 hours/week, I was taxed almost $3K per month, federal and state income taxes. That’s 3x what I pay rent, for a studio apartment! So yeah, I know it seems like a lot, but in reality you get taxed SO much it’s probably pretty comparable to other areas in terms of take home pay relative to cost of living. The sunshine sure is nice, and the Mediterranean climate, but it does come at a premium!” - shelbel

Las Vegas, NV:

“I have lived in Las Vegas for almost 9 years. I moved here when it was booming and it was very easy to find work. I hated it the 1st year I moved here but it grew on me. Unfortunately, the job market has changed drastically since the economy has gone down the toilet. I know it is bad everywhere, but our job and foreclosure rate is the worst from what I’ve heard.” - Tree5981

Seattle, WA:

“I live in the Seattle area now, came as a travel nurse originally. Where I work we had quite a few people move here for jobs or converted from travelers to staff over the past few years. At least where I am the staff is very inclusive, and do things outside of work together quite a bit. You could always look at travel nursing to come out this way, if you didn’t want to move right out. Tonight at work, 4 out of 6 nurses moved within in the last 5 years alone to the area.” - missnurse01

Boise, ID:

“Boise is a great place to live. We have quite a few hospitals in the area that you could possibly work at. My mom is an RN at St Luke’s and loves working there.” - Ryan

“As far as negotiating sign-on bonuses go, as far as I can tell, around Idaho they are pretty locked in to what you get will be what they offer. That being said there is a little wiggle room with bonuses during negotiating if you don’t need health insurance, or have special skills being searched for by that company.” - frixion

Phoenix, AZ:

“I’ve come across several postings fairly recently from new grads wanting to move to the Phoenix area and I want to make them aware that the job market here is very competitive. Unless you are an experienced nurse, have great luck, or a strong hospital contact, new grad hospital positions are very hard to come by. I know several that have had to leave the area to find jobs. I’m not trying to be a downer, but in this economy Phoenix is NOT the place a new grad wants to be.” - dream’n

“I found that in AZ, even if you are working for a registry that is used frequently for your specialty, you have to work in each place enough that the people who call the registries know your name. There are dozens of registry nurses, so when you are not well known the best thing you can do is accept as many shifts as you can work at a variety of settings, and then if they need someone for a double shift, stay. Let the facility know that you are available for the next night if you are. You can’t book your own hours, but continuity of care and convenience actually matter, and they will try to get the same person as much as they can. If you are at a large facility, and you let them know that you are looking for more shifts, they will usually oblige.” - 

Salt Lake City, UT:

“Utah is overwhelmed with nurses and it’s a right to work state so no unions. When the nursing shortage hit there was a boom of schools becoming accredited to handle the load. Every semester hundreds of nurses are released into the workforce. There is no reason for any place to pay a great wage when the pool of nurses to pick from is so vast. This also means the employers do not have to make an investment in their staff because there are literally hundreds in line needing a job. Home health agencies are popping up like crazy; they pay the highest wage and jobs are definitely available there.” - St_Claire

“Yes average is $21 an hour. Typically no you will not get paid more for having a bachelors degree although I believe that IHC prefers it to increase their “magnet status.” (That last part may not be correct.) $62,000 a year average is probably correct because nurses start out around $45,000 while veterans are probably up to $75,000 so $62,000 is somewhere in the middle. The pay in Utah is awful. If you love the state that much, people will stay and accept it. I moved 100 miles away out of state and made double that as a new grad. It’s all about where you want to live. My plan is to work out of state for a few more years and save up enough money that if I want to move my family back to Utah it will offset the ridiculously low wages.” - surgery182 

Source: Scrubs Mag

Topics: US, new nurses, highest pay, West Coast, specialities

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